There are two types of Pixar films: Fun Pixar and transcendent Pixar.
“Onward” is fun Pixar. It’s well made and clever and it leaves you feeling good.
“Soul” is transcendent Pixar. It’s a film that showcases a depth of skill and creativity you wouldn’t think possible. It fills you with questions like, How did they dream this up? How did they even begin? And it leaves you with a warmth that re-ignites anytime you think of the story.
“Coco,” “Inside Out,” “Toy Story 3,” “WALL-E,” “Up,” and “The Incredibles” are transcendent Pixar–truly miraculous movies. The fact that Pixar can produce one of these films, let alone multiple, is a gift to all of us.
Pete Docter, the co-director of “Soul,” has three transcendent Pixar movies in his filmography: this one, “Inside Out,” and “Up” (he also directed “Monsters, Inc.,” which is delightful but not paradigm shifting).
What impresses me most is that Docter and crew managed to make two films set largely in metaphysical realms. “Inside Out” explores thought and identity. “Soul” explores life before and after death. It would be forgivable if “Soul” co-opted some of the imagery from “Inside Out,” but that’s not what happens. The two films have unique visual palettes and sound designs.
One movie = two sequels: There’s a way Pixar can make sequels to “Soul” and “Inside Out” by producing just one film. In “Inside Soul” (coming in 2025), we learn that the formerly reticent soul named 22 merged with Riley, the protagonist of “Inside Out.” As Riley navigates early adulthood, Joy and 22 team up to help Riley find purpose and fulfillment. Plus: Amy Poehler (Joy in “Inside Out”) and Tina Fey (22 in “Soul”) reunite!