Pixar’s latest film Soul, which currently is streaming on Disney+ for the whole family, has as much to do with creativity as it does to do with the afterlife. Joe, the film’s main character who is voiced by Jamie Foxx, is an aspiring jazz musician who dies on the day that he gets his big break. With the help of a reluctant soul named 22 (Tina Fey), Joe spends the rest of the movie trying to re-enter his body so he can achieve what he thinks is his life’s goal of being a successful jazz pianist.
In the process, Joe (and several others in the film) talk about something that is very specific for artists -- the “zone” of creativity. As portrayed in Soul, the zone is a moment where one basically loses themselves inside of their art, floating away on a vibe of artistic influence. There’s a moment during a key audition when Joe, while playing the piano, disappears into the zone. When he comes out of it, he apologizes to the lead performer, Dorothea (Angela Bassett). Ironically, it was his ability to access that zone that likely got him the gig.
During a recent press day that Disney and Pixar held for Soul, I asked the cast about the “zone,” and whether they have experienced it as performers. We cut their answers together into a montage at the top of this story.
My favorite answer to the question had to come from Jamie Foxx, who mentioned his Oscar-winning performance in Ray (naturally) but then singled out a very specific stand-up comedy performance where he KNOWS he was occupying the zone. Foxx said:
The zone is amazing. … Doing standup in Oakland, California in 1991. A comedy competition. I go up, and it was a magical moment. I will never forget Oakland for that, at I think the Paramount Theater, and it was just a moment.
Tina Fey obviously has had plenty of moments to access the zone of creativity. She talked about times when it hit her as a writer, collaborating with another creator on something very important. Then, she elaborated on the power of improv comedy, saying:
I would say there’s a moment where you are like, ‘Oh, I’m improvising with this person, and we’re kind of mind-melding!’ I think that’s a very real thing. I think so much of creativity is knowing that it’s going to come and go, and then not panicking that you’re not in the zone all of the time. And that you can work with other people to help keep you afloat when you’re not in the zone. But yeah, I think it’s a really real thing that they have tapped into there.
The concept that one can lean on another when you are NOT in the zone ends up being integral to Soul, as Joe (Jamie Foxx) kind of learns that his real life mission is to teach, and to help others -- like his students, or like 22 (Tina Fey) -- to live their own best lives. That’s a big part of what I took away from Pixar’s Soul. How about you?