While most of us have not yet seen Pixar’s Soul, which is set to premiere on Disney+ on December 25, what we do know about the film already inspires feelings of exploration, gratitude and reflection.

These qualities also flow through two new Soul books by Chronicle Books: The Art of Soul and Find Your Spark: A Journal of Gratitude and Self-Discovery.

What is Pixar’s Soul about?

The story follows Joe Gardner, a disgruntled middle school music teacher living in New York City who aspires to be a professional jazz musician. Joe’s big break comes when he stumbles upon the opportunity to play a gig with jazz legend Dorothea Williams… only to have this once-in-a-lifetime chance thwarted by Joe’s untimely death. Stuck between two worlds, Joe meets a new soul named 22 and together the unlikely duo hatches a plan to get Joe back to Earth. True to Pixar form, journeying through the wilds of NYC and far, far beyond means Joe and 22 (and perhaps you, too, dear audience) find new meaning in their time on Earth.

The Art of Soul explores new challenges and triumphs faced by Pixar Animation Studios

While Pixar is no stranger to pulling on the heart strings (one need only look at the likes of Up, Coco, and Inside Out, just to name a few), the Studio tackles all-new challenges with superb creativity and limitless potential as seen in The Art of Soul. Don’t be fooled by the unassuming simplicity of how ‘souls’ appear at first glance. The design team had to ask, “what would it look like if a person was condensed to one simple logo?” and consider how best to capture this essence, while grappling with ideas for the unprecedented color scheme.

The artistic triumphs of Soul as illustrated in this book include the juxtaposition of life on Earth versus the Zone and the Great Beyond. Illustrative 2D style, bold colors, the chiaroscuro of jazz clubs and performers, and album art are just some of the examples that set the New-York-City stage. This is juxtaposed by color blend and harmonization of a softer palette, and rounder, faded shapes in the Zone and the Great Beyond. The contrast reminded me of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and how I did relish the differences in color and temperament between the land of the living and the underworld. Importantly, such artistic choices in Soul emphasize just how big of a journey – from one extreme to the other – Joe must embark upon to uncover the deeper meaning Pixar drives home all-too-well (and often at the cost of a few tears from the audience) in its animation masterpieces.

I drew this and more from The Art of Soul and would encourage Pixar fans and animation enthusiasts to see for themselves. The foreword by Tina Fey and introductions by director Pete Doctor and writer Kemp Powers do a wonderful job of drawing readers into the behind-the-scenes magic. The frank commentary of these creative giants provides what feels like an exclusive invitation into Pixar’s brainstorming and storytelling processes that fans will not want to miss.

Find Your Spark: Embark on a Journal (Yes, Journal) of Gratitude and Self-Discovery

Find Your Spark capitalizes on the deeper Pixar meaning I mentioned above by inspiring readers, writers and whoever might be lucky enough to come into possession of this book to “make room for gratitude, re-center your life, and enjoy everyday wonders.” It is a breath of fresh air that I believe will benefit fans beyond simply reading and writing.

Find Your Spark is a personal journal for whatever your heart desires: doodling, writing a story, making a task list or jotting down ideas. While this small and sturdy book (a perfect carry bag companion) is inspired by Soul, it is truly about, for, and by you.

It includes exercises and prompts which provide a helpful road map or platform from which your spark may spring. My favorite exercise in the journal struck me as being a thoughtful tool in practicing reflection, gratitude and self-kindness. It reads as follows:

Write a thank-you note to yourself as a child for helping you become who you are. Be specific with your thanks. Acknowledge your learning style, for example, or your favorite books or activities.

Younger you will appreciate it!

In our fast-paced world, it is often important to take a moment or two to meditate on who we are, who we might become, and what drives and inspires us. This is exactly what Find Your Spark and The Art of Soul inspires in readers. Learn something new – about Pixar’s Soul and about yourself – with these books, and you just might come away with much more than an interest in Pixar’s newest film.

The Art of Soul and Find Your Spark: A Journal of Gratitude and Self-Discovery are now available for purchase from most booksellers.