Jamie Foxx and the 'Soul' cast talk barrier-breaking film's healing power

Watch: The cast of Soul talk to Yahoo about the new Pixar film

By Kevin Polowy

The phrase “this is the movie the world needs right now” tends to be tossed around too much in film circles. But Disney-Pixar’s Soul — a bold, introspective, life-affirming emotional and visual triumph arriving at the end of a year marked by historic tragedy — legitimately deserves such praise.

Jamie Foxx stars as Joe, a middle-school band teacher/struggling jazz musician who ventures on a spiritual journey to The Great Beyond after suffering an accident the same day he scores his big break.

“Joe is a guy whose life was on a very specific path that he felt stuck on but he had a very specific place he wanted to go, and his plans are unexpectedly paused, and I think that’s kind of what happened to all of us,” explains co-star Tina Fey (watch above).

Jamie Foxx voices Joe in Disney-Pixar's "Soul"
Jamie Foxx voices Joe in Disney-Pixar's Soul. (Photo: Pixar)

“Quarantining has sort of forced people to find what their true happiness is,” says Ahmir-Khalib “Questlove” Thompson, The Roots drummer who voices Joe’s former protégé Curley. “And this film will really affirm it for them.”

Foxx applauds the studio for releasing the film “for free” (to paying Disney+ subscribers, we should note) on Christmas Day.

Read more: The best films new to streaming over Christmas

“People are hurting, and we need a good deed,” Foxx says. “So this is a great deed for [people] to be able to see this, and give them a chance to sit, escape, laugh, decompress. … This is a Christmas gift that will continue to be unwrapped, so it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Watch a trailer for Soul

Soul also marks Pixar’s first feature with a predominantly African-American cast, which has taken on additional meaning following the civil unrest and widespread racial and social justice protests after the high-profile police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“We’re so much more alike than we are different, but there are negative voices out there that are harping on the differences as if there’s something a matter with that,” says Angela Bassett, who plays the jazz star who hires Joe on that fateful day. “And there is not. It’s just that talk that you tell yourself about the other. So I think it’s a beautiful project.”

Gardner gets the chance of a lifetime to play the piano in a jazz quartet headed by the great Dorothea Williams. (© 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. )
Gardner gets the chance of a lifetime to play the piano in a jazz quartet headed by the great Dorothea Williams. (© 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. )

“It isn’t lost on me, this historical significance,” says Questlove. “Even then, the story is broader than that specific scope.”

“Let’s just say you don’t care about the fact that it’s an African-American lead, OK, fine,” says Foxx before pointing to the critical acclaim Soul has received (the animated feature currently has a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

“I always say, it’s not good enough just to be Black, we’ve got to be good. It’s about the excellence of it and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Soul premieres Friday, 25 December on Disney+.

Watch Angela Bassett pay tribute to her late Black Panther co-star Chadwick Boseman:

— Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo