The Other Side of Animation 256: Turning Red Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

The fact of the matter is that there needs to be more diverse stories being told in film and animation, and there needs to be a bigger push for more diverse storytellers behind these projects as well. It’s absurd how stubborn some animation studios can be or have been in the past to rely on the same three or so directors for all of their films, and that’s detrimental to actually telling more ambitious and creative stories. Do you think we would be where we are now with films like Into the Spider-Verse, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Encanto, and today’s review of Turning Red if we had the same people in charge of greenlighting every single project? We need this change in the US animation scene, because having the same five or so directors with the same familiar but distinct to their own respective studios’ art styles gets tiring quickly. This is why much of the time, the best animated films that come out every year are from overseas, because they are willing to talk about stuff and do different animation and visual styles that most US studios aren’t willing to tackle. It’s frustrating, because now with studios like Pixar and Sony breaking down the walls that were limiting studios back then, they are now able to let artists and studios go in new directions. I mean, did you see that new Puss in Boots trailer? It looks amazing. Anyway, we are going to talk about Pixar’s newest animated venture with Domee Shi’s Turning Red


Directed by Domee Shi and written by Domee Shi and Julia Cho, we follow the story of Meilin Lee, voiced by Rosalie Chiang. She’s an ambitious, proactive, and extremely realistic teenager living in Toronto with her family and circle of friends. After an absolutely embarrassing moment caused by her mother, Ming Lee, voiced by Sandrah Oh. When she reacts to some drawings in Meilin’s notebook, something changes within Mei overnight. The next morning, she finds out that she has turned into one of the world’s cutest animals, a red panda. After understandably freaking out, she then goes on a journey to find out how she can deal with this new and apparently familial “curse”, and still go on with being a newly appointed teenager and life around her. 



Let’s start with the themes and overall story, because, for some reason, quite a few people, mostly uneducated, had some notoriously bad takes before and after this film’s release. Now then, to the people who said “I can’t relate to the main character.”, let me ask you a question, were you ever a teenager? Unless you are under 13, then you have been a teenager. Do you remember how many corny things you have said and done? How you have tried to be overly perfect in everything you do? What about some embarrassing drawings that you know don’t look good now, but you were super passionate about? Don’t you remember seeing a concert for a particular artist that you thought would be the biggest and most important thing in your life at that point? What about how you thought it would be the end of the world if you didn’t see that one concert, movie, show, or play that one new video game? What about that moment in time when you found your sexual discovery of finding other boys or girls cute and or hot? To the artists who are reading this, do you not remember drawing fanart or writing fanfiction of characters you loved and you “Frankenstein” them together into a story because you could? Turning Red does a fantastic job of capturing the messy era of time that is puberty and becoming a teenager more so than shows like Big Mouth. It’s an extremely awkward time, and one when you are finding things out about yourself that you never quite got until that point in time. The fact some people find this film unrelatable either means they have completely blocked out that part of them growing up, just found the execution of being said teenager not perfect, or are absolutely lying, because just because the character may not be 100% specifically you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find characters relatable. I have reviewed films and shows that are 100% not relating to me, but I find ways to be invested with the entire story or experience. Don’t tell me you can relate to something like a walking toy, a bug, a car voiced by Owen Wilson, and then not a more relatable character like a pre-teen going through puberty and her period. The film’s story also tackles themes of pressure from the toxic familial drama that trickles down through generations, as Mei’s mother Ming also had to deal with that from her mother. Yes, we now have two animated films in a row from Disney that deal with toxic family ideals about perfection and the unhealthy pressure that is put upon the rest of the family. When Mei’s father, Jin talks with her in the third act, you can tell that while he had a more backseat approach to the overarching narrative, his talk with Mei is one of the most crucial story beats about loving yourself, and that means loving the side that’s great and all of the corny dorky awkward sides to it as well. Domee Shee and her team were able to weave such a tapestry of a story that, while it gets bonkers in the third act, was still executing it all with such precise accuracy and everything from the rest of the family members and friends has such nuance to them that it results in one of the most intimate stories ever made at the studio. 




Before we move on though, isn’t it refreshing that an animated film actually acknowledges that periods are a thing? No real sugar coating of it either. This film makes it known that yes, this stuff happens in real life, and there are no attempts to walk around it since everyone is going to deal with it. It’s like how refreshing it is to hear a show or film about zombies actually call them zombies and not some generic marketable word like walkers, or when food competition shows can’t use branded food items and the show has to come up with the bargain bin generic title of those items, but then are actually able to say them. This whole element of the overarching plot due to the metaphorical puberty and period themes is a good sign of how far we have come to talk about this subject in shows and films without it being a weird and frankly gross/punching down punchline. For example, did you know that Disney originally didn’t release Isao Takahata’s masterpiece, Only Yesterday, into the states because one part of the story in a coming-of-age drama talks about the main characters getting periods? It’s a natural element of growing up or something! It only makes that fact so much more aggravating, because Disney was sure as heck glad to get those films over here, but apparently not all of them for some reason. 





Now that we talked about the story, let’s gush about the animation. While it might be similar to last year’s film Luca, Turning Red takes Luca’s art style and amplifies it up to over 100%. This is hands-down some of Pixar’s most expressive animation. It’s ridiculous how much blood, sweat, and possible satanic goat rituals the talented animators have to go through at Pixar to really push the envelope with how expressive their characters can be. It has a really fast-paced snap to how Mei reacts to everything alongside the other side characters. There is definitely some of that Sony Pictures Animation snap to the movements, and the ease with which it puts you into the mindset of Mei when her mother either embarrasseds her in front of everyone at the convenience store or when her mom brings pads to school, even simply seeing the food on the family dinner table. They even add so many small 2D elements to the CGI models, like the sparkly anime eyes trope. When they get to the spiritual bamboo forest sequences, they look less like CGI forests and more like beautifully lush painted environments. It brings such an alluring and out-of-this-world atmosphere. All of Toronto really reminds me of the pastel colors you would see in a Kirby game and how full of character and life it is. It’s so cool to see that we are now in a space where CGI can have these new techniques and tools to bring the next step in CGI animation up to the plate. Sure, The Peanuts Movie and Into the Spider-Verse got the ball rolling, but to see how everyone has taken notice and want to do the same thing is such a nice change of pace, when back in the day and even as early as the last decade, everyone wanted to try and be that one studio when they should have been doing their own thing. Now, studios are doing their own thing and being the best they can be at what they do, but everyone gets to have more fun with taking the animation game to the next level! Who cares at the end of the day who started it first, let’s just enjoy the fact the US animation scene is growing. 


Anyway, the voice cast is fantastic! The people in charge of casting at Pixar tend to always pick who would best fit the character, instead of who would get the most buzz for marketing and social media. Not to say they get no big-named actors, because a lot of the actors in this film are recognizable, but the fact they aren’t slammed in your face via the marketing is always going to feel refreshing. The actors they did get though, do a fantastic job with their characters. You get Rosalie Chiang as Mei who brings this delightful energy and driving force to the plot. Sandra Oh is always amazing in whatever she is cast, Orion Lee brings a nurturing and quirky nature to the dad, it’s always a good time when you bring James Hong into the equation, Wai Ching Hu is complex and captivating as Mei’s grandmother, and Ava Morse, Hyien Park, and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan do such a pitch-perfect job as Mei’s friends. The music that is composed by Ludwig Goransson was able to perfectly capture the films’ tone and the world of early 2000s Toronto. The boy-band tunes that are played throughout the film were composed by Billie Eilish and her brother, and they are shockingly good. They really capture the era of boy-bands the world was enjoying at that point in time. 

There are a few story beats that could have been resolved better in the third act, but they are minor nitpicks, since this reviewer personally found that it hits the landing to make up for some of the small story beats and some clunky writing moments. Turning Red is a new step in the evolution of Pixar storytelling. Hopefully, they hire more new talent among their already immensely talented teams of animators to keep pushing the envelope of animated storytelling because as we have seen, when studios do that, others tend to follow with their own takes. It’s an early frontrunner for the best animated film of 2022 so far, and this year is stacked, so we will have to see where things go from here. Now then, let’s talk about an anime franchise film! The next one up will be the brand new and hugely successful Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Essentials

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Finale

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Good gravy, let’s finally get this one out of the way! Here were my top 10 favorite animated films from 2020! If you haven’t seen part 1, part 2, or part 3, I will make sure to hyperlink them. I apologize that life got in the way of making this one happen so late. 



10. The Wonderland 

While Keiichi Hara’s follow-up to one of my favorite films of 2016 Miss Hokusai doesn’t quite reach that level of quality, his new film, The Wonderland is still a whimsical adventure via a coming-of-age tale. It has some truly beautiful landscapes and a creative fantastical world that may be Hara’s own take on Alice in Wonderland. The villain isn’t the most interesting, and there are some jokes and moments that irked me, but I was so happy to catch this film before everything came crashing down with the pandemic. 

9. The Willoughbys 

This dark family comedy may suffer from a majority of the children in this family being underdeveloped in favor of the oldest son getting the majority of the development, but considering how little came out during the pandemic, I’ll take an overall vibrant and funny experience. What it may lack in some story strength makes up for some of 2020’s most vibrant CGI stop-motion-style animation, some very clever jokes, a fantastic cast, and it was just another step in showing what kind of experiences Netflix, flaws and all, are going to be offering in the feature animation scene. 

8. The Croods: A New Age

While I wouldn’t call 2020 or 2021’s DreamWorks’ best year for animation, out of their four recent films that they have released, The Croods: A New Age is their best one since 2019’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Who would have thought that a sequel that was in start/stop production hell would actually result in one of the better DreamWorks sequels? They expand on the world, the new characters are likable and bring in some substance to the overall story, the jokes are more creative, and the sequel leaning into the more absurd world that the story takes place in leads to a better overall product. I don’t know what they could do with a follow-up film, but if it’s as much fun to watch as this one, I wouldn’t mind seeing a third film. 

7. On Gaku: Our Sound 

While Lupin III: The First and Wolfwalkers were going to always be the more approachable GKIDS-distributed films of 2020, I still wish On Gaku: Our Sound had received more love. It’s a truly, by the definition, indie animated feature among the bountiful animation scene in Japan. Its offbeat atmosphere, quirky humor, and laid-back approachable story stick out from the flashier big-budget fare. That many of the people working on this were first-time animators is an impressive feat and while the use of rotoscope is obvious, the fact there is no other film quite like it out in 2020 is impressive and rather fun. It’s a film that introduces a real deal shot in the arm that the animation scene always needs. 

6. Lupin III: The First 

I remember how worried I was to see the franchise’s first step into CGI, and boy howdy, they didn’t miss a beat. Not only is it a fantastic foray into CGI animation, but it’s also a Lupin story that’s actually compelling and entertaining! For those that are fans of the franchise, getting both good animation and a good story isn’t always a given or is balanced with each film and special. With the return of the iconic dub cast, thrilling action, stellar writing, and some of the best CGI from Japan, Lupin III: The First shows a promising future for the franchise and the future of theatrical CGI animation from Japan. 

5. Onward

Remember when everyone was dunking on this film, and then everyone ended up liking it? I sure do. While it might not be one of the higher-end Pixar films, this touching story about two brothers and their journey to strengthen their bond and to try to get some closure with their dead father does elevate it as one of the more intimate and personal Pixar stories. The fantasy element even has a fun way of approaching the metaphorical and literal theme of losing and finding magic in life. It’s a film that has gotten better on rewatch, and I feel badly that it became one of the first victims of the pandemic. 

4. Over the Moon 

Netflix had a tough challenge of following up their acclaimed year of animation from 2019 where they had both I Lost My Body and Klaus, so Over the Moon was such a surprise with how much I fell in love with it. It is a touching story about grief, personal change, and dealing with loss, with some fantastic music, vibrant animation, and a fantastic lead. It was directed by Glen Keane, and this was his first time directing a feature film! Over the Moon also has a very witty script from Keane and the late great Audrey Wells. It also gets bonus points for having moments of gorgeous 2D animation. With Pearl Studios now on their own, making films with a promising lineup of future projects in the works, Over the Moon was an out-of-this-world first impression of what they could do after their relationship with DreamWorks ended. 

3. Ride Your Wave 

Masaaki Yuasa is a master director. I mean, I could leave it at that, but that wouldn’t be super satisfying as this is, until we finally see Inu-Oh this year, his best and most approachable movie. It’s a romance that of course has its own Yuasa twist that makes it his take on the “Shape of Water” romance perspective about a college girl finding her way in life. It even has the tamest visuals of Yuasa and Science Saru’s work. You can tell they toned it down from the immense visual overload that was 2004’s Mindgame and his more recent work with Lu Over the Wall and The Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Whether you like his more out-there premises or his more grounded ones, Ride Your Wave should be in your animation collection. 

2. Soul 

Even with a year like 2020, having a Cartoon Saloon, a Peter Doctor/Kemp Powers Pixar film, and a Yuasa film in the top three spots should be a sign of how good the good stuff was. There are definitely some understandable arguments about some of this film’s execution of plot points, and I understand where they are coming from with some of them, and maybe it’s because 2020 was just an entire mood year, Soul hit many people in a way that most animated films, Pixar or otherwise, do. Until Disney and Pixar can break the chains and do more adult-tinted animated features, this is the most adult film Pixar has ever put out, with an extremely philosophical story about life and what drives a person. With earworm tunes, an incredible performance from Jamie Foxx, and a rather ethereal tone, Soul ranks up as one of Pixar’s best. 

1. Wolfwalkers 

I mean, was there any shock here that it would be number 1? While it is technically tied with Soul, there is just something extremely special anytime we get a Cartoon Saloon film. It has some of the studio’s best animation yet, with its mix of gorgeous 2D visuals and rough pencil style reminiscent of the 70s and 80s Disney/Don Bluth that looks like it was filmed on wood grain. It is a touching story about two young girls, the themes of discrimination, anti-colonialism, sexism, freedom, family, and environmentalism, Wolfwalkers stands out from the pack in a year that had very little competition for the major titles everyone was looking forward to. Now, I do wish they would simply sell Wolfwalkers as an individual release instead of holding it hostage with Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, though seriously, pay for an AppleTV+ subscription and watch this incredible flick.

The Other Side of Animation 212: Raya and the Last Dragon Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s easy to forget, but Disney was not always this giant monster of a company that it is today. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t this big of a behemoth. Back when Walt Disney died, they hit a real dark spot, and while they clawed their way out of that dark spot during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, they then fell into another real dark spot in the 2000s. They hit a bad streak and probably one that was much more damaging during the early 2000s than the original Disney Dark Age, because of bad business practices. Almost every single animated film they put out during that period underperformed or downright bombed. When they felt like they needed to chase the trend of other studios coming to power like DreamWorks and Pixar, they fell apart. They lost who they were as filmmakers, and they let down the multiple talented artists that worked for them. While they still have problems with owning a bit too much of everything, it would be a lie to say they are artistically worse than they were back then. Sure, their live-action remakes are not all great, but their animation game has stepped up, and while you can argue about the quality of some of them like Frozen II and Ralph Breaks the Internet (they aren’t my favorites of the last decade, but if you think these were the worst, then you haven’t seen enough animated movies from outside the big film sphere), they have had more hits than misses, and that’s healthy for a company as problematically big as Disney. I won’t be supportive of some of their business elements, or the fact they shut down studios, and bury their non-inhouse-made films, but when they make a film I like, I am going to be supportive of it. For example, let’s talk about their recent film, Raya and the Last Dragon

Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and Don Hall, produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, and written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, this is the newest animated feature from the giant studio that was supposed to have come out last year, but the pandemic screwed over that release, and was recently released on March 5th via a theatrical/Disney+ premier access release strategy. This is Disney’s 59th animated feature. So, what do I think about it? I think you will need to read the review to find out! 

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Our story revolves around Raya, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. She lives in the land of Kumandra, a land that was once prosperous but is now a barren wasteland due to a corporeal force known as the Druun. The Druun were taken care of due to the sacrifice made by the dragons. Kumandra was then separated into a set of kingdoms with their own ways of living and ideals. When Raya was young, her father attempted to bring the different kingdoms together, but that plan failed when the gem that was keeping the Druun sealed away broke, and essentially all of human civilization was screwed over. Years later, as an adult, Raya sets out to find the dragon that saved the humans back in the day. The good news is that she does find the dragon named Sisu, voiced by Awkwafhina. The bad news is that Sisu wasn’t technically the dragon that saved humanity. It is up to Raya and Sisu to reclaim the broken gemstones and reform the orb to destroy the Druun and bring everyone together. 

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So, this is Disney’s first original animated feature (not counting Pixar) since 2016’s Zootopia and Moana. It is kind of insane that it’s been that long. Luckily, their original animated features are still pretty strong. The main themes that are approached in this film are dealing with grief, loss, and trust. Throughout the entire runtime, you see many of the characters approach these themes in varying ways. Raya is not trusting of anyone, while her father was overly hopeful when she was younger. Even when Raya is searching for the last dragon, she was about to pull her sword out when she thought she saw some bandits that turned out to be people who turned to stone due to the Druun. It’s an interesting dynamic to see Raya bounce off of Sisu, Raya bounce off of Namaari, Raya bounce off of Noi and Buon, and you get the idea. You even see the darker sides of trust not only through Raya but characters like the Tail Chief. Seeing them deal with grief and loss is also eye-opening with how each of the main characters handles who they lost due to the Druun. A lot of the payoff with these themes and arcs feel very satisfying and that’s due to strong characters. Raya is a fantastic lead and Kelly Marie Tran pulls off her first major lead performance in a film. Awkwafhina as Sisu is divisive, but I don’t find her as annoying as previous comedic main characters, and if you know Disney’s other 58 feature films, there are much worse ones than Sisu. I love how Sisu is built up to be the key to solving the problems of the Druun, but she isn’t. She’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the end all be all. It’s up to the human characters to take what Sisu is requesting and do it on their own. Sisu also encapsulates these themes with her guilt and dealing with the loss of her dragon kind. While characters like Buon, voiced by Izaac Wang, and Noi, voiced by Thalia Tran are great twists on the kid characters, I think my favorite side character is Tong, voiced by Benedict Wong. He has some of my favorite story beats and is a delightful twist on the giant buff guy warrior. A lot of his moments show off great character animation and there is more storytelling within the film if you watch the animation unfold. 

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Speaking of animation, I think Disney has hit the next level in their animation game. While I think they have always had good CGI animation (outside of Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, but they were starting late at that point), they hit a point where some of the weak elements were revealing themselves. Now they have upped their texture work, their human designs look the best since Tangled, and their body types have improved as well. Everyone has distinct movements, the action is stellar, and it shows why Disney has some of the most top-tier animation talents in the world. Seriously, when was the last time you saw some great action in a Disney film? The hand-to-hand combat has weight and is choreographed with excellent precision. The music by James Newton Howard, the same composer behind Pretty WomanThe FugitiveWaterworldThe Sixth SenseDinosaurAtlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet, is grand. I adore the epic scale and the intimate tunes found within the film. I dig that they also collaborated with Filipina singer KZ Tandingan, and she sounds fantastic. The voice cast is also pretty stellar. What I usually like about Disney animation casting is that they chose actors that fit the role. They don’t just go by who’s the biggest names they can get, which is something that has plagued animated features since everyone took the wrong lesson from Robin Williams in Aladdin, resulting in films hirings big names simply for the sake of big names. The cast including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandrah Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, and Alan Tudyk all are pretty good in their roles. I dug their overall performances with the script, and while I didn’t laugh at every joke that they threw at me, I still had a few chuckles that made me laugh.  

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I don’t have any major complaints. Like, sure, some of the dialogue is a touch modern, but I’ve seen films that are in classical fantastical settings do worse. Namaari could have had a bit more time for her to be fleshed out, but I still love her dynamic with Raya and the small beats with her mother. I think in the end, whatever I could criticize, there is something to counterbalance it. I could go into what they did right or wrong with the Southeast Asian culture and their combining of multiple elements, but that’s not my place or my knowledge, and I don’t want to armchair diagnose any of the cultural elements. 

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All I can do is judge this film as a film, and, well, I loved it. It’s so refreshing to see an original film from Disney Animation that isn’t a sequel, and while I am bummed it’s underperforming, I don’t blame any film underperforming since we are still in a pandemic. If you feel like it’s safe to go to a theater, then go check it out that way, otherwise, you should either wait for it to be free on Disney+ or bite the bullet and spend the Premier Access price for it. At least it’s one time and it’s tied to your account. Either way, Raya is one of my favorite films of the year so far, and I can’t wait to see where it ebbs and flows on my Best to Worst list of 2021. Now then, let’s dive into some foreign animation goodness with The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily


Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential Viewing

The Other Side of Animation 200: Soul Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

HEADS UP: I was able to watch this film thanks to Disney via a screener. Enjoy the review!

It all started back in September 2015. I wrote my first review of Ernest & Celestine, one of my favorite films of all time, and one of my all-time favorite animated films period. I made it a goal to cover everything out there that wasn’t Disney and Pixar. I chose to exclude those two because I wouldn’t have that much else to add to the discourse. I usually love their animated features, but I tend to dislike the ones that are the obvious bad eggs of the bunch. My goal was to talk about animated films that were under the radar or talk about the other big animated films. Well, it’s been five years, and why not break some rules? From now on, I’ll drop a review of an animated film from Disney and/or Pixar from time to time on my site. Why? Because as much as I love showing off animated films from around the world, from other companies, and introducing you all to these amazing wonders that are made by hand or by computer, sometimes, I want to indulge in what everyone else is seeing. So, how about we make this 200th review the newest Pixar film, Soul

Directed by Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers, and written by Doctor, Powers, and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature and the first feature film from the company to have a black co-director and a predominantly black cast. It was originally scheduled to be released back in June 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was delayed and then controversially given a Disney+ release. Luckily, unlike Mulan 2020, it didn’t cost extra. So, was there any real worry about this film hitting the streaming service? Nope! Let’s dive in! 

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Soul follows our main character Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx. Joe is a music teacher who dreams of being a famous jazz pianist and playing with one of the big players in the music world. One day, he auditions with one of the biggest jazz musicians around, Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett. After he succeeds in the audition, he exudes his happiness across the city until he falls into an open manhole. Through some obvious denial of dying or being close to death, Joe ends up in a realm where souls are made and get their personalities. He encounters a soul named 22, voiced by Tina Fey, who has been there for who knows how long, and doesn’t want to leave and go to earth. Joe then makes a deal with 22 that if he can find her spark, she will give Joe her patch to let him come back to life. Can Joe fulfill this fairly heady and philosophical task? Will he be able to fulfill his love for jazz? Or will Joe and 22 find something new that gives their life that spark? 

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So, from every review you may have read about this film, this is Pixar’s most mature film. It’s not mature in the sense that people swear and there is a lot of violence. That would honestly be interesting to see what Pixar could do with an actual PG-13 or R-rated film. Anyway, this is mature in the sense that the film is exceptionally heady. I mean, when you are a film about life, love, death, finding your spark, and very ethereal concepts about, well, the human experience and soul, it’s going to be not the most child-friendly tone. However, while it might not outwardly be the most approachable film for super young kids, I think everyone needs to see Soul. It’s a story that juggles a lot of these concepts, and finds incredible ways to execute the ideas given to the audience. What does “before-life” look like? Are you born with that spark? What happens when you find that spark? Is it the same goal or passion you started with? What makes you, well, you? What happens when you become too stressed out or too worn out by finding your passion? What does your soul look like when this happens? It’s a film that wants to tackle some heavy topics, and I admire the heck out of that. So many animation “fans” ask and “demand” animated films to be “taken seriously”. Well, this is the film you want then. I mean, in my opinion, animated films made in the US can be any genre, but that’s beside the point. 

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This would all be for naught if the characters didn’t work, and boy howdy do I love the cast. I think while this film can be approachable by all, it’s focused on a somewhat older audience. I think it’s amusing that we have a main character who is middle-aged. I know some people think animated films that want to be seen by kids and families should have child-like protagonists, but I disagree. You can tell stories with characters of all ages. I like that we have a middle-aged hero. It feels different. The characters have great chemistry, and I loved seeing Joe and 22 together as 22 slowly finds that spark. The film is full of multiple memorable characters, from the spirit counselors to the side characters. Even characters you see in only one scene leave an impression. One of my favorite scenes in the entire film is when Joe and 22 go to the barbershop and we meet Dez, who is voiced by Donnell Rawlings. Not only does it do a good job of adding to the overall black experience and culture, but it’s also one of the most thematically important scenes in the film. The spirit counselors are also a lot of fun to watch, and have some of the best lines in the movie. I admire that there is no real bad guy. I adore animated films that do the “there is no real bad guy, but everyone is flawed” thing. 

*small spoiler talk here*

With all that said, I know one scene may rub some people the wrong way, where 22 ends up in Joe’s body while Joe ends up in the body of a cat. I think if this was handled by any other studio, it would have looked really bad for understandable reasons. What does save this scene, and I think Kemp and Pete handle this well with making souls non-binary with no real gender, race, or sex identification. I think this is the first Pixar film to have non-binary characters. Plus, this point of the film is for Joe to see life and passion from a different perspective. However, if you agree or disagree with me on this point, that’s perfectly fine, and I get if some people may or may not get rubbed the wrong way from it.

*Small spoiler talk ends here* 

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Speaking of the cast, the voice cast is pretty great. An element that I love about Pixar and Disney animated film casting is that they don’t rely on the hype of the big names they get. They do rely on big names, but it’s never the selling point, unlike some films that make it priority number one like Rango having Johnny Depp. The cast including Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, Angela Bassett, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Wes Studi, Fortune Femster, Enobia Shroff, Donnell Rawlings, June Squibb, Ester Chae, and other big names like Cody Chestnutt making small cameos, brings so much life to the story, and I admire how predominantly black this cast is. The dialogue is complex, funny, heartfelt, and real. No one is relying on hip modern lingo, or is trying too hard to stand out. 

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I’m a little shocked it’s taken this long in the review to talk about the stellar animation. It’s incredible. From the textures, the lighting, and the hair physics, the characters look incredible. I like that the design work for humans is at a point where we can make consistently good-looking humans with CGI animation. All it takes is a little elbow grease and the right art style. I love the designs for the spirit counselors, and I’m curious as to how challenging they were to tackle, due to them being essentially flat abstract lines. The worlds that they create are fully realized, and show some of the best animation and sequences out of any Pixar film. The music that is composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is full of whimsical delights, and ethereal tracks that make you feel otherworldly. Even Cody Chestnutt has a song in the film that melts my heart with love each time I listen to it. The more jazz and soul music used in the film was by Jon Batiste, and man, I adored the music from top to bottom. It’s easily one of my favorite Disney soundtracks. 

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I don’t know what else I could say. Soul is one of Disney and Pixar’s best films. I would argue it’s one of the most ambitious animated films of all time. Will I be shocked or hate anyone who doesn’t love the film? Of course not! However, if you want to join the discussion about it, I recommend watching this film and coming up with your own opinions and observations. Who knows, maybe you will find something that I didn’t notice for the first time. If this doesn’t convince you to support this film and watch it, then I don’t know what will. Well, I’m glad I decided to make this my first Pixar and Disney film to review. Now then, it’s time to go back to what I specialize in and also love talking about, foreign animation. Next time, we will be talking about Lupin III: The First

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Criterion/Essentials!