Soul – The Disney Pixar animated film
Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and in co-production with Walt Disney Pictures, “Soul” is one of the most remarkable films of 2020, which masterfully reveals the depths of the human soul through a compelling and one-of-a-kind story.
Directed by the talented Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers, “Soul” tells the story of Joe Gardner, played by the magnetic voice of Jamie Foxx. Joe, a middle school music teacher and budding jazz pianist, finds himself having to reunite his soul and body after an accident separates them just before his long-awaited break in the world of jazz music.
Supporting Foxx, the voice cast includes illustrious names such as Tina Fey, Questlove, Daveed Diggs and Angela Basset, who together create an impeccable sonic atmosphere. The story, conceived by Docter in 2016, dives into the origins of human personalities and the idea of determinism, artfully uniting the concept of space-time and the essence of the soul.
A fundamental aspect of the film is certainly its soundtrack, which is not just background music, but becomes an integral part of the plot. To best realize it, the producers consulted several notable jazz musicians, including Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington. The animated sequences were then created taking as reference the sessions of the musician Jon Batiste. To complete the musical picture, we find the original compositions of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
“Soul” had the honor of premiering at the London Film Festival in October 2020. Although it was intended for theatrical release, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the decision to release it directly on the Disney+ streaming platform on December 25 2020, offering all subscribers a Christmas gift at no additional cost.
The exceptional quality of the animation, along with the depth of the story, the original voice acting and, of course, the soundtrack, meant that “Soul” received extremely positive reviews from critics. It is not surprising, therefore, that it received two prestigious Oscar awards in 2021, both for best animated film and best soundtrack.
For those who have not yet had the opportunity to immerse themselves in Joe Gardner's journey, "Soul" represents an obligatory stop in the world of contemporary animation, a film that not only entertains, but leads the viewer to reflect on the true meaning of life and on the passions that animate every individual.
The Story of Soul
Set in bustling New York, Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher with a secret dream: to perform as a professional in the world of jazz. His life takes a turning point when, thanks to his former student Curley, he finds out about a vacancy in the band of the famous jazz musician Dorothea Williams. After an audition that leaves Dorothea impressed, Joe gets his long-awaited opportunity. But his excitement proves fatal when he, distracted, falls into a manhole, starting a metaphysical adventure.
Finding himself in the form of a soul, Joe finds himself faced with the Otherworld, the border between life and death. But, unwilling to surrender to fate, he finds himself in the Anteworld, a mysterious place where new souls are prepared for their future earthly life. Here, Joe is mistaken for a mentor and is associated with "22", a soul who has avoided the transition to earthly life for millennia. They form a pact: Joe will help 22 find her "spark", that sense of purpose that will allow her to live, and in exchange, she will be able to return to his body.
But nothing goes as planned. When they attempt to return to Earth, 22 and Joe find themselves trapped in the wrong bodies. 22 begins to discover the beauty and facets of earthly life in Joe's body, while he finds himself trapped in that of a cat. Together, with the help of characters like Spartivento and thanks to their experiences, they begin to understand the true meaning of the "spark" and the desire to live.
Over the course of this adventure, 22 becomes more and more connected to life, experiencing joys, sorrows, and the infinite nuances of human existence. From enjoying delicious food to understanding music, from interacting with Libba, Joe's mother, to deep conversations with Connie and Dez, she 22 begins to understand the true value of life.
But time is ticking and the Otherworld, represented by the inflexible accountant Terry, is looking for them. A series of chases, misunderstandings and revelations lead Joe and 22 to confront truths bigger than themselves, asking themselves existential questions about the importance of life and the meaning of the "spark".
The culmination of Soul is achieved when Joe, after a successful performance, realizes that fulfilling dreams isn't the only thing that makes life meaningful. Through small objects collected by 22 and shared memories, Joe rediscovers the beauty of small things and the importance of living every moment fully.
The depth of Soul lies in its ability to explore universal themes through a spellbinding adventure, taking the viewer on a journey through life, death and everything in between.
The characters of Soul
Let's find out together who the protagonists of this exciting adventure between Earth and Beyond are.
- Joe Gardner: Played by the voice of Jamie Foxx, Joe is the focus of the story. Jazz pianist and music teacher, he has a burning passion for notes, but his life is turned upside down by an unexpected accident. Although passionate, Joe must confront his arrogance and, thanks to his spiritual journey, he will discover the importance of small daily joys.
- 22: With the voice of Tina Fey, 22 is the cynical and disillusioned soul of the Antemondo. She has a dark vision of earthly life, unable to find her own "spark". Her journey together with Joe will lead her to review many of her beliefs.
- Spartivento: This intriguing character, voiced by Graham Norton, is a juggler of advertising signs with a particular talent: the ability to reconnect souls to his own body and also act in the Anteworld.
- Terry: Terry, voiced by Rachel House, is the meticulous accountant of the Underworld, determined to make the numbers right at all costs. His main goal in the film is to bring Joe's soul back to where it should be.
- The Jerrys: Nearly omnipotent figures of the Anteworld, the Jerrys are the spiritual guides of souls, helping them find their "spark". They have fluid shapes and can alter their appearance as they see fit.
- Libba Gardner: Voice of Phylicia Rashad, Libba is Joe's protective mother. Owner of a tailor's shop, she has always had doubts about her son's musical aspirations, but over time she will review her position.
- Dec: The neighborhood barber, played by Donnell Rawlings, is an affable character who, despite not following his youthful dreams, finds satisfaction in his daily work.
- Lamont “Curley” Baker: Questlove voices Curley, a drummer in Dorothea Williams' band and Joe's former student. It is thanks to him that Joe gets the opportunity of a lifetime.
- Dorothea Williams: Angela Bassett plays this famous jazz saxophonist, representing Joe's pinnacle of success in the music world.
- Paul: A secondary but significant character, Paul is the typical neighborhood braggart, always ready to make fun of others.
- Connie: A young student passionate about the trombone, she represents the new generation of musicians and the challenges they face in cultivating their passions.
Through these characters, Soul not only does it immerse us in a compelling plot, but it makes us reflect on profound themes such as the meaning of life, passion and the search for one's essence. A journey between reality and spirituality that will remain imprinted in the memory of the spectators.
The production of Soul
"Drunk", one of Disney Pixar's most recent masterpieces, is not just an animated film: it is a reflection on life, passions and the very soul of man. But how does a work of such depth and originality come about?
The journey of “Soul” began in January 2016, when director Pete Docter found himself looking for new creative directions, fresh from winning his second Academy Award for Inside Out. Intrigued by the origins of human personalities and the concept of destiny, Docter begins to conceive a story that takes place in a place beyond space and time, where souls are given their essence before landing on Earth.
The development process was long and meticulous. The story of “Soul” has undergone numerous changes, evolving considerably compared to the initial idea. This is partly due to the arrival of co-writer Kemp Powers, who helped bring depth and authenticity to the main character, Joe. Powers' personal experience enriched the tale, making Joe a universal character while remaining deeply rooted in African-American culture.
When it comes to casting for an animated film, the right voice can make all the difference. And “Soul” hit the mark with Jamie Foxx, whose passion for music and wide range of talents were a perfect fit for Joe's character. Tina Fey, in addition to lending her voice to the character of 22, also contributed to the screenplay, enriching her character with penetrating jokes and profound reflections on her life.
Other notable voices include the likes of Questlove, Phylicia Rashād, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs, all chosen to help bring the “Soul” universe to life in an authentic and vibrant way.
Animation and Design
Every detail in “Soul” was carefully thought out, from the hair texture to the skin tones. Pixar has paid particular attention to the representation of African-American characters, trying to avoid stereotypes and clichés. Additionally, to capture the essence of jazz music, the animators relied on the performances of real artists, such as famed jazz musician Jon Batiste, ensuring that every movement and note was accurately portrayed.
The design of the characters and environments took months of work. The souls, with their "vaporous" and "ethereal" appearance, were one of the biggest challenges for the animators. But perhaps one of the most fascinating elements of the film is the Anteworld, an abstract and universal place, where souls prepare to live an earthly life.
In conclusion, the making of “Soul” required immense dedication and commitment from everyone who worked on it. And this effort is reflected in every frame of the film, making it a true masterpiece of animated cinematography.
Disney Pixar's Soul: From Distribution to Criticism
When it comes to animation and profound reflections on existence, Disney Pixar's film “Soul” certainly does not go unnoticed. Set among the jazzy alleys of New York and the ethereal landscapes of the afterlife, “Soul” has undergone a remarkable distribution and critical journey that has defined its success on a global level.
Initially slated for a U.S. theatrical release on June 19, 2020, “Soul” was delayed to November 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This change also affected the release date of another Disney film, “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Despite the uncertainties, “Soul” was selected for important cinematographic events, including the 2020 Cannes Film Festival and the Rome Film Festival, where it was presented as the opening film on October 15, 2020.
The pandemic forced Disney to opt for a different strategy for “Soul.” On December 25, 2020, the film was launched on the Disney+ streaming platform. Unlike “Mulan,” “Soul” was made available for free to all subscribers. But that didn't stop its theatrical release in markets where Disney+ didn't have a presence, including China, the Philippines and Singapore.
An honorable mention goes to the short film “La tana”, initially intended to be shown in theaters before “Soul”. However, it premiered on Disney+, offering a pleasant surprise to viewers.
“Soul” received very favorable critical reception. With a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 83 out of 100 on Metacritic, the film has been praised for its ability to blend high-quality animation with deep existential themes.
Many critics, such as Deadline Hollywood's Joe Utichi and IndieWire's Kaleem Aftab, have praised the film's emotional depth and its ability to explore complex existential questions through a medium like animation. The film's acclaimed soundtrack, featuring contributions from Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, was particularly appreciated, enriching the viewing experience with exceptional musical accompaniment.
However, not everyone shared the same enthusiasm. Some reviews raised concerns about the portrayal of African-American characters and the film's ability to address racial themes sensitively and accurately.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and the divergences in critical reception, “Soul” established itself as one of the most important animated films of the year, solidifying Pixar's reputation as a producer of innovative and quality content. Its success in both viewership and critical acclaim demonstrates the film's ability to connect with audiences of all ages and spark profound reflections on the nature of human existence.
Technical Sheet of the Film “Soul” (SEO Optimized)
- Original title: soul
- Original language: English
- Country of Production: United States of America
- Production year: 2020 mm
- Duration: 96 minutes
- Relationship: 2,39: 1
- Gender: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Adventure, Romance
- Regia: Pete Docter; Kemp Powers (co-director)
- Story and Screenplay: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones
- Producer: Dana Murray
- Executive producer: Dan Scanlon, Kiri Hart
- Production House: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
- Distribution in Italian: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Photography: Matt Aspbury, Ian Megibben
- Editor: Kevin Nolting
- Special effects: Michael Fong
- Music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste
- scenography: Steve Pilcher
- Art Director: Paul Abadilla
- Character Design: Team led by Albert Lozano, composed of talents such as Grant Alexander, Jason Deamer, and many others.
- Entertainers: Jude Brownbill, Bobby Podesta, among others.
Main Original Voice Actors:
- Jamie Foxx (Joe Gardner / Mr. Muffola)
- Tina Fey (22 / Joe Gardner)
- Questlove (Curley)
- Angela Bassett (Dorothea Williams)
Main Italian voice actors:
- Neri Marcorè (Joe Gardner / Mr. Muffola)
- Paola Cortellesi (22 / Joe Gardner)
- Oreste Baldini (Spartivento)
- Rossella Izzo (Dorothea Williams)
Source consulted: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_(film)