Soul is a 2020 American computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers, the film stars the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove, and Angela Bassett. The story follows a middle school music teacher named Joe Gardner, who seeks to reunite his soul and his body after they are accidentally separated, just before his big break as a jazz musician. Soul is the first Pixar film to feature an African-American protagonist.
Docter began developing the film in 2016, working from his contemplations on the origins of human personalities and the concept of determinism. He co-wrote the screenplay with Mike Jones and Powers. The film's producers consulted various jazz musicians including Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington and animated its musical sequences using the sessions of musician Jon Batiste as reference. Apart from Batiste's original jazz compositions, musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross also composed the film's score.
Soul premiered at the London Film Festival on October 11, 2020. It was set to be theatrically released on November 20. However, the feature was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Soul being released direct-to-streaming on Disney+ on December 25, and in theaters in countries without the streaming service. It became the first feature-length film from Pixar not to be given a wide theatrical release and the first to be billed as a Disney+ Original. The film received highly positive reviews from critics, with praise for its animation, story, voice acting, and musical score. It has received multiple awards and nominations. At the 93rd Academy Awards, the film was nominated in three categories, winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. The film also won Best Animated Film and Best Original Score at the Golden Globe Awards, BAFTA Awards, Critics' Choice Awards, and Annie Awards.
Joe Gardner, a pianist and middle school music teacher living in New York City, dreams of playing jazz professionally. His mother Libba insists that he make his teaching job full time, fearing for his financial security. One day, Joe learns of an opening in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams and auditions at a music club. Impressed with Joe's piano playing, Dorothea hires him for that night's show. As Joe heads off, his excitement distracts him, and he falls down a manhole.
Joe finds himself as a soul heading into the "Great Beyond". Unwilling to die, he tries to escape but ends up in the "Great Before", where counselors—all named Jerry—prepare unborn souls for life with the help of mentor souls. Each soul has a badge that grants passage to Earth once it is filled out with personality traits. Mistaken for a mentor, Joe is assigned to train 22, a cynical soul who has always lived in the Great Before and desires avoiding Earth. Discovering that Joe is in a coma at a hospital, 22 agrees to let him help find her "spark" to complete her badge and then give it to him so that he can return home. After Joe fails to find 22 a passion, they visit "the zone", a place that souls can enter when their passions create a euphoric trance, but which can also become a trap for obsessed lost souls. They come across Moonwind, the captain of a galleon bearing a troupe of hippie mystics, who help Joe locate his body on Earth.
Joe returns to Earth but accidentally carries 22, resulting in the two souls respectively entering the bodies of a therapy cat and Joe himself. They find Moonwind (at his day job as a sign twirler), who agrees to meet them later at the jazz club to restore Joe to his body. In the meantime, 22 settles into Joe's body and enjoys small moments while interacting with Joe's peers. She holds poignant conversations with Connie, a student who wants to quit the school band but changes her mind after performing a trombone solo; Dez, who wanted to become a veterinarian but now enjoys being a barber; and Libba, who accepts Joe's passion for music. Meanwhile, Terry, an obsessive accountant who tallies souls headed to the Great Beyond, discovers that Joe is missing, and heads to Earth to send him to the Great Beyond and restore the count.