“Inner Workings” is Disney’s latest short film, played just in front of their latest movie Moana. After many memorable shorts like “Paperman” and “Feast”, “Inner Workings” takes us even deeper into the life of a single person – or, more specifically, a person and their relationship with their internal organs.
It may sound like an odd concept, but director Leo Matsuda, producer Sean Lurie, and their team were able to use this strange idea to create a short film that almost anyone can relate to – especially since stress, work, and routine are so prevalent in many people’s lives today.
The short follows a main character named Paul, whose life is set by routine and restraint. When his heart decides to let Paul follow his desires, his brain sets him back on track, resulting in a very funny, yet very poignant, message to everyone who has ever felt the battle between dreams and practicality.
I was able to sit down with Matsuda and Lurie in an interview for a behind the scenes look at the film, and was happy to find that they were very excited to talk to me about what the short meant to them.
Matsuda first shared more about how the idea for “Inner Workings” is based on his heritage. “Genetically I’m Japanese, but I was raised in Brazil, so my soul is Brazillian, I guess. So I guess it’s a way to kind of – it’s symbolic of [how] my heart is Brazillian, my brain is Japanese,” he said. The tension between these two identities gave rise to the tension between the main character’s head and heart.
This conflict manifests in many ways through the short – some funny, some serious – but ultimately reflect the fact that Matsuda poured so much of himself into Paul, main character. “This is me, you know, I go through this struggle more than anybody – you know, overthinking, and being afraid…so I think that’s something that I realized, how personal it was,” he admitted.
Yet despite the personal nature of the short to Matsuda, Lurie was also able to relate to the short – but in a different way. “The part that sort of sticks out for me is worry about regret and not doing things that I really want to do in life because I have to be practical…” he explained.
Lurie then addressed how the short is able to reach different kinds of people, saying, “I think that’s why so many people relate to it…we sort of all reflect on: where am I? How am I doing? Am I living life the way I want to live it? I worry about those things, like so many people, and so for that it really resonates for me.”
While many may be able to relate to the short in different ways, Matsuda explained that “Inner Workings” does have an overarching theme. “There’s definitely a message that…there’s a balance in everyone’s life. But I think you need to listen to your heart, but you also need to be realistic – but that doesn’t mean, because you’re realistic, you’re not optimistic,” he said.
Leo then went on to explain how one of his goals for the short was to reach those who aren’t at a job they’re happy with. “How do those people feel, you know? I really sympathize with them. And I think it’s a way – it’s a love letter for them. For them to have hope, but at the same time we have to be practical too,” he said. “So that’s why I think it’s ‘Inner Workings’, because the world as a whole doesn’t change. The character…because he changed, he ends up kind of – it’s contagious, he ends up kind of influencing the people around.”
The message of “Inner Workings” is ultimately that happiness and change come first from within. In a world that’s obsessed with work, with getting ahead, and with being on top, “Inner Workings” is a breath of fresh air that teaches both children and adults about the importance of self-care.
Catch “Inner Workings” in front of another great film, Moana, in theaters now!