Exclusive: Hand Drawn, CG And Something Paperman-Like In Future Of Disney Animation

This weekend I was able to sit down with Rich Moore, Clark Spencer and Renato Dos Anjos, the director, producer and animation supervisor on Wreck-It Ralph. You’ll be hearing a lot from them as we get closer to the release of the film in the UK in February, including a great, illustrated ‘Animation Masterclass’  in Issue 2 of Bleeding Cool Magazine.

Now, though, I want to share a short part of the conversation between Dos Anjos and myself. We started by talking about the legacy of traditional, hand drawn animation at Disney and how it is influencing the cutting edge of 3D CG.

Dos Anjos: As an artist I know what I want these things to look like and computers at times have limitations that you need to work with. It would be amazing to not have limitations, but that’s just not how it is. At the studio we are working really hard at breaking the boundaries and just be able to create the art we want. It’s a process and it’s improving on every show. Right now, Ralph is as good as it can be but on the next show we will try to make things a little better. We’re always thinking of growing and learning. Having the tradition at the studio of hand drawn animation is great and we really treasure that, it inspires us a lot.

Bleeding Cool: And yet there’s no traditionally animated film in the pipeline. It’s sad.

Dos Anjos: Well, actually… I’m not going to tell you what but there’s actually something happening right now. But as a studio, we really leave the decision up to the filmmakers. It’s really up to the directors. If that’s story they want to tell and the medium they want to use, then it’s really up to them. We want to support that.

Bleeding Cool: And now there’s a third way. John Kahrs has brought us a new way with Paperman.

Dos Anjos:  Yeah, it’s amazing. The first time I saw it was a few weeks ago at our wrap party. I was amazed by it. I couldn’t believe how it looked. I played around with the meander system a little bit just to see how it worked because early on Rich [Moore] and I were exploring lots of different looks [for Wreck-It Ralph] and different ideas for some of the [film’s videogame] worlds. This was before Paperman. We have this really great program at the studio whenever there is downtime, we encourage artists to try different mediums and different things. We call them ‘Spark Projects.’ Anybody in the building can come up with an idea and pitch it to a small group and if they find it interesting, we give them resources to accomplish that idea. This animator, Patrick Osborne, was working on a project called Pet about a kid who finds this little alien pet thing. That was the first time we saw anything like Paperman where there was this integration of something that looked very different to your regular CG thing. That was more about flat colours. After that, Patrick did another test for one of the feature films that we’re planning on doing. That is a lot more like Paperman, with a little stronger design sense, in that it is rougher drawings, it isn’t as clean as Paperman. And then he went and helped John Kahrs make Paperman.

Paperman is playing in the US now, before Wreck-It Ralph, and I’m hoping they’ll stay together for the UK release next February. In their own, very different ways they represent the cutting edge of Disney’s CG work, and they’re both just cracking movies too.

And that’s what the studio needs to hold on to. I’m looking forward to new hand drawn work, you better believe it, as well as more experimentation and aesthetic experiments, but it’s the stories that are really going to matter.

For more on Paperman, see my previous, very detailed post on just how it’s so unusual For more on Ralph, sit tight – or, if you’re in the US, get yourself to the cinema.