Soul and Perspective on a New Semester: What Pixar’s New Movie Teaches Us

by kwheele4 on February 4, 2021

Editor's Column

Soul and Perspective on a New Semester: What Pixar’s New Movie Teaches Us

by Andrea Traietti ’21


Two weeks ago, my roommates and I watched Soul, the new Pixar movie out on Disney+. The movie garnered attention as Pixar’s first to focus on a Black protagonist, and only the fourth American animated film to feature a Black character as a lead.

Released on Dec. 25, 2020, Soul got rave reviews on social media and a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer. Critics have praised the movie’s animation and aesthetic, which A.O. Scott of The New York Times cited as Pixar’s movement towards more realistic animation, and others have drawn attention to the movie’s soundtrack.

For myself and many others, however, it was the film’s message that proved most compelling, especially considering the timing of its release.

Soul centers around Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher and Jazz musician who, right after landing the gig that he thinks will be his big break, suddenly finds himself in limbo—stuck somewhere between life and death.

The movie traces Gardner’s tumultuous, oftentimes amusing metaphysical journey back into the physical world alongside a character called 22—a spunky, stubborn soul yet to be born. 

Though the film, like most by Pixar and Disney, is geared towards younger audiences, it deals with some pretty hard-hitting questions: the meaning of life, what happens when we die, and what our purpose is while we’re on Earth.

Without spoiling too much of the plot or the ending, Soul arrives at the kind of heartwarming, wholesome resolution typical of Pixar movies. Its central message is to seek purpose in and appreciate the simple things in life—the everyday beauty we often miss or overlook in the midst of the busyness of living.

As we begin a new semester, I can think of no better mindset to embrace. Amidst the continued disappointments, challenges, and uncertainty on campus and in our country, Soul delivers a timely message: there still remains life to live, purpose to be uncovered, and much for which to be grateful.