It is often said of Asian Americans in Hollywood that to be seen and to be represented, we need to be doing more behind the camera. While it still seems to be an uphill climb in live action, we've already been seeing the results in animation for quite some time. Over at Walt Disney, the biggest animation studio, director Leo Matsuda is bringing his own Japanese Brazillian sensibilities to his new short, Inner Workings, set to debut with the November release of Disney's feature Moana.
Inner Workings is a six-minute tale of the heart and brain, following the internal struggle of Paul, an average joe office worker whose pragmatic logical side engages in a tug-of-war with his free-spirited adventurous side.
Matsuda, who was a story artist on Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6, cites encyclopedias of the '80s as a huge inspiration for the story, but there are also some cultural aspects at play in Inner Workings.
"I guess it's the duel between the heart and the brain, like, my Japanese side is very logical and very organized," Matsuda tells Oh My Disney. "I'm very systematic and I was also brought up in Brazil, so my soul's Brazilian and I understand that side. Even though my Japanese side is prominent, my Brazil side comes out sometimes."
Disney is not only pushing the envelope in technology in their animated shorts merging 2D and 3D sensibilities, they’re also giving more screen time to people of color both in front of and behind the camera. With Mulan in 1998, Russell from UP in 2009, and the multicultural cast of Big Hero 6 in 2014, Inner Workings continues the trend of animated Asian faces not only on the screen but behind it as well.
Watch Leo Matsuda's Inner Workings in front of Moana, in theaters this Thanksgiving.
More here: First Look: The Inner Workings of "Inner Workings"