Arts and Entertainment

Opinion: Does Pixar’s Soul only Cater to Older Viewers?

Going into the holiday season this year was very different. Covid-19 was still lurking, so it made way for a less traditional Christmas. With many families staying home, the decision to watch the newly-released Disney/Pixar movie, Soul, on Disney+ was a very common one. Soul was originally planned for release on June 19, 2020, but the pandemic resulted in the movie getting pushed back farther and farther until Disney decided to release it on Christmas Day on Disney+, where the movie met critical acclaim. 

[Spoilers]

Soul follows the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who believes his true purpose in life is to be a jazz musician. When Joe finally lands a gig after years of auditioning, he falls into a sewer and dies. After trying to escape death and fulfill his true purpose, he ends up where souls go before they are born, in “The Great Before.”. In the Great Before, Joe mentors a soul named 22 and convinces her to help him get back to Earth so he can finally be a jazz musician. The film explores one’s purpose and existential questions of life that have been following mankind around for millennia. Pixar movies typically ask “why?” and this entry explores the biggest “why?” of all. 

While the movie was met with mostly all praise, receiving a 96% critic score and 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, some claimed that the movie’s mature theme and complex plot resulted in the movie not being very kid-friendly. I interviewed two students; one who disagreed with the criticism, and one who did agree with it.

Interview with Sophomore, Andrew Margolis:
What are your overall impressions of Soul?
I personally don’t get the appeal and I do not see why everyone is praising it. I just think it was an average movie. 
What makes you say that?There were some parts that I didn’t really enjoy, like how I found that us not knowing what happened to Joe was not very satisfying.
How do you feel about some people saying it isn’t very kid-friendly?I could see how people thought that. I thought that the open-ended nature in the ending could be confusing for small kids. 
Interview with Sophomore, Jacob Moore:
What are your overall impressions of Soul?I believe that Soul was one of the few good things that came out of last year. It’s animation and message is all very well done for such a broad concept.
How do you feel about some people saying it isn’t very kid-friendly?I think Pixar appealing to adults rather than kids is something they have done before, but not to this extent. 
Care to elaborate?Most of their movies have premises that kids wouldn’t like, such as a rat that can cook. They realize that animation is an art form, not a genre, and have used that to appeal to any demographic. It’s one of Disney’s most valuable assets because both kids and adults will go pay a ticket for their movies and enjoy It throughout.

As for where my opinion lies, I found the film to be accessible for all sides of the age spectrum. What makes Pixar special is how they have been able to sell these broad themes and messages in ways for a child to understand, as well as an adult. An example of this could be shown in Inside Out. One of Inside Out’s messages is how it is ok to be sad sometimes, and this is conveyed through personifying the emotions of a kid, as they go on an adventure through a maturing child’s head, and we see the impacts of their actions as they play out, in the real world. This different form of storytelling allows for these mature themes to be understanding to the younger viewers and older viewers alike. Soul is the same way. 22 exhibits the same traits as a child. She is playful and curious, which allows for children to easily connect to her. When she takes the form of Joe and is experiencing life for the first time, children understand this because 22 embodies the disobedient temperament that children can relate to, while also using her wisdom to teach Joe that life is about enjoying the small things. Just because a lot of the concepts were more complex, it doesn’t mean it is too much for kids to handle, especially since Pixar has done this multiple times before.

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