It’s probably obvious from the lack of computers in this office, but Paperman is set in the analog past, roughly the middle of the last century. That stack of forms on his desk supplies the raw material he needs to fire airplane after airplane to the building next door. E-mail just wouldn’t be the same.
While the story is tinged with nostalgia, the film is trying to stretch the limits of what old-time animation can accomplish. “As exciting a time that we live in right now, with so many CG features being done, that kind of stylized photo-realism can’t be the only way that animation can look,” says Kahrs. “And I also think it’s okay to push on 2-D. The time has come to see what the future can be for that, too.”
If Paperman strikes a nerve with audiences, Reed says it’s “up to the next batch of artists” to figure out whether this style and programs such as Meander can bring about a renaissance for 2-D animation. “CG has stomped to the forefront, and completely owns the space of the photo-real image and all the surrounding area around that,” she says. “Paperman is, for us, a part of the larger conversation: ‘How can visuals look — other than moving slowly, more and more, toward photo-real?’”