7 Things Worth Knowing About Pixar’s ‘Soul’
Our excitement over Pixar’s upcoming release Soul has reached fever pitch! And to celebrate the fact that we’ll be able to tune into this awesome feature on Disney+ in a little over a week, we thought we’d share with you a few things you’ll want to know about this incredible new film asking the question “What is the meaning of life.”
This is precisely the question that Soul looks to answer through the experiences of protagonist Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Fox) who is a middle school band teacher who dreams of becoming a professional jazz musician before he has a tragic accident. The film also features untethered soul 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) who just doesn’t understand what the big deal is about being human.
Back in November, the cast of the film gave a press briefing along with screenwriter Pete Docter to discuss some of the important elements from the film.
Here are seven key takeaways we think you’ll want to know about ahead of the premiere!
Early on, the filmmakers decided jazz would be integral to Joe because, as Docter put it, “You don’t go into jazz to get rich and famous. You do it because you love it and you have a passion for it. It’s fascinating to watch. When you see somebody play, it’s like a magic trick.” In the film, they call that being “in the zone.”
And something everyone at the virtual press conference agreed upon was that they, too, felt “in the zone” as they were working on Soul.
Here are seven more things we learned from the press conference:
1.There is no Joe Gardner without Jamie Foxx.
Foxx was the filmmakers first choice to play the leading role. For Foxx it was an easy sell as his 11-year-old daughter was all for the project. As Foxx recalls, “She be looking at me like, ‘When’s it gonna take off for you?’” Foxx said with a laugh. “Like, ‘You’re Pixar now. You made it!’”
During the press conference, Foxx expressed his excitement at being the voice of Pixar’s first black protagonist saying, “I know my grandmother, who is looking down, would be proud we are doing something like this.”
2. Soul is rich in varied experiences and perspectives.
To really make sure the jazz featured in the film was true to form, Disney brought in an incredible line-up of consultants including: Dr. Peter Archer, Jon Batiste, Dr. Christopher Bell, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Daveed Diggs, Herbie Hancock, Marcus McLaurine, George Spencer, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and Bradford Young. “
Producer Dana Murray said of the process, “The depth of the bench was crazy.” She continued, “and we were just really lucky.”
3. New York City is as energetic and vibrant as ever.
Disney and Pixar are so good at infusing their films with a real sense of place and Soul is no exception. New York comes alive in this film from the jazz clubs Joe frequents to the barber shop where everyone knows his name. Phylicia Rashad said of the setting, “I didn’t find it specific to one area of the city necessarily.” She continues, “However, it was a real neighborhood. There were businesses and shops, and people lived there. And there are a number of neighborhoods in and around New York City like that.”
4. Black voices add authenticity to the story.
Soul writer Kemp Powers who is also a playwright really helped infuse the film with a sense of who Joe is. He explained, “Joe getting a suit was a plot point. I said to Pete, ‘Well, he also needs a haircut, right?’ And someone said the haircut isn’t as important as the suit. I said, ‘I wouldn’t have even come up to Pixar for the interview if I couldn’t have got lined up. So, I’m gonna disagree and say that the haircut is every bit as important as the threads.”
Powers said that he was encouraged by the creative team to lean into stuff rather than shy away from it. He continued, “There were a lot of times in making this film where I kept going, like, ‘Can we really do this? Are we gonna be able to say jazz is black improvisational music? Is the guy gonna be able to say he can’t catch a cab? Are we gonna be able to do all these things?’ And, honestly, no one even batted an eye. And I don’t think it hurts the film at all. I think it’s part of what makes the texture of this film so rich and so honest and so sincere.”
5. Tina Fey brings her special sense of humor to 22.
Though Fey mostly stuck to the script for the film, here improvisational style of comedy was also allowed to shine in her role as 22. Fey said of those spontaneous moments, “I went into a lot of sessions, and I would come back and there’d be rewrites and new pages of sequences as they evolved,” Fey remembered. “There were tiny bits of improv here and there. But you can really only do that when the structure is solid. And the script is really good, so the credit really goes to Kemp and Pete.”
6. Jerry is a deceptively complex character.
A fun touch of the film is that the Counselors found in The Great Before are all named Jerry. They’re voiced by Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Fortune Feimster, Zenobia Shroff, and Wes Studi. Their job is to wrangle new souls and help them develop personalities until they find their spark.
Docter said, “We figured if the souls just ran around amok, no one would ever get born.” He continues, “It would just be bedlam up there.” The Counselors are self-described as “dumbing themselves down for humans to comprehend. That’s why they appear in the film as wires twisted into the shape of a person. Docter says of their appearance, “It’s not quite two-dimensional; it’s a little bit three-dimensional.” The director continues, “We thought, ‘Oh, these will be very simple, because they’re just a line.’ Well, it turned out—in typical computer form—you never know what you’re getting into. That was one of the more difficult characters to do not only in the film, but in our library of characters at Pixar.”
7. Don’t lose sight of your dream—or it could turn into a nightmare!
Joe is so intent on making his dreams come true that he loses sight of everything (literally) when he walks into an open manhole. However, being single-minded and driven like Joe does have its advantage. As Angela Bassett tell us, “This [film] talks about being focused on your dreams.” She continues, “But maybe sometimes too much focus, or hearing negative chatter from outside, can derail you and take you to a dark vortex or space.”
The key, Bassett says is to live your life with balance, “Live it with gusto. Live it with pride. Live it with spark and vitality!” To that point, Foxx added, “The world has been here however many billions of years, so, 70, 80, 100 years is what? It’s a blink of an eye. So, I say to everybody: ‘Don’t waste your blink.’”
Don’t miss your chance to check out Pixar’s Soul when it streams on Disney+ beginning on December 25th. Readers are also encouraged to keep following with MickeyBlog for more Disney+ news and updates!
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