‘Soul’ Brings Disney-Pixar’s First Black Lead to the Screen

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Disney-Pixar’s newest film, ‘Soul’, released Christmas Day, has since received overwhelmingly positive reviews for the animation studio’s first-ever film featuring a Black lead.

Jamie Foxx stars as the voice of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who aspires to be a professional jazz musician. After being offered a full-time position at his school, he gets the opportunity to audition for a popular jazz quartet. Joe passes the audition, but unforeseen events take him on an adventure through another plane of existence.

The cast of ‘Soul’ also includes stars like Angela Bassett, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, and Tina Fey.

“For me to be able to say, [I’m] the first African-American lead in Disney-Pixar, that’s amazing,” Foxx said in an interview with Variety. “That feels good.”

Though the film explores ideas like life after death, ‘Soul’ most importantly represents Black culture in a way Disney failed to do in past films like ‘The Princess and the Frog’.

In one scene, a teenage Joe is forced to a Jazz club by his father. “Black improvisational music,” his father says. “It’s one of our great contributions to American culture!” Joe cites that experience as the moment he fell in love with Jazz.

Another scene takes place in a barbershop, where one character, 22, has a deep intellectual conversation with Joe’s barber while the rest of the patrons listen in. “When we gotta go get a cut, that’s a cultural thing,” Foxx said.

Following the theme of self-exploration and passion, Joe also has a meaningful conversation with his mother about the value of financial stability and job security vs. happiness and fulfillment. “I’m just afraid that if I died today, my life would have amounted to nothing,” he said.

‘Soul’ is available to stream on Disney+.

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