How Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Creators Navigated Race in Studio’s First Movie With Black Lead Character

Diane Haithman
·1-min read

Pixar’s much anticipated jazz-themed movie “Soul” represents Pixar’s first animated film featuring a Black lead character. And as the movie heads to a Christmas Day release on Disney+, it is clear that the studio navigated around racial issues with extra care after having faced criticism for a lack of diversity both on screen and behind the scenes. In the fantasy tale co-directed by Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Kemp Powers, Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, a mild-mannered middle school music teacher who finally gets his chance to perform on stage as the opening act at a jazz club. Unfortunately, Joe’s soul becomes separated from his body when he accidentally falls into a manhole, turning the character into a glowing blue-green ghost, or “soul.” “Soul” filmmakers took pains to make sure “Soul” did not fall down a manhole of negative racial and cultural stereotypes on the movie’s journey to the screen. That didn’t prevent the film from facing criticism on some entertainment websites, social media and the campus newspaper Iowa State Daily who responded to the trailer by accusing the filmmakers of hiding the racial identity of the lead character because he is a ghost throughout a good portion of...

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