It is both a symptom of growing older and the saturation of pop culture delights that our burgeoning digital age provides us, that very little truly surprises anymore.
It is not that the quality is questionable – although like anything in life, much of what is produced is of dubious worth – or that the approach is inventive or lacking in creativity; it is simply that it is that much harder to stand out and when something does, to have enough of a “x” factor that people will pay enough attention to it for longer than a nanosecond.
That’s why I know that Paperman, a delightful and whimsical Oscar-nominated six-minute short from Disney that debuted at Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2012, before becoming the lead-in short for Wreck It Ralph in December the same year, and now released online, is something truly special.
It only took a few seconds for this charming little movie, with a love struck commuter pursuing the doe-eyed woman of his dreams with the help of some highly clever and insistent paper aeroplanes, to win me over and I sat enraptured for the entire length of the film before hitting the replay button and watching it all over again.
And that was in the middle of a busy day at work when time was, as always, at a premium.
But it’s not only the gorgeous storyline that draws you in.
It’s the wonderful animation that appears to be hand drawn even though logic tells you they must have used computers to bring this beautiful mid-20th century-esque love story to life.
And after some digging I discovered the reason it looks hand drawn is because it is.
Using a new technique pioneered in-house at Disney called Meander which allows animators to augment computer-generated images with a hand drawn overlay, director John Kahrs was able to achieve the old-fashioned look of traditional cartoons without using time and money he didn’t have, and the results are nothing less than delightful.
The other added benefit of this innovative process was that the artists didn’t have to abandon their painstakingly drawn renderings of the film’s characters when it came time to make the film proper.
Says John Kahrs in an article by Alice Vincent on telegraph.co.uk:
“There were such phenomenal drawings being done of all the characters and it seemed like, ‘Why do we have to leave these drawings behind?’”
Most importantly, of course, Kahrs and his team realised that there is little point making use of all this whiz-bang technology if you don’t fully flesh out your characters and imbue them all the warmth and humanity you can.
All of which means that Paperman is one of those remarkable films that manages to rise above the clamouring mob of a thousand and one other competing visual treats, and stands a better than average chance of nabbing an Oscar at the ceremony in March (it is competing against two other movies), and no doubt winning over even more people than it has already.