Virginia: This past Thursday, Disney released the long-awaited trailer for Pixar’s 2020 release, Soul, starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. The Soul trailer follows Foxx’s Joe Gardner, a musician who has lost passion for his craft and his life. Joe falls down a manhole, apparently dying, after which point we follow his soul. He interacts with another soul named 22 (Fey).
Personally, I think this is a really effective first trailer. The animation is gorgeous, Joe seems like an interesting character from what little we know, and it immediately hooks your interest and never lets go. I’m also encouraged to know this is a Pete Docter project. He’s not my very favorite Pixar director, but his output has been consistently good and wildly original. What do you think, Munir?
Munir: Since this a teaser, I think very little is revealed, but, as you said, it’s very effective. They give a general sense of what the story might be about without revealing too much. I think it’s quite good, and I also have the feeling that we may sense what the story is about, but it will completely upend our expectations once it’s released. Also, as you said, I have the utmost confidence in Docter, which, in my opinion, is the most consistent Pixar director in terms of quality. I got an Inside Out vibe from it, but while this one may be a spiritual successor, I think it will also be its own thing. It’s worth noting that this is the first Pixar film to have an African-American lead character, and a middle-age man at that. You don’t see that too often in animation. What do you think of that?
V: I agree that details in the teaser are sparse, but I think that’s for the best. A lot of trailers these days totally spoil a film’s plot and character beats, so it’s refreshing to get just a little taste. I also thought of Inside Out, even when they originally released Soul’s logo and mini-synopsis. Joe’s appearance will undoubtedly distinguish him from other Pixar characters, with the closest being Frozone. I think it’s a good move, and Foxx is a talented actor, so I’m eager to see the character in action. I like his design because it’s very classic Pixar. I love their exaggerated-but-not-over-the-top style.
M: Indeed, it looks excellent, and you can’t expect less of the company that practically invented CG animation as we know it. Now, there’s been a little controversy since the teaser got released. Many were complaining that Joe is another case of an African-American character being transformed into something else for the majority of the film. I don’t think it could be a trend because, unfortunately, there are not many animated films with African-American leads. That being said, when you see the ones that are, there’s some truth to it. The Princess and The Frog transformed Tiana into a frog, Spies in Disguise is turning Lance into a pigeon, and here, Joe is transformed into his soul version. I don’t know if this is just mere coincidences, and we still don’t know how much time in the film Joe will be transformed, but it seems that there could be some validity to this complaint. What do you think?
V: It’s hard for me to say because while it doesn’t bother me that much and I probably wouldn’t have thought of it, I’m not black. Whereas it’s easy for me to see a problem with the portrayal of characters like Pocahontas or the roustabouts in Dumbo, I don’t see what’s racist about a character being turned into something. I was also under the impression that we’re following Joe’s soul, which seems different than turning him into a frog like Tiana. As you referenced, I think this is more about the fact that so few of these films feature black characters in starring roles. As more of these films come out, I think the trope will become less frequent.
M: You have a point. But maybe seeing this being black is different than what we can see or feel. It’s also worth noting that these three films were/are being directed by white men, so that also reflects the lack of opportunity the animation industry offers to POC. That’s changing a little bit now, but it’ll be some time before we can truly see actual change. Returning to the teaser, I like how, even though we saw Joe and 22 as souls, we didn’t see the Soul world yet. I appreciate the fact that the film is keeping many details close to its vest. I’m sure the visual style of that world is going to be amazing and a big draw to see the film.
V: I totally agree. Pixar almost always excels at worldbuilding, creating original and exciting realms for its characters to inhabit. The monster world, the Land of the Dead, and Headquarters are all great examples of this. It’ll be interesting to see what they’ve come up with for Soul.
M: Agreed. Overall, I think the teaser does an excellent job of revealing a little bit of what the movie is about but still keeping things sparse. Unsurprisingly, the film looks incredible, and I trust that Docter, who did a great job with emotions in Inside Out, will do the same with the Soul. Unrelated, but I find it amusing that both Docter and Jennifer Lee, who are now in charge of Pixar and WDAS respectively, are both doing one last film as they assume their new responsibilities. It’s like a farewell to their previous career.
V: In Docter’s case, it’s quite bittersweet, but hopefully he’ll be able to guide other directors to the success he’s found. I have mixed feelings on Lee as both a writer and, especially, a director, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
M: What did you think of Soul’s teaser trailer? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to come back for more news on your favorite films and TV shows!