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Short Film Review: Paperman


One of the joys of going to the box office for Pixar Animation Studios’ films is the animated shorts that open for the feature film. It’s within this genre that John Lasseter convinced Steve Jobs that Pixar is about animated movies and not about making computer hardware. Fast forward to today and it looks like that timeless short film magic is spreading from Emeryville to Burbank, where Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) is based.  WDAS is also fortunate that John Lasseter is now its Chief Creative Officer. What’s this short film history lesson mean? Those fortunate enough to get a ticket to watch Wreck-It Ralph are going to be thrilled to watch the short film that precedes it – Paperman.

Paperman follows the often repeated formula of Pixar short films – it’s narrated by cleverly animated emotions and complimented by an amazing musical score without dialogue.  The result is another instant classic for WDAS. Thank you John Lasseter.

Presentation: A+

The art direction and animation are unique.  It’s meant to look like an old black and white film, but it doesn’t really commit to a noir-esque feel.  As a matter of fact, the one colored element in the short film is a red lipstick stamp.  A similar effect borrowed from Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, but on a much simpler scale. Unlike Pixar animated short films, Paperman is a perfect blend of hand-drawn and computer-generated animation. The final product of the film’s art style and animation is high quality and unique, but doesn’t distract you from the story being told.

Writing: A+

Again, there’s no dialogue, but the scripting of events couldn’t be more well-placed. Paperman strips away any distracting background or supporting story lines and immediately goes after our basic emotional need for companionship.  The story opens with a chance encounter at a train station where a man and a woman are waiting to leave on separate trains to work. Their fates are sewn together by the stack of paperwork he’s holding on his way to work.  What follows is a charming story that can only be summed up by cliches such as “love at first sight”, “a second chance”, and ‘carpe diem”. The writers also cleverly channel that irresistible childlike fascination of folding and throwing paper airplanes. It brings out the Wright feelings in all of us.

Character Study Progression: A+

Role complexities are simplified since 7 minutes is not a long time to make multiple character investments. We have the two core characters with minor supporting roles of our protagonist’s workplace, which represent the mundane day-to-day routines. They serve as the contrast of how our character has grown because of his encounter at the train station. Supernatural characteristics of the paper planes take on a Cinderella-esque “Bippity Boppity Boo” role to help our main character, in a similar transformative fashion, get over the hump and achieve social triumph through romance.

Overall Rating: A+

This short film symbolizes WDAS’ return to form and ability to take a Pixar staple and create their own charming work of art. Paperman gives us shining example of how animation can be just as powerful as live-action films. Bravo WDAS. Bravo.




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