Paperman Paperman

The Poster for Disney’s “Paperman”


This is the poster (designed by Jeff Turley) for Paperman, a Disney short that’s been generating buzz for its distinctive melding of CG and hand-drawn animation. It’s the directing debut of veteran CG animator John Kahrs (Toy Story 2, Tangled, The Incredibles). Paperman will debut at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June. It will be distributed more widely in November when it plays in front of Wreck-It Ralph.

The synopsis below is from the film’s Facebook page:

Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting… with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him.

  • Sounds very interesting! Consider me “intrigued”.

  • Please Be Good

    I’m sorry to be such a downer but the story doesn’t sound terribly remarkable, but lets hope the films animation & technique really IS something, like they’re making it out to be. I wonder if TVPaint is involved. Hopefully they’ll at least give a rough breakdown of how they did it & what % is 3DCG & what isn’t. I wonder if it follows heavily in the technical footsteps of Mike Gabriels 2004 Disney Short Lorenzo which has barely seen the light of day. But I guess that’s because it was pre-John Lasseter, and when a new alpha male takes over a pride he tends to do in its earlier children in favour of his own.

    • A Writer

      the most simplest ideas are always the most groundbreaking

  • beamish13

    I’d like to own that poster, please.

  • Chris

    Wow! The poster is amazing. Now if only Disney would make some features like this! Unfortunately the synopsis fails to mention any musical numbers, talking/anthropomorphic animals, or mustachioed/triangle shaped villains so it would obviously never fly as a feature.

  • EXCELLENT poster! Monochrome me intrigued as well!

  • Deaniac

    I am REALLY digging that poster. The artistic style looks like a full 180 from the usual Disney fare nowadays, and that makes me all the more excited for it.

  • A Writer

    Things like this is why I fell in love with animation in the first place.

    amazing poster

  • Beautiful poster.

  • Bud

    The poster is terrific. The short is OK enough, although it seems to have gone out of it’s way to do something that would have been better served as a completely hand drawn short. And not because I have a problem with CG. But it doesn’t take advantage much of what CG can bring to the look of the short. What IS it with Disney trying to replicate hand drawn animation with the computer? What a waste.

    • Please Be Good

      Tell us more, tell us more! What’s the blend of CGI-ish 2D or 2D-ish CGI like? Could you tell if it’s actually animated frame by frame one drawing at a time, or with a rig & spline interpolation… perhaps as flat rigged After Effects or ToonBoomish like manipulation & moving of the same drawing(s) & Artwork(s) around on the stage? What’s all this “revolutionary technique” talk about? Why’d they choose only black & white, was it to better hide or blend something about the visuals? What makes you say the story was OK, vs this apparently “terrific” poster for it? Come on Bud o’l Buddy o’l pal, we need more beans spilled. I know enough non Disney folks have seen the short already for there to be at least some opinions of it & speculative tech info about it floating around already.

      • jerome

        The site has some kind of explanation of the process :
        “Though it’s hard to boil the technology down to a simple explanation, the new short film Paperman has been created with some rather revolutionary techniques. What the viewer can see on screen will be a computer generated image, albeit one stylised in a very painterly way. It has not, however, been animated in the standard computer graphics fashion.

        Instead, Paperman was animated using an input interface that works a lot like hand drawing onto paper, and these “pencil strokes” are then interpreted by the computer interface, and the CG model is posed accordingly. Not every frame needs to be drawn and, if I understand, not every part of the image has to be drawn, just where input is necessary. It sounds quite a bit like key-framing via a hand drawn interface.

        And when the shots are done, the images appear to be fully three dimensional, and move with a mass and solidity that’s familiar from CG work, but also have the graphic qualities of something created “flat.””

      • Please Be Good

        Wow, thanks jerome, that’s an absolute truck ton of information & quotes on Paperman.

        So if I understand right it’s a form of CGI-3D manipulation via a stylus & use of NPR techniques [non photorealistic rendering] to create something visually interesting & quassia drawing or artwork, but it’s not; quote, “flat” or “drawn” in any traditional marks on paper of a blank digital canvas sense of the word, other than figuratively as those user input strokes or imaginary marks are interoperated & use to adjust specific aspects of the model/rig? Wow, that does sound super tech fancy, what they can’t do with computers these days. Everybody buy the new software & go back to school. I assume that such an technique for “drawn” input to model manipulation could also be used to animate on other 3D features such as in the style of Brave, Tangled etc. All I can say at this point is Yay for better & more natural Human Interface Devices! And at least they’re doing stuff with NPR now, is all I really gotta say [coz it’s about gosh darn time they did]. Anyone else got any thoughts?

        It all sounds a lot like what Pixar veterans Dan Herman & Mark Oftedal of wanted to do with their program & evolve CGI animation to such a point way back in the day. Phil Tippett used real life stop motion or go motion rigs to help manipulate CGI puppets like the Bugs on Starship-Troopers. All this real world digital world interaction stuff is really exciting. Unfortunately, like everything… the future & technology is now, it’s just not very evenly dispersed yet.

      • jerome

        I posted another comment below with a link to a forum where the process is explained a little more… And apparently there IS absolutely real hand drawn animation used in the process (key drawings, no in-betweens).

  • That poster looks pretty dang cool. I’ve grown to really enjoy seeing animated shorts in front of movies so this will not disappoint!

  • cg-td

    I wonder how much Disney has used or continues to use their temporal noise distortion tool for work like this?

  • cha
  • JWLane

    “Send this back to Executive Committee. Where’s the goddamn Happy Meal toy tie-in? And don’t forget Holiday on Ice!”

    (This does have a lot of style. I’m really interested in the rest of the art direction).

  • jerome

    ‘Found a pretty good bunch of reactions and vague explanations of the process (look for postes by SWillie! ) here :

    • Justin

      SWillie’s explanations are the best I’ve seen so far. It’s really hard to explain in writing what the process is. It’s much better to show a video of the process, which I’m sure the filmmakers will do when they start making the festival circuit.

      • jerome

        What I don’t understand (among many things) is : Are they drawing over a pre-animated CGI character (so they’re animating 2 times or they kind of rotoscope the CGI with key drawings, with the computer creating the in-betweens) or is the CGI animation somehow following automatically the hand drawn animation ? What comes first ?
        (for example, if they want to have squash and stretch, do they have to deform the CGI model or does the interface do it automatically ?)

      • Please Be Good

        Yep, been asking myself the exact same questions jerome. I know that with their “Deep Canvas” Technique, they essentially used a tool that took an archive of strokes (brushstrokes, lines, whatever) into a node based 3D program, & could overlay & apply those strokes via the computer and essentially used that as a cleanup tool via a computer process to treat the scanned animation artwork, or to cover a 3D model [the trees & vines in Tarzan]. So artwork in 3D space attached to nurbs curves & or points of scanned animation frames. A variant of which was used in Lorenzo to make the 2D animation look more like artwork composed of traditional paint brush strokes ontop of the 2D animation ‘line’ drawings (in the case of Lorenzo it was used to get as a lines & edge treatment to make the art look more like it was treated as a traditional painting without outlines & to get away from or avoid the conventional 2D “Cel” animation look.)

        So now I’d say they’re getting their game on with a new & better human input interface for posing the 3D character, rather than an array of cumbersome number slider based controls or tangent handles on spline curves. And at the same time, using an upgraded version of that Deep Canvas treatment process to assist in the visual treatment & look of the quote “drawings” of the character that you see on the screen. So that we see those “drawings” as the visuals rather than a fully dimensional 3D model. But since it’s all based on the 3D model it still retains a stronger consistency & sense of dimensional relationships, true/perfect perspective, etc.

        Anway…Wild Guessing, YAY!

      • Justin

        The CG animation comes first and then the line work is layered over the top. The CG animation is then used to move the line work creating automated in-betweening. So in a sense, yes, it is animated twice. Once for gross body movement, and then again for subtle line work and details. Think of it like the rough animation is done in CG and the cleanup is 2D, except that the cleanup can be much more stable and consistent since it is driven by a physical model.

      • “What a waste” indeed

        So really, it’s nothing no one hasn’t done before, it’s just that Disney Pixar have throw their money and tech at it and produced something they wish to tout.

        Now I see why all the 2D guys would rather leave and go elsewhere, or get into book illustration. I’d hate to be reduced to clean-up & noodling with character details after spending 38 years as a lead & supervising character animator & training mentor to generations of artists who love to draw. Can’t believe that they still don’t get that it’s just not the same. But I guess folks will start to claim it’s more like a technical or in computer maquette aid that you can work over for the animation to say solidly on model, & for less tedious drawing & re-drawing to occur, because kids these days hate drawing soo much.

        *Eyes roll out of their sockets in regards to the level sarcasm in the last part of that sentence*

      • SWillie!

        I’m certainly no expert, so take my ramblings on that forum with a grain of salt. That said, I tried my best, with the little understanding I got out of the presentation.

        ^Justin seems to have the most solid idea of what it is. The CG does indeed come first. I like his explanation that the rough animation is done in CG, and the clean-up is done in 2D.

        Regardless of HOW it was done, the fact is that the result is astounding, and everyone should very much be looking forward to seeing Paperman.

      • Please Be Good

        Gee, sounds interesting. I’m hopeful but probably more sceptical now than ever before. I guess I’ll have to see it & wether it clicks for me or not. I guess it’s getting back to it’s roots in 2D as the animator is once again able to ” fully designing everything in the frame” in a sense, which is very important. But I doubt this technique will greatly affect the continued CGI look & use of lighting & realistic rendering in big feature animation the likes of Hotel Transylvania, Arthur Christmas, Brave, Tangled, Rise of the Guardians and so on.

        I remember watching Herculeses for the first time & being hella impressed with the 3D CG Hydra in some shots at the time. But for those shots I found out that they had animated them first in 2D & then sorta roto’d that 2D with the CGI model. All the animation in the Claymation game The Neverhood was done that way too. Same for the 1994 puppet stop-motion animated short The Big Story the 2D planning Vs the Puppet.
        So now the process becomes… animate it in 2D & bring that into the 3D program, or on a screen set against your stop-mo puppet, & reference that while you animate… and then… take that CGI or non CGI puppet animation & re-draw on top of it in 2D again to fix your drawing mistakes. hmmm. Well… learn to draw kids, at least it’s “sorta” semi-important in the process again now. [I say that in complete & mocking jest, by the way] Oh well, back to TVPaint.

      • jerome

        @Justin : So the CG animation is like the upgraded layout of a CGI film, or some kind of detailed previz… Is there still a traditional layout or has this phase been scrapped and changed entirely ?

        (The more I read about it, the more it makes me think of a highly evolved/automatized take on what Aardman did on “The Pearce sisters” – moving silhouettes in cgi then printing the cgi images then drawing the details based on these silhouettes then paste those details in the image using after effects ( ))

      • Ryan

        Well with powerful programs the likes of CelAction2D and the ever increasing tech bend when it comes to computer manipulation of images & human interaction & interface improvements, it’s no wonder Disney can do what they do. It’s just sad that student films & shorts from foreign countries like France, Spain, etc still seem beat the pants off of e’m and show exactly what they’re not bold enough to try, even as a mega studio. Come on Disney, filtering everything purely through the profit motive removes all sense of taste in your work.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Disney has been making shorts that are much better than their features.

    • Mark R.

      Maybe that’s the first sign that their changing their ways considering features take so long to make –

      This looks really interesting. I’m in line to see it.

  • I saw this short at Disney Inspire Days. It is not to be missed! Everyone at the event was talking about how great it was.

  • tony

    An other short about paper planes.

  • Anonymous

    Is it true Glen Keane did some animation on the short?

    • SWillie!

      Not sure if he did any animation. Possibly. He definitely did some character design work though.

  • A Wry Smile

    John Kahrs ‏@john_kahrs
    “Signing Paperman lithos at 11:30 this morning at the Bonlieu. This would be more successful if I could draw, or had proper penmanship.”

    Mr Kahrs makes me laugh. The quote kinda speaks for itself really.