Pixar's Soul: A Guide To Jazzing
Pixar’s new movie,"Soul", is not just your average Disney film. It speaks to something much deeper, what makes us, well us? What gives us our spark? Pixar makes us face our own existential thoughts disguised as an impressively realistic animated film.
We open up in New York and met Joe Gardner (voiced by the multi-talented Jaime Foxx). His situation is too close to comfort for most struggling musicians. Joe is a middle school music teacher, who has never realized his dreams of being a successfully gigging pianist. On the same day he gets offered job security at the school, Joe also gets the chance to accompany the legendary saxophonist Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angela Bassett) at The Half Note ( A nod too many legendary NYC Jazz Clubs). In all his excitement he fails to see an open manhole into which he falls.
Caught between the living and deceased Joe’s soul starts moving toward "The Great Beyond." Not ready to leave just when he is just about to start living, he jumps off the track and lands in "The Great Before." This is a place where new souls learn what type of person they want to become.
Joe, trying to get back to earth, gets pulled into mentoring a spoiled and bratty soul, 22 (voiced by Tina Fey). New soul, 22, isn't so new, having gone through a whole slew of mentors and never fulfilling her destiny to becoming a human. Together they both teacher each other what the meaning of life is and how to be good at jazzing through it.
To help bring about the jazzing of Pixar's first black lead movie was Jon Baptist. His style is immediately noticeably from the first trilling notes. In the movie Joe talks about improvising and getting in the zone. “It's just transcendent,” Baptist's told NPR. “It's almost as if everything that's happening is aligned with the greater force controlling the universe. And God is just pulling the puppet strings, and the audience is in the same space, on the same frequency. That's why we play. And I think that there's something about that that is the closest to utopia that we'll get too."
Pixar wanted to make sure the performances were authentic, right down to closeups of the musician’s hands playing piano keys and the saxophone, as well as the bass and drums. The notes being played are amazingly accurate, something most films don't bother to do. The point is to get the viewer lost in the performance, and Pixar has succeeded in that.
The film is available now on Disney Plus and boy oh boy do we recommend you watch it as soon as possible. It’s 101 minutes of meditation and self reflection into your own soul. This is something we all could probably use a little bit of right now.