Do you ever wonder where our dreams, quirks, and personalities come from? Pixar takes us on a journey to the “Great Before” to answer all of those questions. Soul revolves around Joe Gardener, a middle school band teacher and jazz pianist who gets the gig of a lifetime playing at the best jazz club in town. But one small accident puts Joe in a situation he isn’t ready to accept.
Soul begins with Joe Gardner teaching his middle school band class and showing them how to get lost in the music when there is a knock on his door. When Joe answers it, he learns he is receiving a full-time teaching position with benefits and he is less than thrilled. However the prologue peaks with Joe falling into an open manhole and ending up comatose in a hospital.
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This is a really disappointing way to end a great day in which Joe was offered a full-time job, and nailed an audition with jazz legend Dorothea Williams who had invited him to play with her that night. After his near-death experience, Joe’s soul is sent to The Great Beyond. Joe isn’t ready to die so before Joe reaches the white light, he tries to run in the other direction and falls off the walkway and ends up in The Great Before.
The purpose of The Great Before is to mentor fresh souls and help them find their “spark” before they’re sent off to earth. Joe is motivated by his desire to avoid the white light and get back to earth somehow and play the gig he’s been waiting his whole life for. Joe is recruited to mentor brand new souls, he assumes the identity of a renowned psychologist and mentors a soul that doesn’t want to go to earth named Twenty- two.
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Twenty- two is an uninterested pessimist who has refused mentorship by some of the greatest figures in history including Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. Will Joe be able to break the cycle and help twenty-two find her spark? Will he get back to earth to accomplish his dream?
Should You Watch It? Yes.
Of course, you should watch it! It’s Pixar, and you don’t have to leave your house to do so. On top of that Soul is probably one of the most unapologetically black Pixar films to ever be released. Its portrayal of jazz is not only accurate but also has a wider cultural context. In a flashback, Joe’s dad teaches us that jazz is one of the greatest African- American contributions to the world.
There are many other aspects of the movie that attest to the story's talking about experiences beyond the white, middle-class, suburban norms that Pixar embraces by default. It also teaches people to feel present in the moment they’re in even though it can be scary sometimes. Even if it might be a little too complex for younger children to grasp, however, it is a visual treat.
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