Pixar has released the first teaser trailer and poster for its upcoming animated movie Soul. Written and directed by Pete Docter, who has shown a knack for making you ugly cry in public with his previous three Pixar features—Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out, the film follows Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher and jazz aficionado who gets a big break to play at a high-class jazz club. The problem is, Joe apparently dies before he can get there and finds himself newly arrived in the “You Seminar.” The core of the story is that Joe’s soul will get an opportunity to commune with a multitude of other souls that are awaiting a chance at consciousness.
So yeah, the guy behind Inside Out—a movie that brilliantly elucidated that it’s OK to feel bad sometimes—is now tackling the afterlife. And the teaser trailer is appropriately emotional, as the film appears to be thematically tied to the idea of cherishing every moment of your life and not wasting it on work. That’s gonna resonate.
Docter previously explained the challenges of animating a “soul” while being sensitive to how that depiction might affect people of various faiths. “We talked to a lot of folks that represented religious traditions and cultural traditions and [asked], ‘What do you think a soul is?’” says Docter. “All of them said ‘vaporous’ and ‘ethereal’ and ‘non-physical.’ We were like, ‘Great! How do we do this?’ We’re used to toys, cars, things that are much more substantial and easily referenced. This was a huge challenge, but I gotta say, I think the team really put some cool stuff together that’s really indicative of those words but also relatable.”
This may be Docter’s final film for some time, as he was selected to succeed John Lasseter at Pixar after the Pixar founder was somewhat ousted (i.e. his contract was not renewed) following allegations of inappropriate conduct. A stipulation of Docter taking on the job was that he be allowed to finish his film, which is Soul, so it’ll be interesting to see if he then pivots into a more managerial role or if he continues to toil away on his next masterpiece. Hopefully it’s the latter, but if it’s not, Soul looks like a heck of a way to go out.
Check out the Soul trailer below. The film features an original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as new jazz music by Jon Batiste, and boasts the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Ahmir Questlove Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Daveed Diggs. Soul opens in theaters June 19, 2020.