‘Soul’ and the Purpose-Driven Generation

Disney Pixar’s latest film reminds us that life is meaningful beyond achieving our goals or saving the world.

Joe Gardner has always felt like he was “born to play” jazz piano. When he fulfills his dream of playing with famous saxophonist Dorothea Williams, he asks her, “So, what happens next?” She responds: “We come back tomorrow night and do it all again.” Despondently, Joe confesses, “I’ve been waiting on this day for my entire life. I thought I’d feel different.”

Disney Pixar’s Soul offers a surprisingly heady philosophical message to a distressed generation that is trying to find purpose through meaningful work. The film’s main insight is something Christians already know: There’s more to life than our accomplishments. In fact, this realization is what inspired the film’s concept, according to director Pete Docter. After completing the popular Pixar film Inside Out, he was left wondering what was next. “I realized that as wonderful as these projects are, there’s more to living than a singular passion,” Docter said. “Sometimes the small insignificant things are what it’s really about.”

Docter’s message is embodied in the character of Joe Gardner, a part-time music teacher who has greater aspirations to perform professionally as a jazz pianist. His whole life is encumbered with reaching this one goal, but when he finally gets his break, Joe takes an unfortunate fall that nearly destroys his dream—casting him into the afterlife.

The afterlife consists of two parts: the Great Before and the Great Beyond. Joe finds himself in the Great Before—a place where new souls find their personalities and their “spark”—activities or experiences that captivate the imagination. There, he meets …

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