Christmas Day of 2020 brought the release of Pixar's “Soul,” the latest addition to the studio’s repertoire of fun and friendly films. As is typical of Pixar, the film makes use of a lighthearted atmosphere to address the deeper themes placed within its story.
“Soul” follows the journey of jazz musician Joe Gardner. Joe has been working as a middle school band teacher while he waits for his big break. The day he lands the gig of his life though, a slight misstep leaves Joe’s soul disconnected from his body and trapped in the cosmic space between life and death. To get back, he enlists the help of an unborn soul known as 22, who adamantly refuses to leave “The Great Before” to begin life on Earth. As Joe races to return to his body in time for his show, 22 reluctantly begins to experience what life on Earth is actually like.
The film deals with “purpose” as a significant theme. Joe believes it is his purpose in life to play music, and if he doesn’t make it to the gig, then he will have wasted his life. Part of 22’s problem is they can’t find their “spark,” that is, something that drives them to live. As the film progresses, the audience gets a deeper look at the two and their “purposes.” Joe is so focused on getting his big moment and making something of himself that he is largely unaware he has cast everyone and everything else in his life aside. He has become like the lost souls in the film, obsessed with something to the point where it is consuming his life. For 22, despite telling Joe that a soul can’t be crushed in “The Great Before,” their inability to find a spark, coupled with the years worth of being told they will never be good enough for life on Earth, have left the poor soul scared of living and believing they have no purpose. It is not until the end of the film that Joe, having watched 22 enjoy a vast amount of life’s little pleasures, realizes that a soul’s purpose isn’t just to do a single thing but to experience and enjoy every aspect of life. Whether great or small, life is meant to be lived, truly and to its fullest. It is from this new perspective that Joe is able to help 22 make their journey to Earth to begin living.
Whether students or part of the larger community, Aggies will be reminded we are meant for more than just a single purpose in life. After all, we are called to pursue excellence in all areas of life, and we cannot do that very well if we are devoting all of our energy to just one thing. However, “Soul” has even more of a connection to the Aggie community than a quality message. According to Texas A&M Today, Cheyenne Chapel, Class of 2019, and a former student of Texas A&M’s Department of Visualization, was a part of the team that created “Soul.” Chapel lent her hard-earned skills to developing the lively imagery of the film, from trees to buildings to other aspects of the digital world of “Soul.” Chapel’s work shines through into the finished product that is the film.
Old and young viewers alike will be able to enjoy “Soul” with its message, humor and honesty. It serves as inspiration to notice life’s fullness and take hold of it, to seize the day and make the most out of being alive. Even in the midst of a pandemic-weary world there are joys to be found– the cup of coffee sipped each morning, the companionship of friends and family or even just the wind blowing through the trees. There’s life everywhere if one looks. So stop, look and see.