Soul is arguably the most eyepopping and contemplative piece that Pixar has ever done. While some might point to other titles in Pixar’s catalog, none have managed to be this successful at weaving in such adult themes within this visually appealing animated framework. Inside Out is certainly close but at times only goes so far. Soul seemingly doesn’t shy away from anything. What makes up who you are? Are you defined by your life’s work or by the work you put in while among the living? Academy Award winner Pete Docter, co-director Kemp Powers, and writer Mike Jones have crafted a beautiful story that seeks to quantify the human experience. While a part of me certainly mourns the idea of it not being in theaters right now, releasing this type of film on Disney+ allows a wider audience to take in Pixar’s best work to date.
Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle school music teacher who, after getting the chance to live out his dream by playing at New York’s best jazz club, takes a wrong turn finding himself in what’s known as The Great Before (a place where souls pick up their personalities and quirks before going to earth). Desperate to return to his body, Joe agrees to mentor a soul named 22 (Tina Fey) who doesn’t see the appeal of being alive. Gardner frantically attempts to show 22 the joys of living, and it’s that process which opens up his eyes as well.
The animation is bright, bold, and entrancing. Soul does a brilliant job of visually contrasting light and darkness while being just playful enough on the edges. Foxx and Fey are a brilliant pair. At times, the film’s tone comes off as muddled, but Soul is sweet and uplifting for the most part. Soul debuts exclusively on Disney+ on December 25th.