Disney’s Soul: An Exploration of Identity

Allie Posner
Allie Posner
February 14, 2021

Disney Pixar strikes again with another tear-jerking, introspective, animation masterpiece. With similarities to the previous Pixar film Inside OutSoul takes intangible concepts like self and personality and makes them completely palpable and simple to digest. When Joe Gardner, voiced by Jaime Foxx, dies feeling unfulfilled, he gets sent on a journey with a new soul who can bring him back to Earth and help him achieve his dream of being a professional Jazz musician. New soul number 22, voiced by Tina Fey, brings her off-beat quirkiness with her to Earth and into Joe’s body, as Joe’s soul gets trapped in an overweight therapy cat. The lessons that this pairing learns from each other and bring to the big pile of Pixar morals are unique and important; that success and passion can only bring us so far in life, and so we have to learn to truly live. Throughout this last year, many careers, passions, and purposes were put on halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more relevant than ever, the film inspires us to expand what we think we know about ourselves so we can adapt and change to live our happiest lives.

Pixar has always given the world a master-class in evolved animation, but Soul takes it another step further. The animated portrayal of busy New York City streets in such distinct detail is wildly impressive. The inclusion of many different types of people, especially the portrayal of the black community of NYC feels truthful and accurate. Director Pete Doctor stated in an interview: “There’s a long and painful history of caricatured racist design tropes that were used to mock African-Americans.” This film combats this racism with attention to the small details of life in the Black community. According to Director Kemp Powers, the lighting design played a huge part in this by capturing the fine details of Black representation in animation. This truthfulness matched with the playfulness of the “Great Before” realm makes this film so enjoyable to watch.

The design concepts used for the Soul Counselors, Jerrys, as well as Soul Counter Terry, were clean and clever. The way the animators manipulate reality to include these conceptual characters was visually pleasing and inventive. When Terry goes to Earth to retrieve Joe’s soul, he hides in steel fences, electrical crosswalk signs, and even the EKG line in the hospital Joe was in. The design of the Souls- especially the New Souls- were adorable, and I am sure will become a staple around the Disney Brand. The entire combination of cute and clever is so completely Disney, but in a fresh light.

Soul, in my opinion, is the most important animated film of the year, and I’ll tell you why: Black excellence is celebrated in Soul to such a marvelous degree. The character Joe Gardner doesn’t focus on his struggles as a black man but as an ambitious Jazz musician and teacher. Joe has an impact on the lives of the kids he teaches as well as being an excellent pianist. The conversations had in the Barber Shop scene are authentic and focus on the lives and passions of black people. This type of representation is beautiful, important, and a step in the best direction for Disney and Pixar. Soul has more than just soul, it has music, life, and absolute animated brilliance. Stream Soul today on Disney+ if you want to bring joy and soul into your life.

Incluvie score: 5

Movie score: 5

Movie review originally published by Allie Posner Dec 28, 2020 · 3 min read