Pixar is known for creating great characters. Whether it's a rat that wants to be a chef, or a fish with a memory problem. There are dozens of characters in Pixar films that have remained part of us ever since we first met them. However, for every character we've fallen in love with, there are dozens of different versions of those characters that Pixar worked with before finding that perfect formula, and dozens more that were simply cut, never to be seen by an audience. When Pixar's Soul debuts on Disney+ this Christmas we'll meet Joe the music teacher and 22 the reluctant soul, but we won't be Joe's sweet neighbor, because she didn't make it into the final product.
Animation is a very iterative process and ideas that get considered early on in a production tend to go through many changes, assuming they're not cut entirely. In my experience speaking with many different Pixar filmmakers I've found that while the editing process is often necessary, it frequently means losing items that the filmmakers loved, even if they knew those items needed to go. When I spoke with the filmmakers of Soul earlier this year, producer Dana Murray mentioned one character she was quite fond of who didn't end up making it into the film. Joe Gardner's "sweet" Russian neighbor...
We had a scene that took place in Joe's apartment building. He had a neighbor who was an old Russian woman and it was just a very, very sweet scene that, I understand why we had to cut it, but it was a great scene. I'll always miss it.
While the reason for the removal wasn't specified, it was likely a simple pacing problem. Oftentimes, especially in the streamlined Pixar productions, anything that isn't strictly necessary to the plot, no matter how sweet or funny or emotional, needs to go in order to keep the movie from feeling like it's moving to too slow. Since Joe's Neighbor likely wasn't necessary to the plot, she simply didn't need to be there.
This missing character had a significant impact not only on Dana Murray, but also on Soul co-writer Kemp Powers. He mentioned that the character also had a pair of pets that were quite fun, that had to go along with their master.
That Natalya character that Dana mentioned had these two cute little dogs that would have been fun little toys for kids to have. So losing her also meant that we had to lose her dogs Brako and Yako. who were pretty fun.
However, while Natalya is apparently gone, possibly forever, it seems the dogs did survive. They are actually visible in at least one scene in Soul, as background characters. So keep your eyes open for what could have been.
Soul arrives on Disney+ on Christmas Day.