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Pixar’s ‘Soul’ will drop on Christmas Day, but not in theaters

Another big-tent film will bypass theaters, this time for the wildy successful Disney Plus.
 
This image released by Disney-Pixar shows the character Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, left, and Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett, in a scene from the animated film "Soul."
This image released by Disney-Pixar shows the character Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, left, and Dorothea Williams, voiced by Angela Bassett, in a scene from the animated film "Soul." [ Disney Pixar ]
Published Dec. 22, 2020|Updated Dec. 22, 2020

Normally Christmas Day would be a busy one in the movie theaters, with families flocking to one of the year’s biggest releases.

But Pixar’s new animated feature Soul is another 2020 big-tent film to bypass a theatrical release. The reviews have been strong for a story that follows a middle school band teacher, voiced by Jamie Foxx, who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at New York’s best jazz club. But one small misstep sends him to the “Great Before” — a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities before they go to Earth.

The character 22, voiced by Tina Fey, left, and Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, in a scene from the animated film "Soul."
The character 22, voiced by Tina Fey, left, and Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, in a scene from the animated film "Soul." [ Disney Pixar ]

In the family film, out Friday on Disney Plus, Foxx’s band teacher Joe Gardner ends up in the place where young souls figure out what they’re passionate about before they’re assigned to a body.

While he’s there, Joe meets a wayward soul named “22,” voiced by Tina Fey, who has no interest in finding her passion or in beginning a life on Earth. Together, they go on a journey that changes their perspectives.

The story line, the first Pixar film to feature a Black lead, seems perfect for 2020.

“Jazz is improvisational music,” said Kemp Powers, the film’s co-director. “One of the things that makes it the perfect metaphor for this film is the idea that you have to take whatever is thrown at you and turn it into something beautiful. That’s like the perfect metaphor for life.”

The success during the pandemic of Disney Plus and other streaming services has shown how the plus sign won the streaming wars, analysts say.

In another sign of confidence, Disney said it would raise its price for Disney Plus in the United States by $1, to $7.99 a month, starting in March.

The rapid growth of Disney Plus — already at 86 million subscribers just one year after its launch — paved the way for Discovery to also adapt a plus sign as well.

“Our research confirmed that the plus sign has become synonymous with streaming video on demand services,” said David Leavy, chief operating officer for Discovery.

Adding the plus sign to an established name is a way to tell consumers that the service carries content that goes beyond what the consumer already associates with the brand. For Disney, that includes projects from Pixar and Marvel, the Star Wars universe, National Geographic programming and the library of 21st Century Fox programs it owns, such as The Simpsons.

Information from the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News was used in this report.