It has been a wild ride for the distribution of Pixar Animation Studios’ upcoming film, Soul. Due to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, the folks at Disney and Pixar have decided to release the film on December 25 to Disney+ rather than move the film to a 2021 theatrical release date. While I’m sad not be able to enjoy the artistry of this Pixar film on the big screen (hopefully, we’ll get a chance in the future), I feel grateful that we at least get to see it this year.
Here’s the latest trailer.
Also, check out this cool track by Jean Batiste who is one of the songwriters on the film.
Here’s the latest poster for the upcoming Disney+ release.
Soul is coming to Disney+ on Christmas Day, December 25.
Two elf brothers go on a magical quest in their world where magic has been pushed aside in Pixar Animation Studios’ latest wonderment Onward.
Onward is the type of high concept movie that is a hallmark of Pixar. A film that sounds so bizarre and audacious, yet while you’re watching it, you feel completely at home. I call the filmmakers at Pixar “magicians” because that’s what they do so well—they create magical, unique film experiences using beautiful art, impressive technology, and real emotional resonance.
And magic is really what Onward is all about. The magical world where the film takes place is populated with nothing but magical creatures—mermaids, dwarfs, unicorns, dragons, wizards, etc.—but over time, the magic of their lives has given way to technology, suburban sprawl, and “progress.”
Our two protagonists, teenage elf brothers Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) and Ian (voiced by Tom Holland), are given a gift by their mother (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who has been a single parent ever since her husband, and the boys’ father, tragically passed away. (The dad died when Barley was very young and Ian was in utero.)
The gift is a magician’s staff and a magic crystal with a spell which supposedly will bring the father back to life for a day. While Barley is a major player of a “Dungeons & Dragons”-style of role-playing game and big believer in the past magical lore of the world they live in (again, mostly tied in with the D&D game), Ian, who turns 16 at the beginning of the film, is more practical and is just trying to find his place with his peer group and in his life.
Barley and Ian keep trying the spell and they begin to conjure up their dad’s body; however, the magic crystal breaks halfway through and only the lower half of their dad makes it back to the world. So, the boys, along with their deceased father’s legs, set out on a quest to try to find another crystal to finish the spell so they can spend some time with their dad before sunset causes the magic spell to end.
Onward at its core is really a buddy movie where the two brothers go on big adventure as they try to work together towards the common goal of spending time with their father. The film is a personal one for director Dan Scanlon, who lost his father at a young age and decided to pose the question of what it would be like to meet up with a deceased parent, if only briefly. Wrapping this emotional concept up in a buddy/fantasy movie was definitely a magic trick and overall the filmmakers really succeed.
Ultimately, the main part of the Pixar “magic,” and where Onward truly delivers, is in its emotional authenticity. I won’t give anything away, but during the final third of the film when everything starts coming together, the film really delivers a satisfying and meaningful emotional experience which speaks serious truth about family relationships. (You might want to bring a Kleenex or two with you to the theater.)
And just as a side note, a new Pixar short is not included in front of Onward (check out the plethora of great Pixar shorts now playing on Disney+); instead, we get a short starring The Simpsons (yes, those Simpsons) which are now part of the Disney family thanks to The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The short is called Playdate with Destiny and it prominently features Maggie Simpson who gets smitten by a baby boy her age that she meets at the park. It felt a bit strange but not necessarily completely out of place to be watching a Simpsons short at a Disney movie. I guess it’s just where and how things are today.
Woody gets reunited with Bo Peep and has to make some serious decisions about how he wants to live his life in Pixar Animation Studios’ brilliant and beautiful Toy Story 4.
The film’s main storyline picks up basically right where we left the toys after 2010’s Toy Story 3: Andy has gone off to college and Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (again voiced by Tim Allen), and all of Andy’s other toys now belong to a young girl named Bonnie. Woody and the gang now all play second fiddle to Bonnie’s existing toys. In fact, Woody gets played with less and less as Bonnie is preferring other toys over him.
When Bonnie reluctantly goes to her orientation day of kindergarten, she ends up making a rudimentary toy out of a plastic “spork” and names him “Forky.” Forky (voiced by Tony Hale) instantly becomes Bonnie’s favorite toy; however, Forky isn’t quite sure that he wants to be a toy or that he wants to stay in Bonnie’s room so he keeps throwing himself in whatever garbage container he can find. Because of Bonnie’s devotion to him and because Woody needs something to do since he’s not needed as much, Woody makes it his primary job to keep Forky safe for Bonnie.
Things really start to get interesting when Bonnie and her parents rent an RV and take a road trip during the last week of summer before school starts. At one point along the highway, Forky decides to throw himself away outside a window, so Woody feels compelled to follow him with a plan to meet back up with the gang at an RV campground a few miles down the road where the family is planning to stop for the night.
The delightful and thought-provoking adventure comedy that follows focuses mostly on the character arc of our favorite toy sheriff, Woody. Through an interesting series of events, Woody gets reunited with his former love, Bo Peep (voiced again by Annie Potts), who has made a new life for herself independent of any human child (or any human for that matter). Also in Woody’s path is a defective talking doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks) who thinks that Woody has what it takes for her to get repaired and, therefore, wanted by a human child.
While he has to continue to save Forky from himself and his surroundings, Woody also is faced with some difficult questions about what the purpose of his life is (I’ll keep this review spoiler free…). Needless to say, the conclusions are satisfying and surprising.
All of the living character voices have returned from the previous Toy Story films (the film has a dedication to actor Don Rickles, the voice of Mr. Potato Head, who passed away in 2017). New to the cast are the carnival plush toys Ducky and Bunny, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and Canadian stunt motorcyclist Duke Caboom, voiced by Keanu Reeves, who steals the show.
Director Josh Cooley and team have created another outstanding animated comedy and a worthy addition to the storied Toy Story films. Probably what I loved the most about this film is its intelligent script and Pixar’s exacting commitment to story, as has been the case with the three previous Toy Story films, too. While I wasn’t sure that we needed another Toy Story after the extremely satisfying and emotional ending to Toy Story 3, this new adventure with the Toy Story gang is so entertaining and so much fun, it made me question why I questioned the Pixar folks in the first place.
Leave it to the magicians at Pixar to create not only a very interesting continuation to the storyline and ideas from the previous Toy Story films, but to also create a film with so much heart and humor and with so much gorgeous animation that it takes your breath away.