Monday, August 13, 2012


This week I was over at Los Angeles Convention Center running around doing Student Volunteer duty, checking out cool emerging technologies in the Exhibition hall, lining up in a HUGE line for Pixar’s teapot, talking to recruiters at the job fair, and meeting lots of wonderful people who shared common interest in the computer graphics world. The experience was unforgettable, and the amount of information and inspirations that came through this week was simply overwhelming. Amongst the captivating creatives that were spotlights at SIGGRAPH 2012,including ParaNorman, Avengers, Wreck-it Ralph, Brave, and much more, Disney’s short animation Paperman stood out to me as one of the most emotionally charged, visually appealing, and a well crafted piece of motion picture. Without touching on the spoilers of the film, I would like to point out some of its appeals and what I learned from as an artist.

Aesthetically Paperman is simplistic, focusing mostly on large flat shapes and using lighting and blurs to bring focus into the composition. With limited details and color, the film strictly focuses on using the visuals to frame the story. In Disney’s Paperman talk, the creators made a comparison between the 3D films we see today and the traditional 2D approach they used for Paperman. While the 3D movies today have advantage of creating depth and complex settings, it can become so appealing that sometimes the visuals overshadow the story it is trying to tell. I think that is where Paperman really excel. The ratio of visual information and storytelling was just right so that it created a harmony that is best suited for telling Paperman’s story. For me, watching Paperman allowed me to see my role as an artist in a bigger picture. I have always thought that a best design should be so captivating it can stand on its own. While that may be true in many cases, I think it’s important to also consider how one design stands amongst a whole bunch of other designs within a film as a whole, and hit that golden ratio where visuals can most effectively deliver a story.

Another thought I had after seeing Paperman was that portrayal of humanity can be a very strong device to capture the audience’s attentions. Paperman tell a story about how a small decisions can lead to a life changing experience. It’s a theme that is universal and can easily be related with. Even when the character does not exist in the reality, as long as we can see them responding the way we do, showing ranges like curiosity, confusions, determination, and love, they can feel real even on a flat screen. I think that is portion of the reason why many Miyazaki films are also successful. Take Princess Mononoke which illustrates the struggle between polar justices. We can see that both sides of the opposing forces are fighting for what they believe is justice, and neither sides are wrong in their motives. I think simulating a real-life behavior into animated characters adds a layer of depth and helps guide the audience feel engaged in the narrative. It’s definitely something I can explore more as I further myself in character design and storytelling.

Disney’s Paperman will be presented right before Wreck-it Ralph in November and I highly recommend everyone to go see it. It will be an experience to remember!

1 comment:

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