Paperman is a 2012 animated short and the first Disney animated short film to win an Oscar since 1969. Released alongside the feature length Wreck-It Ralph, it’s a seven minute movie about a chance encounter and longing for love. Set in 1940s New York City, George is waiting for his elevated train to work when a gust of wind throws one of his papers into the face of a pretty girl waiting on the same platform. Her lips leave a lipstick imprint on the paper and the duo laugh coyly at the incident before she gets onto her train. Later the same day, George is thinking about the incident while looking out of his office window when he spots the woman in a room on the other side of the street. In an attempt to draw her attention, he makes paper aeroplanes, launching them towards her open window.
Paperman is beautifully drawn with clean black and white lines and wonderful period detail. It’s reminiscent of the Hollywood Golden Age and features lovely period design. The animation is elegant and very much in keeping with classic Disney. Both central characters appear to have been taken from the stock character cupboard at Disney with Meg taking the form of a Disney Princess in mid century attire and George as the affable and harmless Prince in a suit. Although the animation is very ‘Disney’, it also smacks of realism. The expressions and movement speaks of the animation we all know and love but the background, tone and environment are much more realistic looking than in the cartoons of Disney’s heyday. The use of light is also evocative and adds to the sense of romance that the short exudes throughout. It also helps to capture that Golden Age vibe.
The plot is simple and sweet and something everyone can relate to. It’s based on the idea of a brief connection or spark between two people, something that those of us in large cities must feel often. I think that most people would have spotted a look or glance or caught eyes with a stranger and wondered what they might be like or how you’d get on. This takes that idea and runs with it. Like a lot of recent animated shorts, it’s incredibly simple but brilliantly effective. My only complaint is with the anthropomorphism of the paper in the final moments. It works well but I enjoyed the realism of the earlier stages. Overall though, this is yet another example of the kind of talent and creativity that Disney Animation Studios has to offer and like so many recent shorts, I enjoyed it more than its feature companion.
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