As we walked out of Wreck-It Ralph, I said, “Well, the movie was pretty good, but man, that short’s going to win an Oscar.” It had stayed with me all through the movie—which I did enjoy, remember—as being incredibly beautiful, poignant, and funny. Better, in fact, than the movie which followed. Charming. A delicate touch visually. Possibly some of the best work Disney had done in years, in fact. I told everyone I knew that, yeah, movie—but they’d love the short.
The short is mostly silent except the score, but a young man officially named George (John Kahrs) is on an el platform on his way to work. One of his papers hits Meg (Kari Wahlgren) in the face, and she’s slightly less than amused by that. But it gets a red lipstick mark on it, the only colour in the short. She gets on one train, and he gets on another. He goes to a dull office job, where he deals with enormous stacks of paper. Then, he sees her at an interview across the street in another tall building. He folds sheet after sheet of paper into airplanes in the hopes of catching her attention, but they all miss—until he gets to the one with her lip prints on it. His boss notices that he’s flung all his work out the window and is less than pleased, but George makes the decision that he cares more about Meg and their chance encounter than his job.
I mean, this is foolishness, honestly. George is, let’s be real, so fired. And while Meg seems to have gotten the job she’s interviewing for, we can’t be sure she and George are going to get along more than a little, more than just “well, this was nice.” But it’s sweet and romantic, and it’s a cartoon, not life, so who cares? And the visuals with all those paper airplanes are great, especially when he’s back on the el, and they won’t even let him change seats. Who knows; maybe the paper airplanes know something that we don’t.
They know, I note, that Meg will follow a paper airplane out of a sense of wonder that it is self-propelled, whereas George has to be pushed by them and actively attempts to rebel. Even at the last, Meg doesn’t throw the plane; she hefts it lightly in the air, waiting to see where it goes on its own. She assumes it knows its direction better than it does. George actively struggles against piles of the things, believing I suppose that they’re trying to get revenge on him for flinging them out a skyscraper window. Or that whatever power has brought them to their own life must be malign. Or something.
The art style is something between sketch and photography that is hard to explain. Much of what we see is almost suggested by a few rough lines, and yet it has a feel of good black and white photography. This was, believe it or not, the first Disney animation to win an Oscar since 1969—putting Pixar, of course, in a different category. This is the kind of short that seems custom crafted to appeal to those of us who have been saying for years that they should bring back shorts before movies.
I’m probably not as strapped for cash as George is about to be, but it would sure be nice if you’d consider supporting my Patreon!