Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Paperman

11 February 2013 by Nicholas in Films

Paperman is the animated short before Wreck It Ralph. It is also available (legally) online in its entirety. Apparently it features ground-breaking techniques and the melding of computer and traditional animation as well as 2D and 3D. Ignoring all that, it is beautiful, expressive and charming.

Although there are definite cues from the Disney of old, the film reminds me more of Japanese animation and feels like something that may have been bundled with the Animatrix. This could be because a tram/street-car is featured quite heavily or the exclusively urban settings. It doesn’t feel like typical Disney (even the sequence that borrows quite heavily from Fantasia’s The Magician’s Apprentice) and has a dated yet timeless look that seems more grounded than the purely fantastic.

Paperman isn’t bright or colourful. It is exclusively monotone apart from one piece of spot colour. The vitality of the colour against the monotone palette may be one reason, but it also evokes a classic sensibility and creates a sense of a real and depressing city. The skill in layering shades of grey, white and black to keep everything readily understandable and a sense of visual depth is not to be underestimated: this is as skilful a piece of animation as I have ever seen.

The characters, again, sit somewhere between the traditional Disney style and a more Japanese influence. They’re wordless and expressive, but they seem to have mannerisms rather than personalities. It’s too short an animation to properly explore them, and the cityscape and events alluded to by the title form as much of the story as the characters themselves. It’s a beautiful piece of animation, stylish but also engaging. But it is as long as it will support.