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Western Animation / Inner Workings

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Inner Workings is a CGI animated short from Disney Animation Studios that premiered November 23 in front of the full animated feature Moana, directed by Disney story artist Leo Matsuda.

The story is about an office employee named Paul. Walking to work, he encounters many distractions. This sparks a conflict between his brain, his logical side that wants him to ignore the distractions and go to work; and his heart, his free-spirited adventurous side that wants him to let loose and enjoy life a little.

Tropes found in the film:

  • Adult Fear: Part of Paul's Brain's Character Development is differentiating which death is worse: a wacky, highly unlikely death (by sharks, overeating, juggled chainsaws, ect.), or living out a boring, unhappy routine with no friends, no family, and no fun until the bitter end.
  • All There in the Manual: The redhead is named Kate, after the director's girlfriend.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Paul's Brain is All Work, while Paul's Heart is All Play. Paul's Brain eventually realizes that All Work is no way to live.
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  • An Aesop: The short's message is that allowing yourself to take a chance and enjoy the occasional indulgence isn't a bad thing. In fact, it makes it easier to fulfill your responsibilities and may make your life all the richer for it.
  • Babies Ever After: Paul and the redheaded sunglass vendor are revealed to have married and have two kids.
  • Bad Boss: Subverted. Paul (or rather Paul's brain) thinks his bosses are this, but they never do anything overtly villainous or even mean. The only antagonistic moment they have is being unnerved by Paul's antics which is an understandable reaction. They even join in the Dance Party Ending.
  • Dance Party Ending: Paul finally getting out of his routine and starting to enjoy life more leads to one of these breaking out at his office.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: The central conflict is between Paul's brain, who wants Paul to take life seriously all the time and not take risks, and his heart, who wants him to abandon his responsibilities and just have fun.
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  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The anatomy book at the beginning has some interesting descriptions written in Canis Latinicus. Some examples include the respiratory system (Systemis Inhala et Exhala), the integumentary system (Nudus Tastefuli), and Paul himself (Paulus Caput Quadratum).
  • Hartman Hips: All of the characters in the short have exaggerated proportions, with the female beach-goers having hips at least three times wider than their waists.
  • Heel Realization: When the Brain finally realizes that forcing Paul to a life with no risks is going to end with him living a miserable life and dying alone.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: The sunglasses vendor catches Paul's attention, and during the end credits, we see the two hooked up and had two kids.
  • Imagine Spot: Paul's Brain keeps imagining ways Paul could get killed deviating from his routine, ranging from mundane (slipping in the shower, losing his job, and freezing to death on the streets) to unlikely (Paul letting himself go and dying of a heart attack) to highly improbable (backing into a chainsaw juggler or getting eaten by a shark). Then the Brain has one of Paul leading a boring and miserable life and Dying Alone.
  • Juggling Dangerously: A chainsaw juggler can be briefly seen when Paul gets distracted by a sunglasses vendor, and later in the Brain's Imagine Spot.
  • Logo Joke: The Disney Castle shows up in the credits as a sandcastle on the beach nearby Paul and his new family.
  • Masculine Lines, Feminine Curves: Paul is modeled with straight lines and boxy anatomy while the woman he meets is modeled with lots of curves and round shapes. However, the dichotomy is not quite gender-split as the square anatomy applies to all the men and women working at Paul's company and the round anatomy to all the beachgoers.
  • Medium Blending: The short is CGI, while the Brain's Imagine Spots are traditional hand-drawn animation.
  • No Name Given: Aside from Paul and his bosses Boring, Boring and Glum, no other human character is named within the short.
  • Not So Above It All/Not So Stoic: Paul's bosses end up joining in on the Dance Party Ending.
    • Each of Paul's Brain's ways Paul could die end with the Running Gag of a priest rattling off a blessing at his early grave. Paul's Brain extrapolating a lonely, unhappy life coming to an end with old Paul dragging himself up the hill, never having really lived, is the first time the imaginary priest looks sad.
  • Organ Autonomy: All of Paul's organs seem to have a mind of their own and an influence over his actions, especially the Brain and the Heart.
  • Running Gag: Paul's Brain imagining various ways Paul could get himself killed, each time ending with a friar saying a Latin-sounding gibberish prayer over Paul's grave.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: It stars a guy named Paul who works at an office building called "Boring, Boring, and Glum". Nobody in the office enjoys their job, but Paul (and, it's implied, everyone else) feels obligated to do nothing but work. The whole point of the short is that Paul learns to find a balance between Emotions vs. Stoicism and becomes all the better for it, to the point that the whole office becomes a much more lively place.
  • Speaking Simlish: Most of the speaking is just random gibberish.
  • Stealth Pun: After Paul's Brain wrests control from Paul's Heart, Paul goes back to work, only to slow to a crawl as he becomes depressed. Then we cut to Paul's Heart looking miserable to show his heart's just not in it.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: At the end of the short, Paul and his wife have a son who looks just like Paul and a daughter who looks just like his wife.
  • Toilet Humor: Paul's Bladder relieves itself when Paul finally decides to break out of his routine and goes for a swim in the ocean on his lunch break.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: The guys at the beach. Most prominently the Surfer Dude.
  • Visual Pun: There's a few, including the fact his heart has literal heart-strings he's pulling all the time. When his brain gets fed up with the distractions, he takes the strings, balls them up and sticks them to the side where Paul's ear is. He stuck it in his ear.
  • White Collar Worker: Paul is an office employee for a company called Boring, Boring & Glum. Unsurprisingly, his job is extremely dull.

Example of: