OSCAR BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW WITH JOHN KAHRS (Written)- John Kahrs is the director of the Oscar Award Winning Disney Short, Paperman. These interviews with Kahrs were conducted backstage at the 85th Annual Academy Awards after he received the Oscar for Best Short Film. In these series of conversations with the director, we learn where he obtained his inspiration for the sentimental short film, as well as the importance of Paperman being a silent film created with old school, traditional, animation.
PLOT: An urban office worker finds that paper airplanes are instrumental in meeting a girl in ways he never expected.
- US – November 2, 2012
- Germany – December 6, 2012
Read the interview with Oscar Award Winning Director John Kahrs below:
Q.You got extraordinary distribution, of course, going out on the Disney print, but what is the life for theatrical animated shorts now as far as the average audience viewer? Where do they
A.It’s a bit tough, but I mean the Shorts International has been distributing them and that’s been gaining steam over the years, but I think John’s idea of putting the shorts in front of the features is really, it’s the best placement for it, for me personally. I mean, I feel very lucky to have been riding on the coattails of WRECK IT RALPH.
Q.I want to know, was this a very emotional short? And also, it has a lot of inspiration of old cartoons and all that, so where is your inspiration in your life to make you do this?
A.Yeah. My inspiration for PAPERMAN is basically as a commuter, and it’s kind of chance connections you make with strangers and wonder who they are and, you know, I just had this idea of like a urban fairytale about people that were perfect for each other but lost their connection. But someone asked me, how is this short different than other Disney shorts, and I was tongue tied but now I realize it’s the same as all other Disney…I mean, it has magic in it, it has appealing characters, it has the plausible impossible; it has all those great things, so sure.
Q.And with all of that, it’s a silent film?
Q.So how did you what was some of the challenges you faced with getting all of those plausible and the implausible and the elements of the film into such a compact time?
A.That is tough, but, yeah, I mean for me the idea of it having no words in it makes it extremely portable, that you can show it all around the world and it communicates. And the idea there is that it’s visual storytelling, and I think the best films to me are the ones that you can understand where the sound is turned off. But, yeah, it’s a tall order to make the audience believe that these two people are a perfect couple from the very first shot. But I have a few tricks up my sleeve and I have a few I have amazing people at Disney on my team, especially from a design standpoint and an animation standpoint that do fantastic work.
A.Okay, it’s official.
Q.You just said you have a few more tricks up your sleeve. You have an opportunity to continue what you started with embracing the legacy and extending it further with the hybrid approach. Could you talk a little bit about the challenges and the opportunities ahead for you and the studio?
A.Well, Bill is an animation guy, so he’s talking about what we did is we took the kind of old 2D animation and the newer CG animation and put them together in a way that I think hasn’t been seen before. But I think, you know, what we did is take the drawn line and the expressiveness and the hand of the artist and bring it into the 21st century. So I’m really gratified by this and the acceptance of the audience to really look at that technique and that way of seeing animation and just letting the story kind of wash over them. So, yeah, I do believe that there are different ways that animation can look, and this is one of those ways.
Q.You talked in your speech about working for Disney and how that company has been revitalized. Could you sort of talk about what it’s been like with John Lasseter and Ed Catmull where that studio has come?
A.Sure. When I had to move to L.A. and I was at Pixar for ten years, and I thought, you know, the deal had just happened with Disney buying Pixar and I thought this is going to become a great studio with this new leadership. And I was the supervising animator on TANGLED and really swept up in what I said earlier about the revitalization of the studio, what they’re doing there is great, and they’re really pushing for depth and stories that are going to last generations, you know, films for families that are going to last the test of time.
Q.Congratulations. I loved your film.
Q.I’m an actor, David Arquette.
A.I recognized you.
Q.I do lots of voices. I can do a low voice. I can do a high voice.
A.This is my next step, actually, because I didn’t use any words so this is the thing I’m terrified of is actually putting voices in the animations.
Q.So put nice actors but, you know, because you have to stay in the room with them. But what are you most excited about in your Oscar gift basket?
A.Actually, the Oscar gift basket was very modest.
Q.But there were condoms in there. If you don’t use them, I can use them, bro.
Q.I know there was a sort of a groundswell for this movie, but is it still a surprise when they call your name and can you tell me what that moment is like?
A.Yes. Yes, it is. I mean, I’ve been managing my expectations all evening so, yeah, I forgot to thank my parents. What can I say? So mom and dad, thank you. This is the place to do it? I’ve been trying to call them, but they have a busy signal. When is the last time someone got a busy signal? They live way out in Vermont and there’s more cows than people up there.
Q.Congratulations on your award.
A.Thank you very much.
Q.Just to congratulate you for using old school animation in the short. And I just want to ask you, why did you incorporate older animation in it, because I think it’s best that new computers, that you have to get into it?
A.Okay, yeah. The reason that I drew that hand drawn line back into the animation, it really comes from I mean, I’m a computer animation guy, I’m actually not very good at 2D animation. I can’t really draw that well. But when I was working with Glen Keane on TANGLED I think I was really transfixed by the drawings he was doing every day and it felt like such a shame to leave those drawings behind when we go to the final image when that line has a history of being so expressive, and I think there’s something universal about the hand drawn line being a way still a relevant way of telling stories. So I thought, can’t there be a way that we can bring these two things together again but in a 21st century way that uses new technology.