If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Indiewire may receive an affiliate commission.
Disney+ has a new major release for families just as 2020 is wrapping up: “Soul,” the first Black-led Pixar film, was supposed to hit theaters in June 2020 but instead is out December 25 on Disney+ — no premium access required.
While “Mulan” required an additional $30 purchase for “Disney+ Premier Access,” which gave users who bought the film unlimited access to the live-action remake for as long as they subscribe to the service, “Soul” is being released on the regular tier that all users pay for, like other 2020 films including “Godmothered,” “Black Beauty,” the Taylor Swift documentary “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions,” “The Mandalorian,” and the upcoming Marvel shows (which begin with “WandaVision,” out January 15, 2021).
Been holding out for as long as possible before taking the Disney+ plunge? You can sign up for a subscription here. It’s $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, or you can bundle with Hulu and/or ESPN+ to get the most bang for your buck. With your Disney+ subscription you’ll be able to watch approximately 7,000 television episodes and 500 films from the company’s catalog, including nearly all animated Disney and Pixar releases, plus original series from Disney Channel, Freeform, National Geographic, and more. It’s also the exclusive streaming home of “The Simpsons.”
“Soul” is the latest animated film from “Up” and “Inside Out” filmmaker Pete Docter, now Pixar’s creative director, who wrote and directed alongside playwright and screenwriter Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”). Mike Jones also scripted.
It stars Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner, a middle school jazz teacher who gets his big break — and promptly dies. But rather than head to the Great Beyond, he manages to escape to the Great Before, a place where souls develop quirks and personalities before heading to Earth. There, he is able to work with souls in training in an attempt to return to Earth before his body dies. Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Angela Bassett, and Daveed Diggs also star. The film features original jazz music by Jon Batiste and a score from Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”).
“Over the last six months, marketplace conditions created by the ongoing pandemic, while difficult in so many ways, have also provided an opportunity for innovation in approaches to content distribution,” Walt Disney Studios said in a statement announcing the news about the “Soul” release. “With over 60 million subscribers within the first year of launch, the Disney+ platform is an ideal destination for families and fans to enjoy a marquee Pixar film in their own homes like never before.”
IndieWire’s Kaleem Aftab called “Soul” “a magical crowdpleaser that embodies the Pixar Touch” and a film so good that it is well worth signing up for Disney+, “as it’s one of the very best Pixar efforts in years. It’s also historic: As the first entry in the Pixar canon to center on a Black character, this magical crowdpleaser has obvious representational value, so it’s especially gratifying to see how well it epitomizes the proverbial Pixar touch. Director Pete Docter (who became Pixar’s creative director in the years since ‘Inside Out’) knows the studio’s song sheet better than anyone and he plays well-versed tunes like a master, refashioning the best of their ingredients into a profound existential look at dream-fulfillment and emotional disconnection. …Like some of the best jazz compositions, it uses a traditional framework to veer off in many unexpected directions, so that even the inevitable end point feels just right.”
The film was originally supposed to debut at the Cannes Film Festival before getting a June 2020 release, but was pushed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October.