Walt Disney dropped the first teaser for Pixar’s big summer 2020 flick Soul. Co-directed by Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers, and produced by Dana Murray, Soul concerns a middle-school band teacher (Jamie Foxx) whose true passion is playing jazz, and who (apparently from the trailer) gets his dream gig moments before he dies. The Earth-bound sequences, set in modern-day New York, are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the teaser’s cryptic set-up whets the appetite.
The boisterous narration provided by our protagonist dives right into the classic “surviving in safety versus living with danger” theme of many of the classic Pixar flicks. We even get some goofy kid-friendly humor featuring the other main character (Tina Fey) to make sure that the kids seeing this teaser in front of Frozen II get a solid laugh out of it. This is very much an announcement teaser, with a deeper dive presumably arriving with the release of Pixar’s Onward this March.
We can assume that the story involves some kind of skewed buddy comedy, where Joe and “22” have to quest to potentially bring Joe back to life. Will the big revelation moment be where Joe realizes, to paraphrase the beat from Field of Dreams that always makes me cry, that if Joe had only been a middle school band teacher for five minutes, that would have been the tragedy? Maybe, but even the official spiel emphasizes the musical elements, specifically that Soul features original jazz music from Jon Batiste and a score courtesy of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
For what it’s worth, this is the second Disney animated flick to prominently feature a black protagonist and then turn that character into a non-human form for presumably much of the film’s second and third acts. That’s not necessarily a criticism, as I’ll defend The Princess and the Frog any day of the week, but it did give me pause. No matter, Docter directed two of Pixar’s best and most thematically challenging films, Inside Out and Up, so he has earned our benefit of the doubt.
For that matter, say what you will about too many sequels, but Pixar has been on a roll of late, with Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2, Coco and Inside Out thriving alongside The Good Dinosaur and the surprisingly decent Cars 3. With two outright originals dropping next year, it’ll be nice if I no longer have to explain why, contrary to popular belief going back to the release of Cars 2 in 2011, that the whole “Pixar Slump” narrative is mostly manufactured. Anyway, there’s little reason to doubt that Soul will make adults everywhere burst into tears when it opens on June 19, 2020.