Accidental Aesop: Watch where you're going, or you're going to get hurt, like by falling into a manhole and going into a coma as a result of the fall. This especially applies in a busy city like New York, where Joe's ditziness in real life would have caused him to get maimed, killed, or yelled at in a matter of minutes.
Courtesy of 22's stint as a Lost Soul: Words hurt, and their effect can linger far longer than the emotions that prompted those words. So be careful what you say in the heat of the moment; you might cut deeper and leave longer-lasting impressions than you intended.
If you're trying to learn something, really trying, but for some reason you just don't get it, a hands-on learning experience might be a better approach for you.
The Jerrys in general. Did they just go with the flow about Joe not being ready to die and accidentally mistook him for a child psychologist, or was the whole setup a Secret Test of Character and Xanatos Gambit for Joe not only helping 22 find her spark but also teach himself to live? After all, the first Jerry recognized Joe and kindly gave him a tour of the Great Before, not showing anger when he runs off in an attempt to jump back to Earth. He succeeded, helping a soul that has been around since virtually the beginning of time and resolving to live rather than survive. There is the fact that if Joe had failed to help 22 find her Spark, he would have either moved on to the Great Beyond or become a Lost Soul , and the Jerrys would have chosen someon else to be her mentor. The hint toward the latter is that the Jerry who allows Joe to go back to life — and gives him a choice, telling him he can move onto the afterlife if he wishes — warns him to watch where he's going on Earth, because not many people get second chances.
Is Terry a Control Freak who took retrieving Joe way too far or is she only preventing a soul that needs to go to the Great Beyond from getting away because it could lead to far too many eventually avoiding that fate when theyre in line to do so? Is she going Mama Bear when realizing that Joe made a deal with 22 and caused her to be on Earth before she was ready, given she was apologetic to 22 when recapturing them?
Joe may like teaching more than he initially admits. After all, he worked part-time for years with the school director giving him a Smile of Approval when offering full-time work. The opening scene shows that he hasn't phoned it in while telling the kids to not laugh at Connie for improvising. It could be that he's really good at it, which is the additional reason why his mother wants him to stick with the job. Jazz teaching may not save the world, but it changed Connie's life at least.
In addition to losing out on an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, it wasnt nominated for Best Picture when it was widely deemed as one of the absolute best films of 2020 and the overall field was considered weaker than past years due to several films being pushed back to 2021 thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
While deservedly winning both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score, its left up to debate as to whether or not Sound of Metal deserved the win for Best Sound over it, as both wowed in that category for different reasons.
AJR's "Overture" playing in the teaser trailer, specifically the piano portion which really helps establish the premise of the movie.
Joes piano flourish that he plays in front of Dorothea Williams is stunning, lively, and beautiful.
A lot of the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross counts as this, but the standout has to be "Epiphany", which plays when Joe realizes he needs to make amends with 22 and allow them to live on Earth.
Is the art style of the souls a good one? Half of the film's fans like the simplistic look, and think it makes sense: souls are in the Great Before to find out who they are, so they wouldn't have any features yet. The other half think it's an unimaginative look, especially alongside the very creative landscapes.
Viewers are harshly divided on whether Joe should have died at the end or not. Both sides argue over which outcome would better fit the theme of the film. Joe's time in the Great Before makes him realize that even if his life didn't turn out the way he wanted, it's still a good life—and he returns to it with a newfound appreciation. The half of the fanbase that would have preferred that Joe died argue that it would have made the same point (that Joe's life was a good one) without cheapening his sacrifice for 22. The fact that Joe was going to die before he was offered a second chance really fuels this debate, with many accusations that it was a last-second Ass Pull.
Many were not happy that this is the second time Disney has had a Black main character spend a lot of the film as anything but a Black person. Moreover, most of the time we do see Joe's human form on screen, he's voiced by a white woman. However, some people don't particularly care and are either simply glad for the representation at all or don't view it as an issue.
When he first lands in the Great Before, Joe worries he's in Hell, which he quickly censors to "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" for the benefit of the innocent new souls around him. They immediately ask, "Hell? Hell?" and continue chanting it for the rest of the scene.
A cute little soul happily declaring itself "a manipulative megalomaniac who's intensely opportunistic", and the Jerries sending it off to Earth without a care, since it will no longer be their problem.
22 and Joe wonder what happened to the cat's soul when Joe ended up in his body. Gilligan Cut to the cat's soul entering the Great Beyond, with a confused "Meow?" Cut back to 22 and Joe, who have moved on and never bring it up again. Don't worry, the cat is fine. He has nine lives, after all!
Ensemble Dark Horse: Connie, the trombone-playing student in Joe's class quickly became quite popular, as well as Terry.
To a lesser degree, there is some discussion on who the soul that claimed to be a manipulative, megalomaniac would become. Some cite Syndrome or Evelyn Deavor as the likeliest candidates.
Esoteric Happy Ending: Played for Laughs with the Hedge Fund Trader. The Mystics Without Borders help a lost soul find his purpose and return to Earth. Cut to the soul reentering his body, having a mid-life crisis realization at his job, and completely trashing his and his coworkers' workstations while screaming like a crazy person. Hopefully he didn't have too much trouble finding a new job...
Not surprisingly, the film was very warmly received by fans of Inside Out, Pete Docter's previous Pixar classic which also featured psychological and philosophical concepts and largely took place in a metaphysical setting, with plenty of ideas for a crossover quickly popping up after this film's releasenote And if you want to be extra meta, doing so would reunite the beloved Weekend Update duo of Tina Fey (22) and Amy Pohler (Joy). In fact, had it not been for its Release Date Change, Soul would have also debuted exactly five years to the day after Inside Out.
With Coco as well, since both were also made by Pixar too and feature the idea of the Afterlife, with passions — specifically for music — and legacies being heavy themes in both. It's a general headcanon that the Land of the Dead and the Great Before are equivalents. Not to mention both films being specific to a nonwhite culture (the former for Mexicans and the latter for African-Americans).
To a much lesser extent, the Soul fandom also goes along with the Trolls franchise (though there aren't many crossovers made between them), mainly due to the latter's second installment, which like Soul had to be released on VOD due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has a focus on music (though it was the principal one in the case of Trolls World Tour) and features a minority of metaphysical elements, in that case with the heart.
Andrew Jackson was a slave-holding political figure from the opposing party of Lincoln's previous generation, and Jackson wasn't featured on the $20 bill (or any money) until after Lincoln's death, so Abe's infuriated reaction makes complete sense.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: China, one of the few areas to receive Soul theatrically, had the film perform surprisingly well for Pixar, since their films typically flop in the country. At $57 million, it not only outstripped Incredibles 2 to be China's second-highest-grossing Pixar film (behind Coco), but it also significantly outperformed the China-tailored Mulan.
Harsher in Hindsight: The fact that 22 had hundreds of famous mentors who ended up frustrated and annoyed by her is something of a Running Gag near the beginning. It's much less funny after she becomes a lost soul, and we find out that despite her snarky demeanor she took their rejection badly, and always thought there was something wrong about her because of that.
The film has a joke where it's revealed the reason for the poor performance of the New York Knicks over the past decade is that the team is one of 22's frequent targets for knocking people out of their "zones". Following the film's release, the Knicks would proceed to experience their best season in a decade under new head coach Tom Thibodeau and a strong core of young players, making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.note Admittedly, they lost the first round of playoffs, but still.
In one scene, 22 irritates Abraham Lincoln by stating that, while he's on the penny, Andrew Jackson's on the $20 bill. A month after the film's release, president Joe Biden announced plans to replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.note There was an effort a few years earlier to have her replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, until the eponymous musical vastly increased his popularity and turned public sentiment against the idea. Looks like Lincoln ended up getting the last laugh!
"Don't waste your time on the junk of life."note A line said in the teaser, it inspired many jokes about people making reckless decisions, much like the guy throwing his working computers on the ground.
"Even in a Pixar movie, the Black Dude Dies First."note Making fun of the fact that Joe falling into a manhole is one of the first things shown in the teaser.
"What if Black people had feelings?"note A long-running joke about Pixar is that their pitch for every film is "What if X had feelings?", with the joke previously reaching its climax with "What if feelings had feelings?". When this film was announced, the joke was revived with the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that this particular question is what led to Pixar creating their first Black lead.
"Quiet coyote."note When Joe gets dogpiled by a bunch of new souls in The Great Before, Jerry calls them off by doing the "quiet coyote" gesture, a popular technique among those who work with large groups of children in which you make your hand look like a coyote's (by putting the tips of your middle two fingers to your thumb) to get their attention and quiet them down. While the movie didn't invent this technique, it seems to be on its way to popularizing it, if not just making it funny thanks to Alice Braga channeling every impatient parent and schoolteacher in her hilarious reading of the line.
Parodies of the film's logo have been made with other series on Twitter, usually with works that have "soul" in the title (like Dark Souls).
Terry looking through files has become a popular image to post in reaction to people trying to find hard-to-find things.
Latin American users on social media like to juxtapose this film with the Saw franchise for its perceived similar aesop. "Appreciate your life the easy way (Soul) or the hard way (Saw)".
Misaimed Marketing: Both the first poster and the teaser prominently feature Joe in his human form, which lead many to believe that this was going to be a more "mundane" Pixar movie like Up. Of course, it's while he's not in his body the whole time, human Joe is the character/body who appears the most throughout the film.
Nightmare Fuel: The Lost Souls. They are souls who enter "The Zone" when they become fixated on an obsession, turn into black hulking creatures with glowing green eyes and utter a Madness Mantra while they work through their obsession. This fate befalls 22 after her visit to Earth when she enters "The Zone", mumbling, "No purpose. No purpose."
We even get to see what happens inside her Lost Soul form, and it's not pretty. She's basically trapped in a dark Pocket Dimension in a constant self-inflicted Mind Rape, as she repeats, through giant shadowy version of her past mentors (now including Joe), every bad things they said to her as they give up on her. For those who suffer from low self-esteem and anxiety issues, it can be a soul-crushing experience.
Paranoia Fuel: Related to the above, YOU, reading this, could be a Lost Soul yourself, so obsessed with your passion that it blinds you to everything else in your life. Your work? Your hobby? Your phone? This very site? If you've ever obsessed over something without realizing it, your soul could end up in the black desert.
Spoiled by the Format: The protagonist lands his dream job, dies accidentally and finds himself on a conveyor belt heading to the afterlife, all within the first ten minutes. Considering there is still over an hour left in the movie, it'd be practically impossible for anyone to assume the movie was about to end so suddenly.
The first two trailers caused a bit of controversy with the indication that it would be one of (surprisingly) many animated features with a perceived "separate but equal" plot of having its BIPOC main human character spend a majority of the film as an animal or otherwise nonhuman being (other examples being The Princess and the Frog, Brother Bear and Spies in Disguisenote Developed by Blue Sky Studios, Disney had zero creative input during its development, but the point still stands). The movie proper zig-zags this a little bit: Joe's consciousness isn't in his own body for a majority of the film, but the cat that it is in is on screen in virtually every scene with his body when it's occupied by 22. Nevertheless, all future advertisements either played up the scenes of Joe as a human or downplayed any indication that his body and soul weren't one and the same for most of the time they're on screen.
The full trailer was also criticized for spoiling that Joe isn't actually dead. That being said, this specific moment only happens at the end of the first act, so it's not much of a spoiler.
Even though 22's voiced by a woman, her voice sounds... ambiguous, to say the least. Since 22 is a soul that does not yet have a human body, it probably doesn't matter anyway. In the film itself, Joe even wonders why 22 sounds like "a middle-aged white lady", to which 22 explains that she could sound like whatever she wants, and she just chooses that particular voice because it's the most annoying (this is, of course,Tina Feysaying this). Officially, 22 is referred to with female pronouns.
Terry, also voiced by a woman and wearing her hair in a bun, has a rather startling amount of viewers confidently referring to her as a man. Like the unborn souls, Terry and the Jerrys are hypothetical abstractions of people, but also seem to officially conform to the gender binary.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: A rather unusual example in that it's less about objectionable content and more due to being far more introspective and existential than other Pixar films. Due to this, the movie's themes tend to leave kids asking a lot of questions while resonating with older members of the audience. In fact, several reviews recommend not letting children under 8 watch the movie due to it being far too confusing for them.
WTH, Casting Agency?: While Tina Fey's performance as 22 was well-received, many people questioned her being cast as a character that spends a significant chunk of the film in the body of a Black man, given her controversial history of using racial humor note most infamously, writing episodes of 30 Rock in which characters don blackface.