When Disney Plus launched in 2019, it brought a huge library of Disney movies, shows, and shorts to streaming, but it didn’t include every single piece of Disney media out there. On November 12th, some of the ongoing titles, such as 2007 Bewitched and the tie shorts Frozen forever and Tangled up forever, will finally reach the platform. This also includes a collection of independent Disney shorts, including two incredibly atmospheric shorts. Paper man and The little match girl aren’t the only previously unavailable Disney shorts added to the service, but they are standout projects – beautiful projects that mark milestones for Disney in the modern era.
Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen The little match girl was originally for a hypothetical Fantasy 2006 Project that never solidified. It is the last Disney project to be rendered on the company’s Computer Animation Production System (CAPS) – the digital ink and painting software that was responsible for the coloring of many of the studio’s traditional animated films in the 1990s and early 2000s. CAPS became obsolete in the mid-2000s after several traditionally animated films, such as The treasure planet and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, underperformed at the box office, which led Disney high-ups to steer the company’s focus. The studio’s next traditionally animated Disney shorts, along with its feature film The princess and the frog, were created in Toon Boom Harmony by the Canadian company Toon Boom Animation.
Like the Anderson short story it was based on The little match girl is gloomy. In the bitter cold of pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg, a starving peasant girl, dressed in dreary gray, tries to sell matches. Eventually, she resorts to lighting her own matches to keep warm. In the brief light of the games, she sees visions of great festivals and loving holiday celebrations, all in a golden glow, before she finally sees her dead grandmother who is kidnapping her to heaven. Since it was originally created in the spirit of Disney’s fantasy and Fantasy 2000, it is wordless and underlaid with classical music, especially the third movement of Borodin’s “String Quartet No. 2 ”, which was preferred to Debussy’s“ Claire de Lune ”in order to evoke the Russian atmosphere.
The little match girl one stylistic era ends for Disney, but the other short, Paper man, was made in a style that has yet to be replicated. Paper man is a modern fairy tale about missed connections set in a city and along a railway line. Like other Disney short films, it has no dialogue but is unique Paper man, the animation is completely black and white, apart from the occasional splash of red from the lipstick.
Paper man is the first and still only Disney film to use its particular hybrid approach, specifically designed to combine the expressiveness of 2D animation with the solidity of 3D. To achieve this look, director John Kahrs enlisted the expertise of software engineer Brian Whited, whose Meander software had caught his eye. Paper man marked Disney’s first use of the software, although it is used to a lesser extent to this day, usually for 2D touches on CG films, such as the colorful backgrounds during Maui’s song in Moana. Meander allows artists to draw directly on CG renderings, adding the distinct feel of an artist’s hand to a more mechanical CG appearance.
The process gives the characters a distinctive look. The character design is similar to some older Disney characters, like Roger Radcliffe from 101 Dalmatiansbut with a depth of lighting and character weighting that mainstream animation has seldom been able to recreate. Disney didn’t make a full feature in this style because, as former Disney animator Glen Keane told us in 2020, it was “an expensive go.” (Though for those who just like the style, Netflix’s Klaus gives a similar solidity to traditionally animated images.)
Paper man came out with Destroy it Ralph, right at the start of the Disney revival era that brought Disney out of the post-renaissance crisis. The success of Destroy it Ralph – and more importantly, Frozen – eventually solidified the studio’s transition to CG, which left traditional animation as a relic and limited itself to short films. Paper man and The little match girl will finally join other Disney shorts on the streaming service, including many from Disney’s in-house experimental programs, and take their place as an important bridge between different eras of Disney animation.
Paper man and The little match girl Debut on Disney Plus November 12th.