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Soul (2020)

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Soul
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"Is all this living really worth dying for?"
Genre: Animated
Fantasy
Comedy
Drama
Directed By: Pete Docter
Produced By: Dana Murray
Written By: Pete Docter
Mike Jones
Kemp Powers
Starring: Jamie Foxx
Tina Fey
Graham Norton
Rachel House
Alice Braga
Richard Ayoade
Phylicia Rashad
Donnell Rawlings
Questlove
Angela Bassett
Cinematography: Matt Aspbury
Ian Megibben
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: October 11, 2020
(BFI London Film Festival)
December 25, 2020
(United States)
Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $150+ million
Box Office: $116.3 million
Prequel: Onward (by release date)
Sequel: Luca (by release date)


Soul is a 2020 American computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers, from a screenplay by Docter, Powers, and Mike Jones as Pixar's 23rd feature film. The film stars the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove, Angela Bassett, and Wes Studi. It premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on October 11, 2020, and was released to stream on Disney+ on December 25, 2020, and was theatrically released in countries without the streaming service.

Plot

Joe Gardner, who is stuck in a mediocre job, is a middle school teacher with a love for jazz music. After a successful gig at the Half Note Club, he suddenly gets into an accident that separates his soul from his body and is transported to the You Seminar, a center in which souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. Joe must enlist help from the other souls-in-training, like 22, a soul who has spent eons in the You Seminar, in order to get back to Earth in time for his gig, while trying to find their spark.

Why It Should LIVE

  1. Beautiful animation with rather creative environments, which is another major step up from prior Pixar films.
  2. Talented voice acting from the cast members and they all put in great performances. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey in particular put in incredible performances as Joe Gardner and 22 respectively.
  3. Interesting and well-development characters, like Joe Gardner, who must return to Earth before his body dies, and 22, who does not want to go to Earth, until she helps Joe Gardner.
  4. Terry is a hilarious character and is one of Pixar's best antagonists, boosted by the amazing voice performance of Rachel House. However, since she was just doing her job, it can be debatable if she can be considered an antagonist or not.
  5. Jon Batiste's cover of "It's All Right" by The Impressions at the end credits is catchy.
  6. The film is full of funny and hilarious moments, especially when we get to Joe's soul being in Mr. Mittens' body and 22's being in Joe's body.
  7. With the possible exception of Coco and Ratatouille, this movie feels the least like a movie geared towards kids out of the entire Pixar pantheon, as it deals with themes and messages that are more aimed towards adults.
  8. The idea of the explanation of how new souls get their personalities before heading to Earth with the spark is really clever and original.
  9. Pete Docter brings perfect direction to the film that gives audiences a fantastic, high-quality experience.
  10. The reference to 22 screwing with the Knicks was a very clever joke (referencing how the Knicks have been on a long losing streak).
  11. Memorable and great quotes, like "So what do you want to be remembered for?" and "Don't worry, you can't crush a soul here, that's what life on Earth is for."
  12. Jon Batiste's jazz soundtrack is really stellar (including a really clever jazz rendition of the usual Disney logo fanfare), but the true stars in the music department are Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who bring an astonishing, psychedelic, yet enthralling new-age and space age musical score.
  13. Like many of Pixar's other films, there's a great blend of humor, heart, drama, and charm.
  14. It has a lot of creativity and free-spirit, as with other Pixar films. This especially applies to the story. The afterlife was already a concept that was frequently used in all types of media, but the concept of the fact that souls have a place that they go to before they are actually born on Earth where they get their personalities and unlock what will make them, them, once they're born is something that was very rarely if ever, used in media before. And as previously mentioned (in WIR# 8), it's a very imaginative and original concept.
  15. The cinematography is gorgeous, and every single shot is absolute eye candy. The best example of this is when Joe falls into the Great Before (now called the You Seminar). The film even brings some new animation styles to the table.
  16. The story is amazingly well written, very original and creative, and surprisingly very mature. And for additional significance points, this film also made history as Pixar's first feature film with an African-American as the lead character.
  17. In the post-credits scene after the closing logos, Terry tells the audience that the movie is over and that they should go home, which is hysterical, even if the joke itself didn't age well with the film being pushed to Disney+ due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  18. The message can be interpreted as suicide-preventative. As it's completely in favor of the idea that no matter how hard it may get, life is still the most precious and beautiful gift a person can receive. And just because you don't manage to accomplish a great number of substantial deeds, it doesn't mean that you can't live a great life. You can live a great life just by doing whatever it is that you happen to enjoy or by simply completing small accomplishments for things that you're passionate about. That's all you need to live a great life.
  19. The movie steps away from emotionally forced/calculated Oscar-Baity scenes common in 2010s animated movies.
  20. The movie also steps away from the cliché about the parent not wanting the protagonist to pursue their dreams and plays it differently at the halfway point.
  21. Much more dark tone that is well handled, like the part where 22 is a lost soul.
  22. The social inclusion is apparent, but it's not forced/obvious like many movies of late that try too hard to wake or pander to the masses. It's perfect for this reason alone.

Bad Qualities

  1. Similar to Frozen 2, the ending, while good, could have been stronger and longer, where Joe Gardner's gig officially happens and he actually sings while on piano.
  2. At times, the direction can feel a little bit too ambitious.
  3. The scene where Joe ripped his pants counts as sexualization.

Reception

Critical response

Soul received widespread critical acclaim from critics, audiences and fans alike, who praised the animation, story, voice acting, craftsmanship, characters and musical score. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of 348 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The audience approval rating is at 88%, with an average rating of 4.2/5 from over 5,000 ratings. The site's critics consensus states, "A film as beautiful to contemplate as it is to behold, Soul proves Pixar's power to deliver outstanding all-ages entertainment remains undimmed". According to Metacritic, which compiled 55 reviews and calculated an average score of 83 out of 100, the film received "universal acclaim". The user score for Soul is 8.2/10. For IMDb and Letterboxd, the movie got 8/10 rating and 4.0/5 score. Organizations like the National Board of Review and American Film Institute named the film as one of the top 10 films of 2020. Soul led the 93rd Academy Awards season with three nominations (winning two), and received numerous accolades.

Box office

In its opening weekend, Soul grossed $7.6 million from ten countries, including $5.5 million from China. By February 2021, the film had become the highest-grossing Pixar release ever in Russia ($15.6 million), Ukraine ($1.8 million), and Saudi Arabia ($5.9 million). Its largest markets at that point were China ($57.7 million), Russia, South Korea ($14.8 million), Taiwan ($6.4 million), and Saudi Arabia.

Audience viewership

Several days after its release, research firm Screen Engine reported that 13% of viewers had subscribed to Disney+ to watch the film, and it over-indexed among parents, particularly mothers. The company also said that Soul was already among the most-watched straight-to-streaming titles of the year, right behind fellow Disney+ release Hamilton and fellow Christmas release Wonder Woman 1984. On January 22, 2021, it was revealed that during the week of December 21, 2020, through December 27, 2020, the film gathered 1.669 billion minutes of watch time making it the number 1 streaming title that week. It was later reported by Nielsen that Wonder Woman 1984, with 2.252 billion minutes of streaming on HBO Max, had actually surpassed Soul, with 1.7 billion minutes on Disney+, in streaming numbers on Christmas weekend. Samba TV later reported that 2.4 million households streamed the film over its opening weekend.

Awards and nominations

At the Golden Globes and 74th British Academy Awards, Soul won Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score. At the 93rd Academy Awards, the film earned three nominations, including for Best Sound (losing to Sound of Metal), and won Best Score along with the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Alongside Onward, Soul became the first Pixar film to be nominated with Best Animated Feature, more than one for the Academy Awards.

Videos

Trivia

  • It was the first Pixar movie to be released in December without international release.
  • (at around 20 mins) The first soul assigned is number '108,210,121,415.' This lines up with the current (as of release) estimate from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), which estimates that more than 108 billion humans have existed on earth.
  • This was the first Pixar film to feature a Black lead character. This is unlike past films which have a White or Hispanic lead character (even if not a human).
  • This was the first Pixar film not to be released theatrically, although it was played theatrically in countries that don't have Disney+ and where theaters are currently open. Physical media releases came out in all countries, however.
  • Unlike Mulan (2020), the film was not released as a "premier access" release and was free for all subscribers.
  • This is the fifth Disney+ original film not to use the Disney+ Original logo after Artemis Fowl, Hamilton, The One and Only Ivan, and Mulan (2020).
  • This film premiered at the London Film Festival on October 11, 2020, and was scheduled to release theatrically on November 20, 2020. However, it was postponned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was released on Disney+ on December 25, 2020, marking the first film from Pixar to release directly on a streaming service, then on physical media on March 23, 2021. It was ultimately followed by Luca in 2021 and Turning Red in 2022. Not Lightyear (also 2022) and Elemental (2023), both of which are coming to theaters.
  • A new 2D animated short film from Pixar's "SparkShorts" titled Burrow was initially announced to appear before the film had premiered theatrically. However, it was announced the short would also premiere on Disney+ on the same day for Christmas Day.
  • Despite being directed by Pete Docter, his characters is never introduced in this film, making this only from Pete Docter directed.
  • This was the first Pixar film to not feature John Ratzenberger's name on the credits. Because of this, one reviewer who screened the film later noted that Ratzenberger's name is absent from the film's credits and all official cast listings, and the reviewer did not recognize his voice at any point during the film. However, Pete Docter stated that he is in the film, but minor enough to not be recognized immediately. Luca and Turning Red have that actor completely absent, because he might be retiring or something like that.
    • Kemp Powers later revealed that Ratzenberger was in a non-speaking role in the film, making Soul the first Pixar film to not feature his voice, but instead his likeness.
  • Voice actress Jennie Tirado who is known to voice certain characters like Android 21 from Dragon Ball, Zera from Fairy Tail, Kujou Sara from Genshin Impact, and Byleth (female) from Fire Emblem: Three Houses makes a voice cameo here in the form of Principal Arroyo.
  • This is where the full 2011 Disney logo restarted use as a closing logo, as Onward exclusively resurrected the short version.
    • This also marks the first Pixar film of the 2020s to have Disney's FastPlay on DVD, since Onward did not have the Disney's FastPlay function on DVD.
    • This is the first Pixar movie on DVD to have the warning screen used on Blu-Ray releases. Same goes for subsequent releases.


Pixar Animation Studios
Movies:

Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - Monsters, Inc. - Finding Nemo - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - Finding Dory - Cars 3 - Coco - Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - Onward - Soul - Luca - Turning Red - Lightyear - Elemental - Elio - Inside Out 2

Short movies:

Theatrical short films:

The Adventures of André and Wally B. - Luxo Jr. - Red's Dream - Tin Toy - Knick Knack - Geri's Game - For the Birds - Boundin' - One Man Band - Lifted - Presto - Partly Cloudy - Day & Night - La Luna - The Blue Umbrella - Lava - Sanjay's Super Team - Piper - Lou - Bao

SparkShorts series:

Purl - Smash and Grab - Kitbull - Float - Wind - Loop - Out - Burrow - Twenty Something - Nona

Feature-related:

Mike's New Car - Jack-Jack Attack - Mr. Incredible and Pals - Mater and the Ghostlight - Your Friend the Rat - BURN-E - Dug's Special Mission - George and A.J. - The Legend of Mor'du - Party Central - Riley's First Date? - Marine Life Interviews - Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool - Auntie Edna - Lamp Life - 22 vs. Earth - Ciao Alberto

Short series:

Cars Toons:

Mater's Tall Tales:

Rescue Squad Mater - Mater the Greater - El Materdor - Tokyo Mater - Unidentified Flying Mater - Monster Truck Mater - Heavy Metal Mater - Moon Mater - Mater Private Eye - Air Mater - Time Travel Mater

Tales from Radiator Springs:

Hiccups - Bugged - Spinning - The Radiator Springs 500½

Toy Story Toons:

Hawaiian Vacation - Small Fry - Partysaurus Rex

Forky Asks a Question:

What Is Money? - What Is a Friend? - What Is Art? - What Is Time - What Is Love? - What Is a Computer? - What Is a Leader? - What Is a Pet? - What Is Cheese? - What Is Reading?

Pixar Popcorn:

To Fitness and Beyond - Unparalleled Parking - Dory Finding - Soul of the City - Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love - Chore Day the Incredibles Way - A Day in the Life of the Dead - Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads - Dancing with the Cars - Cookie Num Num

Dug Days:

Squirrel! - Puppies - Flowers - Smell - Science

Television series:

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (co-production) - Monsters at Work - Cars On The Road - Win or Lose

External links

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