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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, 2016 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License Biology: Paul's lungs each breathe alternately, rather than simultaneously.
  • 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. They even join in the Dance Party Ending.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Paul's bladder appears in a couple scenes, but there's no urethra visible. The bladder can still empty... somehow.
  • Character Development: Paul's Brain's starts out a stickler for routine, focused on avoiding risks for the sake of preventing wacky, highly unlikely deaths (by sharks, overeating, juggled chainsaws, ectr.). But after seeing Paul's Heart is too despondent for work, he starts to contemplate how it would be so much worse if Paul lived out a boring, unhappy life of constant work with not friends, family or fun. This is what prompts him to take a chance with letting the Heart decide how Paul should best spend his lunch break. By the end of the lunch break, Brain and Heart are in sync with appreciating how fulfilling life can be.
  • Composite Character: Paul's Stomach is a combination of all the organs that make up the digestive system.
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • When Paul sees the beautiful sunglasses seller, his Heart briefly clutches the heartstrings in the shape of a heart.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Each Imagine Spot by Paul's Brain after death by electrocution shows a humorous variation on Paul's grave for each cause of death.
    • For death by overeating, the coffin is oversized.
    • For death by shark attack, the coffin partially protrudes from the shark's jaws.
    • For death by chainsaw, we see four mini-coffins, each bearing the letters of Paul's name.
    • For death by exposure, Paul's body is in a huge ice block (similar to the Iceman).
  • Funny Background Event: Paul's lungs mostly appear each time his heart does, and they feel whatever emotion the heart feels. They even console his heart when he feels sad.
  • 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, including the sunglasses vendor.
  • 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.
  • Jaw Drop: Paul's bosses do this when they see him struggling with the door.
  • 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.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Paul's Brain is saddened by the thought of Paul working and working his soulless office job until he's an old man and then dying a sad, meaningless death. It gives controls back to the Heart so Paul can have fun, enjoy his life, and make it a life worth living.
  • Logo Joke: The Disney Castle shows up in the credits as a sandcastle on the beach nearby Paul and his new family.
  • Lonely Funeral: While working at his joyless office job, Paul's Brain looks at an elderly man working next to him and imagines Paul working endlessly until he's old and lowering himself into his coffin, with the only one in attendance being the priest.
  • 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. Supplemental materials reveal that the redheaded sunglasses seller's name is Kate.
  • Nondescript, Nasty, Nutritious: During lunch break, everyone at the office pulls out identical plain sandwiches and starts chewing in unison. When Paul's Brain gives control back to Paul's Heart, the first thing it decides to do is go get a delicious breakfast from the nearby café instead, complete with pancakes, eggs and bacon.
  • 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.
  • Nutritional Nightmare: Paul sees someone eating a delicious pancake breakfast outside a coffee shop and gets hungry, but then his brain starts calculating how many calories would be in it, and concludes that eating it would make him instantly balloon up to 325 pounds and die of a Hollywood Heart Attack.
  • 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.
  • Reused Character Design: Paul strongly resembles a younger version of Carl Fredricksen.
  • Running Gag: Paul's Brain imagining various increasingly improbable ways Paul could get himself killed, each time ending with a friar saying a Latin-sounding gibberish prayer over Paul's grave (the grave varying according to each cause of death).
  • 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. The only clearly spoken dialogue in the short is when Paul sings the words "California Loco!" in the shower.
  • 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 the sunglasses seller get married, and have a son who looks just like him and a daughter who looks just like her.
  • Threatening Shark: Paul wants to run to the beach and have fun surfing, but his brain is afraid they'll get eaten by a shark.
  • 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.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Paul's Brain only does what it does out of concern for Paul's safety.
  • What If?: Played for laughs. Each action on the outside causes Paul's Brain to consider the possible fatal consequences of them (i.e. dancing in the shower leading to death by electrocution or trying on sunglasses leading to death by juggled chainsaws).
  • White Collar Worker: Paul is an office employee for a company called Boring, Boring & Glum. Unsurprisingly, his job is extremely dull, and consists of nothing but pushing buttons and printing papers.
  • X-Ray Sparks: The first Imagine Spot has Paul slipping in the shower, knocking his radio into the water and electrocuting him, complete with a shot of his skeleton.