Does Joe Gardner Die in Disney and Pixar’s ‘Soul?’

After months of anticipation, Disney+ subscribers are finally able to watch the music-based animated film, Soul. However, the lines between Joe Gardner’s earthly life and spiritual life are pretty blurred. 

Does Joe Gardner actually die in this animated movie? Here’s a bit of an explanation for the ending of Disney and Pixar’s animated film.

[SPOILER ALERT: This article contains major spoilers from Soul.]

Writer Mike Jones, Co-Director Kemp Powers, Producer Dana Leigh Murray, and Director Pete Docter of 'Soul'
Writer Mike Jones, Co-Director Kemp Powers, Producer Dana Leigh Murray, and Director Pete Docter of Disney and Pixar’s ‘Soul’ | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Disney and Pixar’s ‘Soul’ premiered during December 2020

What makes a person unique? Sometimes it’s their love of music, other times it’s their love of pizza. This animated film tells the story of one middle school music teacher, Joe Gardner, who finally gets the gig of a lifetime, performing with one of his idols. 

His whole dream gets derailed when he falls when a manhole and walks up as a blue “soul.” Technically, though, Joe Gardner doesn’t die in this animated movie — he runs away from death. 

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Does Joe Gardner die in this animated movie?

Yes, he falls down a manhole and ends up in the hospital, but Joe Gardner never dies. His soul wakes up not far from the “Great Beyond.” Fueled by his upcoming gig and his “big break,” this character runs in the opposite direction, landing him in the “great before.”

It’s there that he meets 22 and masks as a renowned doctor until he can get back to his earthly body. Of course, Joe doesn’t go straight into his body from the great before.

His body wakes up from the coma with 22 inside, while Joe Gardner’s soul came back to earth inside a cat. Meanwhile, Terry finally figured out that Joe should’ve died and sent him back to his blue, soul-like state to go to the Great Beyond. 

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22 finally found her ‘spark’ for earth

However, Jerry notices that 22 finally found her spark, meaning she can finally go to earth. 22 is pretty upset from Joe yelling at her, so she gives him her badge and he finally goes back into his body, regaining consciousness and going to his gig. 

Even though he did a good job, it didn’t feel like he thought it would, so he decides to get into a “flow” by playing the piano and finds 22. After making her feel better, the two jump down to earth but, just like when Joe didn’t have a badge, he ends up right where he started — on the stairs to the Great Beyond. 

Jerry interrupts Joe, saying that he did such a good job with 22 that they’re granting him one last chance on earth. He returns to his body, ready to make the most of his life.

To watch this animated movie, head to Disney’s streaming platform, Disney+.