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Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Reminds Audiences to Treasure their Spark

During a time of challenges and a life so different than we've ever known, Pixar’s “Soul” combines jazz music, emotion, and a touch of existentialism, to provide a much needed reminder that life is precious, and is meant to be lived. 

Starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, and Daveed Diggs among others, “Soul” was released by Disney Pixar on December 25, and received immediate rave reviews. The movie follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a jazz musician and middle school band teacher, who journeys into an afterlife-esque world--The Great Before--after taking a fall on the city streets. 

Each “Soul” in The Great Before appears as a small, uniquely shaped blue creature. The idea is that these Souls will become people once they reach earth, but until then, they are on a journey to collect all of the necessary pieces of their soul. The final piece all Souls must find is their “spark.” Examples of some “sparks” include dancing, cooking, sports-- anything that a Soul is passionate about and excels at. For Joe Gardner, his spark was jazz music. Although Joe has his spark, his journey leads him to meet Soul Number 22, who is missing hers. Joe mentors this soul and brings her to Earth (purely by mistake), and along the way learns a great deal about himself and his life. But, as the movie shows us, one’s “spark” is not necessarily their purpose for life. A “spark” is what prepares us to live our lives. As the end of the movie shows, the best thing we can do in life is live to our fullest extent, and embrace our spark.

[bf_image id="qcsvx0-47z33s-18dods"] Though advertised as a film suitable for children, many have noticed the thought-provoking, existentialist nature of the movie and wondered if it really is accessible to younger audiences. This is not the first time Pixar has taken on a film of this nature. In 2015, “Inside Out'' examined emotions and mental health in a film context. Through characters such as “Joy” “Sadness” and “Disgust,” children were able to put names to their feelings through relation to these characters. “Onward” in 2020 examined death and dealing with loss of a family member, but left some disappointed in the plot. Now, “Soul” asks, “What came before life? What comes after life? How do we become who we are today?” Yes, these are big questions to be asked in an animated film; but in the Pixar-fashion, these questions are woven into an accessible context through an engaging plot line, relatable characters, and humor. 

Pixar poignantly takes one of life’s biggest questions, and creates an accessible, alternate reality, logical enough to understand yet vague enough to question. Audiences of “Soul” will undoubtedly begin to think about their own lives, and ask how they can live their life to the fullest. How can we embrace our spark, and live each day as if it will be our last?  

Many have acclaimed the timing of the movie’s release, noting that it was much needed at this very moment. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that life is precious, and it is easy to forget that during such a difficult year. “Soul” takes a memorable spin on existentialism, one that can be treasured by audiences around the globe. 

Emma Nicholson (she/her) is a freshman at American University studying journalism. Originally from Franklin Massachusetts, Emma is passionate about dance and the performing arts. She also loves writing, baking, and traveling.
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