Pixar Soul Photo

Next year, Pixar Animation will be bringing two original movies to theaters. It’ll be the first time they haven’t released a sequel in a calendar year since 2015. Onward arrives first in March, but then summer brings a new movie that was announced earlier this year, and we’ve got a new look at it.

Soul, directed by Inside Out and Up helmer Pete Docter, follows Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), an aging middle school music teacher who has long dreamed of performing jazz music on stage. Gardner gets his chance when he’s booked as the opening act at the Half Note Club, a real jazz club in New York City. But his jazz debut is put in jeopardy when an accident causes his soul to be separated from his body, sending him to the “You Seminar,” a place where souls develop and gain passions before being placed in a newborn child. Check out the first official Pixar Soul photo below.

Pixar Soul Photo

There’s Joe Gardner (via Entertainment Weekly), looking like he’s on his way to work in the city. Gardner is obsessed with jazz, and he has been his entire life. That’s why he’s so desperate to get his soul back into his body so he can make it back in time to perform at the Half Note Club. But the only way he can do that is to work with 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a soul-in-training who has quite the bleak outlook on life after being trapped at the You Seminar for years.

It sounds like 22 will have a lot of lessons to learn about life, but Gardner may be in need of some enlightening too. Though jazz is his passion, perhaps it’s dominated his life too much. Writer and co-director Kemp Powers talked about how Soul approaches “the artist’s journey” in this story:

“For anyone who has a profession in the creative arts, it’s an almost religious obsessiveness you have to have to have success and a career in the arts. At any point, no matter how happy you are doing what you do, it feels like that obsessiveness is detrimental to the rest of your life.”

Pete Docter echoed those sentiments, and he explained that jazz music wasn’t always the obsession at the center of Soul. Science and chemistry were considered, but using a musician’s life gave them a much better entry point for the audience to root for Joe Gardner in his endeavors. For Docter, he sees the movie as a metaphor for his own obsession with filmmaking and animation:

“I’ve been doing animation for 30 years. I love it, I can’t get enough of it, and then I also recognize this is not the end-all, be-all of everything. There are children and life experiences and food and all these other things in the world that you can’t say are less important than animation. I would maybe have said that at certain times in my life.”

So Joe Gardner and 22 likely have a lot to learn from each other. Gardner will likely learn that there’s more to life than jazz, and 22 (pictured below) will probably find joy in life for the first time.

Pixar Soul Photo

Though the premise seems to share similarities to Pete Docter’s Inside Out, at least as far as setting it in this sort of ethereal place that doesn’t really exist but impacts the entirety of humanity, producer Dana Murray says, “We went in a completely different direction than any of the other films that Pete’s done. It’s hard to contain our enthusiasm over how much people are going to be surprised by what they see.”

They will also have plenty of music to keep their ears occupied too, with musicians and composers Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jonathan Batiste contributing music for the movie. We’ll also hear the voices of Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting), Phylicia Rashad (Creed) and Questlove of The Roots, all bringing characters to life in the movie.

Hopefully we’ll get a trailer for Soul soon, perhaps around the time Frozen 2 comes out, to get a better idea of what kind of movie we’re dealing with. Otherwise, the movie is slated to hit theaters on June 19, 2020.

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