We received “The Art of Soul” to review. The book is based on the upcoming film Soul, which will be debuting on Disney+ Christmas day (it was originally to be released in theaters this year). Current reviews on the movie are at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and I expect the book will make a meaningful addition to many bookshelves this season. The Art of Soul is the latest in the popular and longstanding Art of series from Chronicle Books.
The inside jacket cover text starts out, “This might be the best day of Joe Gardner’s life. A disgruntled middle school music teacher, Joe is finally given the big break he’s been waiting for: the chance to play a gig with Dorthea Williams and fulfill his calling of becoming a professional jazz musician. That is, until an unexpected accident changes everything”.
The foreword is written beautifully by Tina Fey, who voices “22” in the film. She shares briefly what Pixar means to her daughters and then talks about the film itself, giving a good synopsis on it – in her own way. For example, calling Soul a “buddy comedy adventure with disembodied buddies” after explaining a bit of the plot.
Part of the introduction is by director Pete Docter, who talks about the challenges of designing an interpretation of what souls would look like. They also wanted the humans in the film to look “unique and different”.
The other part of the introduction is from writer and co-director Kemp Powers. When he joined the Soul team, he was new to animation and new to Pixar and he talks partly about the care that he has seen Pixar put into filmmaking (mentioning one of the most memorable moments for me as well, seeing Sully’s fur move in Monsters Inc.)
In recent years, the Art of books have moved mostly away from a lot of text and focused primarily on the concept art. Small blurbs give information, like that Soul is made up of two complex worlds – New York and Soul World. And the filmmakers had to come up with a simple essence of a person. There is a variety of concept art on the latter.
The Soul crew visited New York jazz clubs to do research. There are sketches of artists with notes.
Part one is about the characters. There are pages on Joe, who is the central character in the film along with members of his family, his apartment and other characters. Part two talks about The Great Beyond, including seeing Joe as a soul.
There are about 175 pages of concept art in The Art of Soul that I look forward to understanding fully once I see the film – the characters, the settings, the two worlds that encompass the movie. There are mild spoilers in the book but it doesn’t tell the full story or ending of the movie.
Official text about The Art of Soul: “In The Art of Soul, this interdimensional film is explored through mesmerizing visuals, including character designs, early concept art, storyboards, color scripts, and much more – all paired with insights from the production team on the creative filmmaking process”.
I always recommend the Chronicle Art of books, I purchased many of them before we ended up on a review list. I always feel like I get more insight into the animated movies I watch by having the books on the shelf. My personal favorite from recent years is probably The Art of Moana, but there are so many terrific choices – including The Art of Soul.
This article includes affiliate links that help support Mousesteps.