Paperman pays homage to 2-D

by haley monts

Disney Animation Studios’ latest short “Paperman” charmed audiences and critics alike with its stylized visuals, clever storytelling and simplistic yet heartwarming plot. But, by far, the most captivating element of “Paperman” is its animation. Layering 3-D graphics with traditional 2-D drawings, “Paperman” signals a possible revival for 2-D animated films.

Traditional 2-D animation has been on the decline since the late 1990s, with the release of Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995. Toy Story revolutionized animation by using 3-D photo-real designs that gave the movie a visual roundness and definition previously unattainable.

This animation style has become massively popular, and 3-D has come to dominate animated movies, with companies like Dreamworks and Pixar solely dedicated to computer animated films. Disney Animation Studios have been forced to branch out, with their last mainstream 2-D film being The Princess and the Frog in 2009. As of March 7, the Guardian reported that Disney had no plans to pursue traditional 2-D animation further.
“Paperman” has turned the tides, hailing the dawn of a new age of animation.

Using an in-house technology called Meander, “Paperman” is a marriage between 3-D and 2-D visuals. Meander covers 3-D rendering with traditional hand drawings, combining their personality and warmth with the volume and presence of CGI and providing an organic blend between emotional style and innovative technology.

The result is a aesthetically breathtaking style that offers an unprecedented visual depth for a 2-D film. The technology has unveiled an entire new branch of the untapped potential of 2-D animation.

Of course, Disney isn’t the only company to think of combining 3-D and 2-D visuals. Dreamworks has been working on the feature-length Me and My Shadow since early 2012. But where Me and My Shadow keeps the 2-D and 3-D animation separate, “Paperman” creates a mesh.

The possibility of using Meander for feature films has been discussed but no affirmative plans have been made. Still, the possibilities for the technology are endless. “Paperman” represents the development of an entirely new form of animation, with unknown and unexplored potential. Under the right direction, this could provide the catalyst the Disney Animation Studio needs to return to its roots and produce the type of polished and dynamic style that made the company a household name.