Pixar Animation Studios premieres its latest film, Soul, on Christmas Day. It is the first Pixar film to feature an African American lead character. Soul, a computer-animated film, tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher with a lifelong love of jazz music. He is an excellent musician but yearns to fulfill his calling of being a musician outside of the classroom. He seeks to find answers to the questions of “Why am I here, and what is my purpose?” and “What is it that makes you…YOU?”
Joe auditions with well-known saxophonist Dorothea Williams. She is looking for a piano player for her ensemble. After nailing the audition and securing the spot in the band, he calls his family and friends to share his news. Distracted while talking on the phone, he takes one-step, plummets down a hole, and ends up in the Great Beyond.
The Great Beyond is the place where souls who have left Earth live. Souls serve as mentors to those residing in the Great Before who must find their passion before they return to Earth. Realizing he died too soon, Joe believes it was not his time. He attempts to find ways to return to Earth to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a jazz musician. In his quest, he meets 22 in the Great Before. 22 is not interested in discovering her passion. She is not fascinated by the human experience. Having gone through several mentors, including Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Gandhi, she is assigned to Joe. She has a jaded idea of life on Earth and believes that living on Earth is harmful, and prefers to stay in the Great Before. Determined to return to Earth to play his gig, Joe talks 22 into traveling with him. Upon arriving, they experience several events that teach them both about what matters in life and honing one’s passion and gifts.
The film stars Jamie Foxx as the voice of Joe Gardner, Tina Fey as the voice of 22; Phylicia Rashad as the voice of Libba; and Angela Bassett as the voice of Dorothea Williams.
In recent interviews with Yahoo! Entertainment, the stars of the film shared their thoughts on the film:
Jamie Foxx: “Joe is a guy whose life was on a very specific path that he felt stuck on, but he had a very specific place he wanted to go, and his plans are unexpectedly paused; I think that’s kind of what happened to all of us.”
Angela Bassett: “We’re so much more like than we are different, but there are negative voices that are harping on the differences as if there’s something the matter with that…I think this film is a beautiful project.”
Tina Fey: “Joe is a guy whose life was on a very specific path that he felt stuck on, but he had a very specific place he wanted to go, and his plans are unexpectedly paused. I think that’s kind of what happened to all of us (during the pandemic).”
Phylicia Rashad: “Human figures, toys, animals, or other kinds of creatures – speak a lot to the creativity of the Pixar studios.”
Soul reminds us that life is about finding what brings us joy. It is not about worrying about accomplishments. It also encourages us to inspire others and to chase after our dreams.
To watch Soul, visit www.disneyplus.com. You can also watch via the Disney+ app located in Google Play and The App Store.
Donna Hammond is a freelance writer and seminarian residing in Chicago, IL. Follow her on Twitter @DeeLois and on Facebook, DeeLois Speaks.