‘Soul’ Teaser Trailer Dives into the Circle of Life & Filmmakers Discuss Cultural Representation

The latest teaser for Pixar’s Soul premiered during the Essence Festival online and the filmmakers shared the importance of cultural representation.
Joe and Ray Gardner in Pixar's Soul

The new teaser trailer for Pixar’s Soul premiered today (June 27) during the Essence Festival‘s Entertainment All Access presentation and it did not disappoint. Along with the teaser, several filmmakers gathered to share their thoughts on the origins of the film and the importance of proper cultural representation throughout Soul.

Although only a minute in length, this teaser shows even more about how the film will touch on living life to the fullest and the circle of life. Check out the full teaser below and then read below for some of our insights, musical discussions, and background elements featured throughout.

The new teaser shows us what is probably one of Joe Gardner’s (the main character’s) pinnacle moments of why he loves jazz music — because he was introduced to it by his Father and they shared that memory and passion together.

The next cut in the teaser shows Joe all grown up and sitting next to his elderly Father (we presume) sharing another musical moment together — and look at how much Joe’s Dad is soaking in every note of Joe’s piano playing. Just beautiful!

We’re getting the sense that his father passes away as the next cuts showcase who we assume is his Mother placing her head on Joe’s shoulder as they stand at the beach. That same woman appears near the end of the trailer with a very apropos knitted sign in the background that says “Sewing mends the Soul” as they embrace.


The central song (and mind-blowingly beautiful song at that) in the teaser is called Parting Ways by Cody ChesnuTT (link to YouTube performance) and also carries the circle of life message forward. 

We also loved that so much real-life music is showcased in the teaser as well. In the barbershop, you’ll see artistic versions of album covers on the walls — like Run-D.M.C.’s King of Rock, LL Cool J’s Radio, Nas’ Illmatic, or even A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, among others. One thing in common with all of these artists — they all have roots in Queens, New York. You have to love Pixar’s art departments and legitimacy in their theming! 

Pixar Soul Barbershop LL Cool J, Run DMC, Nas, and A Tribe Called Quest

It was also great seeing amazing names like Art Blakey (an amazing jazz drummer and bandleader) on a poster when Joe is in the backroom of what looks like the Half Note Jazz Club. (Side note – it was also really cool to see Curly (the drummer voiced by Quest Love) wearing Nike shoes — is this the Pixar film with the most real-life products and artists?

Pixar Soul Art Blakey and Nike Shoes
Pixar Soul Featuring Duke Ellington

There’s even a real song called Things Ain’t What They Used to Be (shown above) by Duke Ellington (link to YouTube performance) which Joe is teaching his less-than-interested middle school class at the beginning of the teaser. 


In addition to the teaser trailer, there was a 10-minute conversation featuring many of the filmmakers, consultants, and musicians (with some behind-the-scenes looks) at how Pixar is not only tackling cultural representation within the studio, but also within the film itself. Just like on Coco, Pixar brought in consultants to make sure they weren’t misrepresenting or overlooking elements of black culture. 

As Co-Director, Kemp Powers said, “It was really important to us that we didn’t just invite people in to ‘rubber stamp’ the work that we were doing.” 

I can’t even begin to express the warmth in my heart hearing Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole’s introduction to the conversation with the cast — I may just want to listen to her speak all day! Her message not only sets up the idea of the film itself but the passion in her voice when she says that she is a lover of “black improvisation music…called…Jazz,” it gave me goosebumps the way she delivered the message.

It was also great to find out some more details about Joe Gardner from Kemp, hear how Pete felt “empty” and questioned if making animated films was what he was born to do (uh….yeah, it is)! Check out more from this great conversation below. 

I cannot wait to hear more of what Jon Batiste (Composer and Arranger of Soul‘s living world) says when he mentions that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (scoring the music in the Soul world) blended themes to create music that has a “celestial optimism.” The optimistic theme he plays at 8:30 is truly uplifting and for some reason gave me vibes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (that’s a good thing). 

So, what were your thoughts on the new teaser trailer and the 10-minute conversation with the crew, musicians, and consultants? Leave a comment below or chat about it with other Pixar fans in the Pixar Post Forum thread dedicated to Soul.

Pixar Post — T.J.

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