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Western Animation / Paperman

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Paperman is an animated short film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It was released on November 2, 2012, in front of Wreck-It Ralph. The short is about a romance between two strangers, made possible by papers carried by the wind. It is notable for its use of experimental techniques, being Black-and-White, and using a combination of 2D and 3D animation. It won the Oscar for 2013's Best Short Animated Feature, beating out Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare".

The story features a man (named George, who's voiced by director John Kahrs) and a woman (named Meg, who's voiced by Kari Wahlgren) who meet at a train platform as they go to work, after a gust of wind slaps a leaf of paper he was carrying on her face (imprinting it with her lipstick, the only bit of color in the entire film). They barely have any time to get to know each other, however, as Meg boards a train before he can work up the nerve to speak to her.

To George's surprise, he soon sees Meg again from the window of his office building! It turns out she's interviewing in the building across the street! He tries to catch her attention with paper airplanes, but finds it very challenging to do. Will budding love triumph in such circumstances?

Tropes found in the film:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills: George pulls off some improbable shots except the one that counts.
  • All There in the Manual: George and Meg's names are only present in the short's model sheets.
  • Amusing Injuries: Poor George gets dragged around helplessly by several paper airplanes, while Meg only has to chase a paper airplane whimsically. Justified in that the paper airplanes only started assaulting George because he wouldn't follow them whereas Meg didn't need any convincing.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: All the paper airplanes come to life to lead George to Meg, while the one with her lipstick does the same for her.
  • Book Ends:
    • The short begins with George and Meg at a train station, the latter chasing a piece of paper. At the end, Meg chases the lipsticked paper airplane back to the train station and finds George there.
    • Also, if one pays attention, Meg pushes back a lock of her hair nervously both times she meets George.
  • Creator Cameo: Director John Kahrs provides George's vocal effects.
  • Cute Mute: Both protagonists say nothing throughout the whole short.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In keeping with the overall "throwback" vibe of the short, it's animated almost entirely in black and white, with the only exception being the red used to represent Meg's lipstick on the "main" paper plane.
  • Deus ex Machina: Once George's quaint lovelorn pursuit runs into a dead end, his failed paper airplanes tap into The Power of Love and come to life, reuniting him with Meg.
  • Disturbed Doves:
    • When George and Meg meet again. Except they are not doves but... paper airplanes?
    • And prior to this, one of George's planes manages to peg a pigeon mid-flight.
  • Double Take: George does this the first time he catches a glimpse of Meg. Meg in turn does this when she realizes the paper plane that's landed next to her is the same sheet of paper she accidentally kissed that morning.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Poor George gets dragged through the city like a rag doll to meet Meg. It pays off and he totally deserved it.
  • Expy: George is essentially Roger with darker, messier hair. Many people like to think that George and Meg are loosely based off of Jim and Pam from The Office (US).
  • Failed a Spot Check: Granted, he's in a building on the other side of the street, but if Meg had just turned her head slightly and looked out the window at any point during her interview it would have saved George a lot of grief. George, in turn, ends up in a sulk towards the end about failing in his attempts to get Meg to notice him, and so doesn't notice that there's something a bit strange about the way the paper planes seem to be following him trying to get his attention until they're piling on top of him and forcing him through the streets.
  • The '40s / The '50s: Judging from the architecture, fashions and cars, there's a very mid-20th Century feel to the whole thing.
  • Hartman Hips: Meg's upper torso and waist are noticeably thin compared to her hips.
  • Holding In Laughter: When one of the pages in George's hand is blown from the stack onto Meg's face, he retrieves it, looking mildly embarrassed. Meg looks at him a moment, then notices that her lipstick left a kiss mark on the page, and briefly stifles a laugh, leaving an adorable crooked smile on her face.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sure, George's boss is clearly an incredibly cold, severe and humorless man, and working for him is clearly as far along the diametrically opposed side of the scale from 'fun' as it's possible to get. But from his perspective, George is spending his work day dicking around with paper planes and wasting all his paperwork when he should be doing his job.
  • Logo Joke: The end Disney logo is in this short's style, with a paper airplane providing the over-the-castle arc.
  • Love at First Sight: Although they don't actually speak, both George and Meg seem pretty smitten with each other within seconds of first meeting.
  • Magic Realism: The short starts off as a down-to-earth romantic comedy about an everyman trying to get the attention of a woman in a building on the other side of the street by making and throwing paper planes at her. And then, when he fails in doing so, the paper planes come to life without explanation to help him out...
  • Maybe Ever After: Technically, the short ends with no concrete resolution of how George and Meg's relationship develops. Given the increasingly flirtatious nature of the shots of the two of them in the coffee shop, however, the viewer can make a pretty good guess...
  • Mean Boss: George works for one, a cold, ultra-serious frowning man, who is constantly giving him paperwork.
    • In the boss's defense, while his mien is cold and severe, his actions are all about trying to get George to focus on his work. His sole reaction to George's having launched his entire stack of forms out the window is not to fire him or even berate him, but simply to give him more forms.
  • Medium Blending: CGI carefully tailored to capture the look of hand-drawn animation. How carefully? Disney created an entire suite of new technology to achieve the look and intricacies of hand drawn animation. One can find a short about the technology on the web.
  • Meet Cute: George and Meg meet at a train station after a gust of wind blows one of the papers she's carrying into his arm, and another gust of wind blows one of the papers he's carrying into her face.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: There is no dialogue in the short, and even the sound effects are somewhat minimal. Mickey Mousing is heavily utilized throughout instead.
  • No Name Given: Not in the actual film, but the model sheets do reveal the girl's name is Meg and the guy's is George.
  • Object-Tracking Shot: Following the lipstick stained paper-plane.
  • Painted CGI: The short looks almost as if it were cel-shaded, but noticeably different; the animation looks traditional, but it is also akin to a CG film. The animators actually drew lines by hand on top of the CG models to achieve this look.
  • The Power of Love: George's determination to be with Meg apparently ends up animating the paper airplanes he threw to guarantee that George gets a chance to ask Meg out.
  • Shout-Out: When the papers first become animated, they move like the brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".
  • Signed with a Kiss: Played with. When the George and Meg meet, one of George's papers flies into Meg's face, leaving an imprint of her lipstick on it. Later, George spots Meg in the building across the street and tries to get her attention with paper airplanes, including one made from the paper with her lipstick. The paper planes fail to reach her, but later, when George is leaving, the planes start moving on their own and push George and Meg together; Meg specifically gets the lipstick plane, clueing her in on what's happening.
  • Silence Is Golden: This short film showed Disney going back to their roots, with the only sounds being grunts, giggles, and sighs from the characters.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: George is clearly unhappy with the stacks of paperwork he has to deal with at his job. It would explain why he has no problems abandoning it just for a shot at meeting Meg again.
  • Splash of Color: Meg's red lipstick and red kissmark on the paper.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: Pretty much George, when Meg leaves the other building and the boss appears with a new stack of paper.