How 22 vs. Earth Director’s Grandson Inspired Pixar's New Souls

Pete Docter’s Pixar-animated Soul has been on an incredible journey since reaching Disney+ on Christmas Day, one that recently took the director to the stage at the Oscars where it collected the trophy for Best Animated Feature. The movie has captivated audiences of all ages, and for those who wish that you could revisit The Great Before and spend more time with the delightful Pixar souls, you are in luck. The original short film 22 vs. Earth is on its way to the streaming platform (more on that in a second), and we got to speak with some key collaborators ahead of the short’s release.

Director Kevin Nolting helms 22 vs. Earth, which is a prequel to Soul and attempts to explain why 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) had such a cynical opinion of our planet. In Soul, every new soul seems excited about the opportunity to finally travel to Earth, and Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) needs to get back to his body. But 22 had no interest, and Nolting wanted to know why. Soul is a movie that we eagerly share with family, and Nolting told us a fun family connection that came during the development of the short. Listen above.

Pixar animators can take inspiration from all avenues. And it’s hard to find inspiration for something as ethereal as The Great Before. None of us can say that we have seen it, but that creates a freedom for animators to draw on whatever they’d like. Soul leaned heavily into the Oscar-winning score composed by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste. But for 22 vs. Earth, director Kevin Nolting definitely saw something in his grandson that he wanted to mimic. And that was his grandson’s ability TO mimic. As he explained to CinemaBlend:

At the time, he’s now 3, but I had a 2-year-old grandson, and that was my observation. He has such a strong personality in one way, but he (also) mimics what he hears in the moment. But then that can change, just like that. All you have to do is say something else and he’ll mimic it. I just love that about kids.

I am totally fine with getting the chance to spend any more time with the characters from Soul. It was my number one movie of 2020, and while I am thrilled that co-directors Pete Docter, Kemp Powers and executive producer Dana Murray got Best Animated Feature, I really thought that Soul should have been in the conversation for Best Picture. It’s really that good.

22 and the souls of Soul

Look for the original animated short 22 vs. Earth when it arrives on Disney+ on April 30. And if you haven’t yet seen Soul, it’s also on the streaming platform, along with the full Pixar catalogue, so log in and spend the day exploring.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.