Pixar’s latest creation, Soul was released on Disney+ on Christmas Day, and it was a pretty awesome gift to give to families who are fans of film. The movie was a beautiful story of a man named Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a music teacher and musician who is on the precipice of his big break when he accidentally falls down a manhole and dies. His soul is transported up to the afterlife, where he is adamant that he needs to return to earth and the life he believed was just beginning. He leans on the little soul named 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), and they decide to help one another with their earth-related problems.
This was a great movie that was beautifully made, surprising, and had a great story at the heart of it. In a recent interview with Collider, the creators of the film, writer and director Pete Docter, co-writer and co-director Kemp Powers, and producer Dana Murray, talked about the film influences that they studied while making Soul, as well as the film’s alternate ending that was considered.
One of the influences of the film was the 1991 Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life, starring Brooks and Meryl Streep. Docter talked about it, saying:
I mean, that’s just such a great example of humor in death, and Albert Brooks is fantastic. I also find that they did a good job in that film making… There was a lot of exposition and it’s always entertaining, and they go to the Past Life Pavilion, or they’re watching examples of his life to make a point. And so, that gave us hope in our film that we could do a similar thing where a lot of stuff that could be didactic, could be also presented with lightness and a sense of fun. Let me think, what other movies did we look at? Oh, of course, It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Carol, and those were interesting, and when we have some longer time, we can talk about how those two are these weird pairs, opposing pairs of films.
Yeah. It’s a Wonderful Life was a big one for me because I hadn’t seen it in a long time and I’d forgotten how dark it was. I always remembered it as just this warm family film, and watching it again I was like, “Oh, that’s right.” It was dark. And it was really reflective of those times and like the behavior of the characters, like the part where the pharmacist almost poisons him and he gets hit in the head and makes his eardrums bleed. And I’m just going, like, “I don’t remember seeing that at first.”
It felt the same way when I re-watched it.
Docter went on to say:
And of course there’s Heaven Can Wait, which is another. All the films, whenever you take on something and you get to look at all these other films that have attempted similar things, you get to see the hard stuff and then the things they did well. And the trick is you can’t take the things they did well because everybody remembers those. You have to leave those. You’re just left with all the hard stuff.
The movie definitely represented a number of familiar films, and even reminisced of Inside Out in style, which makes sense. The film also ended well in my opinion, but the creators said the ending was a long-speculated decision that was changed many times. Powers said of the ending:
The biggest thing was whether Joe lives or dies at the end. We tried lots of versions with both. I mean, we did a lot of versions of Joe dying at the end and staying dead, in all kinds of different ways. Some of them were way more emotional. Some of them were funny. We did a lot of different endings.
“We know that audiences often want to be told exactly what happened to the character. They want to know that the character made the ‘right’ decision. But in the case of Joe, we didn’t want to put a choice on him. We wanted to say that regardless of what he ended up doing, whether it was going back to teaching, playing in a band, or some hybrid of both, he just appreciated life better.”
I loved the ending they went with, and I felt that the whole film was a tribute to finding happiness in the life you’re gifted. My kids have watched the movie at least once a day since Christmas, and we are enjoying it every time. If you haven’t had the chance to watch it yet, Soul is streaming now on Disney+.