Monday, July 09, 2012

Disney's 'Paperman' short aims to recreate 2D aesthetics in CG!

Quite a bit of word has been going around concerning a new animated short film by Disney called 'Paperman.' The majority of us will probably get around to seeing it in front of 'Wreck-It Ralph' when it releases in November, but the short has been making the rounds at other festivals as well. The short involves characters designed by Glen Keane, and the style of it is all in black and white, however, one unique thing the short was going for was to try and create CG characters that resembled hand drawn traditional animation more closely. It seems to attempt to do this by essentially rotoscoping hand drawn details over-top of CG animation.

It has been quite a key goal for a good number of animators and CG artists to try and recreate the hand-drawn feel using CG animation in film and also in video games. Some feel it's a lost cause and altogether pointless when you can just simply do 2D animation as you traditionally would... although it is true that CG can be quicker and easier to edit and work with which is why it's taken off in quite a big way. However the charm that 2D brings, particularly to characters has yet to be achievable, so we'll continue to see attempts like 'Paperman,' and certainly no one will complain too much. It is also quite true that CG and traditional animation can be merged well to create some fantastic looking pieces. It's certainly a method that is commonly used in Anime. Particularly I recall a short in the celebrated anthology 'Animatrix' by Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe called 'Detective Story' that also approached the black and white style with a mix of CG and traditional animation to create a detective noir story set in the universe of the Matrix. It worked out quite well! We've also seen attempts at creating a toon shaded style in anime as recently as the CG 'Appleseed' films. Games, themselves have been receiving quite a bit of content from both the commercial and indie communities to recreate 2D art from titles like Rayman, to Gravity Rush, and even fighting games like the recent Street Fighter IV.

There's no doubt the 2-D is seeing a big resurgence of interest, but as of yet not many are willing to go through the trouble of going that route without the benefits and ease of CG. Certainly there've been many shaders and plug-ins that even get 3-D artists to try and make their work look 2D, like concept art or simply sketchy. In many ways many will come close, though I doubt there'll ever be an all in one plug-in solution as a computer can never recreate the lines of motion with the eye of an artist. Fabrications according to algorithms will come close, but essentially it'll always come down to a good artist making those stylish decisions and details that come from human sketching and life drawing. In the end, just as Disney is doing, they'll have to call in the 2D guys to put the details in themselves, a halfway house between the ease of CG to block in the final animated movements and then turning to the hand drawn artists to finalize the look.

By all accounts it sounds from what people are saying that Disney does have something very unique on its plate with the style of Paperman, so much so that those who have seen it are asking Disney to make a full length film using that style. If a film like 'The Artist' can win Academy Awards in this day and age, I believe there's plenty of incentive for Disney to try! Whether they will outside of a short is another story...

Check out these featurettes:
Paperclip: The Idea of Paperman
Paperclip 2: The Look of Paperman