Find Your “Soul”: Pixar Announces its First Black-Led Animation

This week in film news, Pixar announced their new film Soul, starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey and Daveed Diggs, which is going to be Pixar’s first movie with a Black lead. In other Pixar feature-length and short films, other cultures and people of color have been the stars, such as Bao and Coco, but in 2020 we are going to see a black jazz musician lead the story for the first time. 

Courtesy: CNN

Soul is about a middle school music teacher, Joe, who has bigger dreams outside the classroom, such as headlining a show at New York’s premier jazz club, The Blue Note. Just as our main character is walking around New York, he falls into an open manhole that leads to some existential discoveries. Joe is reduced to a fuzzy blue creature that represents his ‘soul’ in this other realm. Joe embarks on a journey of self-discovery that includes defining what it means to have a soul and what one’s purpose is in life. 

The first responses to the movie’s teaser trailer have been positive because it’s set to be another movie by Pixar that will tug at the heartstrings. CNN wrote, “Pixar is ready to make us cry. Again,” and The New York Post adds “[Pixar] has been famed for making adults sob,” because while Pixar makes cute animated films for kids, many of the themes have messages directly geared towards adults. Specifically for Soul, the message is for adults dissatisfied with their lives, whether it be in work, social life or mental health. Many news outlets and audiences think the topic may be too hard-hitting for younger kids, but all Pixar movies since the release of Up have had underlying messages for older audiences.  

While there is praise for Pixar finally representing the black community, many people are still skeptical of it. The fact that he turns into a non-human cartoon character not long into the movie is raising some red flags for viewers. Tumblr user, @mcmerica, wrote, “can I please have one animated movie where the black lead DOESN’T transform into something non-human looking for the majority of the film?” This response comes from the conclusion that many of Pixar and Disney’s black leads have always made a physical transformation during the movie that alters their appearance drastically. Viewers bring up The Princess and the Frog where a strong, black, female lead was only seen as a human for a short period of the movie, Spies in Disguise where a black spy is turned into a pigeon for most of the film and now Soul, turning their black lead into a nondescript ghost figure. 

Courtesy: Tumblr

Soul is one of the films set to release in 2020 from Pixar along with Onward, starring Chris Pratt and Tom Holland and Frozen II, starring Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell and Jonathan Groff. Pixar is set to have a full year if their past movies are any indicator of their success. Soul’s trailer track and soundtrack most notably feature up and coming alternative group, AJR, whose song “Overture” was the background song for the teaser trailer. Soul is set to release on June 19, 2020, in theaters everywhere. You can watch the teaser here.

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