The Soul in 2020

Pixar’s latest movie sums up how many of us felt this last year



One of the promotional posters for the film.

The story, the music, the animation. Pixar’s newest movie, Soul, is a beautifully put together story.

Joe as he goes from his human to soul form, the black and white simple animation helps accent the scene. (PIXAR)

Although it has some pitfalls, it was perfectly timed in its release in December 2020. After an extremely difficult year where many of us felt stuck in where we are in our lives, this movie was a great reflection of that. 

Joe Gardner is a middle school music teacher pushed into a full time job at a place that was supposed to be temporary: teaching kids who mostly don’t care about learning music. He finally gets a chance to play jazz, his life’s passion, in the big leagues the way he always dreamed. But when he accidentally and abruptly dies, he does whatever it takes to get back for his gig. He meets the estranged Soul 22, who has been stuck in the place before Earth for millennia because they can’t find their “spark”, which they need to complete the pass to go to Earth. 22 agrees to give Joe the pass so he can go back if he can help them get it.


The first great thing about this movie is the music. Even though it wasn’t a movie musical, the film focuses around a man who’s main love is jazz, a type of music that I personally love a lot. It’s beautifully written in the film in a way that makes it feel like Joe is making it up as he plays. It is truly exquisitely done and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the film if it hadn’t been for the music. I just wish we could have heard more of it throughout the story. We only really get to hear Joe play a few times, and I wish it could have been more. I loved the passion that it exuded. It made me want to take up piano again myself. 

The music was beautifully done, but my favorite thing about this movie is the stunning animation.

The “Jerrrys”, showcasing the pastel color palette of The Great Before. (PIXAR)

Not only was the classic Pixar style gorgeously done, but they also intermixed 2D animation with the various Jerrys and some transition scenes, something we haven’t seen before from Pixar. This mixing and juxtaposition of animation styles, as well as art styles, really adds to the depth of the film, and helps represent the characters and gives a lot the creativity. This is even further accentuated by the coloring of the film. The brightness of New York City next to the pastel color palette of the Great Before and the black and white of the place before the Great Beyond. All these different color schemes help with the tone shifts in the movie.

The animation was just as stunning as other Pixar movies, but this was not the only thing Soul seemed to share with other films. Many of the people I’ve talked to love this movie, but it felt too formulaic to me.

Joe Gardener playing the piano. I love how passionate he is about his music. (PIXAR)

It had its own themes and such, but it felt like all their other movies: journey of growth and discovery, making you cry but, still happy ending. As a result, it didn’t really make me or anyone I watched it with cry. However, the film seems to be meant to be more philosophical than emotional. It was more to make you think than make you feel about how we aren’t destined to always be something. We can change our minds along the way, and that’s completely fine. We are allowed to evolve. Our “sparks” aren’t our destinies and passions can change. 

Overall, I did enjoy the movie, even if it is not one of my favorite Pixar movies. To me it just didn’t feel developed enough.

Joe Gardener walking along the street in New York City. (PIXAR)

We needed to spend more time with the main character, Joe, before he died. We needed to see more of what his life was like before he died, particularly all the parts where he was alone like we saw in the museum room of his life. His character wasn’t fully fleshed out, and there wasn’t enough development. It felt a little underbaked and stereotypical. Overall though, the animation and music were truly gorgeous and I did enjoy the overall message of the film of just existing together and being okay with your life path changing. It was very prevalent and spoke to me personally in many ways, and others as well as many of our life paths have changed over the past year. 

I recommend watching this movie for yourself, as everyone seems to feel differently about it and the way the message is portrayed. That was my main takeaway from this movie. Patience and hope can take you far. Even though none of us will fall down a manhole and die any time soon (hopefully), being content learning to love where we are is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves.

How did you feel about Soul?

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