When you think back on the heyday of Walt Disney Animation and specifically of animated short subject films, there’s a rich variety of experimentation of style. From colors to storytelling to special effects and character design, there was a lot of variation and exploration in the medium by the fabulous stable of artists employed by Walt Disney.
That trend continues today across various studios with the technological explosion that has opened the door for different means of conveying story through an animated medium. Still, there’s a special charm to some of the old-school Disney animation and that is a line that director Leo Matsuda has managed to toe with his upcoming INNER WORKINGS animated short film that will be accompanying MOANA later this year in theaters.
At its core, INNER WORKINGS is about the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half. This is conveyed in the personification of his… well… inner workings! Heart and Brain are the stars here and we find out about the internal struggle between them and how they influence our human protagonist.
A few weeks ago, MouseInfo was invited to join a special preview day at the Walt Disney Studios to learn more and that included a screening of the new short. Matsuda related some of the elements of his own personality that influenced the direction for the story. With a flavor inspired from his Japanese (serious, studious) and Brazilian (outgoing, spontaneous) family heritage to his affinity for Wes Anderson and his knack for bringing humor to the banality of life, he created an animated short that addresses the eternal battle between the Brain and the Heart.
But what will probably be of most interest to fans of classic Disney is that one of his biggest influences for the project was the animation style of Ward Kimball. For the uninitiated, think of the bubbly organic curves of some of his notable work including Bacchus (Fantasia), the Pearly Band (Mary Poppins) or Tweedledee/Tweedledum or any of the other host of characters he created for Alice in Wonderland and you start to get the idea. The influence is unmistakable and what could have come off as a re-tread of a tried and true style, ends up adapting that creative DNA and morphs it into a CG world that is not built for such stylized subjects.
It’s a challenge that required special animation rigging and considerations for the construction of the characters. The stylizing of the film’s aesthetic made it literally impossible to create the characters for use in CG. For instance, the protagonist’s blocky head required two completely different builds to be used depending on whether he was being shown straight on or in profile. This was to be able to achieve a certain animation style of the character’s mouth and facial expressions.
INNER WORKINGS is cheeky and adorable but what truly stands out is the great mix of CG animation of the world and characters that is combined with the hand-drawn 2D animation of the thought bubbles for the non-vocal internal organs. The whole thing is fast-paced and well-conceived without feeling at all like the similar conceit for last year’s INSIDE OUT.
INNER WORKINGS opens ahead of MOANA in theaters on November 23, 2016.