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How the cast and creators of Pixar's Soul would inspire new souls to their greatest potential

By Caitlin Busch
Soul Disney/Pixar

What inspires you? It’s not a simple question, but it is one that Pixar’s latest outing, Soul, dares to ponder. For Joe, voiced by Jamie Foxx, it’s all about jazz — until he loses his inspiration and quite literally falls down a hole. From there, Soul is a journey through “The Great Before,” where new souls find a purpose and where Joe, listless and looking for renewed inspiration, finds a friend in 22, an infant soul voiced by Tina Fey.

The film’s conceit leads to a pretty obvious question: What experiences would you present a new soul to inspire them? When SYFY WIRE asked the creators and cast of Soul this, their answers were as varied as the inhabitants of The Great Before.

“If I was trying to inspire a new soul, and… I might do it wrong because this might not be their thing, I would take them to a children’s theater play and just let them experience creativity and joy in its earliest form,” Fey explains before laughing. “And if that wasn’t their thing, I guess I’d drop them off with somebody who knew about science.”

Phylicia Rashad, who voices Joe’s mother Libba, and who SYFY WIRE interviewed alongside Fey, goes straight to science. “I would take them to a planetarium,” she muses. “And they would say ‘we know this already, this is where we came from.’”

“‘This is my old neighborhood,’” Fey adds, referencing The Great Before’s equally void and starry design while the pair laughs.

It’s not a simple thing, inspiring a new soul, as co-director Peter Docter explains. “Well, the trick is — and of course in the film, we realized as a soul, you don’t have taste, touch, smell. You don’t have any of the senses. So how do you inspire somebody with none of that?”

He continues: “I think you just have to say ‘see the potential. See all this stuff, what it could be.’ And I think that’s just generally what life is about, too, is kind of seeing through the weeds to ‘where could this go? How could we build this into something really cool?’”

Docter’s co-director Kemp Powers goes deeper, referencing a plot point (no spoilers) from the film: The Hall of You.

“I’d probably show them my own life,” Powers says. “I love the idea of The Hall of You and showing how you [came to be] — not just the great things that happen in your life but the challenges you have to overcome. I think that can be really inspiring to people to know that they’re not alone, it’s not unusual to struggle oftentimes. You can get through that.”

Soul is now available to stream on Disney+.

Reporting contributed by Ronni Leverich.