The Hidden Soul of Disney+: A Review

The Hidden Soul of Disney+: A Review

Malcolm McNulty, Managing Editor

With the barrage of content coming to Disney’s streaming platform—from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Star Wars to spinoffs and Disney classics—there are more reasons than ever to pick up a Disney+ subscription. However, due to the hype for upcoming shows, the release of Soul (the latest addition to the Pixar catalog) slipped under the radar this past month. Despite the lack of public success, Soul is a wonderful surprise that rivals Pixar classics as a powerful movie everyone can enjoy.

Going into Soul blind, you will immediately sense that the movie doesn’t stray far from the Pixar formula. The crisp, stylistic animation, phenomenal soundtrack, and layered comedic moments are on par with other  Pixar classics. Where Soul really shines is in its thematic exploration and creative storytelling, which elevates it from just a family movie to possibly Pixar’s best film of the past decade.

Soul follows the journey of Joe Gardner, an ordinary middle-school band teacher, and jazz pianist. After scoring the important jazz gig he’s been chasing his whole life, he ends up in the ‘great beyond’—the beautifully animated afterlife—due to an untimely accident. Spurred by his determination to get his shot at the gig, Joe flees the ‘great beyond,’ ending up in the whimsical ‘great before’ where new souls are made. There he meets 22, a soul who has eternally resisted departing the ‘great before’ to live life on earth. The pair find their way to earth, while not in the way or form Joe intended, and embark on a journey through NYC to get Joe to his show on time. The events of their journey together are not groundbreaking, but soulful musical performances from Joe, performed by Jon Batiste, and an emotional resolution bring the film together in a way reminiscent of masterpieces like Up.

Through their journey, Joe and 22 each discover important life lessons, and the viewer is left with a surprisingly intricate exploration of the meaning of life and the importance of finding your own purpose. Soul builds its quest story around accessible, interesting characters, the kind that form the backbone of all Disney and Pixar productions, which coupled with its thematic depth and rewarding conclusion create an emotional film, impactful long after the credits are done rolling. While the tackling of such difficult, existential themes may be lost on the younger audience, Soul is still a fun watch for all ages due to its great animation and storytelling. Soul will likely never reach the same commercial success as some of Pixar’s timeless classics, yet it is a hidden masterpiece — rivaling films like Up, Ratatouille, and Toy Story — which everyone can enjoy.