Did Jamie Foxx Play the Piano in Disney’s ‘Soul’?

Jamie Foxx is an incredibly gifted actor. He has delivered stellar performances in films of nearly every genre, proving that his talents are versatile and unique. The Grammy and Oscar-winner recently lent his voice to the animated film, Soul. He was the first Black lead in a Disney-Pixar film, and he opened up to Variety about the experience. 

‘Soul’ is a jazzy trip into the afterlife

Soul presented the powerhouse Pixar animation team with a sizable artistic challenge. They needed to create imagery throughout the film that accurately represented the essence of jazz music. The team also had to come up with a way to pull the audience into the act of composing the music, a visual representation of the beauty of the process.

The film’s director and writers also had their work cut out for them. They wanted to properly portray the life of a jazz musician, so they delved deep into research before creating their story. The filmmakers collaborated with several jazz musicians, visiting nightclubs around New York City and immersing themselves in that world. 

They learned how these jazz musicians got started in the business, where they studied music, and whether they worked other jobs. The animators studied the way the piano players moved when they were playing, so they could model the lead character after them.

Pixar strives for authenticity with every film they make. Incredibly, they were able to digitally save the notes being played on the soundtrack, and program them into the animation. That means the notes the character played in the animation matched the real notes being played on the piano. They certainly hit the mark with Soul, delivering an authentic musical experience unlike any other. 

Who did Jamie Foxx play in ‘Soul’?

Jamie Foxx attends the 2018 Fox Network Upfront at Wollman Rink, Central Park on May 14, 2018 in New York City.
Jamie Foxx | Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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Foxx portrayed Joe Gardner, a middle school teacher by day, but a jazz musician by night. Joe’s passion is jazz music, and he’s been waiting his whole life to get his big break. The film is set in New York City, a place known for its bustling nightlife and incredible musicians.

When Joe hears about open auditions for the band of his favorite jazz singer, Dorothea Williams, he jumps at the chance. He has an incredible audition and his dreams are finally within his grasp–he lands the open spot in the band. Unfortunately, the rest of Joe’s day doesn’t go so well–he falls down a manhole. 

Like Alice down the rabbit hole, Joe finds himself in a very strange place. He’s heading toward the “Great Beyond”–a place that’s pretty self-explanatory. He’s not ready to head there before enjoying his big break, however, so he tries to escape. He successfully avoids moving on, but inadvertently gets stuck in the “Great Before,” a place where souls are preparing for life. 

Joe must find a way to return to Earth to fulfill his dream of being a jazz musician. He meets a cynical soul named “22”, and attempts to help her find her spark, which will bring her to life. The two embark on an interesting journey, and Joe learns important lessons that ultimately help him appreciate life in a new way. 

Jamie Foxx is the first Black lead in a Disney-Pixar film

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In a recent interview with Variety, Foxx opened up about how it felt to be the first Black lead in a Disney-Pixar film. Foxx was proud to be a part of the film that focuses largely on Black culture, through the life of its lead character and the incredible jazz music infused throughout the story. 

Foxx credits co-director and co-writer Kemp Powers with the authenticity of the film’s characters. He mentioned how Powers included shots of barber shops, insisting that Joe have the right haircut–“When we’ve got to get a cut, that’s a cultural thing.”

The creative team worked diligently to accurately portray the appropriate culture, taking great care to avoid caricature, tropes, and stereotypes. They wanted to create a film that would move the audience, while celebrating the beauty of jazz music. Foxx once again delivered a phenomenal performance, taking us on a beautiful journey that makes us appreciate the little things in life.