Monday, March 25, 2013

The Making of Disney's "Paperman"

If you haven't been made aware of Paperman, the latest Disney animated short, I would classify it as a requirement for anyone seeking a shimmer of hope in an increasingly bleak time of the overpowering CG animation style entertainment.

Without actually diving too deep into the message, or the story that the animated short tells so well, the style of animation is absurdly unique for these changing times, and deserves some recognition. As an art form, frame-by-frame animation has become more and more of a dying medium, and there have been some ripples as to this meaning that the quality animation being sacrificed for a more economical, and convenient method. I tend to agree to a point, but cannot argue that such CG animated movies like Toy Story and Up are emotional gold.

In Paperman, they use a very creative combination of CG technology with a hand drawn finishing effect to create the illusion of a 100% hand drawn animation. I recently read a blog article on the making of Paperman, that opened my eyes to just how ridiculously dedicated animators can be.

In 2004 and 2006, I took a few animation courses involving Flash and using hand drawn methods to create crude versions of animation entertainment. What Paperman does, is it combines the two, into an intuitive animation process for tweening these complicated illustrations. For a moment, ignore the fact that the animated short looks as though it's drawn on paper. In the above video, you can see the process in which one still frame can transform into a new position based on surfaces, angles, positions, and motion that is completely defined via digital means.

For the most part, I prefer doing things frame-by-frame because it is simple and reliable. Not taking into account for the level of effort put into it, frame-by-frame allows full control over each image, whereas using tweening sacrifices some control to the artificial intelligence of the CG. While this method uses both a unique starting point for hand drawn animation that leaves room for tweening by major frames, the technique itself sort of takes a step backward, then two steps forward  then another step back to create the hand drawn effect. This is all done in order to give the viewer the same illusion of frame-by frame quality.

This alone blows my mind in the most amazing way. While it may seem that using a computer to create frames for you is easier than frame-by-frame, as you can see in these videos, the animation process is not exactly that simple, or automated. There in lies the worth, and investment that makes the art of animation so valuable and essential for viewers. If you've ever sat and watched an animated movie, and then gone on with your life without acknowledging the time and effort that goes into each frame; a significant amount of the appeal is lost in the lack of appreciation for the sacrifice animators go through.

From an artistic point of view, this animation is a master piece that deserves creative recognition as a unique medium. As a story in and of itself, this animation deserves awards for an uplifting message in bleak economic times for those who seek out the little things in life to give them meaning and substance.

All in all, this short is an inspiration for those who seek light, and a beacon for a future where the sacrifice of time and energy is not wasted on the spoiled so accustomed to getting immediate gratification in entertainment.

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