The Unusual Ways Pixar’s Soul Thought About Killing Off Jamie Foxx’s Character

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2020 is almost over, but there are still a few high-profile movies left to be released before this year wraps up. One of them is Soul, which arrives in a little over a week, and, like all Pixar movies, chronicles a fantastical journey for viewers young and old to enjoy. In this case, Soul follows Jamie Foxx’s Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher who finally gets the opportunity to perform jazz music on stage. There’s just one problem: Joe suffers an accident that leads his soul to become separated from his body.

So in order for Soul’s story to unfold, Joe Gardner basically has to be fatally injured. Now granted, this is a family-friendly Pixar movie, so we can expect that Joe doesn’t permanently pass from the mortal plane. Nevertheless, the filmmakers needed to find a way to appropriately kill off Joe, which CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell recently discussed with writer/co-director Pete Docter, co-director Kemp Powers and producer Dana Murray. The filmmakers discussed other death scenarios for Soul’s lead character as follows:

Pete Docter: We had a couple of thoughts that maybe he was so into rehearsing that he gets hit by a truck or something. It needed to be kind of comedic because you don’t want to horrify people right off the bat.Dana Murray: You talked about a piano falling on him.Pete Docter: Yeah, yeah, that would have been good.Kemp Powers: Well we had the one boarded version where, remember, he banged his head on something dangling down and didn’t know he was dead. So he hit his head and is still walking, then turned around and looked back, and he was dead behind himself. So he sort of had gotten knocked out and kept walking down the street.

All these certainly would have done the job of separating Joe Gardner’s soul from his body, while still being cartoonish enough that they wouldn’t freak people out. So what did the Soul creative team ultimately decide on? As shown in the trailers, while crossing the street and talking with someone on the phone, Joe falls down an open manhole. That has the benefit of launching Joe into his journey, while at the same time not requiring audiences to actually see his landing. It’s pretty what happens when he hits the bottom.

Upon his soul being separated from his body, Joe Gardner manages to avoid entering The Great Beyond and ends up in The Great Before, where new souls develop personalities, quirks and traits before they’re sent to Earth. Joe must work with some of these souls-in-training so he can make it back to Earth before his body dies. Along with Jamie Foxx, Soul’s voice cast includes Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett and Graham Norton.

Originally set for a traditional theatrical release, Soul will now premiere domestically on Disney+ (use the following link to sign up for the streaming service. The movie has been met with critical acclaim, ranking at 98% among professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t forget to read CinemaBlend’s Soul review, and look through our 2021 release schedule to learn what movies come out next year.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.