Tomorrow is the day! Tomorrow Soul debuts on Disney +. Since my review posted, I have received a lot of questions about the movie including ages that should watch so I will tell you that this movie is for everyone, but I believe ages 8+ will understand it much more. Tay Tay really liked it but it went over her head, unlike her brother and sister who understood the movie and maybe even shed a tear. This movie would be a wonderful family movie for Christmas Eve. Before watching it, check out my spoiler free review here: SOUL.
I also want to thank Disney for all the awesome SOUL products. Once you see the movie, be sure to check out all the great merchandise.
I had the chance to do a virtual interview with Tina Fey (voice of “22”), Phylicia Rashad (voice of “Libba Gardner”), Angela Bassett (voice of “Dorothea Williams”)
1. What’s it like being the cheerleader on the other side?- asked to Phylicia Rashad.
She said you have to follow your dreams and have people pushing you, as well as, giving those guys checks. Just because you push somebody to follow their dreams, that does not mean they are giving you a gut check. Because people have dreams and aspirations that they might be a little leery about, simply because they’re not accustomed to following their inner inspiration. Listening to themselves and sometimes, that’s a real gut check, to tell somebody to follow that dream. To tell them to dare to be bold enough to believe in it.
2. How hard it is getting in the zone?- asked to Angela Bassett?
Angela said she has seen young actors get into the zone and it is thrilling to watch. She says if she is onstage with actors, she sincerely hopes that she is always in the zone and not outside observing. It is important to capture that moment that makes it into the film. She also loves observing theater to learn!
3. I’m curious if you remember finding your creative spark?- asked to all
Tina Fey said what comes to mind for her is when she was studying drama at the University of Virginia. The first time she took a playwriting class, and she wrote a one-act play, she was not in the play. She was able to sit back and watch others get laughs from something she wrote. She realized then that is what she wanted to do. Phylicia Rashad said it was when she was 11 and stood in the spotlight and physically could only see the spotlight. She knew the script and started talking to the light all night long. At the end one of the moms said there is the girl who spoke so beautifully and she was so taken back. She knew then she wanted to be an actress and be in the light for life.
4. In the movie Joe leaves a great beyond to go back to earth because of his love of music. What album or singer would make you come back from the afterlife, just so you could listen to it or to them?
Ms. Rashad said she is a big fan of Smokie Norful as he is musically adept and powerful. His lyrics have great meaning. Mrs. Bassett said it would be the Cape Verdean singer Ces-Cesaria Evora and Tina Fey said it would be Ella Fitzgerald, The Songbooks, so I could get a good double CD of Ella and all Cole Porter songbooks.
5. So mentoring is a big part of this film. And I was wondering, who the mentors were in your life who helped you to kind of find the spark? -asked to Tina
Tina said it was her parents who were huge mentors. Her parents encouraged her to pursue the arts. She also said it would be Lorne Michaels who taught her her so much!
6. There aren’t many animated Black women on screen. So, what did it mean to you two to be able to do that? And what did you think of the character design when you first saw the characters?-asked to Angela and Phylicia
Angela said that she has been fortunate to play a handful and they always been a great deal to her to be able to portray this. It is great to see diversity and be able to show families with young children who are so impressionable and will remember the diversity. For Phylicia, it is natural for her as she mostly plays parts for specific African American people in theater and film.
7. Did the experience of being part of this film allow you to reflect deeply on the themes it addresses? Such as life, death, or art? -asked to Tina
She said absolutely! This film does get you to reflect on these topics. And she thinks the film does a really interesting thing, where they go a step beyond just saying, “You’ve gotta find your passion in life.” They also bring up the idea that an all-consuming passion can kind of overtake your life. And that it’s a bit about being present, is as important as achieving especially coming out in 2020.
8. Since this is your first time working with Pixar, what was your experience like working with Pete Docter and Kemp Powers?- asked to Tina Fey
She said it was great. She was so thrilled and curious to get the chance to see how Pixar works from the inside. Kemp and Pete were always there for all her recording sessions. She would read in and give her suggestions and they were very open to it.
9. Are their any 22 personality traits that you would share or would like to have?
“I think that the fact that sometimes when 22 is sarcastic or skeptical of something, it’s really because she’s so afraid of it. And that she needs to open her mind up to possibilities. And push past her fear. I think that’s something I can relate to. And I think that hopefully a lot of viewers of the movie will relate to.”
10. What do you hope that viewers will take away from this movie? – to Angela
She says she hopes that they take away that you can be unique and special with whatever personality you have. She says it is important to focus on the positives of lives and steer away from the negative talk which can derail you. To live it with gusto, live it with pride, live it with spark and vitality!
Then we also got to interview Jamie Foxx (voice of “Joe Gardner”), Pete Docter (Director/Story & Screenplay by), Kemp Powers (Co-Director/Story & Screenplay by), and Dana Murray (Producer)
1. So talk to me abut Jamie about bringing Joe to life literally?- asked to Jamie Foxx.
He said he has done animation before but not the level of Pixar animation. He loved bringing him to life and doing the voice of the main character. The movie is being released during such a crazy time of our lives and he thinks this movie will be bring great joy.
2. Talk about the early inception because I know you guys came to the idea of both a jazz musician and having it centered on an AfricanAmerican protagonist. During the early stages, it wasn’t always this way. Can you tell us more about this?- asked to Pete
He said in the beginning it was a very personal story of trying to figure it out. Where they wanted to go with the movie and what was he supposed to do with his life. They wanted to take an artist journey of finding a character that everyone would root for, as well as be compelling and interesting. As soon as they found a jazz musician they knew that it would be a selfless story as you don’t go into jazz to get rich and famous. You do it because you love it! Then they knew they needed to cast a black actor who took this art form and made it what it is today!
3. You guys did a great job of pretty much assembling a bunch of musicians, both on screen, with the voices, but also behind the scene with the scoring and making it feel like it is a jazz musical even though it’s not the center of the story. Tell us about casting and such?- asked to Dana
“We have a dream consultant team. Our Head of Diversity and Inclusion here, Britta Wilson was a great partner to me in building who those up with me. So, he just mentioned, Dr. Johnetta Cole. We brought in Daveed Diggs. We were lucky enough to get to hang out with Ryan Kuebler, Bradford Young, Questlove, and we worked with a lot of just working musicians in New York City and here in Emeryville. So the depths of the bench was crazy. And we were just were really lucky. We also brought together the black employees and Pixar and created a trust as well. And so, they were a part of the daily process.” -Dana
4. But the second question is, but how black is it? -asked to Kemp
They said it was definitely a black focused movie because they made jazz music what it is today. The authenticity of jazz and New York was seen within and the African American people really compliment that. Kemp said it was very specific to a very unique culture. He felt like it a wonderful opportunity to do something for his family and all his relatives to be proud of!
5. I love the messaging behind it and the inspiration for the kids. Joe discovers the little things he took for granted through 22 discoveries. Can you relate to that, especially what we’ve experience in 2020? -asked to Jamie
Jamie said 2020 was bittersweet for him as his family had to deal with his hardship of his sister passing. He talked a lot about his beautiful sister and how when you look at this film, it is exactly what he was going through. The bittersweet of losing someone but gaining a sort of vision of joy, of all the things that she taught us while she was living. In a beautiful, strange way, it’s exemplified here in this film.
6. Can you share some of the music that helped you get in the zone, so to speak, for your role in this film? -asked to Jamie
“It’s so many different musicians, from Thelonious Monk, Baptiste himself, and I always re-revert back to Ray Charles and meeting him and his vast knowledge of music. And all of just cats man, cats that you may not even know that didn’t make it, people like from my hometown named Pass and people like, uh, Gary Johnson , these guys who would just play. They didn’t even realize that they could probably go play somewhere and actually get paid for it.” -Jamie Foxx
Music has always been a huge part of him.
7. I’m curious if your appreciate of soul has changed at all since the beginning stages of making the film to now, the release and given the season of life that we’re in right now? -asked to Dana and Kemp
Dana said how could it not. They had no idea when they were developing this 4-5 years ago that this is what 2020 would have in hold for all of us. But hopefully people will watch it on their couches and reflect on this year with family, be able to appreciate the small things. Kemp said he questioned whether this movie was too earnest but with all the turns and twists of releasing, etc, it truly is the perfect holiday movie during such a trying time of our lives.
8. This question is for Pete and Kemp. Thee world, the Soul worlds are so unique in their concepts especially The Great Before and The Hall of Everything. And so, I’m curious, did you have anything for a frame of reference in developing these worlds?-asked to Pete and Kemp
Pete said the underpinnings of the story are very philosophical so they looked at ancient Greece but then realized they didn’t want to pin a specific place. They then looked at World Fair images and things from the 40s and 60s. He found lot of cool abstract shapes. They then went from there. Kemp added that they were definitely inspired by museum exhibits. He said what if every single person, they walk into a room and it suddenly turns into a Smithsonian-level exhibit just about their life, with a combination of recreating scenes but also items that are important to your formative years. Because we figure, we could have a lot of comic value out of that with someone who won a Nobel prize would have a trophy. But then they have a guy like Joe who has had a more unassuming life.
9. If The Great Before was an actual thing, what are some of the mentors that you would be contributing to creating your persona, who you are?- to Dana and Jamie.
Dana said sadly she never really got to have any grandparents. She never met either of her grandfathers. And she met both of my grandmothers once. She would love to know people from her history and who they were. Jamie said it would be Mohammad Ali because he thinks he is perfect.
10. As a fellow Howard University Bison, how influential was your Howard University experience with making Joe unapologetically black and creating that world for him in Soul?- asked to Kemp
Kemp said it was everything. “Because Howard taught me to be unapologetically black. Because the sky really is the limit when you go there. So the black college experience, I’m a big advocate of black colleges. Go wherever you want to go but I think that, for some people, getting a few years of being in an environment that’s nurturing can be incredibly beneficial for you going into your young adulthood.”
What is it that makes you…YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions. “Soul” is Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a. (Pixar short “Lou”).
SOUL is streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting December 25th -TOMORROW!
*Thank you Disney for inviting me to the SOUL press conference.*