John Kahrs John Kahrs

BREAKING: “Paperman” Director John Kahrs Leaves Disney

Per the “officially unofficial” Twitter account of Walt Disney Animation Studios, Academy Award-winning animation director John Kahrs, of Paperman fame, has left Disney. Good luck wherever you’re headed, John!

  • Roberto Severino

    I wish this man great luck and I hope he finds another good job in the industry that he’ll enjoy.

  • Toonio

    I said it once and will say it again: Iger is the new Eisner!

    That so called extension on his contract smelled fishy from the get go.

    Seems like Disney Corp will never learn.

  • Alex Dudley

    Hopefully whatever he works on next wherever that will be also feature a 2D/CG blend!

    • Steve Henderson

      Seems unlikely as the technique was developed by Ed Catmull unless he ends up back at Pixar, besides it was not the technique that made Paperman great it was the direction. I hope whatever he does next it means we get to see more of his work! Best of luck to him!

      • fact checker

        “…as the technique was developed by Ed Catmull…”


        • Steve Henderson

 Alright fact checker this is where I got the Ed Catmull “fact” from it seems Ed Catmull had his part in the development of the tools that created the Paperman look and commissioning of the software. And by development I don’t think he wrote every line of the code. Do you know of someone else who instigated the technique?

          • Justin

            My co-worker, Brian Whited, wrote nearly every line of code for the technique that he developed along with Eric Daniels. Ed Catmull’s role is that of President: he sets the general direction that he wants the studio to go and gets together the people that could make that happen.

          • guest

            There’s a really nice interview of John Kahrs by Jerry Beck here:

            — snip —

            Jerry: So tell me about this new technique used on the film… how did it come about?

            John Kahrs: It really came out of working so much with Glen on Tangled. Seeing all that drawing, being at Disney, being surrounded by that legacy. How exciting, and how much punch there is in the drawn line, how expressive it can be. And how hard the CG guys have to work to try to match that charm. I thought, Why do we have to leave these drawings behind? Why can’t we bring them back up to the front of the image again? Is there a way that CG can kinda carry along the hand drawn line in a way that we haven’t done before?

            Ultimately, the problem was solved in a much more sophisticated way than I ever expected by teaming with Eric Daniels first, then Brian Whited who is a young guy and a world class programmer. He developed this program called Meander, a vector based drawing tool that gives the artist a lot of power to manipulate the line after you draw it. We discovered that he was programming this thing and building this software – and we just totally took it over, hijacked him and his program and got him on the project. It’s not like a texture map. It’s just like painting on the surface of the CG. It actually moves on a 2d layer that’s driven by the CG. And the greatest thing about the tool is that all of that drawing is right up front with the hand drawn animator; right there in their space so they can see what they’re doing. They don’t have to send it off on some blackbox that processes it and then it comes back. It stays right in front of them and they can see everything that they’re doing.

            — snip —

            Long quote, sorry… there’s much more there in the interview. Also, Meander would be preceded by Deep Canvas? Tarzan was 1999…

          • Steve Henderson

            Of course, and they shouldn’t go without their credit but my original point remains and that is that John Kahrs has left the company and not the technique. I’d be interested to see what the future holds for both John Kahrs and the technique wether that be together or not.

          • guest

            Transcript of your youtube, Annecy 2012 interview

            John Kahrs: The change in the environment that has happened since John and Ed have come down and really created a place that the artists feel safe to take more risks and explore and push for new ideas and — like, for instance, when I found that there’s this drawing tool that was being made in the building and it’s called Meander by this guy Brian Whited, and when I found that I’m like, “Oh! I’ve discovered this drawing tool and this is going to be perfect for Paperman.” Well, the truth is that Ed Catmull five years ago said, “We need to put more research and development into 2D drawing tools because we need to revitalize that.” So it’s like, kind of, I just came along at the right time of like part of this larger plan to kind of reinvigorate the whole medium. So, yeah. Honestly, there’s really cool stuff happening at the studio right now.

            UK interviewer: So is Ed Catmull ready for the next software that’s needed, or —

            John Kahrs: He’s like a quiet storm. Like, he’s doing a lot, but he does it by I think enabling and delegating to, and getting the right components in the right places at the right time. And then like seeing what happens. And I think Paperman is one of those things that happened.


            So I wonder, what happened five years ago, with who… and now what?

      • Glad you liked the soppy story with a paper airplane that (completely unnecessary) started to fly by itself out of nowhere, but for me the only thing that made this short pleasant to watch several times was the technique. The wonderfully sensitive look/technique made the details in acting possible – which is the part that made Paperman’s super thin story line kind of work. So yes, it was the technique that made Paperman what it is because the technique allowed the subtle acting to take place and thus allowed the story to be told.

        • Well put. It wasn’t indicative of a lesser talent, but it certainly didn’t prove him a great talent. Yeesh, Disney.

  • Anon

    Clay Kaytis also left WDAS to direct a feature at another studio.

    • Toonio

      WTF! I knew the big mouse was putting him here and there to keep him busy but seems he didn’t get what he wanted.

  • Power_Animator

    Sad, but onto BIGGER and BETTER for him!!

  • Anonymous

    Amid, it’s called Walt Disney Animation Studios now, not Walt Disney Feature Animation. Also that Twitter account is not an official one. It’s an unauthorized account run by a few Disney animators.

    • Animatron

      Yes, run by Disney Animators… so I’m pretty sure they would know if John Kahrs had left or not.

    • Barrett

      Walt Disney Animation Studios just doesn’t sound as impressive as WDFA. It seems like Disney likes to tinker with what their various divisions are called every few years. Even the company itself (The Walt Disney Co./Disney Enterprises/etc.) seems to go through rotating identities.

  • Luke

    Sad to hear John is leaving. Best wishes!!

    Or maybe he’s moving back to Pixar…
    (Please disregard the wild speculation)

  • Anon

    Why are people assuming it was some underhanded corporate plot?

    • Barrett

      Because events within Disney, especially Pixar, over the past few years have been seen by artists as particularly creator-unfriendly. The revolving door for directors on almost every Pixar film, the perception of micromangement by an obviously spread-too-thin Lasseter….. None of it adds up to what those of us in the trenches feels is a “supportive work environment.” Kahrs’ departure could just be normal career migration, I really have no clue in this case, but I’m not surprised to see this inspire more murmurs from the rank-and-file of the industry who feel Disney isn’t necessarily in steady hands.

  • Bill Batz

    Frank and Ollie never left. They remained unknown for years. No Academy awards either. But they made people happy with their work.

    • Guest

      Is the goal of this name dropping to say we should be more complacent with the positions we’re kept in today because men of the past were themselves, under a completely different system and time period?

  • Daniel Savage

    Good Dino director? Lol

  • Anon

    Story artist Clio Chiang who also worked on Paperman is leaving Disney too and joining DreamWorks Animation.

  • Hankenshift

    I bet he left because Lasseter may not consider him feature director material.

  • cetrata

    Im guessing he was wanting to direct a feature but John Lasseter opposed his decisions at every step, kind of like Chris Sanders, Brenda Chapman, Brad Lewis and Bob Peterson.

  • Jace Diehl

    What if John Kahrs is leaving Disney to replace Bob Peterson on The Good Dinosaur?! All of Pixar’s brain trust is working on other films, so getting someone from Disney is a logical choice!

  • Giovanni Jones

    Is it possible…and this is just a guess…that it’s not necessarily Lasseter that is one of the causes for exodus, but perhaps a member or two of his inner circle? I’ve read that there are some among his central reviewing team who can be very brutal in critiquing the work of others. Sometimes it’s not the king but it’s the person who has the king’s ear.

    Is this too far-fetched, or are there candidates for the role of Rasputin?

  • George Comerci

    Wished he hadn’t left Disney, but I’m sure he’ll do great wherever he goes :)