With Soul coming to Disney+ on Christmas, the discussion about Black characters being removed from their own narratives has come back into play.
As Shadow And Act wrote, the film’s trailer features Jamie Foxx’s character Joe Gardner, who dies and is shown as a blue spirit for a portion of the film. The move to showcase the character as a blue thing rather than a Black man is part of a trend in animated films to feature anthropomorphic Black characters.
The Nerds of Color’s Constance Gibbs asked the film’s producers and writers about the criticism, to which they answered that, hopefully, audiences will feel satisfied with the amount of time Joe is in his human form on screen.
“I mean we were unaware of that as we started, but we certainly became aware,” said writer/co-director Kemp Powers. “My hope is that when you see the whole film, there is plenty of Joe on screen.”
Powers talked more about the film being the first Pixar film to feature a Black lead.
“For me, it’s definitely about the context in which you tell this character’s story,” he said, acknowledging the “legitimate concern” there is regarding how Black characters are shown on-screen. “And there were a lot of caution cones we had to put up about being sensitive about for the first time telling a Black man’s story, in an animated film.”
Kemp and producers Pete Docter and Dana Murray also made it a point to talk about the number of Black consultants for the film, including anthropologist and Spelman College professor Dr. Johnnetta Cole, cinematographer Bradford Young, and Soul voice actors Questlove and Daveed Diggs, who provided their musical and cultural expertise to the film alongside Jon Batiste.
Powers also said the film was screened for an all-Black audience. “I can’t tell you how relieved I was at the end of that screening to hear, like, the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it,” he said.
Shadow An Act