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For other uses, see Paper Man (disambiguation).
Paperman (2012) poster.jpg
Poster illustrated by Jeff Turley
Directed by John Kahrs
Produced by Kristina Reed
Story by Clio Chiang
Kendelle Hoyer
Voices by John Kahrs
Kari Wahlgren
Music by Christophe Beck[1]
Animation by Patrick Osborne (animation supervisor)
Studio Walt Disney Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 6 minutes and 33 seconds [2]
Country United States
Language English

Paperman (stylized as paperman) is a 2012 black-and-white 3D hand-drawn/computer animated romantic comedy short film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and directed by John Kahrs. The short blends traditional animation and computer animation. The short won both an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 85th Academy Awards,[3] and the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject at the 40th Annie Awards.[4] Paperman was the first animated short film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios to win an Academy Award since It's Tough to Be a Bird in 1970.[5]


A young accountant named George is standing on an elevated train platform in 1940s New York City, holding a folder, when he is hit by a flying piece of paper. The paper is chased by a young woman named Meg who lost it to a gust of wind from a passing train. The same thing happens to the man when a subsequent gust of wind from another incoming train dislodges one of the papers from his folder and blows it onto the woman's face. This leaves a red lipstick mark on the paper, much to the woman's amusement when he retrieves it. The man is entranced by the lipstick mark and the woman's beauty, and therefore misses her boarding the departing train. The two exchange looks as she departs.

The man arrives at work, despondent, gazing at the lipstick-marked paper on his desk. He looks out the window and is surprised to find the woman in the building across the street, sitting in an office with an open window. After failing to get her attention by waving his arms, the man begins folding airplanes from a stack of papers on his desk, throwing them out the window one by one in an attempt to get her to notice him. Unfortunately, his efforts are met with varying levels of failure, as well as disparaging looks from his boss. In desperation, having used all of the paper on his desk to no success, he uses the lipstick-marked paper, although this fails as well when a gust of wind tugs it from his hands. The woman then leaves the office, and the man, rebuffing his boss, dashes from his desk. Rushing across a street of busy traffic, he fails to see which way she went, and only finds the final lipstick-marked paper airplane. Angered, he throws it hard and it soars into the sky.

It turns out many of the paper airplanes have collected in a nearby alley, and when the lipstick-marked paper airplane lands among them, they begin to stir and fly from the ground, seeming to come alive, and set off in pursuit of the man. A cloud of paper airplanes forces the man toward a nearby train station and onto a train, much to his confusion. Meanwhile, the lipstick-marked paper airplane sets off in pursuit of the woman, finding her at a flower stand. Recognizing the lipstick-marked paper, the woman chases the airplane to another train station and aboard a different train. The man and woman are finally brought together when both of their trains stop at the same station. They meet on the platform, the man covered in paper airplanes and the woman holding the lipstick-marked paper airplane. As the credits roll, they are seen chatting happily with each other at a restaurant table with the lipstick marked paper between them.

Voice cast[edit]


Conception and writing[edit]

"Every morning on my way to work I would go through Grand Central Station ... and sometimes you’d meet eye to eye with people, just strangers, like a pretty girl or something, and you’d think is there a connection? You feel that connection for a split second and wonder who that person was. That’s the core idea of it – what if two people were really perfect for each other, and they had that chance meeting? And what if they were separated – how would those two people get back together again? And how could a little bit of magic and fate intervene to bring them back together?"
— Director John Kahrs on his inspiration behind Paperman.[6]

In an interview with Animation World Network, director John Kahrs revealed that Paperman first materialized when he was working as an animator at Blue Sky Studios during the 1990s.[7] Kahrs conceived Paperman while he was traveling on his routine commute through Grand Central Station, where he was inspired by "the random connections you sometimes make with people" on these excursions. As a result, he created a story about "a guy who makes a connection with this girl on his long commute," elaborating, "The story really is about what happens when he tries to get her back and make that connection again."[8] Describing Paperman as an "urban fairytale,"[9] Kahrs pitched the idea as an animated short to Disney Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter[6] and Walt Disney Animation Studios several times. However, the studio refused to develop the project because they were pre-occupied with Tangled (2010), on which Kahrs also worked.[10] It wasn't until after Tangled was completed that Disney, who was searching for a project that would "fill the space between" Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph,[11] that Paperman was finally green-lit.[11][12]

Kahrs developed the story on storyboards[13] and wrote the original draft of Paperman. However, he admitted that the writing was really a collaborative process because he constantly received creative input from a "peer group of directors". Lasseter, who served as an executive producer on the film, also made frequent contributions. The main character, George, was inspired by George Bailey from the film It's A Wonderful Life (1946). According to Kahrs, Bailey, like George, "experiences the full gamut of life, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. He’s a real guy; he gets frustrated. He’s got dreams."[14]


While searching for a "way to merge 2D and 3D" animation, Kahrs discovered Meander, "a hybrid vector/raster-based drawing and animation system that gives artists an interactive way to craft the film."[6]

Character design[edit]

The character design of Paperman has been likened to that of Disney's traditionally animated film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Several comparisons have been drawn between the characters George from Paperman and Roger from 101 Dalmatians, specifically the fact that they both share similar body types. George's appearance underwent several alterations. However, Kahrs always intended for the character to have a rather large nose. "I thought it would be okay if he could have a big nose. If you put breaks in it, and so forth, give it structure. It can still be really fun and attractive." Longtime Disney animator Glen Keane worked on George's love interest, Meg. According to Kahrs, both Paperman characters George and Meg were intentionally drawn to complement and match each other's designs.[14]

Paperman is considered "a hybrid of both 2D and 3D technology".[15] When describing the inspiration for the film's unique style of animation, which was created with a new in-house technology called Meander,[16] Kahrs stated, "We brought together as best we could the expressiveness of 2D drawing immersed with the stability and dimensionality of CG. It really goes back to working with Glen Keane on Tangled, watching him draw over all the images."[8]

The technique, called "final line advection,"[17] gives the artists and animators a lot more influence and control over the final product as everything is done within the same department; "In Paperman, we didn’t have a cloth department and we didn’t have a hair department. Here, folds in the fabric, hair silhouettes and the like come from of the committed design decision-making that comes with the 2D drawn process. Our animators can change things, actually erase away the CG underlayer if they want, and change the profile of the arm. And they can design all the fabric in that Milt Kahl kind-of way, if they want to."[18]


In an interview with her school's alumni association, Kari Wahlgren, who voiced Meg, said that she was asked to do the role because of her previous involvements in Bolt and Tangled. Recording for her role in the film took about 30 minutes. She said "Since the film is mostly silent, they just wanted some vocal ‘ambiance’ that they could experiment with. We played with lots of different vocal reactions in the session: snorts, gasps, breaths… I think one chuckle made it into the final mix. I’m actually glad they kept it mostly silent—I think it makes the short even more powerful that way."[19]


The short film premiered at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in June 2012.[20] The short's theatrical release was before the feature film Wreck-It Ralph, which released on November 2, 2012.[21] Christophe Beck's score was released digitally by Walt Disney Records on December 18, 2012.[22] The complete short was released on YouTube on January 29, 2013,[23] but is currently private. It was later released on Hulu.[24]

After being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film,[25] Paperman was released along with all the other fifteen Oscar-nominated short films in theaters by ShortsHD.[26]


Film critic Jeff Shannon, writing for Roger Ebert, called the short "brilliant from start to finish" writing that the film proved "yet again that traditional 2-D animation is every bit as expressive as computer-generated 3-D."[27] Leonard Maltin called the short an "amusing and ingenious love story" noting that it was "perfection itself."[28]

There is some discussion regarding some similarities in the storyline and concept of Paperman and Patrick Hughes' 2008 short film, Signs.[29] But Hughes himself dismissed the idea of copying, saying "There are similarities, but I really admire the short, I think it's beautiful. Every piece of work I've ever done, I've had someone say the same things about me."[30]


Paperman was nominated and won both an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 85th Academy Awards and the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject at the 40th Annie Awards.[3][4] It was the first Disney short to win an Oscar in that category since 1969.[31]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards[3] February 24, 2013 Best Animated Short Film John Kahrs Won
Annie Awards[4] February 2, 2013 Best Animated Short Subject


  1. ^ Burlingame, Jon (2011-10-25). "Christophe Beck's green phase". Variety. Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  2. ^ "SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "List of winners at the 85th annual Academy Awards". USA Today. February 26, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Beck, Jerry (February 2, 2013). "Annie Award Winners". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ "42nd Academy Awards Winners - Oscar Legacy - Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Failes, Ian (January 31, 2013). "The inside story behind Disney’s Paperman". Fxguide., LLC. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Ciafardini, Marc (January 11, 2012). "Exclusive: Interview…Disney Animator & ‘Paperman’ Director John Kahrs". Go, See, Talk!. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Sarto, Dan. "Inside Disney’s New Animated Short Paperman". Animation World Network. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Valdez, Eva (February 26, 2013). "Compilation of Backstage Interviews with Oscar Winning Director of the Short PAPERMAN, John Kahrs". Zap Entertainment Corp. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  10. ^ Taylor, Drew (September 2, 2013). "Oscar-Winning Animator John Kahrs Departs Disney". IndieWire. SnagFilms Co. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Beck, Jerry (July 2, 2012). "Exclusive "Paperman" Interview with Director John Kahrs". Cartoon Brew. Cartoon Brew, LLC. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Radish, Christina (2012). "Director John Kahrs Talks PAPERMAN, How the Idea for the Short Came About, the Lack of Dialogue, Blending Traditional and CG Animation and More". Collider. Demand Film. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Rome, Emiy (February 10, 2013). "'Paperman': Watch the step-by-step animation process for Disney's Oscar-nominated short -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO". Entertainment Weekly. Entertainment Weekly Inc. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Blain, H. "Interview: PAPERMAN’s Academy Award WINNING writer/director John Kahrs". Live for Films. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Bernstein, Abbie (February 25, 2013). "Assignment X". Exclusive Interview: John Kahrs & Kristina Reed on PAPERMAN. Midnight Productions, Inc. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  16. ^ "FIRST LOOK: Disney's 'Paperman' fuses hand-drawn charm with digital depth". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Disney’s Paperman animated short fuses CG and hand-drawn techniques". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  18. ^ "A Little More About Disney’s “Paperman”". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Happy Valentine's Day". KU Alumni Asosciation. 2013-02-13. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  20. ^ Connelly, Brendon (February 8, 2012). "What Is Disney’s Paperman? And When Will We See It?". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved February 9, 2012. 
  21. ^ Amidi, Amid (April 25, 2012). "The Poster for Disney's "Paperman"". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Walt Disney Records to Release Christophe Beck’s ‘Paperman’ Score". film Music Reporter. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  23. ^ Goldberg, Matt (January 30, 2013). "Disney Releases John Kahrs’ Amazing Animated Short Film, PAPERMAN". Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  24. ^ Disney. "Paperman". Hulu. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  25. ^ Breznican, Anthony (January 10, 2013). "Oscar 2013: The nominations revealed ...". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 2, 2013. 
  26. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (January 16, 2013). "ShortsHD Brings 2013 Oscar Nominated Shorts to Theaters". Animation World Network. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  27. ^ Shannon, Jeff (January 30, 2013). "Oscar shorts: Animation". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
  28. ^ Maltin, Leonard (November 2, 2012). "Review: Wreck-It Ralph". Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy. Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  29. ^ Hughes, Patrick (2008). "Signs". Short films. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ Quinn, Karl (February 28, 2013). "Disney sweeps in to collect the Oscars glory but film fans reckon they've seen it all before". Brisbane Times (Brisbane, Australia). Retrieved March 2, 2013. 
  31. ^ Koch, Dave (23 January 2014). "Paperman Director Lands At Paramount". Big Cartoon News. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 

External links[edit]