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At the beginning of 2021, Pixar returned with their newest animated film Soul, along with unexpected surprises and blessings to the new year. This film was ranked as the best movie of 2020 by many media platforms and even considered by some, as a masterpiece similar to Pixar's Coco.

In this case, if Coco was to enable the audience to reflect on the way people face the fact of death, then Soul was another attempt to motivate the audience to reflect on their lives and their true self-identity.

The Message of Soul: Where Do We Come From?

Despite the obvious animated setting, the life of the protagonists is exceptionally realistic. The production team set the story in the metropolis of New York City, with all kinds of people commuting on the streets and shopping on the roadside. The team devoted their efforts for the film to mirror the real life of a person living in the center of NYC.

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The setting of Soul actually originated from the curiosity of director Peter Docter, who tried to use a fictional approach to explain where human personality comes from.

In the Great Before, 22 - who has no sense of taste, smell, or touch - borrowed Joe Gardner's body to try pizza and candy for the first time. 22 watched the performances of wandering artists in the subway stations. Although to humans, these things are arbitrary, 22 has never experienced such joys in life. While 22 is immersed in her joy, Joe believes that 22 is living a mediocre life in his body. Joe believes that his life's purpose is to be a famous jazz musician and the arbitrary things that 22 enjoys are just everyday occurrences. 

Once Joe returned to his body, he found that the achievement of his dream is not as content as he imagined it to be. Joe finally realized that the spark of the soul is not a great goal but one’s passion for life. The real significance of life is to experience every minute and every second of living in the present.

Peter Docter: Animation Production is Another Process of Constant Discovery

The idea of Soul was completed when Peter reached his peak of love for animation, while he also experienced an unexpected trough. During the production process, Peter began to realize that it was not his pursuit of progress in his animation career that made him delighted, but the process of working with co-workers and partners. Through this realization, Docter reimagined the main plot as a process of finding something that makes you happy.

One of the popular Japanese animators, Hayao Miyazaki, has always said to be Peter’s idol. In Peter’s mind, Miyazaki’s movies are just composed of a few insignificant moments that do not promote the development of the plot but do capture and refine the animation in a certain manner.

Soul may not be a perfect film that gives the audience a direct answer on the significance of life, but rather it prompts the audience to reflect on their own spark in life. Some may say the film just makes adults cry, while others may argue that Soul reveals that what really matters is not one’s achievement but our experiences throughout the lifespan. Just like what Peter said, we should never expect to know what is going on in life, but at least, filmmakers hope to spark some positive public conversations and arouse people’s aspirations for a better life.

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Yolanda is now majoring in Communication and Cinema&Digital Media at UC Davis. She usually works as an amateur photographer focusing on portrait, landscape, humanity and international cuisine. She hopes to use the power of photographs and writing to inspire and educate peers and spread more positivity.
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