'Soul': Director Pete Docter reveals 'It's a Wonderful Life' inspiration (exclusive)

Freda Cooper
·Contributor
·3 min read

Watch: Pixar’s Pete Docter reveals festive inspiration for Soul

As Pixar’s Soul prepares to make its Christmas Day debut on Disney+, its Oscar-winning director Pete Docter, has told Yahoo Movies UK how the film was inspired by classic movies – including festive favourite, It’s A Wonderful Life.

As part of the research for the film “we looked at It’s A Wonderful Life quite a bit,” the Inside Out director revealed. “We paired it with A Christmas Carol and there are similarities and differences with both films.”

But he also pointed out there was one important difference between his film and the Frank Capra evergreen.

Read more: It’s a Wonderful Life named best Christmas movie

“There’s a lot of classic films that deal with what happens after life. Our film deals mainly with what happens before we are born, which is something not a lot of films, or religions, talk about. So we got to make it up!”

Soul (Credit: Disney)
Soul sees Joe visiting the Great Before, a place where soul's get their character before they are born. (Credit: Disney)

At the centre of Soul is Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a music teacher with dreams of making it as a jazz pianist and, as he reaches middle age, gets his big chance. But an accident looks like stealing that away, taking him into the Great Before, with seemingly no chance of getting back to his original life.

Yet looking after a difficult lost soul gives him the opportunity he so desperately needs to make the most of his life.

Read more: The best Christmas films on Disney+

While the film takes inspiration from great films of the past, the animation techniques in Soul belong very much to 2020. Producer Dana Murray described how new technology was used to create the figures for the non-physical, formless souls living in the Great Before. “We added some line work around the figures, so you could see around their hands,” she said.

Soul sees Joe living his busy life in a bustling New York City. (Disney)
Soul sees Joe living his busy life in a bustling New York City. (Disney)

The fast moving New York crowd sequences stemmed from visits to the city. As Docter explained, “It has the most diversity of anywhere, maybe except London, and we wanted to make sure we captured the people and the architecture as accurately as we could.”

Set for a cinema release last month, Soul shifted to Disney+ as a result of the continued problems resulting from the pandemic, a decision that Docter described as “tough”.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 18: Pete Docter attends the premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Onward" on February 18, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Pete Docter attends the premiere of Disney and Pixar's "Onward" on February 18, 2020. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

But he hoped that audiences watching the movie on smaller screens would take some inspiration from the movie.

“People are stuck at home, they’re often in very difficult financial situations and so forth, so if this film can bring a little bit of an uplift into their lives, that’s all we can ask.”

Soul is released on Disney+ on Christmas Day. Watch a trailer below.