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How Walt Disney Animation Studio technology helped make the Paperman short


The technology team at Walt Disney Animation Studio (WDAS) has been a core component of the animation process since the early days of Walt Disney inventing the modern animator’s table in his garage and the ability to synchronize music to animation (not to mention the brilliant multi-plane camera). With the advent of computers WDAS has commissioned technology projects that do things like assist with the animation of line and paint. A perfect example of this is Disney’s beloved animated short Paperman.

In the category of “now it can be told,” this demo of the product by WDAS shows off the system that allows animators to combine CG animation’s strengths — temporal coherence, spatial stability, and precise control — with traditional animation’s expressive and pleasing line-based aesthetic. The process begins as an ordinary 3D CG animation, but later steps occur in a light-weight and responsive 2D environment, where an artist can draw lines which the system can then automatically move through time using vector fields derived from the 3D animation, thereby maximizing the benefits of both environments. Unlike with an automated “toon-shader,” the final look was directly in the hands of the artists in a familiar workflow, allowing their artistry and creative power to be fully utilized.

The result is beautiful, don’t you think?

This process was developed for the short film Paperman, but it applies to other styles of animation as well. I’m happy that Disney continues to innovate when it comes to animation, that’s part of what sets it apart from other studios.

In your mind, which animated Disney film represents the biggest technology leap?

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