Right before the release of Toy Story 4 a few months back, Pixar surprised us with the announcement of one of their 2020 films. It would be Soul, directed by Pete Docter, who last directed the magnificent Inside Out. There are high expectations for Soul because of how good Docter’s last films have been, which also includes Up. Today, at the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, Docter and company shared a bevy of details about the upcoming film!
I was in attendance at the Walt Disney Studios panel at the Expo, a panel so big that they needed 2.5 hours to run through it. While the panel also included details on future Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney projects, it was Docter’s Soul that I was most excited to hear about. After answering the question of where our emotions come from, Docter seems to be leapfrogging it to take on even more challenging questions! He listed the following questions the movie will seek to answer:
- Why am I here?
- Where did I come from?
- What am I here for?
Those are incredibly difficult questions for all of us to answer, so seeing the concept of a “soul” tackled by Pixar has me intrigued. Of course, there are a diverse set of beliefs from cultures, religions, concepts, and more that inform us on the idea of a soul. That makes the film that much more ambitious because the film has to relate to all of us, even though we all have different thoughts about this. Docter hammered this point home, stating that Pixar makes “films that speak to everyone.”
The main character of the film is Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, a middle-school band teacher who has always dreamed of playing in a jazz club. One day, he falls through a manhole cover and eventually ends up at the “You Seminar,” which was described with, “This is where it all starts.” The image above shows his earth look and his You Seminar design. The film’s writing team wondered about how babies already have a personality when they are born and a “trained” soul. The You Seminar is Pixar’s answer for where we earn our personality traits. Still following along? My mind is already melting!
At the You Seminar, Joe meets “22,” voiced by Tina Fey. 22 believes that Earth is terrible and has been at the Seminar for a long time. Still, the story of Soul will have 22 helping Joe get back to earth. The ultimate question addressed by the film will be, “What does it mean to have a soul?”. Whoa – that is heady.
Joining the cast are Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson from The Roots (the voice of Curly), Phylicia Rashad (Joe’s mother Libby), and Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame (Joe’s neighborhood nemesis). Other announced production members include Jon Batiste, who will be writing the jazz music for the film, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who will be teaming up to compose the music.
Soul’s star Joe Gardner will be the first Black character to be the lead in a Pixar feature film. Take a look at the rest of the cast and musical team and we are already looking at one of the most diverse set of cast and crew members we have seen from the animation studio. It’s an incredible sight. Add to that, this – Joe and 22 teaming up will be the first time at Pixar we have seen a film team-up that isn’t male/male or female/female.
As for the You Seminar, there is concept art that was shared, that you can see above. I am getting strong Inside Out “Headquarters” vibes! Headquarters allowed Pixar artists to take its animation to new heights, breaking the rules of the “real world” because it was a place they invented. The You Seminar is another wholly invented world, so it will be exciting to see where the crew takes the film’s visuals.
Today provided us with an overwhelming amount of information about Pixar’s most ambitious film ever with sophisticated metaphysical and existential questions being addressed. This film has a ton of potential and it is in great hands, as Docter knocked it out of the park when it came to Inside Out addressing emotions. I have a feeling we’re in for some more greatness.
Soul is scheduled for release on June 19, 2020!