Sneak Peek From Pixar’s Fall Release: Soul

Posted on June 27, 2020 at 8:10 pm

In Disney and Pixar’s “Soul,” a middle-school band teacher named Joe Gardner gets the chance of a lifetime to play the piano in a jazz quartet headed by the great Dorothea Williams. Featuring Jamie Foxx as the voice of Joe Gardner, and Angela Bassett as the voice of Dorothea, “Soul” opens in U.S. theaters on June 19, 2020.. © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

There’s no movie I’m looking forward to this year more than Pixar’s “Soul,” from Pete Docter of “Inside Out” and “Up.” Voice talent includes Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx along with Tina Fey, Quest Love, “Hamilton’s” Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett. Here’s a sneak peek.

And here’s a behind the scenes panel discussion from the Essence conference.

ALL THAT JAZZ – In Pixar Animation Studios’ upcoming feature film “Soul,” Joe Gardner is a middle-school band teacher whose true passion is playing jazz. A single unexpected step sends him to the cosmic realms where he finds the “You Seminar”—a fantastical place where Joe is forced to think again about what it truly means to have soul. Jamie Foxx was tapped to voice Joe. Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers and produced by Academy Award® nominee Dana Murray (Pixar short “Lou”), “Soul” opens in theaters on June 19, 2020. © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
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How Pete Doctor Made Us Cry in “Up”

Posted on May 28, 2019 at 9:43 pm

I well remember crying in the first surprisingly heartbreaking — and wordless — moments of Pixar’s “Up.” Here director Pete Docter, now co-head of Pixar, talks about creating that scene and how it evolved from the original idea. Rotten Tomatoes is celebrating its 21st anniversary by paying tribute to 21 unforgettable moments in the last 21 years. This is certainly one of them and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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Inside “Inside Out” — Takes on Pixar’s Hit Movie About Feelings

Posted on July 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

“Inside Out” is not just one of the best movies of the year (animated and live action). It is also one of the most psychologically profound and astute films about emotions and the mind ever made. It set the all-time box office opening weekend record for a non-series film and reached number one at the box office this week, out-doing two huge holiday weekend releases, “Terminator Genisys” and “Magic Mike XXL.”

Copyright 2015  Pixar
Copyright 2015 Pixar

And it has provoked some exceptionally thoughtful responses from movie critics and specialists in child development. My friend Jen Chaney wrote one for The Dissolve, tying the movie’s themes to other Pixar films that touch on the bittersweetness of the end of childhood, but explaining how this film takes it to a new depth.

According to Inside Out, the middle-school-girl brain is simultaneously orderly yet fragile, crowded with highly charged voices (some previously heard on NBC sitcoms, The Daily Show, and/or Saturday Night Live), and aesthetically similar to a pinball machine, a Lite-Brite, and multiple levels of Candy Crush. It’s rare in a children’s film—or for that matter, any film—to see elements of the human nervous system rendered with such exquisite care and unmitigated glee.

But the film’s point of view is more important than its plot, or its sophisticated view of the machinations behind Riley’s meltdown. For the first time, a Pixar film is confronting how much it hurts when a child realizes her childhood will end—while it’s still ending. It literally gets inside her head, then bluntly announces that being a kid hurts because it doesn’t last. That feels refreshingly candid, even for Pixar.

Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekmanhe, scientists who consulted on the film wrote about their experience for the New York Times.

he movie’s portrayal of sadness successfully dramatizes two central insights from the science of emotion.

First, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations….Second, emotions organize — rather than disrupt — our social lives. Studies have found, for example, that emotions structure (not just color) such disparate social interactions as attachment between parents and children, sibling conflicts, flirtations between young courters and negotiations between rivals.

They would have preferred that Sadness have a less dreary affect. And they note that they recommended many more emotions, but Pixar explained that they could not handle that many characters.

Dan Kois wrote more as a parent than a critic for Slate.

he emotional messages of most entertainment for kids are pretty relentlessly positive: Love your family, stay true to yourself, keep positive, never give in to despair. As the research of Stanford’s Jeanne Tsai has shown, one of the emotions that Americans in particular privilege is joy—excited pleasure. Children see around them, in books and movies and advertisements, exemplars of delight at growing up. “That makes it harder to grapple with sadness,” University of California, Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner told me. “It’s a vacuum in our culture.”

But, points out Keltner, who consulted with Pixar’s Pete Docter on the film, sadness is a powerful tool, a trigger that sends kids back to their parents for comfort and connection. “You gotta hang on to that sadness,” he told me, because in the tumult of early adolescence, it’s the thing that can bring parent and child back together.

Over at Zero to Three, Claire Lerner echoes the importance of teaching kids to recognize their feelings and acknowledging them, pointing out the applicability of the insights in the film even to the youngest children.

Major kudos are due Pixar and Disney for elevating the importance of the emotional lives of children and providing a creative vehicle for helping kids learn to understand and manage their complex emotions. Most importantly, the film reminds parents that having a happy child does not mean your child must always be happy.

Young children are deeply feeling beings. Starting in the earliest months of life, well before they can use words to express themselves, babies have the capacity to experience peaks of joy, excitement, and elation. They also feel fear, grief, sadness, hopelessness, and anger—emotions that many adults understandably find it hard to believe that such young children can experience. But just as Riley in the film needs her parents to hear and empathize with her difficult feelings of pain and loss—which helps her move on in positive ways—so do babies and toddlers.

She concludes with some very practical recommendations for parents.

And be sure to listen to co-writer/director Pete Docter, who spoke about what was behind the film and the crucial moment that changed everything in an interview with “Fresh Air’s” Terry Gross.

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Pete Docter’s New Pixar Project

Posted on December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Pete Docter is the guy behind some of Pixar’s best films.  He wrote and directed “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.” and provided the story for “Wall•E.”  Any time there’s an announcement about a new Docter project it is exciting but this one sounds especially good.  Collider reports that in an interview with Pixar founder and now Disney animation head John Lasseter last night with Charlie Rose, Docter’s new project will take us inside the mind of a young girl.  It sounds a little like the adorable “Cranium Command” show at Epcot.

It’s great news that Pixar is working on another story about a girl (their first, “Brave,” is due out next year), but we won’t see it for a while, probably not until 2014.  Before that, we have the prequel to “Monsters, Inc.,” “Monsters University” and then an untitled movie about dinosaurs to look forward to.

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Coming from Pixar!

Posted on August 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm

A panel at Disney’s D23 Expo 2011 has revealed some tantalizing details on two upcoming Pixar projects.  My friend Brendan Connelly at Cinema Blend reports that

The first announced feature, currently operating under the tongue-in-cheek title ofThe Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs, will be directed by Bob Peterson, an animator, screenwriter and director at the studio who’s probably best known for voicing the dog Doug in Pixar’s Up!.

Due in theaters during the 2013 holiday season, the film will exist in an alternate version of our world where the asteroid that hit the planet, wiping out the dinosaur population, missed.

People and dinos co-exist, just like the Flintstones!  We’ll have to be patient — it is currently scheduled for the holiday season of 2013.

And the summer of 2014, Pete Docter of “Up” and “Monsters Inc.” will bring us a Pixar movie that is about the brain, where ideas come from.  It makes me think of Epcot’s delightful “Cranium Command.”

Before that, we can look forward to next summer’s “Brave,” Pixar’s first movie with a female lead, and the prequel, “Monster University,” with more from Mike and Sully.

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