Soul (2020) : A Small Step in the Right Direction

My hands covered my mouth and my eyes welled up with a of couple tears with the last line and shot of Disney/Pixar’s newest film, Soul. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but I at least should have known that this film would affect me emotionally, just like nearly every other Pixar film.

Written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers, and directed by Docter and Powers, Soul, at its heart, is a film about living life. It’s a film about not losing yourself in your passion, or what you see as your purpose, completely. Because, if you do that, you’ll miss out on so much more.

Soul is the first Pixar film to have a black man as the lead, and have a black man as a Co-Director (how he is billed). Soul (2020) directed by Pete Docter • Reviews, film + cast • LetterboxdThe team at Pixar, painfully aware of the racist stereotypes that have plagued animated films for decades, decided it would be best to bring in consultants to help with the depiction of black people. So, instead of using drawings that played into awful stereotypes, they used lighting and texture to depict people of different colors. Although it is good that they did this, it really just highlights the existing problem that there are not enough people of color already working at this company. And, trust me, it’s not because there isn’t black people available to hire in animation.

Keeping on that same mindset, although we have Pixar’s first film to have a black man as the main character, Joe Gardner, he spends two thirds of the film as not himself. One third is spent as a disembodied soul, while the other third is spent as a cat, while the soul in his earthly body has the voice of a middle aged white woman. That, in and of itself, is disappointing. But, I guess it’s a small step in the right direction from having your black main character spend 90% of the film as a frog.

Although these problems do exist, I do think this is, hands down, one of the best films Pixar has ever made. It is definitely the most creative. I was completely blown away by the creation and depiction of The Great Before. The animation during these segments was breathtaking, and the characters (the Counselor Jerry’s) were depicted in a way that I hadn’t seen in a mainstream animated film. The color palette for both Earth and The Great Before worked wonderfully. Earth was obviously depicted with Earth tones, very warm. The Great Before used a lot of purple, blues, pinks and whites to create this hazy feeling, like right when you wake up from a dream.

I do think that the story is one of the more creative ones we’ve seen out of this studio, and that’s saying something because this is the same studio that brought us Inside Out. Honestly, I didn’t think they would ever go more abstract than that. I have happily been proven wrong.

Soul easily falls into the category of Disney and Pixar films that I will watch over and over again. The visuals, the story, and, oh, the music. But, most importantly the message it sends.

“So what are you going to do with the rest of your life?”
“I’m not sure. But I do know…I’m going to live every minute of it.”

Soul is currently available for streaming on Disney+.

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