The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

Soul co-director says it was "crucial" to accurately portray African American culture in new Pixar film

A number of consultants were brought in, including musician Jon Batiste and playwright Kemp Powers – who eventually became a co-director.

Published: Monday, 21st December 2020 at 12:00 pm

Pixar's latest film Soul is set across two very different worlds –the ethereal and imagined world of The Great Beyond, and the very real world of modern day New York City.


The New York scenes take place primarily in the city's African-American communities, as we follow the journey of jazz lover Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), and the film's co director Pete Docter has said it was of vital importance to portray the community's culture accurately and authentically.

"I think it was crucial," he told "It wouldn't have had the authenticity in the film otherwise, and I think that's the real power – when you see a story that's told well that reflects accurately what's going on in the world, I think that's what lends it strength."

Sign up to Disney+ with an annual subscription for £59.99 or £5.99 a month.

In a bid to ensure that authenticity was present in the script, Docter drafted in successful playwright Kemp Powers to join the writing team, and Powers made such an impact that he ended up as a co-director.

"He came in as a writer first of all," Docter explained. "But then ultimately he just kept contributing so much to the film in terms of what Joe would have up in his apartment, how he would speak with his mother, and not only that but a huge knowledge of music and jazz. So making him a co-director was a natural thing and I think the right thing for the film."

In addition to Powers, a number of other consultants were brought in during development to ensure African-American culture was being portrayed accurately, including musicians Herbie Hancock and Terri Lyne Carrington and and two of the film's stars, Questlove and Daveed Diggs.

Another of those consultants was bandleader Jon Batiste, who composed much of the music for the film's soundtrack. Speaking to, Batiste explained that he was honoured to be involved with the project.


"You know it was an honour for me to be a part of this," he said. "Because I do think it represents so much of the culture and [provides] representation of Black culture and jazz culture, in a way that I think will be appealing to all ages.

"Young people will hear the music in this context and see the beautiful animation and see the storyline, and really feel something that I think hasn't been felt in the context of this kind of music, maybe ever. It's a real honour to have been part of that process."

Soul arrives on Disney+ on Christmas Day 2020. You can sign up to Disney+ with an annual subscription for £59.99 or £5.99 a month.


Check out the best movies on Disney+ and best shows on Disney+ or, if you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.


Sponsored content