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“Inner Workings,” a new short from first-time director Leo Matsuda (story artist for “Big Hero 6,” “Wreck-It Ralph”) is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited adventurous half. “I’m Japanese-Brazilian,” says Matsuda. “One side of my personality is very serious and organized, while the other side is fun and crazy. That was a big part of the inspiration behind the story.”

As a child, Matsuda was fascinated with the transparent human anatomy pages in his encyclopedia set. Inspired, the director adapted the idea in the new short, taking viewers inside the body of a man named Paul, who’s struggling to find balance in his daily life. His Brain and his Heart take opposing sides, leaving Paul to decide who to listen to once and for all.

“One of the fantastic things about Walt Disney Animation Studios,” says producer Sean Lurie, “is the commitment to experimentation and innovation. The shorts program showcases artistic endeavors; we push the boundaries of animation to create something new and different.”

Matsuda was selected out of dozens of in-house filmmakers invited to pitch three ideas for a short—a practice introduced by chief creative officer John Lasseter to inspire fresh, original material. “I have a dry sense of humor and I pitch really fast,” says Matsuda. “I would just scroll through my drawings really quickly, not really giving people time to laugh, letting it all build up.”

“His pitch was charming and honest,” says Lurie, who was part of the multi-round selection process in his role as vice president of development. “We could all relate to that inner conflict and recognized how fear can interfere with experiencing joy in our lives. But it’s Leo’s sense of humor that really hooked us, and that—as well as his snappy pacing—comes out in the short.”

The short relies on Matsuda’s unconventional style to tell its story. “We don’t use words to convey ideas in the short,” says Lurie. “We rely on the shape language, color, editing, camera, music and sound effects. And the story comes through brilliantly.”

The short features music by Ludwig Göransson (“Creed”). “He has a really artistic and sometimes quirky sensibility,” says Lurie. “He brings a lot of passion to the score—which is a big part of the storytelling.”

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  • Inner Workings

    Inner Workings is a 2016 3D computer-animated short that was produced by Walt Disney Animation...

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