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Over these past holidays, Pixar gifted us what could be their most ambitious film yet. Soul, streaming exclusively on Disney+, is a stunning combination of animated storytelling that dives into uniquely human themes centered around the meaning of life and the purpose of our time here, all wrapped in the primal fears of death and lost time.
Let’s go for a walk together. Credit: Disney
Most people, including our protagonist Joe Gardener (played by Jamie Foxx), feel determined to make sense of this chaotic life we are thrown into by finding a sense of purpose. Searching for meaning is a natural human thing to do, It’s in our DNA. Our brains automatically seek out patterns and correlations, so it’s not something we can move away from. Still, what if there’s more to life than that? What if passions and purposes are just the beginning to successfully uncovering the beauty of life? This is precisely what Pixar aims to reveal to viewers with Soul. If it wasn’t already clear, there will be some spoilers ahead, so make sure you’ve seen the movie!
Jazz and its rich history are explored with poignant grace. Credit: Disney
Joe Gardener’s a man who’s dedicated his life to fulfilling his dream of becoming a professional jazz musician. Right off the bat, we’re not paired with a protagonist who’s coated in corporate rust, longing to pursue his fading dreams. Instead, we start further along than that with someone who’s incredibly close to breaking through into the music scene. Finally achieving his determined life purpose and attaining lasting happiness. That is until he dies, and things go sideways.
Down the metaphysical rabbit hole we go. Hold on tight. Credit: Disney
Pixar has knocked on the metaphysical door before, specifically with their previous masterpiece Inside Out, but with Soul, they kick the door off its hinges and send it flying. Throughout the film, we come across several animated distillations of complicated ideas. Joe first finds himself at the doorstep of the Great Beyond, the place our souls go after death. We get only glimpses of this realm before Joe continues sliding through different levels of reality, finally landing in the Great Before, a place our souls develop personalities prior to coming into life through creation and birth.
The Great Before animated with innocent wonder. Credit: Disney
Characters called “Jerry” are a personification of the universe and pull at the strings of Pantheism. Or, at least, they showcase the merging of a higher power with the universe on a fundamental level while proposing a similarly intrinsic celestial relationship between humans and the universe. Pixar’s decision to animate such environments and characters in an innocent and easy to digest style helps balance the heady content and subsequent discussion the film promotes.
“I am the coming together of all quantized fields of the universe, appearing in a form your feeble human brain can comprehend. You can call me Jerry.” Credit: Disney
When Joe looked at his life from a third-person perspective while interacting with these realms and their inhabitants, all he could see was struggle, failure, and obsession. Even though he was pursuing his passion his entire life, he was disconnected from the universe and thus, the ethereal flow that exists in our reality. He eventually proves this to himself out of initial disbelief when he achieves his self-prescribed purpose and feels no different than before late in the film. He learns the hard way that lasting happiness is a constantly cultivated effort of plugging into the universe and experiencing life as it comes. This is where one of the biggest and most relatable lessons can be found.
Joe reflecting on his life. What do you see when you look back on your life? Credit: Disney
Soul reminds us not to become obsessed in life, nor to put expectations on dreams, passions, or anything really outside of yourself to bring you true happiness or fill a sense of identity. They won’t do the job. Joe discovered that happiness comes from simply living and soaking in the present moment while being grateful to experience each of those moments. Being present and actively standing in your body as you gaze out your front door. Deliberately taking each step and feeling the ground as you walk down the street. Tasting the cool breeze that crosses your path on your way to the shop. This is living in all its uncomplicated glory.
Drink the air around you and see the beauty that is life. Credit: Disney
Do not attach yourself to a “purpose” or base your intrinsic value in productivity. You are so much more complex and divine than that. A chosen purpose for your time here is merely a glove you slip on for the feeling of wearing the glove, but not becoming it. Enjoy falling in love with the universe and experiencing the rest that life has to offer beyond purposes. If you look close enough, you’ll realize everything is truly remarkable and worth your time.
So, are you ready to come live?
Live every moment of your life. Credit: Disney
You can stream Soul onDisney +.
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About The Author:
Keagen Fritzis a screenwriting and production major at California State University Fullerton with growing industry experience looking to make a living off the written word. He currently writes for AfterBuzz TV and has his own series “The Universal Truth” where he dives into art to pull out messages that could relate to anyone.
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