As with “Coco,” Pixar brought greater cultural authenticity to “Soul” with an internal / external outreach initiative.
The pandemic may have delayed the theatrical release of Pixar’s “Soul” (June 19-November 20), but that didn’t stop Disney from releasing a new trailer on Saturday, promoting the original song, “Parting Ways” (written, produced and performed by fusion specialist Cody ChesnuTT).
Pete Docter, Pixar’s creative director, follows his Oscar-winning “Inside Out” with the Cannes-selected “Soul,” which explores the answers to some of life’s most important identity questions. Musical fantasy features Pixar’s first black lead Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a New York high school band teacher who gets the last gig playing the piano at the best jazz club, only to fall into a well and travel to The Great Before, a fantastic place where new souls are formed before birth. There he meets a precocious soul, 22 years old (Tina Fey), who rejects the appeal of human experience. But they come together so that Gardner can return to Earth and complete his journey.
As Gardner emphasizes in the one-minute teaser, “Spend your precious hours doing what will bring you to reality: the brilliant and passionate you.” The predominantly black cast also includes the voice work of Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, and Daveed Diggs. Musician Jon Batiste composed the jazz score for the New York part, while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the ethereal score for The Great Before.
Disney / Pixar
On Saturday, the Essence Festival of Culture hosted a virtual “Soul” panel, which included Docter, co-director / screenwriter Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”, “Star Trek: Discovery”), producer Dana Murray (short film “Lou” ), Batiste and consultant Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. It started with a simple idea, according to Docter. After reaching the top of “Inside Out” in 2015, he experienced a void: “I felt like I worked all my life to make animated movies, but I wondered, ‘Is this really what I’m born for?” “he said.” I thought about my son. I took photos the moment he arrived; I swear, we could already see him there. And I was thinking, ‘How did that happen?’
“Well, because each of us is born with a soul … the soul is the center of who we are … it is our composition of the passions and inspirations that we have. We wanted our main character in the movie to have those passions, too. It is something that we could all relate to and support. A jazz musician was the perfect representation of what we were trying to say in the film. “
But, as with Oscar winner “Coco,” Pixar wanted to ensure cultural authenticity, so the studio hired Powers to collaborate on the script with Docter, Fey, and Mike Jones (the main story of the artist and creative artist. , and former executive at IndieWire editor). His contribution was so integral to shaping Gardner’s character (they are both in their 40s and hailing from New York City), that he was promoted to co-director: “But I had to transcend his experience,” Powers said, “and so they invited many other black voices into the fold. “
Disney / Pixar
Pixar not only formed the “internal culture test” comprised of black employees, but also recruited a number of outside consultants, including Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young (“The Arrival”), and famous jazz musicians Herbie. Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington. Additionally, Batiste, Thompson, Diggs and anthropologist Betsch Cole were part of the consulting team.
“This group saw our story reels, gave us story notes, watched the designs and character sets as they were built,” added Powers. “They even helped with the animation reviews. These people came to accompany us on the trip. ”
For Batiste, who musically provided “cosmic optimism,” his “goal was to make him authentic, as if he were a true jazz band, and at the same time be accessible to all ages,” he said. “I wanted to do some themes that tie into the ethereal nature of the other world while still being in the Earth realm and vice versa. Trent and Atticus and I sometimes fused the two worlds together musically.