Hamilton-born film animator Trevor Jimenez is shown in a handout photo.The heart-tugging existential themes in Pixar’s new film “Soul” resonated deeply with its Canadian story supervisor, Jimenez. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Hamilton-born film animator Trevor Jimenez is shown in a handout photo.The heart-tugging existential themes in Pixar’s new film “Soul” resonated deeply with its Canadian story supervisor, Jimenez. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Canadian animator Trevor Jimenez follows Oscars run with another milestone: ‘Soul’

“Soul” will debut on the Disney Plus streaming service Friday

TORONTO — The heart-tugging existential themes in Pixar’s new film “Soul” resonated deeply with its Canadian story supervisor, Trevor Jimenez.

The Hamilton-born animator joined the highly anticipated project just months after finishing his animated short film “Weekends,” which was nominated for an Academy Award last year.

He went through his Oscars awards journey while making “Soul,” and also had a daughter.

Juggling two big professional pursuits and parenthood while in the spotlight helped Jimenez find new meaning in the story of an unsatisfied jazz musician who’s so focused on fulfilling what he thinks is his purpose in life that he doesn’t appreciate the little things around him.

“There was a lot happening in my life,” the 37-year-old said in a recent interview from Berkeley, Calif., where he works as a director/story artist for Pixar.

“Appreciating the little moments is such a big part of my life now. It’s kind of weird to equate it back to this film I was working on, because that’s so much bigger in a lot of ways, but it’s true. I think it’s a good thing for people to see reflected in an animated film, for kids to see reflected in an animated film: that as much as pursuing our dreams is important, there’s so much more to life than that.”

The COVID-19 pandemic adds another layer to the film’s question of what makes life meaningful, with many life dreams put on hold and people looking for other ways to feed their souls during isolation.

COVID also affected the film’s release. “Soul” was supposed to hit theatres but will instead debut on the Disney Plus streaming service on Friday amid a second wave of the virus.

“I feel like what it’s saying is so important now. I’m so excited for people to see it,” Jimenez said. “It’s disappointing that it’s not in theatres but I’m actually very happy that a lot of people are going to be able to watch it in the safety of their own homes during this time.”

Jamie Foxx voices the lead character, Joe Gardner, a middle-school band teacher in New York who thinks he isn’t worth anything unless he is in the spotlight. When he finally gets a chance to play piano with acclaimed musicians at the best jazz club in town, it’s in jeopardy due to an accident that propels him into The Great Before — a mystical place where new souls get their personalities before they go to Earth.

Tina Fey voices a precocious and uninspired soul Joe is ordered to help as he tries to find his own way back home.

Other cast members include Phylicia Rashad as Joe’s mother, and Angela Bassett as a jazz legend Joe longs to play with.

Oscar-winning animator Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”) directed and Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) co-directed. The two also wrote the screenplay, with Mike Jones.

Disney says “Soul” “marks the first film at Pixar to feature a host of characters with black and brown skin.”

To accurately represent the cultural and jazz aspects, the filmmakers consulted musicians including Herbie Hancock, Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson, and Daveed Diggs. The latter two also have roles in the film, with Thompson playing Joe’s former student Curley, and Diggs as neighbourhood cynic Paul.

Jimenez was promoted several times while making the film, going from a story artist to story lead and then story supervisor. He got to work closely with Docter, Powers and editor Kevin Nolting.

Other Canadians who worked on the film include animator Emilie Goulet of Montreal, and Sylvia Wong of Ottawa, who was the layout technical director.

Jimenez said the project allowed for a lot of imagination, especially in creating the look of the abstract afterlife worlds of The Great Before and The Great Beyond, where the mentors are geometric in nature and resemble Picasso paintings, and the new souls are cute fluorescent blue blobs.

“It was really hard to pull off even they though they look so simple, deceptively simple, but they’re probably the most work to animate,” Jimenez said of the mentors.

Between “Soul” and “Weekends,” the past three or four years have been the best of Jimenez’s life creatively, he added.

“They’re always going to be connected in some way, the two experiences. I really cherish both. They’re really different, but really both amazing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Ponoka and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) have ratified a new agreement, averting a strike. (File photo from Facebook)
Alberta gov’t ‘using pandemic as shield to lay off workers,’ says AUPE

The Government of Alberta’s “attacks on workers” is continuing with a new… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP, EMS, Search and Rescue, STARS air ambulance and Alstrom Helicopters worked together to rescue a fallen ice climber Friday. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP help rescue fallen ice climber

Rocky Mountain RCMP helped assist a fallen ice climber Friday afternoon. At… Continue reading

Students Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen says she’s pleased the college is offering students a choice to attend class in-person or remotely. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Red Deer College winter term enrolment dips

Enrolment down about six per cent but mix of online and in-person instruction is going over well

Brett Salomons, of Salomons Commercial, and Mark Jones, CEO of the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, in the CACAC's new temporary home. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre’s One Day Challenge returns

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre has announced its One Day Challenge is… Continue reading

Dwayne Buckle, 40 of Red Deer finished a 1,638-kilometre walk, in honour of his family. The 12-week, 82 day-journey wrapped up in Port Hardy, B.C. on Monday. Facebook photo
Red Deer man completes 1,638 km hike for cancer research

Dwayne Buckle, a Red Deer firefighter returned home Friday after his 12-week journey

A Suncor logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, May 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Body of worker whose bulldozer fell through ice on inactive tailings pond recovered

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Oilpatch giant Suncor says the body of a… Continue reading

A restaurant manager in Orlando used a sign to secretly ask an 11-year-old boy if he needs help from his family after they were spotted withholding food from him. (Photo courtesy Orlando Police Department)
WATCH: Restaurant manager uses secret note to ‘rescue’ child, says Orlando Police

The manager of an Orlando restaurant is receiving praise from police after… Continue reading

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will cripple struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

VICTORIA — A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic,… Continue reading

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday April 13, 2018. A young snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged mountain trail on Vancouver's north shore Thursday has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snowshoer dies after overnight search on Vancouver-area mountain: RCMP

SQUAMISH, B.C. — A snowshoer who set out alone on a rugged… Continue reading

‘It was joyous:’ Sun returns to some Nunavut communities for first time in weeks

IQALUIT — A sliver of orange rose over Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier… Continue reading

People take photos through the extensive security surrounding the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, ahead of the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Less pomp, very different circumstances as D.C. prepares to inaugurate Biden, Harris

WASHINGTON — Some pomp. Very different circumstances. Inauguration day is supposed to… Continue reading

Winnipeg Jets' Nathan Beaulieu (88) and Nikolaj Ehlers (27) defend against Jansen Harkins (12) during scrimmage at their NHL training camp practice in Winnipeg, Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Winnipeg Jets cancel practice due to possible COVID-19 exposure

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have cancelled their practice today due to… Continue reading

Most Read