Disney Director Shares the Secret of Creating Movies About Complex Human Emotions Like ‘Soul’


Fans of The Simpsons know all too well that the animators have a specific knack for predicting world events, however, the folks over at Disney also seem to have a looking glass into the future.

When it comes to global pandemics, acts of terror or even questioning the meaning of life, Disney seems to release films that help with the devastation the world is experiencing. According to the director and editor Kevin Nolting, his professional working partner Peter Docter — who directed Disney’s Soul, has a “knack” for releasing films poignant to the time.

“I don’t know what it is,” Nolting told The Latch during an interview before the release of his new short, 22 vs Earth. “Peter Docter has this knack. When Monsters Inc came out, it was released a few weeks after 9/11 and the movie was already done. He had made a movie about fear of the unknown.”

Nolting — who knows all too well about the true meaning of Disney films having worked on titles such as Inside Out, Soul, Toy Story 4, Wall-EandCars (to name a few) — is at the helm of the new short being released on Disney+ today, that explores the meaning of life. While clearly an adult concept, it also resonates with children.

“That’s what Pixar is really good at obviously,” he said. “As we go through this with this movie, as we went through with Inside Out and with this movie Pete comes up with these concepts that clearly on the surface, are very adult concepts, but if you dig into it, kids are there too.”

When making a Disney Pixar film, part of the process is bringing children in to watch it mid-way through production.

“There’s a preview with a moderator,” he said. “They just ask innocent questions trying to suss out whether they enjoyed it and seeing what they got out of it and we were just blown away by how much kids understand. We work on making it more entertaining for everybody but really, we just have to give kids more credit.”

In 22 vs Earth — a film set before the events of the Oscar-winning Soul (2020) — 22 defies the rules of The Great Before and refuses to go to Earth. Instead, she enlists a gang of five other new souls in her attempt at rebellion, however, as her cohorts’ activities lead to unexpected results, 22’s subversive plot may actually lead to a surprising revelation about the meaning of life.

Just like its predecessor Soul, the short focuses on the concept of the meaning of life and Nolting didn’t have a definitive answer to what he thought that was.

“I can’t say, it changes every second,” he said.

Stream 22 vs. Earth on Disney+ beginning April 30, 2021.

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