Disney’s Paperman: Love is in the air

Two animated romantic comedies – one domestic, one Canadian – because it’s February, you know … and Valentine’s Day is coming quickly.


Admission: Even I get my heartstrings tugged during the (occasional) viewing of a romantic comedy. It isn’t often. Because it isn’t often I watch one.

But there are a few I have enjoyed. Notting Hill. When Harry Met Sally. Leaving Las Vegas. (And yes. That one is a romantic comedy, albeit a supremely tragic one.)

With (the unofficial month of love) February upon us, and since I’m in the mood to jaw about them, I thought now was as good a time as any to pull a few out my sleeve for you to consider.

The first is a Disney short nominated this year for an Academy Award (and the only one readily available for viewing on YouTube): Paperman. There’s been quite the go-around with technical conversations concerning this little ditty (here’s one), but I’m not here to pose questions as to its formulation (not much, anyway); I want to talk about it as a love story. Because that’s what it is. It’s love … practically at first sight.

One of the reasons this film works so well is its lack of chromatism … Add color to these things and they would lose character and intensity.

One of the reasons this film works so well is its lack of chromatism — the simplicity of the blacks and whites and greys pull you away from those pretty distractions and force you to concentrate on the tale. Its colorlessness works in its favor, it doesn’t sway you one way or another with any eye candy glow or hues. Instead, you notice details more clearly — the unyielding cold of a brick building as paper airplanes carom off its side … the wind in the hair of Meg and ruffling the jacket of George … the glare of the sun in all its harsh brilliance. Add color to these things and they would lose character and intensity. Sounds rather ludicrous, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

Despite the overall absence of color, there is one obvious swash visible in the seven minutes of animation: That of Meg’s lipstick on one of George’s work papers. It’s the symbol (representing loving attraction) that will eventually draw them together once more from their original train depot meeting.

Deep down within George there is a yearning of the heart that is awakened at the sight of her. All that gunmetal grey around around him, even within him, suddenly parts. And, beginning with that first airplane he folds and continuing one after another, those planes take on a determination, a life of their own, thanks to George’s infatuation with Meg. They act as an extension of his hope and desire to reconnect with her. Because … isn’t that what love does? Ignites a spark? Brings life to a flame? It’s an interesting metaphor in bringing the two of them together once more.

I took to this film immediately and watched it several times over back to back. I simply got taken by it. And in addition to my mentions above, what really pulls the entire film together for me is, of course, the engaging score. Composer Christophe Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Pink Panther, The Hangover) has handled quite a few high-profile scores in his career and it’s no surprise he took this film’s music and surrounded it with feeling consummate with its telling. (And yes … I purchased the score shortly after viewing the film.)

I’ve yet to see the other Oscar-nominated films up for consideration this year, so it’s really not fair I’ve reserved a special place in my heart for Disney’s Paperman to take the award. But it harkens back to some of my fondest memories visiting film festivals in years past. Paperman is similar to some of those shorts, an under-10-minutes’ worth of animation that takes you away and leaves you warm and satisfied. That’s what romantic comedies are supposed to do.

You might struggle to see the romanticism in the overall scheme of (The Big Snit) except in the end. But it’s there, plain as day.

In contrast (and as an added bonus, because I’m all about the bonuses) I thought I’d include another of my favorites here for your dining and dancing pleasure. Now this one, The Big Snit … well … let’s just say it’s a bit on the odd side. If you’ve never seen it before, you’re in for a treat. You might struggle to see the romanticism in the overall scheme of the story except in the end. But it’s there, plain as day. It’s in their bird’s contentment and their cat’s mischievousness and the man’s proclivities and his wife’s housewifery. And come on: Sawing For Teens. What’s not to love?

Please enjoy. Or enjoy again, as the case might be.

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Photo Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios / National Film Board of Canada

3 Comments on “Disney’s Paperman: Love is in the air

  1. I adore the Paperman short. I especially like how they establish their chemistry in the first couple minutes completely without dialogue. The love at first sight aspect didn’t seem forced or cliched.

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