Joe Gardner is a jazz musician who dreams of life on stage but ends up a middle school music teacher in Disney Pixar’s newest movie Soul. On the day Joe lands his dream job — joining Dorthea Williams’ band — a freak accident sends him into a coma and his mind ends up in the “Great Beyond.”
While Joe tries to find his way back to Earth in time for the concert, he takes on another student, a little soul called 22 who really doesn’t want to become a person yet. Joe and 22 help each other learn about life and what it means to really live.
The overall message of life definition might be really big for younger kids to fully understand. There are some great moments in the movie that kids will understand and are worth talking about as a family. Light spoilers ahead.
- What happens when 22 becomes a lost soul. A huge defining moment in the movie is when 22 is found in “The Zone” as a lost soul. 22 is haunted by all the negative things former teachers have said, including Joe’s last words. How do the words we hear impact us? What things can kids do to shake off the negative and continue toward their dreams? How do we make sure we’re not using harmful words that can hurt others?
- Your “spark” and your “purpose” are different. Both Joe and 22 thought that for 22 to become a person, they had to discover their “spark.” 22 learned to love pizza, leaves and cats. But, that doesn’t mean that 22 needs to become a chef, botanist or veterinarian. Your passions help make life interesting, but your purpose (Joe’s purpose in life was to help 22, not — as he thought — to become a musician) might take a lifetime to discover.
- Don’t be a “Paul.” We meet Paul in the barbershop, a frenemy to Joe who just likes to put down Joe’s aspirations. He’s a bully and neighborhood naysayer who likes to mock the happiness of others. Talk to your kids about what it means to lift up their peers and support others in their dreams.
Now that you’ve seen Soul, try these screen-free activities inspired by the movie.
- Learn about jazz. Joe got lost in jazz music. Your kids can learn about jazz with Welcome to Jazz, a book that breaks down the parts of a jazz ensemble and how each little sound creates a big sound.
- Play an instrument. Music is at the heart of the movie. Little kids can learn to play music early with a Loog Guitar (which includes an app that helps teach kids chords and where to put their fingers) or a piano that can roll up into a backpack.
- Find your spark. If your older kids don’t think they know yet where their spark is, help them make a dream board. Give them time to think about what their goals are, help them track down pictures and set a vision.
- Create a joy jar. The beginning of the calendar year or the start of a school year is the perfect time to start a joy jar. Every week write down something that made you happy; at the end of the year, revel in the fun of reading all the happy thoughts.
- Make your own pizza. Do you like deep dish or thin crust? Cut into squares or triangles? Your kids can make their very own pizzas (and pick the toppings!) with these family-friendly DIY recipes from Your Kids Table.