'Paperman' Director Completes Animated Short for Lyft

June Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Lyft

John Kahrs — the Academy Award-winning director of Disney’s 2012 animated short Paperman — was behind the wheel as writer-director of a new Lyft-branded animated short that debuts Wednesday on YouTube.

Produced by Broad Reach Pictures and Lyft, June follows the journey of an elderly African-American widow whose vintage car is destroyed, compelling her to use Lyft for the first time. June — now isolated and alone, but in her younger days a singer in a one-hit wonder Motown band — begins to notice she is surrounded by a ridesharing community, and ultimately takes the initiative to join this new world as a driver, learning by the end of the Chicago-set multicultural short that she’s not as alone as she thought.

Based on a concept from Lyft’s creative director, Ricardo Viramontes, the seven-minute film was designed and animated by Kevin Dart of L.A.-based studio Chromosphere and scored by composer Christophe Beck. The song “Moving,” featured in the short, was written and performed by former Lyft driver and Atlantic recording artist Sir the Baptist.

“When we looked at anecdotes from drivers and passengers, the common thread was how people connected,” said Kahrs. “That became the real story.”

Developing that story involved a scouting trip to Chicago that brought neighborhood details to life, video interviews with local drivers, and even a further trip to Detroit, to visit the Motown Museum.

“Disney, [Hayao] Miyazaki and [John] Lasseter set the standard for research,” Kahrs noted. “The research really helps sell [the story].”

Production began about a year ago, Kahrs said, and the roughly 150 shots took about five months to complete. The film features numerous characters and locations in a distinctive, kaleidoscopic style.

“I had more creative freedom on this project than anything since I worked on [Paperman], and maybe even more than that,” Kahrs added, telling THR that Lyft even asked that some occurrences of the company’s logo be removed so as not to intrude on the narrative.

The ride-hailing service isn't the only company recently enlisting Hollywood talent to create branded content. In September, BMW revealed that it hired District 9 director Neill Blomkamp to helm Clive Owen in its live-action short, The Escape, a follow up to BMW’s 2001-02 The Hire series that likewise featured Owen as ‘The Driver.’ Other outings include 2004 and 2014 Baz Luhrmann pieces for Chanel No. 5 and a 2008 internet soap opera produced by Kraft Canada to tout a biscuit line and fittingly titled As the Cookie Crumbles.