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Pixar's 'Soul' Wins Best Animated Feature — The Film Never Played In U.S. Theaters

The Disney/Pixar film<em> Soul</em> centers on Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle school band teacher who longs to be a jazz musician.
The Disney/Pixar film Soul centers on Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle school band teacher who longs to be a jazz musician.

Pixar's Soul has won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, becoming the only film ever to win that award without playing in U.S. movie theaters.

Last October, with the COVID-19 pandemic having closed most of the nation's cinemas, Disney announced that it was opting to release Soul — which centers on a jazz musician who's trying to reunite his accidentally separated soul and body – as a Christmas release exclusively on its streaming service Disney+.

This marked the first time a full-length Pixar feature had been released for home viewing without first playing in movie theaters.

Overseas, in such markets as China, Russia, and South Korea where COVID-19 had largely been brought under control by year's end, and where Disney+ is not an option, the film opened in theaters at reduced capacity. So far, it has grossed about $135 million overseas.

Before its win at the Oscars, Soul had already made history on other fronts. It is the first Pixar feature to have a Black protagonist (voiced by Jamie Foxx), the first with a predominantly Black cast and the first with a Black co-director (Kemp Powers).

In the run-up to the Oscars, Soul swept up Best Animated Feature awards from dozens of critics' groups and film societies, including the Golden Globes, BAFTA, the AFI, the Art Directors Guild, Black Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, and the ANNIEs.

Soul comes from filmmaker Pete Docter, whose films Inside Out, and Up, also won Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, and co-director/writer Powers,the playwright and screenwriter of One Night in Miami. Besides Foxx, it features the vocal talents of Tina Fey, Phylicia Rashad, Questlove, Angela Bassett and Daveed Diggs, and features original jazz music by Jon Batiste, and a score composed by Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.