The first teaser trailer for Pixar’s “Soul” (June 19, 2020) dropped Thursday. The latest movie from Pixar chief creative officer Pete Docter promises to be a bold companion piece to his Oscar-winning “Inside Out,” traveling from the adolescent mind to the adult soul. Middle-school music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) dreams of becoming a jazz pianist for a band, and, after landing his first gig, he excitedly walks on down a retro-looking New York street and falls into a manhole to another world, where he encounters 22 (Tina Fey), a celestial teenage slacker from You Seminar, who helps him find his way back to Earth.
Docter (“Up,” “Monsters, Inc.”) has never shied away from confronting his own personal fears through his movies, and, in “Soul,” he tackles the self-absorbed artist in Gardner, who must learn to embrace a full range of experiences, wonders, and responsibilities through his cosmic journey with the nihilistic 22. The timing couldn’t be better, of course, with Docter succeeding John Lasseter as Pixar’s new creative leader, mentoring a new generation of filmmakers and artists at the studio, and encouraging greater inclusion and diversity among women and minorities.
Indeed, “Soul” stars Pixar’s first black protagonist and ensemble, with Foxx joined by a voice cast that includes Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Daveed Diggs. Musician Jon Batiste writes the jazz music and the score is from Trent Reznor
For Docter, “Soul” is about achieving balance in life. He consulted with an array of religious and cultural experts about defining the soul so that the animators could visually depict an ethereal quality for the ghostly characters and world of You Seminar. At the same time, jazz music offered the best artistic expression of individuality and collaboration. “Originals or sequels, we make films that speak to everyone,” Docter said at D23. “Now I’m directing a film about the ultimate questions: ‘Why am I here?’ Metaphysics: ‘Who would do that?’”
Docter told Entertainment Weekly: “I love [animation], I can’t get enough of it, and then I also recognize this is not the end-all, be-all of everything,” he said. “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.”