First ‘tease’ of two-time Oscar-winning director’s upcoming animated feature, starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, begs a Jazz musician’s existential question: ‘What does it really mean to have soul?’
Straight from the inner workings of the human mind behind Inside Out, Pixar’s Oscar-winning film about the inner workings of the human mind, comes yet another original exploration of the deep recesses of the human mind, albeit in a slightly more existential manner.
Disney and Pixar’s Soul arrives in theatres next June 19, and from first blush, we’re in for another thought-provoking Pete Docter gem, the aforementioned mind behind some of the studios’ most original, emotionally satisfying and entertaining films. Co-directed by Kemp Powers and produced by Oscar nominee Dana Murray, Soul, according to Docter, was 23 years in the making. “It started with my son—he’s 23 now—but the instant he was born, he already had a personality,” the director shares. “Where did that come from? I thought your personality developed through your interaction with the world. And yet, it was pretty clear that we’re all born with a very unique, specific sense of who we are.”
In the film, we meet Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. “I think Joe is having that crisis that all artists have,” Powers notes. “He’s increasingly feeling like his lifelong dream of being a jazz musician is not going to pan out and he’s asking himself ‘Why am I here? What am I meant to be doing?’ Joe personifies those questions.”
Set in New York, Soul shows “The Big Apple” through a uniquely Pixar lens, capturing everything the filmmakers love about the city that never sleeps. “I was born and raised in New York,” Powers explains. “This is the first time Pixar has gone to my hometown and I’ve been so impressed by the amount of energy that goes into making sure that everything is right. When the character’s in Queens, it looks like he’s in Queens. When he’s in Manhattan, it looks like he’s in Manhattan. It’s pretty incredible.”
Iust when Joe thinks his dream might be in reach, a single unexpected step sends him to a fantastical place where he’s is forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. That’s where he meets and ultimately teams up with 22, a soul who doesn’t think life on Earth is all it’s cracked up to be. Jamie Foxx lends his voice to Joe, while Tina Fey voices 22. “The comedy comes naturally,” says Murray. “But the subtle emotion that reveals the truth to the characters is really something special.”
And what would a Pixar film about a jazz musician be without… jazz! Original jazz music, an integral part of the story, is composed by renown musician Jon Batiste. Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network), from Nine Inch Nails, are creating an original score that will drift between the real and soul worlds.
The teaser trailer gives us a taste of what’s in store for the jazz lover in all of us. “I grew up with Peanuts cartoons and the Vince Guaraldi music,” Docter states. “I feel like it’s coursing through my veins and this is our version of that. Jon Batiste is a fantastic musician—he’s a historian yet is able to push the music forward, bringing all these different influences to the work. I sincerely hope that the jazz music in Soul will inspire a whole new generation.”
“The contrast that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross bring is really exciting,” Murray adds. “It’s an unexpected choice for Pixar—this is like nothing we’ve ever done before.”
Soul also features the voices of Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson and Daveed Diggs.
Source: Disney / Pixar
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.