NEW YORK -- "Soul," the latest movie from Disney and Pixar, is being called a "captivating journey" and a "joy to behold," and it is being released to almost universal praise from the critics.
"Soul" was originally supposed to be released on the big screen last month, but with so many theaters still closed, it's being streamed on Disney+ starting on Christmas Day.
This lyrical movie takes its place in the pantheon of great Pixar films, and it will enchant all ages. Kids will delight in its unique imagery and amusing characters, while their parents will also appreciate that "Soul" is not afraid to contemplate big questions like "What makes a meaningful life?"
"Music is my reason for living," says the protagonist, Joe Gardner, a music teacher from Queens who dreams of making it big as a jazz pianist.
In "Soul," he gets his chance until things go seriously awry. The voice of Jamie Foxx gives Joe life, and the star makes history in the process as the first African American lead in a Pixar film. His reaction?
"I mean, that's really high grass," he said. "That's a high mark."
Pete Doctor directs alongside Kemp Powers, who explains that "Joe's a New Yorker. He's from Queens, and I am actually from New York, so I wanted to make sure all the New Yorkers out there recognized the world of Joe Gardner."
After learning he will get his shot as the sideman to a famous singer played by Angela Bassett, Joe tumbles down an open manhole in Manhattan and finds himself on the way out of the land of the living and headed on a long procession headed towards the Afterlife -- but he escapes and finds himself in the Great Before, where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to earth.
There, he meets "22," a soul given life by Tina Fey, who Joe starts to mentor as a way of getting himself back to New York City.
"I felt so excited when I saw '22' animated for the first time, because they make your performance better," Fey said. "(Pixar takes) what you did and they just amplify it and make your timing better, and you're certainly much cuter. It's a gift."
"Soul" is all about finding your own spark, a passion to power you forward through life. Fey found her spark as a teenager.
"I had a teacher eighth grade who circled on my creative writing paper and say, 'You are a writer. You should be a writer when you grow up,'" she said. "That was a really specific moment."
She grew up to write for "Saturday Night Live" and write scripts for movies like "Mean Girls" and the Broadway show based on that big hit. She provides many of the big laughs here as the comic foil for Foxx, who is clearly no slouch when it comes to comedy.
"Soul" premieres Christmas Day on Disney+. The virtual red-carpet premiere, presented by Verizon, kicks off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26, on a host of social channels, including:
This ABC station is owned by the same parent company as Disney and Pixar.