Editor’s note: A couple of weeks ago I (Ron) posted a review of Disney’s short animated film “Paperman”. Part of my review addressed one of the critiques of the short that seems to be the most prevalent. (Spoiler alert: if you haven’t already seen it, you may want to watch it first below before reading on.) The critique has to do with the fact that the planes come to life at the end and play matchmaker, bringing the boy and girl together. Filmmakers like Jamie Abbott liked the short well enough, but lamented the fact that the solution to the man’s problem wasn’t rooted in reality. He had hoped that the filmmakers could’ve come up with a clever, realistic solution to boy meeting girl.
Well, a few years ago another similar short got a lot of attention (well, at least among filmmakers, if not the world). That short was “A Thousand Words” by Ted Chung. Like “Paperman” it has no dialog, involves a boy seeing a pretty girl on a train, and it’s also in black and white. But the ending of that film is more in line with what I think of what people like Jamie were hoping for with respect to “Paperman”.
Now that “Paperman” won the Oscar for best animated short, I thought it would be fun to look at the two through the eyes of a non-filmmaker. Thus this post by Imahni.
We’d both love to know what you all think.
Now on to Imahni’s review.
I was at first hesitant to comment on either ‘A Thousand Words’ or ‘Paperman’ because I am no filmmaker. I cannot provide an analysis of their storytelling technique or really anything besides what a film makes me feel. Still, films are not as often made for other filmmakers as they are made for the general public. Being in that last category, perhaps I can provide the opinion of the average viewer.
I shall be blunt and tell you that I prefer the story of ‘Paperman’. Don’t misunderstand me – ‘A Thousand Words’ was good except that I’ve seen it all before. The idea of sending the camera back to Nasim’s old home with a picture of himself and his number on the camera was very clever. However, it was not novel. ‘Paperman’ was novel.
One thing I love about old Disney movies is how they trusted the kids to accept whatever was shown even if it lacked basis in reality. After watching Beauty and the Beast, I didn’t come away disappointed that my plates don’t sing and dance. After watching Pocahontas, I had no expectation of leaves swirling around me romantically while I stood facing a lover. Reality is all too familiar, but once a writer begins too include things from his own imagination, the viewer is left with a sense of wonder. What will happen next? Only the writer knows.
I know “Paperman” has received criticism because of the magic flying airplanes. Some argue that the introduction of magic was too sudden or inconsistent with the beginning of the story. However, isn’t the idea that a paper airplane could make it all the way across the street to just outside her window every time also “magical”? Or that one actually landed in the waste paper basket? Or that the paper airplane with a kiss on it just happened to land right on top of the post office box that also just happened to be right outside the man’s office building? There was magic and coincidence all throughout. For me, that was part of the charm of the film. It was whimsical, and the magical elements gave me more hope for the couple.
Now that the Oscars have been given out, perhaps there is no question as to whether the magic works. For something not based in reality, it certainly resonated with a lot of people.
Which story do you find more fulfilling? Tell us in the comments.
Bio: Imahni Dawson is a student, writer, and musician, with a passion for helping others realize their own greatness. She loves to learn and create through music, prose, poetry, and art.