Things have been a little rocky over in the animation departments of Disney the last few days. No sooner was it officially announced that Oscar-winning director Bob Peterson taken was off of Pixar’s summer 2014 joint “The Good Dinosaur,” than came word that John Kahrs, the inventive animator behind last year’s Oscar-winning short film “Paperman,” has left Walt Disney Animation Studios for parts unknown.
Kahrs is a longtime animator, having served in the trenches at both Pixar and Blue Sky before landing a job as a feature animator, working primarily on Disney’s “Tangled.” When “Tangled” wrapped production, Kahrs decided to attempt something revolutionary: mapping 2D hand-drawn animation on top of computer-generated shapes. It was a new style of animation and a new way to tell a story, and the resulting black-and-white short film “Paperman” was, of course, nothing short of heart tugging and exquisite (it played theatrically before “Wreck-It Ralph” last winter). If there’s anything that’s going to save hand-drawn animation at Disney, it’s a unique hybridization process like the one Kahrs developed with a skeleton crew for “Paperman.”
While it was unclear what Kahrs was working on at the time of his departure, we would put our money on “Princess and the Frog” filmmakers Ron Clements and John Musker’s forthcoming “Moana,” a Pacific island-set fairy tale (expect some tiki shit) that is said to utilize the same technology that Kahrs developed for “Paperman.” It’s unclear if the reason Kahrs left is because that project has gone in a different direction or if he is unhappy because of some aspect on the production (or if he was even a part of it at all).
Whatever Kahrs ends up doing next, we’re sure that it will be something exciting. We just wish he could have been able to stay at the Mouse House and follow through on the promise of “Paperman” – a movie that combined artistry and technology to produce some truly amazing results.