Meander, The Technology Behind Paperman, Disney's Beautiful, Charming Short

If you went and saw the retro gaming-inspired flick Wreck-It Ralph at the cinemas, you'd have also seen the excellent short "Paperman" that plays before it. Walt Disney Animation Studios recently uploaded Paperman to YouTube, where it's accrued six million views in three days. Paperman's unique, loveable style is thanks to new tech the studio has developed that blends old with new.

The studio calls the technology "Meander" and as Paperman director John Kahrs explains, the idea behind it was to bring across the expressiveness and individuality imparted to characters by an artist's hand and merge it with the power and flexibility of computer generated imagery.

He also mentions Disney's legacy and talent with traditional 2D animation; being able to leverage that history and make it relevant in an age dominated by 3D was something he felt important.

How is this blending achieved exactly? An article on Entertainment Weekly provides more specifics:

First the characters and backgrounds were rendered digitally, and then hand-drawn art was layered over those shapes, giving the figures a kind of 3D quality unseen in old-school animation. "What you’re seeing is a very stylised CG layer [underneath], but the feel of the image is very flat and lives in between the two," Kahrs says.

The Meander program, created by Disney software engineer Brian Whited, allows the 2D hand-drawn artwork to "stick" to the dimensional CG layer underneath. "A cynic would say it's high-tech rotoscoping," Kahrs says, referring to an old animation technique of tracing over live-action film stills. "Really it's more than that. It's meant to celebrate the line, and bring it back up to the front of the image again."

But you certainly don't need to know the details to enjoy Paperman. It's easily the best six-and-a-half-minutes you'll spend today.

[YouTube]


Comments

    Started off good, then lost me when the paper planes come alive and chase after him. Ruin the mood they trying to set up the begining.

      I think that you missed the meaning of he whole thing. Also you seem to be having trouble with the english language.

        Nah, I agree with T.Cook and ozoneocean.

        Was flawless until; SUDDENLY MAGIC.

        But we still love it.

          I had a similar reaction until I remembered the studio that made it.

          Disney has always been about magic.

        The meaning of a piece of art lies entirely in the beholder. Also, you seem to be having trouble with being nice to people.

    The animation style works very well, looks great!

    A lot of the visual stuff though is heavily "inspired" by anime- all that train and wind stuff, and people meeting like that are well, well trafficked much repeated anime themes, even the sentient aeroplanes are pure Spirited Away.

    It was a good short but as Cook says, the magical stuff changed the mood too much- real life, romance, trying to use a novel method to contact the girl... and then... MAGIC.

      you do realize it is a cg short created by Disney, right?

        ...Obviously?

          I believe his point is that Disney=Magic and always has. Kinda like how Loony Tunes = Loony.

            Ah-ha.
            Well I was thinking in terms of UP, or Wall-E (Pixar but Disney influenced), where you have a whimsical world and situation, but you don't break the boundaries you set up for it.

              ah, fair enough (^_^) now I understand what you were meaning.

      I thought the sentient airplanes were more like the broomsticks from that Fantasia short.

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