During the upcoming holiday season, Disney will present to the moviegoing audiences their latest animated feature film directed by legendary filmmakers Ron Clements and John Musker (THE LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN) called MOANA. To get the word out, the studio decided earlier this year to invite a select few members of the media to an early press day so that they could introduce us to the new film. Adventures by Daddy’s coverage of this can be read by clicking here.
However, MOANA wasn’t the only film introduced during the event. As everyone knows, every Disney animated feature is preceded by an original animated short and often these gems are just as good, if not better than the actual feature films themselves. Shorts such as FEAST (BIG HERO 6) and GET A HORSE (FROZEN) are perfect examples of this. The short film placed ahead of MOANA, called INNER WORKINGS, was screened in its entirety at the event followed by a discussion with Producer Sean Lurie and Director Leonardo Matsuda.
The film tells the story of an office worker, Paul, a straight-laced everyman. On his way to his boring, sometimes overbearing job, he passes by experiences that could potentially make him happy. This starts a tug-of-war between Paul’s brain and heart, the real lead characters in the film. The brain wants to take life seriously, concentrating on having Paul live up to his responsibilities, while the heart wants to take a break from all of the seriousness and enjoy life a little. The film is a wonderful take on an often-told theme regarding a workaholic who must learn how to enjoy his life. This is a theme that has been explored many times before, but INNER WORKINGS does it in a way that still feels fresh and original. What makes it different is its approach. When most films that deal with this theme like to concentrate on a workaholic that must step away from work to enjoy life, INNER WORKINGS gives a slightly different interpretation. It doesn’t want us to forget our responsibilities. Producer Sean Lurie explained, “Paul realizes that if he doesn’t live his life a little bit and take some risks and follow his heart sometimes that he’s not going to be living life to it’s fullest and yet he (still) comes back to work, and I credit Leo (Matsuda) with this idea… he comes back to work… because (like) most of us, we can’t abandon our responsibilities, we’ve got to figure out how to find that balance in life.”
The idea to explore this balance was very personal to the director as he drew inspiration from his own life. Matsuda told us, “I’m Japanese/Brazillian… I have a Japanese side in me that’s very disciplined and logical, but I also have my Brazilian side that loves Carnivale and parties… so I always feel like I’ve started a war between these two extremes in my life and I think this short portrays a little bit of that.”
Matsuda also took inspiration for the story from another place: a very strange place – The transparent overlays that illustrated the human anatomy in the popular Encyclopedia Britannica books. He stated, “I was born in the eighties and in my time we didn’t have the internet… so the way we found our entertainment was through books. I remember having the Britannica Encyclopedia… I would order them and they were the greatest things ever. All the information was there and I remembered the ‘A’ volume. It was the volume with the biology section. So I would go through that… I would open the book and it had all these incredible acetate pages of the human body… you’d see how the systems interrelated to each other and how they worked and that to me was fascinating… that always stuck in my mind. I always wanted to do something with that.”
Inspiration for the director didn’t end there. The visual approach was influenced by some of Matsuda’s favorite directors. “What inspired me as far as the style goes was (the work of) Jean Jaques Tati. He’s a French director… he actually didn’t direct many films, but the films that he did are incredible. And also Wes Anderson, because his work feels almost like your watching a play… you have this very theatrical feel and we wanted to convey that in the short. Also, Ward Kimball, I’m a big fan of his and I love his work because it’s so graphic… there’s so much appeal in his work and he directed some of my favorite shorts…”
The visual style of any film can help set the tone as well as work on a symbolic level to reinforce the stories themes. Lurie commented on the importance of Matsuda’s visual approach by saying, “We wanted to make sure that we were conveying the idea of the story visually as much as possible. We see that in the color script. We see that in the office (scenes) where everything is very squared off… this idea that the world of the brain is very rigid… we really wanted to just sell that idea all the way through, so even the wheels on the chair are square. In contrast, by the way of the beach, where everything is very curvy and loose with warm colors… this is the world where the heart wants to be.”
INNER WORKINGS is a wonderful new animated short film that will be released on November 23, 2016 as it plays in front of Disney’s anticipated new animated feature MOANA or as Lurie jokingly put it, “When people come to the theaters to see our short, as an added bonus they’ve attached this other wonderful film.”