If traditional hand-drawn animated films are to survive in the 21st century, the medium is apparently going to have to take a helping hand from a rival form of animation.
At least, that's the thinking at Disney, a company that formerly staked its fortunes on old school cell animated films like "The Little Mermaid, "Aladdin," and "The Lion King." Walt Disney Animation Studios' latest animated short film, "Paperman," is a true hybrid of the House of Mouse's work, both past and present, merging hand-drawn animation with computer-generated imagery. The short, which was nominated for a Best Animated Short Film Oscar a few weeks ago, was attached to Disney's latest CG animation outing "Wreck-It Ralph" in late 2012.
In advance of next month's Academy Awards, Disney has made "Paperman" available on YouTube in its entirety. The black-and-white short follows a lovelorn office worker who encounters the girl of his dreams during his daily commute.
Watch "Paperman" below.
While "Paperman" is not a true cell-animated movie like Disney's classic films, it's refreshing to see this kind of innovative (and charming as heck) animation output from the studio once again. The film uses a process called "final line advection," in which the bones of the movie are constructed using computer animation and are then fleshed out using vibrant hand-drawn techniques. "Paperman" is essentially a hybrid of every animated film Disney has ever produced.
With the advent of computer animation in the 1990s and the unprecedented success of the Disney-distributed Pixar film "Toy Story," the House of Mouse began to abandon old style animation in favour of CG productions. Subsequently, many of the company's animators were either laid off or transitioned to computer animated projects like "Chicken Little" and "Bolt." Disney kept on producing traditionally animated films during the 2000s, though, (movies like "Treasure Planet" and "Brother Bear"), but those movies weren't nearly as successful as the computer animated films released by Disney, Pixar, and other companies during this period.
In 2009, the so-called "last hurrah" of hand-drawn musical animated films from Disney arrived in the form of "The Princess in the Frog." However, despite that film's success at the box office, Walt Disney Animation Studios has since redoubled its CG animated efforts with films like "Tangled" and "Wreck-It Ralph." It would be wonderful to see Disney apply the "final line advection" process used in "Paperman" to a feature length project, as it lends the characters an earnest, life-like quality that CG animation still can't match. If "Paperman" wins that Oscar, maybe we'll get to see that film.