2022 entertainment challenge #1: A short film

It’s a new year, and I’m ready for the first challenge I set for myself in 2022. (A quick recap in case you missed the original blog post: This year I made 10 entertainment goals to stretch myself as a blogger and podcaster, including watching a documentary and a foreign film.) 

For the first challenge, I watched the short film Paperman, which is available for streaming on Disney+. The film was created in 2012 and uses both traditional and computer animation. It also won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. 

I selected this film for my project because I remembered hearing about Paperman a while ago and being intrigued by it, but I just never got around to watching it. I really, really like that it uses both traditional and computer animation, because I miss Disney’s traditional animated movies like The Lion King and Aladdin. 

Now, this is not meant as a knock against computer animation, because there are some great artists doing incredible work on computer animated films (Disney’s recent Encanto is a great example of a computer animated film with gorgeous visuals). I just wish there was more of a space for traditional animation to exist alongside computer animation these days, or even a blend of the two, such as the style used in Paperman. 

Paperman tells a six-minute love story about a world-weary office worker who meets the girl of his dreams during a chance encounter at a train station in 1940s New York City. When he happens to spy her again at a skyscraper across the street through the window of his own office, he tries to sail a paper airplane over to her to get her attention. It doesn’t go quite as planned, but fate (and a little spark of magic) bring them back together. 

Paperman is animated in black and white with a selective use of the color red. The black and white style is very striking and really adds to the short film’s charm, and whenever red does show up, you know it’s important. Red is, of course, a color that’s often associated with love and romance – the main theme of the film. I also appreciated the choice to tell the story without dialogue; with the story’s short runtime, words would have just cluttered the film and distracted from the visual storytelling. 

Watching a short film for the purpose of reviewing it and analyzing it was an interesting experience. I’m used to reviewing movies that are multiple hours long, and it’s quite a switch to evaluate a story that’s told in only six minutes. There’s definitely not as many details to dig into as, say, Spider-Man: No Way Home

However, just because this story is simpler than an two-hour epic doesn’t mean that it’s any less worthy as a piece of art. In some ways, it might be even more challenging to create a film like this, where you have limited time to introduce your characters, get your audience to care about them, and then wrap up everybody’s arcs in a satisfying way. You don’t have long to make an impression, and any flaws will be extra obvious (it’s harder to remember tiny mistakes in a longer film).

Overall, I liked how sweet and charming this short film’s love story was. I think sometimes there’s an unfair stigma against romance in storytelling. To me, it’s just like any other storytelling element; if you’re able to weave it organically into the overall narrative and it has a direct impact on character development, then it can be a useful tool to drive your story forward. 

It was nice to watch a sweet little story about two people connecting – especially in a time when the pandemic has kept many of us apart. This short was well worth the six minutes I spent on it, and it even inspired me to watch another animated short I recently saw pop up on Disney+: Far From the Tree, about a raccoon family.

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