The Making Of ‘Paperman’ and The Future Of Disney Animation

'Paperman' Concept Sketch

Last week, Disney released Paperman, the new CG/2D hybrid short film, on YouTube and it already has about 14 million views.

Shortly after it went viral, the industry honored Paperman with the Annie Award for best short film.

The response at the Annecy Animation Festival was also inspiringly positive.

The director recently confirmed that Disney is pursuing the Paperman process further.

Could the Paperman process be a picture of the future for Disney Feature Animation?

Read on to watch full short film, The Making Of Paperman videos and learn what I think it all means for the future of hand-drawn animation…

Updates for March 2013:

The Making Of Paperman: The Idea, The Drawings, The Look:

Start the video player below to watch all three featurettes about The Making of Paperman.

(They should just play through in order, automagically…)

  • You can scroll down to watch the Paperman Technical Reel for all the super-geeky details about how the Disney TD’s, animators and compositors achieved the deceptively-simple style.
  • For those of you who love concept art, you can find more Paperman sketches and designs on The Character Design Blog.

The Question On Everyone’s Mind…

Director John Kahrs presented Paperman to us at DisneyToon Studios about six months before it premiered in front of Wreck It Ralph and, of course, pretty much everyone cried.

From the breathtaking appeal of the character designs, to the whimsy of the 2D/CG hybrid animation style and the resonant story of hope and love, there was a collective understanding that John and his team had crafted something very special…

After the Paperman screening at DTS, a bunch of our technical directors, my buddy Mike Greenholt (animation director) and I hung around and drilled John Kahrs with questions about the film.

Everyone was then (as the rest of the industry is now) wondering:

“Could we do a feature this way?”

Obviously, I can’t speak for The Walt Disney Company, but as a fan, I am convinced that we will see a CG/2D hybrid animated feature from Disney in the relatively near future.

…and here’s why.

1.) John Kahrs Is Still “Pursuing” This Process At Disney:

Animation Tools In 'Paperman'During our conversation with John Kahrs after the DTS screening, it was clear to me that all we really needed was time and a budget to streamline the technical process.

According to this interview with AWN, John Kahrs’ current work at Disney involves “pursuing” this CG/2D hybrid technique further.

Historically, Disney and Pixar shorts have often been experiments which advance the state of the art.

Steamboat Willie introduced sound and it is generally accepted knowledge that the feathers in For The Birds were an early test for Sulley’s fur.

The point is, Paperman is a technological and artistic advancement of the state of the art.

Personally, I don’t think Paperman was initiated to test the viability of this medium for feature production, but I am convinced that John Kahrs’ new assignment ‘to explore the techniques further’ is.

Although John Kahrs’ statement about his mysterious “pursuit” of this process is probably the most concrete reason to believe that a Paperman-style feature is on it’s way, it’s not the only reason…

2.) Animation Artists Are Insane:

Here’s (basically) how the Paperman process works:

  1. The CG animators animate the scene in CG pretty much the same way they do in any other CG film.
  2. The computer renders the CG animation in a flat, “cel shaded” or “toon shaded” kind of way. (There’s no line art/ drawing at this point, just the fills.)
  3. The lines are drawn by hand onto the key frames inside of what appears to be the custom software that was designed for the production.
  4. This software “sticks” the drawings to the CG models in the keyframes and auto-generates the in-betweens the animation… Sort of.
  5. The auto-generated in-betweens are not as artful as the completely hand-made keyframe drawings so the animators still have to go through and tweak the in-betweens to look authentically hand-drawn, appealing and organic.
  6. The paper texture is added in compositing.  …but I can’t tell if the paper texture is added before or after the drawings.

Watch the silent, super-geeky Technical Reel that shows each stage of the process. It’s awesome.

UPDATE: Fast Company interviewed the ‘Paperman’ software engineer Ben Whited.

Needless to say, the process is extremely labor-intensive.

…but I just know that the team at Disney will take everything they learned on Paperman and streamline the process enough to do a feature.

It just has to happen.  It’s time. …it’s just time.

Labor-intensiveness hasn’t ever really stopped Disney or Pixar in the past (Thanks again, Walt, Ed, Steve and JL!) and nobody will argue about the audience response and the appeal of the look.

I just can’t imagine that Disney would give up on this process – especially after the creative, critical and commercial success of this film and the wide public interest in how it works (more on this later).

Disney and Pixar both have a legacy of artistic mastery and innovation:

  • …the exhaustive research and appeal in the character animation.
  • …the sophisticated backgrounds in Sleeping Beauty and Bambi.
  • …the fur in Monsters, Inc. …the ocean in Finding Nemo. 
  • The Incredibles. …basically all of it.
  • …not to mention that Disney invented traditional feature animation and Pixar is responsible for the first CG feature (Toy Story).

Sure, the Paperman techniques are labor-intensive but that’s nothing new to this industry.

The term “labor-intensive” is basically synonymous with “animation.”

The question isn’t “Is the process too labor-intensive?” but rather, “How do we streamline the production process to be affordably labor-intensive?”

In ‘Paperman’ the Disney legacy draws a picture of the future: [LINK]
-Tweet This Quote

3.) Humans Crave Texture:

When the iPod was introduced, every physical product everywhere started to look like the iPod. White, shiny and minimal.

I remember the time I found a toaster at Target that looked just like an iPod and thought to myself “Alright, people. This has gone on long enough.”

But right after the iPod craze, Etsy happened.

Audiences crave texture, imperfection, things hand-made.

The hand-drawn effect of Paperman is labor-intensive but so is everything they do at Laika and Aardman.

I know we’re all way past the CG/ hand-drawn debate but the current popularity of stop-motion is Exhibit A in the defense of hand-made animation as a viable medium for feature animation.

Line Effects In Disney's 'Paperman'

Imperfection in art is humanity in art.

…and this is the emotional reason to make a feature like Paperman.

Pitched explicitly, this concept might not persuade the numbers people, but this emotional undercurrent is, nonetheless, present and powerful.

4.) The Animation Industry Loves Drawing:

Watch this short clip where animation auteur Brad Bird says what pretty much everyone in the animation industry thinks about traditional animation:

John Kahrs said in the first Making Of Paperman video that when he came to Disney (from Pixar) he noticed that ‘drawing was everywhere.’

Everyone I can think of who works in the animation industry in any capacity LOVES traditional, hand-drawn animation.

UPDATE: Disney CEO Bob Iger recently made an official announcement that there are no traditionally hand-drawn features currently in  development or in the production pipeline.  …which means it will be at least five years before the next hand-drawn Disney feature. …and that’s if they start development today.

Despite the recent rumors that there are no hand-drawn features in the works at Disney, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, Jeffrey Katzenberg and basically everyone in the animation industry (execs too) are fans of the medium.

Again, this reason is emotional, but it’s there and it’s not going away…

'Paperman' Concept Art

5.) The Movie Would Market Itself:

Disney legacy is tradition AND innovation. …and that is the perfect marketing position for a Paperman-style feature.

Even though, aesthetically, I prefer hand-drawn animation, I still love the medium of CG animation.  I love the subtle nuance in the character performances, the gorgeous effects and the freedom in the cinematography.

Wreck It Ralph…and though you can find the classic Disney heart, appeal and decorative secondary motion in Tangled and Wreck It Ralph, even mainstream audiences know that those movies are distinctly different than the hand-drawn films from which they grew.

But there are a huge number of CG movies these days and Paperman is genuinely unique.

…an exciting, noticeable, marketable innovation like Sulley’s fur, Nemo’s Ocean or The Incredibles.

The Paperman process gives the marketing department a very distinct message. The classic Disney legacy combined with a new, exciting technological frontier…

It gives audiences something new to “ooh and ahh” about and a new look which is appealing and unprecedented in the minds of the general, worldwide Disney audience.

The Bottom Line:

  • If Disney can streamline the Paperman Process enough to make a hybrid film, they will make a great film with a great story just like they have done recently with Tangled and Wreck It Ralph and thus, it will be successful.
  • The potential movie is, in itself, the perfect marketing position: Disney’s legacy of hand-drawn animation led us to our next technological innovation.
  • A successful hybrid would, at least, increase the likelihood of another completely traditional, hand-drawn feature.
  • Regardless of the outcome of John Kahrs’ current experiments at Disney, audiences have proven that the worldwide appetite for hand-drawn images in mainstream animation is only increasing. …which is good news for traditional artists.

Even if a Paperman-style feature is the closest thing we ever get to classic Disney animation, the Disney traditions, including those of creative mastery, innovation, drawing and appeal will live on.

…but I can also guarantee that the good people at Disney are paying close attention to the audience response to Paperman. 

So be sure to tweet, share, like, reblog, pin and post about the film and your love for hand-drawn animation because now, more than ever, the audience is in charge of what gets the green light.

What Do You Think?

Does the Paperman process predict the future of Disney Animation? Will old-school, hand-drawn Disney animation ever come back?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!  I’m excited to hear what you have to say…

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{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

Benjamin

Well, as for the lack of success on Princess and the Frog, I don’t think it is because of it being hand-drawn. I remember hearing that they thought the title turned of boys, that leading to the name of “Tangled.” Do you know if this is true?

Anyhow, I think a lot of it comes down to marketing. I must confess I have not yet watched it or Winnie. I’ll have to catch up on it some time.

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Chris Oatley

The new Winnie The Pooh movie is gorgeous and funny and sweet. The story is very quaint. It fits the tone of the original shorts/ feature.

I loved it but I also see why it wasn’t a box office smash – because it’s a much younger kind of story with a smaller reach. That’s not a criticism. It’s just the appropriate kind of story for that world and audience.

I have no idea why they changed the title of “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” but it’s a fantastic movie. My favorite of the recent Disney films and a high point in recent animation history. I’m a huge fan of that movie.

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Chris Oatley

Oh, and no, I don’t think the medium of 2D animation has any more sway in the success of a move than cg does.

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Sam

Me too Chris. Tangled resonated with me much like little mermaid did when it came out. In my teens, Disney was doing things like The Black Cauldron and loosing my interest fast. So when mermaid came out it was like the heart was back. Tangled proved it again that Disney still has it.

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Sarah

Exactly — I think the name turned off boys and the lack of cute critters (girls don’t usually care for frogs and alligators) turned off girls. The movie wasn’t given a fair chance.

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Muse

One thing people have to remember about Princess and the Frog is that when it came out, IT WAS GOING HEAD TO HEAD AGAINST AVATAR. Now, as you know, Avatar was the highest money-making film OF ALL TIME. Now, HOW could Princess and The Frog compete with that? It would be appreciated if people remembered that, instead of remembering the film’s lack of success being based upon it being a hand-drawn film.

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allyson

I think Disney would have to be crazy not to at least try to make a feature with the technology used in Paperman. And I seriously hope they do make traditionally animated movies again, though I can understand why they wouldn’t.

Traditionally animated films tend to have this timeless feeling, where as those with CG and traditional really show their age. Like when watching Hunchback of Notre Dame, the crowds are CG and although they are disguised well once you see it, its not pretty. It seriously dates the film.

Any way, Disney is one of the few studios that can brag about such a rich history of beautifully animated films which still are great to watch now. And I would be very surprised if they didn’t make a feature with Paperman’s technology, or find an even more brilliant way to make features blending 2D & CG.

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Chris Oatley

That’s a great observation about Hunchback. I love, love, LOVE that movie. I actually think its generally underrated.

And yes, me too. I want to see a Paperman-style feature right now.

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Kit Man

It’s wonderful to hear such admiration for 2D hand drawn animated films! I hear from people not working in the industry how much they prefer seeing the artists mark on film/TV, like paintings and sculptures in galleries 2D hand drawn animation lies closer to our hearts than we can put into words. CG does show its age year after year (with the exception of Monsters Inc due to the wonderful design and interesting characters), and with the increase in technology and screen resolutions it will continue to make CG look dated as it tries to catch up and still feel modern. CG is bound to the technological advancements that gave birth to it and CG will continue to be at the whim of developing technologies. Technology is always about the next new development and how to surpass current technological obstacles, it is stuck on a path of self renewal its achilles heel, as we always now expect more from technology and CG as years pass by.

We are however extraordinarily lucky that the Paperman process has been created, it is one development worth stopping at, to sit down and take in a breath, to explore what interesting stories we might be able to tell by limiting ourselves from any further technological advances, the next 50 years should be ample time!

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Tegan Clancy

I think what Paper man had was heart. Not just the story line, but it’s little imperfections. No one loves perfect, it makes you feel like somethings off, and CG can give a cold feeling. Don’t get me wrong, CG can have warmth, but I believe you have to work for it that more, with story, relatable character designs and a world we want to be in. There was something nostalgic and genuine in Paperman, and I think if Disney can recreate this into a feature it would be pure gold!

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Chris Oatley

I think you’re onto something there, Tegan.

The warmth of CG happens in the nuance and the believability of the animation. Well, and in the actual filmmaking (the compositions, lighting, score etc.)

The same is true for hand-drawn but I think hand-drawn has an advantage when it comes to “inherent humanity.” I see much more humanity in a single rough line drawing than there is in a single frame from an unrendered shot in Maya…

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Scott Wiser

“Pure Gold” is right – and they could push the process even FURTHER as time goes on, which I can’t wait to see…

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Tom richner

At UCLA when I was in grad school, we had Bambi and Mulan screening at different times on campus. Both were beautiful, but on Bambi, you can literally see fingerprints on the glass and cels in the film. You can see brush strokes and feel the human hand in the artwork. Mulan was beautiful as well, but when seen right after Bambi, it felt a bit sterile (too clean). I too would love to see a little more ‘imperfection’/ fingerprints on films in the future.

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Scott Wiser

Who new fingerprints could be SO romantic? I saw Bambi recently and was Shocked at the amazing art … (it had been a long time).

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Tegan Clancy

There is a whole authenticity Trend happening at the moment in the design world, everyone loves something when its more “real.” Oh and Bambi, is just beautiful! I advise to watch Dumbo again as well. It had to be a cheaper movie for the company so the backdrops were not labored over and there’s something simple amazing to them.

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Genny

I definitely think it predicts the future. I really feel that at it’s heart animation is an emotional interchange between the audience and the artists. As such, it must keep evolving. I think it will continue to extend, then roll back, then extend again, like ocean waves during high tide.
I agree with you about Hunchback, by the way. I think Michael Surrey’s animation of Clopin was my favorite gem in that whole movie. And Peter De Seve’s development sketches… gorgeous!!

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Chris Oatley

I think you’re right on.

Also, Clopin is so awesome.

The clean-up animation in that movie is inSANE. The volume in the faces. So few swimmy facial features… Rock-solid anatomy… Amazing.

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jtbozz

I’m with you Chris. It’s great to hear from someone that’s as excited about the possibilities of this tech as I am. I’d love to see an animated Star Wars movie in the paperman style. And now that Disney owns Lucasfilm I may very well get my wish someday. And I think for 2D to really make a comeback it’s just gonna take a big blockbuster to make it “relevant” in the mainstream again. I don’t believe that it’s dead but merely hibernating and getting ready to make a comeback in a huge way.

Juuuust my 2 cents. Thanks again for the awesome post!

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Chris Oatley

“I’d love to see an animated Star Wars movie in the paperman style.”

You just blew my mind.

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Scott Wiser

I certainly hope this represents the future of feature animation! Speaking of Brad Bird, I once heard him say that 2D artist could learn a ton from the “Layered CG process” In that you block things in but then you continually add layers of nuance and even your key drawings improve as a result. For many, it “goes without saying” that CG can definitely learn from 2d, but I don’t think we’ll fully grasp that concept until years in the future. In my opinion, the current rigging methods are clunky compared to what we’ll have in the future. I’m voting for processes that are more pliable … for animators who not only understand CG, but also 2D and beyond. Great article, Chris … it got me all worked up and excited to innovate.

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Chris Oatley

I’ve seen character rigs where you can turn off visibility on the parts of the character which would, traditionally, be animated in layers.

I know this possibility exists in CG. It’s a great way to work because it prevents you from getting too detailed too soon…

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Scott Wiser

Oh yeah, I turn parts off all of the time.

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Jose-Luis Segura

I would love if the animation industry as a whole went this way. The films would gain a layer of character which a computer misses.

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Chris Oatley

I love that you point out that the technique itself has character…

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Britny Lewis

I babysit a 5 year old, a 3 year old, and a 2 year old a lot. I always love to see their reactions to ‘new’ movies they haven’t seen before. Last weekend we watched ‘The Rescuers’ (which I haven’t actually seen for a very long time). I was pleasantly surprised at how the kids were just as entertained and delighted as I was even though the movie was created several decades ago.

I absolutely love Paperman. The story and animation are fantastic. The blending of 2D and 3D is nothing completely new… I thought Dreamwork’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron did an exceptional job of it awhile back. But the story design and essence of Paperman should not be taken lightly and I do think that kind of animation could be made into a full-length movie. And I sincerely hope old-school animation makes a reappearance too. Nothing beats traditional.

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Chris Oatley

I’m a huge fan of ‘The Rescuers.’

That “Xerox” era is my favorite when it comes to Disney animation. ‘Robin Hood’ is probably my favorite Disney film. The old Winnie The Pooh’s, Sword and The Stone, Dalmatians… So many great moments…

Not to mention the art…

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Scott Wiser

You’re right, 2D + CG isn’t new, but they have been difficult to integtrate seamlessly. Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the best uses of CG to enhance the 2D I’ve ever seen … but paper man was the first time we really saw 2D used to enhance CG – and they integrated seamlessly to boot! While “Nothing Beats Traditional” for me yet either … I bet 2D + CG could do it in the future.

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Kit Man

The Rescuers and films from that golden period had a tangible element to them, something that has not returned with the development in technology, till Paperman. We do forget how 2D has been integrated with 3D for many years now, with many accomplished films to speak of such as Spirit as Britny mentions, it got a lot of bad reviews for a film that was too early for the public to appreciate. Howl’s Moving Castle too as Scott rightly mentions is an excellent example of how they can work wonderfully together and Paperman is now the next step!
Japan has been experimenting and integrating 2D and CG for many years, but not in the same direction or degree as western countries have. This is related to the early adoption and investment in software rather than electronic hardware by the US, as they could not compete with Japans dominance in the electronics market.
Japan has also been drawing on digital tablets and using tradigital software before Toonboom and TVPaint were ever created. It just never caught on like it did in the US and Europe. Their love for the Manga art form and how deeply rooted it is in their culture, is one of many reasons why CG has been slow to be accepted.
Metropolis (or Metoroporisu) made in 2001 by Osamu Tezuka and screenplay by Katsuhiro Ôtomo of Akira fame, is another excellent example of 2D and CG in a wonderful partnership, well worth watching if you have not seen it before:)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifl-N4RBpVI

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Bruce Barnes

The human touch, the intentional imperfection in one’s art is a central concern in Wabi-Sabi .

It’s been a artistic/aesthetic philosophy in Japan for thousands of years. It’s not going away.

So why are so many in the US pursuing the creation of art/animation that attempts to smudge out/conceal the spark of the hands that created the work? Has the technology become more important then the art in US animation?

Paperman has many wonderful qualities, not the least being a balance of the tools and the human heart and hand. Making the tools serve a human story as the highest objective is a welcome change.

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Chris Oatley

Well put, Bruce. Inspiring.

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Kit Man

Great question Bruce:), It is impossible to know where the importance lies between the art and technology when making animated films. Both are just as important and are now tightly integrated with each other, one might not be able to exist without the other. Technology enables the art form to exist and progress not only financially but with the culture.

There are probably many reasons why it is getting harder for “the spark of the hands that created the work” to be seen, one which is obvious to most in the industry is that the tools are different in creating animations now, also the number of people involved in creating a 5 second act/beat in a modern CG animated film is more than when it was before, during the golden age of animation.

One final possibility is the complexity involved in modern animation production, hardware and software now play a much bigger part, it could be said that the production process is more elaborate and the route more convoluted to produce an image on screen than before. It is why live action film is so popular, basically you point and shoot.

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Ty

First off, I loved this short. It made me have hope for the future of animation. The advances we can make instead of just churning out the next 2 day rendered scene.
Now…
In my opinion the best way to utilize this process is to use the cg’s modeling to act out the scene, which they are already doing; but to also utilize the physics engines in order to really bring forward the feeling of weight and movement. This will really help those tasks of trying to get time and space into a floating airplane being manipulated by the wind of a passing Boeing 747.
Taking much guesswork away from the artist and letting the computer do the math.

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Chris Oatley

It’s amazing how these kind of advances just energize the whole industry. I love that…

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Matthew Robert Davies

Hi Chris,

I was lucky enough to see the premiere of Paperman at the Annecy film festival last year. Not to be a total sap, but when it started, I immediately started to well up. I know Disney have picked up the pace in recent years in terms of 2D animation, but this was something new and I felt that, as a traditional animator, I could have a part in it.

I got to speak to the team behind the soon-to-be Oscar winning short. I got to see some early tests and some other colour animations that blew my mind.

It was interesting to hear how reluctant ‘management’ was at first, and how it was due to the team already having some footage done (and backing from some Disney veterans) that it got green-lit. (It’s only sensible seeing as Disney have tried many times to do 2D/CG animations and we all know they cal looks really bad really easy.) So even though Paperman was conceived as a short, there is no doubt in my mind that it has it’s purpose in testing the water for future experimentation.

Cut to the overwhelming success it’s achieved and it just shows that: There are new frontiers in both classical and CG animation, Disney is still willing to take risks in innovation and audiences have no clue what they want until you show them.

Classical animation is, in my opinion, thriving in the form of short film. ‘Adam and Dog’ is another gem you should check out. Plus, Dreamworks are (hopefully) still working on ‘Me and My Shadow’ (I think that’s the title) which has hand drawn shadows as characters. Let’s see if they try and whip up something similar to Meander.

Do I think Paperman is the future of 2D? As it stands, No. At the moment It’s more of a stylised CG that brings out the best of both mediums.
The power of volume and Line.
That being said, I was surprised at how much experimentation is going on behind the scenes. This is the next step since Silver from Treasure Planet, and it’s a welcomed one.

I do think Paperman is the first ‘timeless’ piece of CG film making and let’s face it, it’s accomplished to tell a better story in 6 minutes then most features do today. Classic.

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Chris Oatley

Great, great stuff, Matt. Thanks so much for posting this.

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Lauren Chaikin

“Humans Crave Texture”

BAM. This is part of why I loved Paperman so much. This could be another Disney Renaissance. Yes, Tangled & WIR were great, but to bring 2D “back”, so to speak, in a way that combines all of the recent tech advances in visual storytelling looks so promising. I would love to peel more of, say, Glen Keane’s drawings off of the page and have them dance and sing in the style of Paperman.

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Chris Oatley

Yes. I have been hoping and praying that GK will make a hand-drawn film in his post-Disney career.

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Matthew Robert Davies

Interestingly enough, Glen gave a hand in doing turnarounds for George for the CG artists. and also, the test animation that can be seen in the How-To where Meg runs around the corner and throws her hair back was animated by Glen.

*I was told that he animated that scene completely digitally and one of the tricks he used with the cintique was to lay some paper (That thin brown paper bag material I think) on top so it had more of a tooth like traditional material.

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Chris Oatley

Awesome. I love that dude.

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David Lund

Thank you Chris for the absolutely fascinating animation information.
As a traditional illustrator and fine artist, I know little of CG etc., but trying
to learn. I have had great respect for the art of animation, since seeing some of
Disney’s original cels many years ago……Thank you again for sharing so much.

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Raijene

I’m actually not that sure how I feel about the technique. I think id have to see how it handles full color and elements like fire and water.

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Kimberly

I really hope disney does continue with this technique, it would be a real shame and waste if they didn’t. the short film was a real masterpiece to me, a nice blend of 2d and 3d. matter of fact I liked it better the the movie wreck-it ralph (I’m serious), I was disappointed it was so short because I really wanted see more of it. which I think this is the one thing I think disney as been missing for years, something to bridge the gap between 3d and 2d, while I do like their recent CG films, it just doesn’t have the feeling of the 2d disney films that a grew up with. I really like what brad bird had said, proof that 2d is never going to go away from the animation industry because really we need it.

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Chris Oatley

I think that’s accurate, Kimberly.

We DO need drawing. It’s vital for visual communication of all kinds.

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Terryl Whitlatch

Hi Chris,

I think what is most exciting for me regarding this hybridization is the potential it have to bring any artist’s drawings to life, in any style. For example, I can easily visualize my character Katook the Lemur (from The Katurran Odyssey) being animated in this fashion. It would also bring much interest and variety of stylization to animated films (just as can be seen in the visual styles of live action films, from Citizen Kane to Lincoln). There is so much sameness to current CG films in terms of look and feel. Requiring good drawing skills with the advent of hybrid animation should open up a wider arena for artists/draftspersons in addition to the more technical/software aspects of the media. Everyone benefits from this.

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Chris Oatley

I just got chills thinking about this.

This would be an amazing way to convey the dimensionality in a Beatrix Potter illustration while preserving the expressive, broken line…

Oh my… That would be uhMAYzing.

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Scott Wiser

Me too…chills galore. Terryl, I found your website and beautiful drawings … it would be amazing to see them come to life in the way you described!

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Rani

Chris,
I completely agree with you!
There was always something magical about 2D animation. Whether it’s nostalgia or as you put it: “Imperfection in art is humanity in art,” it definitely resonates with a lot of people.
I think what Disney did with ‘Paperman’ takes the best of both worlds creating an incredible hybrid that is the next big thing in animation.
I can’t wait to see more! :D

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Chris Oatley

Me too, Rani. Can’t flippin’ wait.

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Ryan James

I gotta say, I loved Paperman, I think I teared up a little bit for it actually lol. I showed my mother the short the other day and she couldn’t believe it was a 3D production. She teared up a little too at the end there as well haha. I personally love the traditional 2D work, I prefer it over 3D CG for pretty much all the reasons highlighted in everyone’s comments, My favourite 2D film would have to be Lion King. I absolutely loved the hand painted backgrounds done for that movie and I feel knowing that it was all hand painted, rather than computer generated, makes me appreciate the film even more. While I like CG movies and I can appreciate the benefits of making a film in CG as well, I’m very excited to see more CG films that look 2D haha

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Kate M.

While I enjoy both mediums in themselves seeing them together well blended is amazing to me. I’m happy hand-drawn (2D) has not totally left the building. In art I love the pre-production, storyboard, and concept art portions best because of that very visceral, handmade feel. I still want to better myself with the computer art programs, but also continually learn new drawing elements as well.

Even though it’s labor-intensive (I’m sure tweaks will be made), I think it’ll pay off. Looking at shorts like Paperman or even Aleksandr Petrov’s paint-based The Old Man And The Sea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5ih1IRIRxI . With such examples you can really appreciate the work they put into the art forms

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Kit Man

I love The Old Man and The Sea Kate, the effort took to make it and the story behind the collaboration between an animator and Aleksandr Petrov’s love for paint and film:)

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Scott Wiser

Wow, that was a ton of work! Beautiful.

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Lika

I completely loved Paperman, it indeed had a heart in it. I think it to be totally awesome if the hand drawn animation once again makes a comeback. The timeless old hand drawn movies still have their appeal and give this “nostalgy” feeling, imperfectness makes them perfect.
Among recent Disnay movies Im in love with “tangled” it indeed moved my heart and… I just like so much, so CG movies are aslo admirable.
Something that becomes a combination of those too is wonderful in my opinion.

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Petra van Berkum

YES YES YES! Bring it back! I love handdrawn things, I love the traditional look combined with today’s technique! I love Paperman and I would definitely see any kind of movie like this. I have tears in my eyes every time I see it. It’s so, fragile, personal but it’s just perfect. If Disney doesn’t do it, someone else will.

I didn’t like all the slick 3D things too much in the first place. Of course Paperman is 3D..sort of, but they’ve done so well in combining this with a traditional, but modern look that you don’t notice it, or maybe a little, but that’s just because it helps creating that dimension and world.

Man, I just hope they continue like this :)!

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Sam

Thank you so much for this Chris. Always inspiring. My son James is constantly drawing. He LOVES to draw and I feel it is my duty as his daddy to inspire and encourage him in this. It’s just so good to know that if he wishes, there is a future for him if he continues to work hard, actually, I think it must be LOVE hard, to draw and express himself.Daddy is still trying too.

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Chris Oatley

YES! Draw, little Kirkman, DRAW!!!

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Larry

Paperman is exquisit, the perfect blend of two expressions.

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Alex

If Disney has the cash to buy out Disney and Star Wars in the same year, they should be able to keep hand drawn animation alive and every iteration between it and CG.

Perhaps the technology and innovation for hand drawn animation is just now starting to leap forward. Who knows where it could go?

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Alex

sorry…I mean Marvel Comics.

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Mishie

Hi Chris! Great post! I love it when people rave about Paperman, but also really discuss what this means for the future of animation.

A friend (or my brother, can’t remember) actually asked me what the point was of laying 2d over 3d, and not just pick between the two. It was tough for me to explain but I just knew that the effect it had on me was different.

Actually, I talk about Paperman in a video series I’m doing! :) The link is here:
http://youtu.be/SK7sl6FyKZA

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Kit Man

Hey Chris!

Paperman is a wonderful short in every respect, from its charming animation to its solid compositions, but its the simple boy meets girl love story and the magic that shines above anything else. It’s rare to see a short with such a strong human element that punches through the visuals and the technical process upon which it is made.

By looking from another perspective other than that of the optimistic artist, it might help to build a clearer image of Papermans process and the chance it will alter the path of Disney’s animated feature films. It will no doubt be part of Disney’s future, as long as the cost of the technology can help make the film process, faster, cheaper and more profitable, that is one of the main tenets of technology today, and don’t forget they are in the business of making money and are held accountable by shareholders and private investors. If in any form the cost to develop the technology, to create 2 hour 2D looking animated films is more than what they will gain, the likely hood of it living beyond the short film format is unlikely, and it is one of many reasons why traditional 2D hand drawn animated feature films have, or if not died in the US and UK. Japans economy, and the effect of a more global market place has on its own, is having consequences on their 2D hand drawn animation industry, with less focus on investments in expensive hardware and more money into research and software development the temptation to use even more 3D in their animation productions have increased.

Also other factors will have an impact, with developing countries being able to invest in technology even more cheaply, with greater access to quality education and research, less expensive production costs, and with more money to attract investors and business the future of animation might not be in Disney’s hands. It’s possible it won’t be Disney that revives the 2D hand drawn style visuals but one of the companies in a developing country. The way animation is made and its visual style might end up looking completely different, or as it is now if the cost and profit continue to be the impetus that decides.

The Paperman process might bridge the gap between the visual style of CG and the public’s continued uneasiness with its aesthetics, but like most technological advancements in the last decade, it will leave its mark but follow the trend and be surpassed. This is of course not the case if Disney release the technology behind Paperman to other companies and individuals, helping it to reach a world wide usage solidifying its presence, and allow the “average joe” the ability to use it rather than the elite.

I am a 2D traditional animator and have made it my life’s aim to adhere to and uphold as many of the fundamentals as I can, and like any other 2D artist I have hopes that the Paperman technology will pave a new wave and interest by large companies, and the deep pockets of private investors in 2D hand drawn animation. However the hybridization of 2D and CG might not help the revival of old-school, hand-drawn Disney animation. The combination of each is creating something altogether different, it is not 2D traditional animation nor is it CG. One might be having adverse effects on the other.

By accepting CG that looks like 2D is better than the common visual style that 3D is known for, it might be remarked there is no point to 3D animation if its the visual style that decides its value. 3D has many merits including its own defined aesthetics, it’s still in its infancy compared to the evolution of 2D hand drawn animation. It has no reason to be like a Chameleon and pretend to be something it is not, by appearing to look 3D it is helping to destroy its own identity. This can be said for 2D animation. Fundamentals that underpin it are deemed to be worthless or unimportant in its persona, such as the knowledge that the artist works on a flat surface and yet can create believable “3Dness”, and feats of action and drama from a stroke of a pencil. Its what makes it impressive and the reason why it is applauded and held in such high regard as traditional old-school painters centuries ago. They are both great in their own right.

2D hand drawn animation existed in its form for so long due to many factors, one being there was not the technology to create animation in any other way, then computers arrived and changed our lives indefinitely including the animation world, and now with the innovation behind Paperman that might be reversed. I want to believe that there might be a renaissance in 2D hand drawn animation in the US and UK, but there are now many more factors that will decide whether that will happen.

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George

To tell the truth, I think 3D animation was such a big deal because it was something new. Everyone was impressed by Toy Story, not only because it was a great movie, but because everything was in three dimensions. However, today no one is impressed by 3D, it would be a lot more impressing to see Disney come up with some new style of animation, just like they did with Toy Story back then. Anyway, I believe most of Disney’s mainstream audience is indifferent about the medium. With a good story, it wont matter whether it’s 2D, 3D, or Live action, it will be successful with the correct amount of marketing behind it.

There’s no denying that using plain 2D might look like a step backwards to the eyes of many, but no one was saying that about Paperman. The animation style did look like something new, even though it used 2D. If Disney wants to play it safe and stick to 3D and nothing else, this might end right here, but I believe this new hybrid animation style CAN be a bright future for Disney, as long as they give it a try.

Now speaking about my personal experience, I have to tell I was losing faith on Animated films as well as Videogames, since nothing has seemed to change much in the last few years. I was tired, really tired, of the same stuff over and over again. That’s why to me, Paperman, just like Journey from thatgamecompany on video games, was a complete breath of fresh air, it gave me something to hope for on the future of animation.

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Kit Man

You make a great point George! it would be good to see Disney come up with a new style of animation and the story is most important in engaging the audience, there is more to the universe than its appearance. If money and support is put behind anything, there are no limits to its success.

I think the success of computer games like Journey is that they brought the art forward as the most important force behind its making, it had nothing to do with improving technology.

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Scott Wiser

And don’t forget that Journey was a HIGHLY successful EMOTIONAL experience! The art merely conveyed that drama … this is why I LOVE Chris’s Painting Drama course … it gives us the tool to bring that emotional quality to our art!

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Seth Greenwald

I want to DO this. I MUST be a part of this! I may be in a minority, but I don’t have a preference of one over the other in the 2D/CG discussion. I am in absolute love with both. The scale of possibility in CG is staggering. To leverage the math of real physics, while not being tied to it? Such a capacity is exhilarating. And yet…

When I first saw the concept art behind Tangled, one of my favorite movies of all time, animated or no, I felt a keen sense of loss. There was something precious there, so much so that it saddened me that it would only be viewed, or rather felt, by only the curious looking it up, or the exceptionally lucky who stumbled onto it. The light in those color keys… Chris, it gave me goosebumps. The deep kind that only go away after a minute or two of high voltage tension released by a long, drawn-out shudder. In their wake the left not fear, but longing. A longing to see more, and an even deeper longing to paint like that. I wanted to see all of it, not just what I could scrounge from the Internet.

And then I saw Paperman. I was… entranced. I doubt I breathed through the whole 6 minutes. Something gripped my heart, sank in, became part of it. The goosebumps were back, with no shudder to release the electricity. I can still feel it, as I type. I knew at that moment that one day I would see those color keys live. I would see that same light that moved me to tears play across the face of the girl as she gazed at her one true love. Dust motes would dance through beams of brush strokes, as the boy finds the old map in Grandma’s attic. All in a world completely immersive… To eyes and spirit.

What Disney has done is build a new kind of window. Some will open that window, showing nothing but the brick wall of the building across the street, the same wall that we can see from every other window. But others will open this window, this very special window, draw aside the curtain, and show us…

Heaven.

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Chris Oatley

Seth, do you have a blog? If you don’t, you need to have one. Amazing stuff.

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Alysse

Hi Chris!

I am excited to receive your email about Paperman! I have been geeking out about this amazing animation for almost a year now! I had the pleasure of going to Disney Inspire Days in March 2012 and seeing a special presentation. I remember being blown away by the 2D/CG animation. Then we got the treat of hearing about how it was made from the creators themselves. One brave soul in the audience managed to ask them, “How did you do that?” That is when Patrick Osborne discussed how they made the animation and developed the style. As students, dreamers, and animators/artists we were in awe of what they had created. We all knew we had seen the future of animation and could not stop talking about it since that inspiring day. I just feel honored to be part of that group who got to see it at Disney Animation Studios. I hope to someday be using Meander to make animations and to see Disney make their features in the same format. It’s spectacular!

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Chris Oatley

I LOVE that the studio has become so much more open to the public with the movie screenings etc. I’ll never forget the first time I walked onto the lot and walked past the old animation building and across Walt’s underground tunnel etc… It was almost a religious experience. Maybe it was, actually…

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Kevin Cameron

I think there’s room for any and all types of experimentation in style & process in animation, 2d or 3d. As far as the artform is considered anyway. Which styles & techniques resonate best with an audience is our challenge to approach, & the audience’s place to determine.

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Chris Oatley

I can’t wait to see a Kevin-Cameron-designed animated short…

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ashon

Well Ifor one am truly excited about the potential of the medium. I’ve always believed that 2d animation would return to feature films in some way . As i grow and train as artist i constantly think of every character i design as 2/d 3d form or try to for the most part. To see animated feature done in Paperman’s style would be amazing because i think Disney/Pixar have very unique and interesting stories that their the potential seem limitless. also this generation of creators are pushing and raising the bar for what can be seen or done with visual story telling.I cant express in words how excited I am about all this but hopefully my work in the coming day, months, and years will

Ashon :)

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Chris Oatley

“I cant express in words how excited I am about all this but hopefully my work in the coming day, months, and years will”

Well put, Ashon. Thanks for posting.

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Dominic

Not sure what to make of the “Paperman” process. What does it make it more viable than the process of Disney’s “Motorcity”? After 13 episodes they already pulled the plug, but the fans wanted more. Motorcity had been a very refreshing action/adventure series I’ve seen since ATLA or Legend Korra. I do hope they bring it back. The story is not even finished yet.

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Chris Oatley

I don’t know ‘Motorcity.’ Sounds cool.

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Dominic

Watch it. It’s chock full of awesome in 13 episodes.

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Scott Wiser

I loved Motor City … The characters where done traditionally and the Cars + some backgrounds were done with 3D. The process was much the same as 2D + CG has been done for years. https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/motorcity-vol.-1/id517052911

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Juan B. Flores

The Paperman is amazing. A timeless film. And it’s great to know that somehow Disney is going back to handdrawn animation.
Personally, In the last years I got sick of so many CG films starred by humanized animals. It seemed that traditional animation was abandonded forever.
But if you turned your head around to see what they do in other countries, you could find gems like “Spirited Away”, “The Secret of Kells” or “The Illusionist”. 2D animation had never left. We can’t help it, I think it’s in the human nature to draw. We do it as childs, as adults, we did it in caves, in walls, canvases, and we’ll do it in every screen or device that is invented.

For me, The Paperman demonstrates how people at Disney are always investigating and trying to find new ways to comunicate, and it encourages traditional animators to keep working ‘old school’.

Everybody keep drawing!

P.S. Sorry for my english, guys

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Chris Oatley

The Illusionist is one of my favorite animated films of the past decade. In fact, it’s one of my favorite MOVIES of the past decade – animated or otherwise.

I tried to find a way to work those films (Kells and the Chomet films especially) to this article but I realized that it’s really more about what I hope will happen next at Disney, specifically.

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Scott Wiser

Haha, I’ve been thinking about Secret of Kells and Chomet films the past few days as well!

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Scott Wiser

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this post and discussion the past few days – inspiring to no end…thank you Chris!

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Adam Hartlaub

Haha, man Chris, I’m so glad you and Michael picked John Kahrs brain about the whole Paperman style thing. I would truly love to see a feature in this style, and I can imagine they would do it too.

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Christopher B

Very pleased that the industry hasn’t put traditional animation behind them. Traditional animation isn’t something that can become obsolete, unlike whatever is currently being produced in CG. I like the combination of traditional and CG that is in Paperman, and I want to see the process continue and evolve, but I also want to see a lot more fully traditional features and shorts. We’ve been ignoring the heart for too long.

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Lionel

This is great news Chris. I see it as the best of both worlds, hand drawn and cg. Fabulous.

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Jessie Kate

I’m excited to see this type of development because of how it will inevitably inform artists of the things that they can extrapolate from each other’s art forms. It seems that artists often take sides, choosing either CG OR hand-drawn, digital or traditional, which can lead to a more closed perspective – How many articles have I read where the author was vehemently defending one over the other?…But as we accept that both have unique positive and negative qualities and start experimenting/innovating by mixing mediums, cg animators will probably learn quite a bit from the hand-drawn interpretations and improvements to what they’ve built and vice versa for the hand-drawn artists – leading us to improve our technical and storytelling skills in new ways.

I have a feeling that not only will this unique blend of cg and hand-drawn hit the big screen in some way but that it will lead to the improvement of the strictly cg or hand-drawn films as artists push themselves to learn from each form and incorporate their improvements and innovations into their respective styles. Everything improves when we learn to accept eachother’s perspectives and find ways to let them inform/improve our own.

This is a beautiful example of technical open-mindedness and timeless storytelling…So, Bravo Paperman for blending the worlds of animation so beautifully to tell a story worth telling :) Because with all the bells and whistles out there in the world – if the story is worthless, the genius of the idea would be lost.

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Tegan Clancy

An interesting article on Disneys direction under John Lasseter,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/mar/07/disney-hand-drawn-animation?CMP=twt_gu

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Zachary Hunt

As I’ve gotten older and have become more of the artist I am right now, my joy of 2D animation is rising. I love 3D animation and stories, but Disney’s 2D animations always are beautiful and, story-wise, will bring me into their world FULL FORCE! SO yes, I definitely am looking forward to the new 2D feature films of Disney in the future. Thankyou for the inspiration Mr. Oatley!

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Serena

This is the most beautiful animation style that has ever existed! I am a junior in high school and I plan on going to Cal Arts and then working at Disney or Dreamworks. As far as CGI art style, I like Dreamworks’ so much better. The character design for Kung Fu Panda and Rise of the Gaurdians is so much better than Wreck-it-Ralph or Tangled. The actual plotlines may not be as good, but I have good story ideas that could greatly improve Dreamworks. BUT I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING TO WORK ON A HYBRID FILM!!! I am a huge fan of traditional animation. But I took a summer camp at Ex’Pressions Art College last summer and I’ve loved working on CGI ever since. Hybrid animation is perfect. Please keep it up.

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Adam Campbell

Hi Chris-
My first thought the instant I saw the first few seconds of “Paperman” was that this was where Disney feature animation was (or, certainly should have been) heading. When Disney announced (again) the cessation (again) of their traditionally animated output, I mourned, but also wondered if there was something more going on. When I saw “Paperman” I thought, “of course! They’re not really killing classical animation; they’re just bringing it into the 21st century.”

As much as I loved Tangled, I so wanted it to have a more traditional feel. This look would have been perfect for that film.

This technique provides a potential future role for cel animators, and ensures that the legacy of “old school” artists will live on even as technology advances.

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Denzel A Jackson

Hello Chris!

I am going to CTNX this year and am really looking forward to it, I have not been to any conventions before..0_0. So I’m really excited. It would be cool to see you there and thanks for giving so much back to the community like this wonderful information.

-Denzel

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Vanessa

I remember watching this short film for the first time in theaters. I was basically squeaking when it started and it was all eye-candy. It was animated so beautifully. I knew that it was all animated in CG anyway, but in some scenes, it looked like it was hand-drawn instead. But everything just blew me away.

I also love it because Glen Keane worked on it; I fell in love with Glen Keane since I introduced myself to his art around the Internet and I was so much inspired by him. And I could see his style in Meg’s, the girl, design. So very Keane style and gorgeous. Any girl designed by Glen Keane is gorgeous. I remember meeting him; one of the best days of my life. I met him at CTN, and I was actually lucky enough to meet him one-on-one without any crowds and he looked at my work. I was a senior in high school at the time. He said that he loved my work and gave me advice. He’s such a sweetheart and everytime I watch a movie he worked on, I feel warm inside because I remember that day.

And I felt exactly that when I see this short film and many others Keane worked on. But it was a team effort, and I applaud all the artists who worked on this film. It was brilliant.

When I’m in the industry, I hope to make one of my ideas, titled Ultimate, to be rendered this way. I think it’d just be awesome, but I bet it’s difficult to get one’s original ideas out there. I don’t know…

-Vanessa

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Simon Beaudoin

Since I was young, I didn’t have cable television or anything fancy but I did own a VHS player. I mostly owned Disney movies and that’s what I’d watch most of the time. Those kind of inspired my love for 2D art and animation and always stuck out to me. Watching Paperman was kind of like getting back in touch with a younger side of me so I really hope we get to see a feature or some more shorts being made with the technology they used since it brings back such a good feeling.

As an aside, look up some pencil tests. It’s something I find so wonderful and makes you really appreciate 2D animation more.

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Mahdi

سلام
خسته نباشید دوستان من مهدی هستم 26 ساله حدودا 7ساله توزمینه انیمیشن کار میکنم
البته تخصصا انیمیت با Motion builder کارمی کنم
فعلا……بای

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Mahdi

ظاهرا آقای Chris Oatleyفعالیت رو تو سایت دارن…………….
بیشترین

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