From the opening shot, there was something special about Disney’s Paperman that really drew me in. Was it the beautiful aesthetics? Was it the moving orchestral arrangement that backstops the majority of the six minutes and thirty-two second run time? Was it the simple, yet poignant love story? I honestly didn’t know – I just sat there, entranced, as this Oscar-nominated short unfolded before me. (Paper puns. Ha!)
Paperman is the story of George, a 1950’s Manhattan business man who has a chance encounter with the woman of his dreams on a train platform. While at work later that day, he sees her in the building across the street, and goes to great lengths to get her attention, employing the help of hundreds of paper airplanes to no avail. Just as he’s about to give up, luck finally starts to go his way – and that’s where the real magic begins.
This short marks the directorial debut of John Kahrs, an animator whose resume includes Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Tangled, among other works. Using a brand-new animation technology known as Meander, Kahrs blended hand-drawn, two-dimensional animation with three-dimensional CGI to bring about a one-of-a-kind finished product. It was certainly took me aback, and in just those few minutes Paperman became my favorite short of all time. Its tone and visuals are so perfectly matched by Christophe Beck’s accompanying score that the viewer is transported to this fantastic world, a world that you almost believe existed at some point in time. Each stroke of the bow on a violin, each airy blow of the brass, each key struck on the piano corresponds to an equally simple, yet beautiful, action on screen. And as the tension builds and our characters are propelled towards each other in a dramatic climax, you won’t be able to keep that smile from widening across your face.
It’s that sense of believability that, I believe, makes this film so magical. It plays on those deep insecurities that we all have when it comes to love: What if I miss out on the woman of my dreams? Will I ever find her again? It’s a classic story that’s been told hundreds, if not thousands, of times – but in the case of Paperman, fate fights back and gives our protagonist one more chance.
Sadly, I doubt it will win the Oscar. The animation short category is fairly heavy with similarly light-on-dialogue films, the favorite of which is likely Fresh Guacamole, a stop motion treat that, as the title suggests, gives step-by-step directions on how to make homemade guac. Paperman still has a shot to steal the Academy’s hearts, just as it’s stolen the hearts of millions, including me, in the lone week it was available on Youtube before being taken down.
Like its main character, Paperman is a genuine expression of happiness and perseverance that will lift your spirits and merit an immediate follow up viewing. It’s proof that in this day and age, where big-budget blockbusters dominate the silver screen landscape, there’s still room for animated shorts to find a widespread audience. Paperman is a sensational work of art, one that brings a refreshing twist to a conventional story.
(Five Stars out of Five) 5/5