The Disney+ exclusive beat out fellow Pixar film Onward to take home the award.

By Christian Holub
April 25, 2021 at 09:43 PM EDT
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Pixar took home another trophy on Sunday as Soul won Best Animated Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards. The Pete Docter-directed film about the afterlife beat out Over the Moon, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmaggedon, Wolfwalkers, and fellow Pixar production Onward to claim its prize as the best animated film of 2020. 

In his acceptance speech, co-director Pete Docter described Soul as "a love letter to jazz." 

In the virtual Oscars press room, Docter elaborated further: "We were looking for something that would be fun to watch, some artist's journey kind of a thing. And jazz, you don't get into jazz to get rich and famous, you do it because you love it. It's a noble pursuit. And then as we got into it, we realized, boy, this has so many relevant features in terms of what life is all about, of using whatever elements are thrown at you, and then using improvisation to make it personal, to make it beautiful, and that just seemed like it fit."

Soul broke ground in many ways. Its release straight to streaming on Disney+, without either the pre-pandemic theatrical berth that fellow Pixar contender Onward got or the prestige payment format for Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon, presaged Warner Bros.' 2021 strategy of releasing new movies on HBO Max.

Soul is also the first Pixar movie to revolve around a Black protagonist, Joe (Jamie Foxx). Though initially directed by Pixar veteran Docter, Star Trek: Discovery writer Kemp Powers was brought in to co-write and co-direct, and Powers really developed the character of Joe. Other Black creators from outside Pixar — including composer Jon Batiste, voice actors Daveed Diggs and Questlove, and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bradford Young — helped develop the movie as well. 

Soul
Credit: Disney/Pixar

"This is the first film not just with a Black protagonist, but there's a whole range of different Black characters with different skin tones," Powers told EW. "There was a large learning curve, I think, for our lighting team, and Bradford came in and consulted with them on a number of occasions."

If you're even more curious about how Soul came together, especially finishing the last phase of its production during the pandemic, a making-of documentary is reportedly coming to Disney+ in the future.

Additional reporting by Devan Coggan.

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