Disney just released a new trailer for Pixar’s Soul following a presentation about the film that played during the virtual ESSENCE Festival.
The entire 10-minute presentation is also streaming on YouTube with an introduction by Consultant Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole. The conversation includes co-directors Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, producer Dana Murray, and songwriter Jon Batiste. Pete shared that the initial idea for Soul came to him as he finished production on Inside Out. “I felt incomplete. I felt like I’ve worked my whole life to make animated films, yet I found myself wondering ‘Is this what I’m really born to do?’”
“Our soul is really the center of who we are, it’s the essence of us,” Doctor continued. He knew that the main character needed to be relatable for all viewers and it seemed like a natural fit to make him a musician. The color of his skin was decided when they chose the genre. “Jazz was really the perfect representation of what we were trying to say in the film,” he explained.
Co-Director Kemp Powers was brought on early in the process to help create the main character and the story. “I used a lot of my own personal experiences to inform me as I was writing the character,” Kemp Powers shared. He and Joe Gardner are both the same age and both grew up in New York City, but he also realized that not all Black viewers would identify with that story. That’s when he invited other Black voices to collaborate on the project, starting with the Black employees at Pixar and reaching out to Black artists, some of whom joined the project including Jon Batiste, Questlove, and Daveed Diggs. They gave notes on the story and reviewed character designs and animation. “These folks came in to be a huge part of everything we did.”
As for the music, Jon Batiste sits at a piano during his segment of the video and even plays a few melodies from the film.“There are themes that have the celestial optimism that I really love,” the musician shared about the pieces created for the film. “It was a joy, it was a privilege and an honor to do.”
You can watch the full presentation below. Pixar’s Soul is coming to theaters on November 20th.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.