Pixar’s Soul Was Made for Your Existential Crisis
“Life is full of possibilities, you just need to know where to look”
Pixar Animation Studios’ Soul, above all else, is a metaphysical feat, capable of rousing anybody from their deep existential slumber. Directed by Academy Award winner Pete Docter (Inside Out), the animated feature film wrestles with the age-old question: What constitutes a life well-lived?
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school band teacher fixated on his music career, idly waiting for his big break. As he gets the gig of a lifetime with his idol Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), an accident causes him to leave his body and takes him from New York to “The Great Before.” Here, new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they’re delivered to earth. (In theory, this space belongs to an interconnected Pixar universe.)
“Don’t worry, you can’t crush a soul here. That’s what life on earth is for,” 22 (Tina Fey) remarks.
Joe meets a new friend, 22, a purposeless soul that’s never been born, limited by her own stubbornness from physically experiencing life. Their newfound friendship gives them an opportunity to seek out the purpose of life.
Lessons From Soul
“A spark isn’t a soul’s purpose.” If there’s one thing Soul gets right, it’s this. It’s tempting to reduce your life’s work to an achievement or a milestone you can work your whole life towards achieving—a high-paying job, a nurturing family. Joe considers music as his “spark,” his lifelong passion, but this becomes the end all and be all of his life. Once he reaches the pinnacle, performing with one of his lifelong idols, he’s surprised by the emptiness he feels.
Some of us have been conditioned our entire lives to pursue success and stability without realizing these good things-turned-idols can consume us. Our jobs, our hobbies, our passions are necessary and have the ability to give us joy and purpose, but they shouldn’t define us. We can end up being “lost souls” imprisoned by our own obsessions.
Looking at a montage of his life at The Great Before, Joe realizes that it’s actually the simple things that make up life: the smell of pizza, the laughter of friends, the joy of a solitary meal. Our spark isn’t our purpose, it’s the willingness to give life a try. It’s essentially living in the moment and finding possibilities—if we just know how to look.
How is your soul?
This poignant film is not possible without the amazing music created by Soul’s musical consultant, the Grammy-nominated Jon Batiste. Listen to the original motion picture soundtrack here.
Stream Soul on Disney+.
Art Alexandra Lara