How Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Creators Navigated Race in Studio’s First Movie With Black Lead Character

”There were a lot of caution cones we had to put up,“ co-director Kemp Powers says

Pixar’s much anticipated jazz-themed movie “Soul” represents Pixar’s first animated film featuring a Black lead character. And as the movie heads to a Christmas Day release on Disney+, it is clear that the studio navigated around racial issues with extra care after having faced criticism for a lack of diversity both on screen and behind the scenes.

In the fantasy tale co-directed by Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”) and Kemp Powers, Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, a mild-mannered middle school music teacher who finally gets his chance to perform on stage as the opening act at a jazz club. Unfortunately, Joe’s soul becomes separated from his body when he accidentally falls into a manhole, turning the character into a glowing blue-green ghost, or “soul.”

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Diane Haithman

Senior Entertainment Business Reporter • diane@thewrap.com • @dhaithman