The first 3D animated feature film featuring African descent

Pixar’s 3D cartoon “Spirit of the Soul” was released at the turn of the new year and the old. It can be said to be a dose of chicken soup and placebo for the soul in the post-epidemic era.

The story of “Spiritual Journey” is simple: Joey Gardner, a black middle school music teacher, not only got a full-time faculty position, but also got the coveted opportunity to play piano at the best jazz club in New York. However, at the high point of his life, the so-called happiness creates sorrow. He accidentally fell into the sewer on the streets of New York. His soul escaped from the physical body and went to a fantastic place “the Great Before”. There, young souls receive training from mentors, and they will acquire their own personalities and interests before going to earth. Determined to return to life on Earth, Joey met a precocious soul “Twenty Two” (voiced by Tina Fei), who has never found his interest in human life. As Joey continues to try to show Twenty-two the wonderful things in life, Twenty-two has some insights into some of the ultimate problems in life.

Alternatives in the animation world
In February 1986, Pixar Animation, founded by Ed Catem, John Last, and Bill Reeves, was launched with an investment of US$10 million from Apple founder Stephen Jobs. The headquarters is located near Silicon Valley. Emeryville.

At the beginning of its establishment, Pixar wanted to be an alternative to the animation industry. Unlike the veteran animation giants Disney and DreamWorks, Pixar encourages innovation and uniqueness. Compared with the stories of Disney and DreamWorks, which always tell traditional values ​​and mainstream chicken soup, Pixar seems to know more about entertaining and entertaining, and the world of “unconventional life” with open minds is unique.

Before being acquired by Disney in 2006, Pixar’s works have the personal characteristics of the creator. For example, the founders are all men, and the protagonists in many works are men. Some strange thinking, jokes and bridges show the aesthetics and thinking of a proper straight man and even a man of science and technology.

At that time, Pixar itself had already formed a social phenomenon of the animation creative industry. It uses the world’s most advanced animation technology, the most meticulous market research, and the largest publicity system, allowing creators to reflect the mainstream audience’s preferences and mentality changes from the changes in the drama. This may be the change that Disney brought to Pixar.

Undeniably, “Spiritual Journey” allows us to see the power of American animation technology. For example, the film adopts the ultimate realistic style for real-world scenes, especially New York street scenes. For example, a scene in a New York subway car is highly reproduced in the New York subway car, including those unclean seats, and the lifelike scenes of accidentally bumping into others in a crowded space.

Pixar Animation

At the beginning of its establishment, Pixar wanted to be an alternative to the animation industry.

Indeed, many of Pixar’s animations are very clever to grasp the themes and points that touch the emotions of the audience, and are particularly good at creating clips about dreams and family relationships, which makes people unable to help tears. Pixar’s “Flying House and Traveling Around” and “Dream-seeking Traveling Around” both made the author cry.

But once the overall structure of the script and the logic of the plot are involved, there are some unreasonable points in the work. On the whole, Pixar is really a bit sorry for the good chapters that make people cry, more than shrewd, not true enough. For example, the 9-minute end of “A Journey of Mind” has a sense of renewal. The concept of the expression has been fully expressed before, and the last part is no different from preaching.

Born or joined the world?
The setting of “The Place of Birth” in the film reminds the author of another animated work, “Dream Traveling”, which is also produced by Pixar. The latter also sets up a world where the soul lives, and it also reminds people of the underworld in Chinese stories—the world after death and before reincarnation.

The whole film is too similar to the development route of “Dream Quest”, but the latter part is not pushed up, the characters change bluntly and anticlimactic. Especially the “twenty-two” shaping of children who have been subjected to negative reviews and mentally traumatized is thin and light. Watching the full movie, I especially want to know what kind of shining point in life has 22 been found? The creator does not tell the audience that he is going to shoot a sequel?

In the movie, Twenty-two, who doesn’t want to go to the earth to be reborn and have been lost, the final stage of awakening is realized by the hero Joey. When Joey played the piano, his soul came out of his body, came to the “land of ecstasy” and returned the badge of going to the earth to Twenty Two. Twenty Two was then reborn. As a result, character creation lacks a link of internal motivation for transformation, and becomes thin and levelless. Twenty-two reliance on the male lead cannot support the weight of the role given to her by the movie.

In addition, the epiphany of the actor Joey is also a bit sudden. Joey has wanted to perform jazz for many years, ambivalent between a steady teaching position and a hobby of night club playing. When he finally got a chance to perform a successful performance, he became enlightened about the meaning of life: it turned out that the feeling of success was nothing but that! Why did I work so hard before? …For ordinary audiences, he had an epiphany too quickly and lacked the foundation for transformation. He just took a small step and began to float. It makes people wonder whether he really loves jazz or is he pursuing the so-called success that it brings to himself?

In the film, the people from “The Place of Birth” tell Joey that the shining point of life is not the meaning and purpose of life. This seems to mean that not everyone has to fight for the so-called dream. The value that the film tries to convey is: Don’t be kidnapped by the grand value of life and passion, but cherish the present.

In the movie, this so-called “living in the moment” theme is as if chasing dreams, goals, and meanings are bound to be lost. In fact, as long as you make sure that you live with your heart, instead of being kidnapped by others and the values ​​of society to pursue success in the eyes of others, you can “live in the moment”. From this point of view, the film did not explain its main point, but left a simple and one-sided impression.

Conform to American political correctness
Although it’s not perfect, “Spiritual Journey” was born and followed the trend. In May 2020, a white American police officer pressed a black man with poison in his body to the ground, which indirectly caused his death, triggering a raging “black life and precious” protest movement. In American society where racial discrimination is still serious, “Spiritual Journey” is an extremely politically correct work.

Joey, the protagonist in the film, and his family and friends are all black. The jazz that the male protagonist is keen to play is also a black culture’s contribution to American popular culture. Even the tramp who plays in the subway is also a black. In the works, we learn about the life and culture of blacks, the struggles and dreams of blacks through the male protagonist. For example, in the barbershop he often goes to, the barber’s pursuit of life and the compromise of reality.

“Spiritual Journey” stills

“Spiritual Journey” stills

The creator of the famous painting “Banjo Lesson”, which hangs prominently in Joey’s house, is the famous African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was later regarded as a pioneer in the Renaissance in Harlem, an African-American community in New York ( In the 1920s, the African-American cultural elites living here joined forces to challenge the racial discrimination in mainstream white society). In this painting, the banjo played by the two African ancestors and grandchildren was always played by white people.

“Spiritual Journey” is an exceptionally politically correct work.

This film is Pixar’s first animated feature film featuring African Americans as the protagonist. In order to accurately represent the social culture of African descent, Pixar specially invited a number of cultural consultants, especially the African-American filmmaker Camp Bowworth as the co-director and screenwriter of the film. The barber shop in the film is a highly restored New York barber shop that Powers often visits and mainly serves African residents.

In addition, the animation dubbing is mainly based on jazz and electronic music (hip-hop, R&B and rock songs are also inserted in the middle). Among them, jazz is performed by African-American musician Jon Baptiste, and includes several improvisations, corresponding to the real world in the movie.

Only when you have been sick or injured can you know the importance of health; only when you have been isolated from the world can you understand the joy and excitement of social life; only once with death can you comprehend the beauty of life and even begin to search for life The purpose and meaning of…

This is what “Spiritual Journey” wants to say, but its way of reasoning is a bit awkward.