Disney’s whimsical animated short, “Inner Workings” (playing in front of “Moana”), works like a quirkier “Inside Out” — a tug of war between logic and passion. It marks yet another innovative blend of CG and 2D, following the Oscar-winning “Feast” and “Paperman.” (Watch the exclusive clip below.)
Director Leo Matsuda takes us inside the cartoony body of a hapless clerk named Paul, whose brain nearly squashes his heart because of a neurotic fear of death.
“I’m a Japanese Brazilian, so I’m very disciplined, but I also like to party,” Matsuda told IndieWire.
At first, Matsuda toyed with the idea of using Disney’s Meander drawing program (introduced on “Paperman,” and the recipient of an Academy Sci-Tech award this year), but realized the paper texture look wasn’t appropriate. So he decided on CG for the real world and 2D inside Paul’s body.
For the inner workings, Matsuda was inspired by the human anatomy illustrations from the “Encyclopedia Britannica” that he flipped through as a youth. Through clever animation, Disney artists recreated the graphical look of those layered acetate transparencies.
And he went with an ’80s vibe that’s pushed and theatrical for the CG, taking compositional inspiration from Jacques Tati and Wes Anderson.
Additionally, Bruno Bozzetto’s “Grasshoppers” short influenced the hilarious 2D-animated brain musings of Paul winding up dead after every imagined risk he takes.
“Everything is square and boring in Paul’s world and everything is round in the world of the heart,” said Matsuda, a story artist from the Oscar-winning “Big Hero 6” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” Paul resembles the director but contains a square face like Carl’s from “Up,” while the brain and heart look like huggable plush toys.
“I always perceived the brain as the antagonist of the piece, but Leo kept saying it was the protagonist because it has the greatest character growth,” added producer Sean Lurie (the “Tinker Bell” franchise).
“Inner Workings” also benefited from designer/animator Ami Thompson, a visual development apprentice on “Zooptopia.” Her character designs demonstrated greatversatility, particularly with the 2D brain visions made with TVPaint software.
Meanwhile, Ludwig Goransson (“Creed”) composed the highly synthesized ’80s-driven score and wrote the infectious Brazilian-sounding song, “California Loco.”
“It’s about finding this peace within and the balance in your own life,” said Matsuda, who’s learned more about trusting his heart and not taking everything to its logical conclusion.