Pixar has released a new trailer and poster for its upcoming animated movie Soul. Written and directed by Pete Docter—who is one of Pixar’s shining stars having previously written and directed Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out—the film follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle school band teacher and jazz aficionado who gets a big break to play at a high-class jazz club. The problem is, Joe apparently dies before he can get there and finds himself newly arrived in the “You Seminar.” The core of the story is that Joe’s soul will get an opportunity to commune with a multitude of other souls that are awaiting a chance at consciousness.
So yeah, it’s 2020 and Pixar is tackling the afterlife. Timing aside, kudos to this studio for consistently challenging young audiences and treating them like adults. Inside Out is kind of revolutionary in that it dares say that it’s okay to feel sadness, anger, and disgust alongside joy. Docter’s previous film was a celebration of the dynamism of human emotions, and by not preaching a “Be happy all the time or else something’s wrong with you!” message, I’ve no doubt that film meant a lot to an entire generation of kids.
Which makes me excited to see how he handles the idea of death and mortality in Soul. Obviously Pixar’s not gonna go full-on Werner Herzog bleakness, but we can also reasonably expect them not to sand off the edges of a major aspect of life.
Docter previously explained the challenges of animating a “soul” while being sensitive to how that depiction might affect people of various faiths. “We talked to a lot of folks that represented religious traditions and cultural traditions and [asked], ‘What do you think a soul is?’” says Docter. “All of them said ‘vaporous’ and ‘ethereal’ and ‘non-physical.’ We were like, ‘Great! How do we do this?’ We’re used to toys, cars, things that are much more substantial and easily referenced. This was a huge challenge, but I gotta say, I think the team really put some cool stuff together that’s really indicative of those words but also relatable.”
Check out the new Soul trailer below. The film features an original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as new jazz music by Jon Batiste, and boasts the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Daveed Diggs. Soul opens in theaters June 19, 2020.
Here’s the official synopsis for Soul:
Joe Gardner is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22, who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.