Soul: The Challenge of Bringing Line Art to Life

Pixar and Disney let us see about the first half of Soul and if there was one aspect of this movie that blew my stupid brain was the concept of the counselors. They are probably one of the coolest looking things that Pixar has brought to life so far. The still images of them are cool, but they are even more incredible in motion. During the virtual junket for Soul animation supervisor Bobby Podesta spoke about what it was like trying to build and not only animate a character that could only be described as living art.

So, at this point we'd figured out how to represent the souls, which was great, but how do you animate a character if it can literally be anything? And that's the challenge to create the counselor characters, who were described as the universe dumbing itself down for humans to be able to comprehend, and getting their forms mostly right. So, we started with inspiration, right? Drawing from dozens of sources like Swedish sculpture, nature, and even light. Then the art department does what the art department does best.

They began exploring and then literally drawing countless forms, until a form that felt both recognizable as a character, yet malleable enough to be almost anything, emerged, and that character was made up of actually a line. So, not just any line though. We're talking about a living line. So, with the art in hand, the counselors started to take form as 3D sculptures made by our Pixar sculptor out of wire. Now, this made it so we could see what they look like when we saw them from different angles with different expressions and in different forms.

Soul Animators Talk Bringing a Soul to Life
In Disney and Pixar's "Soul," a middle-school band teacher finds himself in The Great Before—a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to Earth. There he meets the ubiquitous Counselors who run the You Seminar and the precocious soul, 22, who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers and produced by Academy Award® nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a., ©2020 Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.

However, went on to Podesta went on to say that while they had the perfect idea for the counselors, now they needed to figure out how to animate them, which was not easy. Line art is 2D, and they needed to make this art move in a 3D space, but Podesta praised the Pixar team for what they came up with.

So, with the design figured out, you might think, "Hey, that's a line. It looks like the easiest thing in the world to animate." Actually, the technology behind creating the counselors is mind-boggling, but that's the thing about Pixar. I mean, we have some of the most talented and, quite frankly, smartest people I've ever met in this industry, and so just as the art department had explored the possibilities of what the counselors could be, the animators, we did the same. We began exploring shapes, expressions, movements, and transitions, and the animators didn't just animate a model. I mean, they animated a design, and you can see that here. The characters captured that sense of a living line, a piece of art in a form that was understandable, yet still ethereal. So, to achieve the sense of design within the animation, our animators had to draw on their backgrounds as artists to craft a visually stunning performance, and it's that combination of being both an actor and an artist that raises the bar at Pixar to a level that we hope continues to exceed our audience's expectations.

When I say that the counselors are the coolest part of the movie the first half that I was able to see, I'm not kidding. I'm obsessed with them; I want to watch a million hours of them moving around on screen because they are just so awesome looking. Absolutely one of my favorite parts of the footage I was able to see, and it was so cool for Pixar and Disney to show us how they were made.

A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.

Soul, directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers, stars Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, and John Ratzenberger. It will be released on Disney+ on December 25th.

About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at

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