Pixar takes on the meaning of life


Disney Pixar

Pixar’s new movie “Soul” is different from anything like we’ve seen before.

Jaxen Waggoner, Copy Editor

“Soul,” the newest Pixar movie, came out on Disney+ on Christmas Day 2020. When the trailer was initially released, fans were skeptical about how similar the movie seemed to 2015’s “Inside Out.” 

In the film, we see a middle school music teacher, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), finally get a chance to live his dream. When he finally gets his shot, he steps into a manhole and dies. This is no surprise to viewers as it’s what’s seen in the trailer.

Joe is then on one mission: get back to his life. He meets a “hypothetical soul” by the name of 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) and it seems like your typical Pixar formula. 

From this point on, there will be spoilers from the film. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t wish to see anything that could ruin the film– what are you doing here still? Go watch this masterpiece of animation, and then come back. 

Our story then has a dynamic shift in storytelling. Rather than making you cry like director Pete Doctor’s previous work, “Soul” makes you think about how you’re living your life. Trust me, I cry in a lot of movies, but this one left me perplexed and intrigued rather than disconsolate. 

So back to the matter at hand, how similar is “Soul” to “Inside Out?” But I think the storytelling itself is where their differences lie. 

“Inside Out” is a movie about emotions. It accomplishes this from the plot to the audience reaction. This movie can have me crying because it plays off struggles real people have and showcases that real emotion. 

But that movie has never made me question how I’m living my life. 

“Soul,” however, poses the big questions of life. I’m constantly thinking about focusing on what’s important and just living life rather than becoming so focused on my “purpose” so to speak. 

In the movie, 22 doesn’t want to go to Earth. For thousands of years, she’s avoided it.  Some of the greatest people to live try to help her want to go to Earth. Instead, she ruins Mother Teresa’s love to help others.

But once she’s there, she realizes she wants to live. Experiences with people, the natural beauty of the world, and the little things are what make all this living worth dying for. 

Now, I start thinking about her experiences when I get too caught up in something and make sure I’m making the most of this life. 22’s experience with life is now affecting my own, and the media that can do that is special. 

But that was the whole point of the movie. 

So as previously mentioned, “Soul” has some heavy themes and concepts you would not normally take out of a children’s movie. This isn’t to say Pixar can’t make a bright and colorful movie about the afterlife, just take a look at 2017’s “Coco.”

Pixar has always made kids’ movies that can be appreciated by adults. But somehow, “Soul” has flipped that narrative. It’s a movie for adults that can be appreciated by kids. Of course, there are children-targeted beats to an extent, but that’s to be expected. 

One thing not expected is the ending. All throughout the film, the goal is to get back to life to perform with Dorthea Williams. Joe says it himself, “I would die a happy man to play with Dorthea Williams.” Only to get the gig with her, and then die. 

He finds himself in the Great Before, or the You Seminar (Rebranding Purposes), and time and time again he thinks he has a plan that gets ruined. Not to fret, he gets another chance, and another, and another. 

Meanwhile, this whole time, I’m thinking he won’t get back. Joe will get his chance and give it to 22, or he’ll miss it by a second like normal Pixar fashion. But once again, Pixar took another chance. 

In the whole film, Joe is repeating that once he plays that gig his life will start and he’ll get his chance. He’s so determined that Dorthea Williams is going to change his life for the better.

After the gig, Joe is met with something he never saw coming: “That’s it?” His dream leaves him feeling a distinct lack of accomplishment; and even worse, he’ll have to repeat the show every night. Joe finally understands what the audience of the movie has known: one event can’t fix your life. 

For what at least feels like the first time in Pixar, we see our main character attain their goal only to realize it’s not enough. Because like one of the Jerrys tells us at the end, humans aren’t put on Earth to achieve one certain thing.

We are here to just live. 

In a few words, “Soul” is the Pixar movie that takes a million risks. From the film being more directed to adults to the fact the overall theme takes on the meaning of life, Director Pete Doctor truly outdid himself once again. 

Pixar outdid themselves once again, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this movie to anyone because no matter where you come from in life, there’s something to take away from it.