Pixar's Soul - A Teacher's Thoughts on the Film

Pixar's Soul - Image from Disney+


Disney+ has been crushing it with new content this year and I could not have been more excited to learn that Pixar's newest movie, Soul, was going to be released to the streaming service on Christmas Day!  Originally slated to release over the summer in theaters, Pixar's Soul has been eagerly anticipated by fans for months.  Settling in for the movie, I was ready to be entertained with a good story and great music and. . .if I know Pixar (and I think I do!). . .I was prepared for a few tears.  So let's dive into Pixar's Soul and if it lived up to my expectations.

Pixar's Soul - A Teacher's Thoughts

Pixar's Soul is heading to Disney+ on Christmas Day and it's certainly something a little different from the studio that brought us Toy Story, The Incredibles, and more.  Soul is a deeper movie than were used to seeing - and that's saying something from Pixar as they normally excel at bringing the tear-jerkers to life.  In Pixar's Soul, we meet Joe (Jamie Foxx) who has just been hired full time as a middle school music teacher.  Instead of celebrating though, he still feels called to a bigger dream - playing jazz professionally.  When his big break hits, it seems like everything is suddenly going Joe's way. . .until it's not.  Before you know it, Joe's soul is on it's way to "the great beyond."  Realizing what's happening and that he doesn't want to die, Joe runs away from "the great beyond" and instead lands in "the great before."  There he meets 22 (Tina Fey) - a new soul trying to find her spark.  Joe and 22 seem like an unlikely pair, but they team up to reunite Joe with his body on Earth and in the meantime learn a lot about the meaning of life.


Pixar's Soul - Image from Disney+


When I set out to watch the movie and prep my review, I certainly didn't think I'd have a section about how teachers would feel about this film - but here we are!  I don't want to spoil the movie so I'm going to write my thoughts carefully here.  One of the recurring themes in the movie is Joe feeling like he hasn't accomplished anything in his life.  He has a job as a middle school band teacher, but wants so much more.  He even makes a comment about how "my life is meaningless."  However, throughout the movie, Joe has interactions with students - current and former - that show the impact a teacher can have. . .for a lifetime.  I think this is a really powerful movie for teachers.  There's that old saying that "those who can't do, teach" and while I've never put any weight into it, Joe certainly does as a teacher.  He feels that because he has "failed" as a musician, he is settling for being a music teacher.  It takes a series of events that unfold in the film for him to realize - in a very George Bailey kind of way - that he really did have a wonderful life.  It's an important message for teachers that our life's calling may not feel like we're making a difference in the day-to-day, but the lives we touch can be changed forever. . .and teaching, touching the lives of young souls, is truly a life's calling.

Don't miss my favorite quotes from Pixar's Soul!


Pixar's Soul - Is it OK for Kids?

Pixar's Soul is an animated film that clocks in at 100 minutes and carries a PG rating.  While there is some mild language (Joe spells out "h-e-double hockey sticks" and then little souls repeat the word), there really isn't anything inappropriate in the movie - but the themes are much more mature than what you find in other animated films.  I watched this one by myself and I don't know that my kids will really "get" the movie.  There's a lot of talk about the afterlife, the meaning of life, finding your life's purpose and some pretty deep themes that at 5 and 8, I don't honestly know that they'll connect with.  


Pixar's Soul - Image from Disney+


The film is beautifully animated and the jazz music throughout adds a touch of spirit to a story that can be much more serious than we're used to seeing in animated films.  I feel like this is a cartoon made for grown-ups. . .like someone at Pixar was helping us to make sense of the things that don't make sense around us.  I think audiences will find the movie speaking more to older kids, teenagers, and adults much more so than younger audiences.


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About Pixar's Soul (From Disney+)



What is it that makes you...YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a. (Pixar short “Lou”), Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” will be available exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) beginning Dec. 25, 2020.