Pixar’s Soul Gets New Featurette, Soundtrack Albums

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Soul is one of the year’s best movies (it also handily topped our list of the Best Disney+ Movies of 2020), and a big part of its charm is its dazzling original score. The film, about a jazz-obsessed middle school teacher named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), whose life hangs in the balance on the eve of his big break, has a fascinating, hybridized approach to music that is totally outside of the realm of the normal Pixar process. And a new behind-the-scenes featurette explains what makes this film’s music so special.

“For most of the films at Pixar, we’ve embraced the classic, Hollywood, large orchestral scores,” Soul director (and Pixar chief creative officer) Pete Docter explains in the video. “On this film, there was something about the story and the feeling of this place that demanded something else.” Co-director and co-writer Kemp Powers added: “The jazz itself is like another character in the film.”

For the jazz music, the team relied on original compositions from Jon Batiste. The Soul animators would even watch Batiste play the music and animate to that. Batiste provided the music for all of the real-world stuff, as well. But when the movie transitions to the ethereal Soul world, when Joe finds himself disembodied from his earthly form, Docter relied on original compositions from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Yes, this is the Nine Inch Nails/Pixar crossover you’ve all been waiting your entire for.

Image via Disney•Pixar

“We had to think about what these otherworldly plains are going to sound like, what kind of instruments and what role music is going to play in what those plains are going to feel like,” Reznor explains in the featurette. And if you have grown weary of the aggressive, glitchy template of the recent Reznor/Ross scores, get ready – this is glittery and evocative. It might be their best score yet (yes, it’s even more beautiful than their more traditional Mank score from earlier this year). Later in the featurette, Reznor comments: “This ability to amplify the way somebody experiences something emotionally is why we do this.”

The Soul albums will be released in three configurations starting tomorrow: there’s a digital release that will get you both sides of the Soul experience with a single download or stream and there will be a pair of vinyl releases, one with Batiste’s jazz compositions, and the other with Reznor and Ross’ beautiful, dreamy electronic score. Both will be available tomorrow. “Between Trent and Atticus and Jon Batiste, we got to explore a lot in this film and take people to places beyond – out of this world, literally,” Docter said in the featurette. It’s true: this music for Soul is truly out of this world.

Pixar’s Soul his Disney+ on Christmas Day.

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