While admittedly, 2020 wasn’t the best year at all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic – Netflix provided plenty of entertainment in the form of such hits like The Willoughbys.
However, Pixar definitely stole the show at the close of the year with Soul – a heartwarming movie about death, unfinished business, and chasing your dreams.
Here we see a shift from the usual explicit protagonist-antagonist set-up – the hero’s demons are entirely internal, unlike the other independently-existing big baddies we’ve seen in past successful Pixar movies; we’re talking about Lotso in Toy Story 3, Waternoose in Monsters, Inc., Syndrome in The Incredibles, and their ilk.
Soul takes a different direction, teaching us the importance of staying the course without losing the best parts of yourself.
Pixar’s take on life & the littlest things that matter
Soul is set in New York City and follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a passionate musician and Pixar’s first Black protagonist, who teaches band at a middle school as he waits for his big break as a musician.
This moment arrives within minutes of the film’s opening as he lands an audition with a jazz icon, one Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Joe nails the audition and ecstatically leaves the premises to prepare for his performance in the evening. However, things take an unfortunate turn when Joe falls into an open manhole and falls into a comatose state in a hospital. The accident jolts his soul out of his body, and he is taken to the Great Beyond, better known as the Afterlife.
Despite turning into a little blue creature, Joe refuses to accept his fate, goes against it and flees in the other direction; ending up in the Great Before – which is where newly born souls get their characters, interests, quirks before arriving at Earth. There, he meets 22 (Tina Fey), a soul with zero interest in Earth, finds no meaning in existence, and has had thousands of mentors in the past.
Knowing Joe’s wish to return back to his body, the two work together towards that goal. However, amid the process of opening the gateway between the physical and spiritual universes, Joe and 22 end up bringing both their souls back to Earth, Joe inside a cat while 22 in Joe’s body.
Still, they press on to try and get 22 back to the Great Before while Joe returns to his own body. And during this period, 22 realises that there’s actually more to life than expected and starts to ‘find’ itself after a taste of mouth-watering, scrumptious pizza.
Together, the duo find out what it means to appreciate the simpler things in life, educating the audience to stay blissful and appreciative.
If you have yet to catch the film, here’s a glimpse of what’s in-store if you’re planning to hit the theatres and watch it.
An insider’s look into this visual brilliance
How does one animate physics-breaking characters? How do you treat incorporeal spirits that need to look 2D in a 3D world?
Well, at Pixar – teamwork makes the dream work.
Together, they combined their strengths and put their heads together to overcome rendering and non-skeletal character making challenges to deliver a gorgeously animated masterpiece of the adorable green blobs known as souls.
The Pixar team decided to develop a brand new line work technique to create souls just for this film. This was due to the reason that clarity was lost in the hands and face, so technical directions in shading, tools, and articulation set about resolving this issue, in a typical case of art challenging technology and technology giving inspiration to art.
Source: Pixar Post
The whole filmmaking team also joined hands to put together interesting rules about how souls should move – from limbs which can materialise or vanish from sight to facial features that are able to move anywhere on a character’s face.
While creating these souls was already challenging enough, the difficulty level of creating the counsellors in the film was on a whole new level. The team took inspiration from all sorts of sources such as Swedish sculpture, light, and nature. And after much discussion, they decided to go with a simple concept: a line. Not just any line though, but scribbles given life.
Sculptors at Pixar got cracking and started coming up with 3D wire sculptures so the animation team were able to assess how characters’ appearance could turn out from various angles.
The valuable learning experience
Self-discovery, appreciating life, and communication – the number of takeaways pertaining to life in Soul is boundless. Animation included in the recipe, it makes for a wondrous, whimsical masterpiece with unforgettable life lessons.
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