Disney’s Latest Film Shows the ‘Soul’ of New York

For an animated slice-of-Black-New-York-life, Disney’s new Pixar film Soul joins Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse in showing new parts of New York not typically glamorized by Hollywood.  Despite being one of the most famous cities in the world, there are dozens of neighborhoods and experiences viewers never see on the silver screen. New York City isn’t just the glitz and glamor of midtown, the brunch bunch of Brooklyn, or the gentrified hives in Harlem. 

The new movie takes us to an ordinary Queens middle school, where Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a down-on-his-luck band teacher. On his way to a gig in the Village that could finally make his music career, he falls down a manhole and dies. After he escapes the Great Beyond, he hides out in the Great Before, where pre-souls find their “spark” before being sent to Earth to be born. His mission? Help the dispassionate, uninterested-in-humanity pre-soul Number 22 find her spark, then use it to get back to Earth in time for his gig. 

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‘Soul’ Producers Address the Blue Elephant in the Room

Pixar’s Soul takes a musical journey into the meaning of life — literally. In the film, Joe Gardner seems to be the prototype for “if you can’t do, teach.” But he very much wants to do. However, just when he’s about to get his first jazz gig, he dies. *insert Price is Right trombone.*

The first 35 minutes of the jazzy New York-set movie that I saw were great. Joe (Jamie Foxx), upon his death, is sent to the Great Before. There he meets apathetic New Soul 22 (Tina Fey), who finds it in her own best interest to help Joe return to his life on Earth. Sensing the direction of the rest of the movie, I imagine it will be as heartfelt as every other Pixar classic. It’s new Christmas Day home release feels like a really good choice to celebrate life, the purpose of art in our lives, and exploring how we connect with ourselves and others. 

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