The Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste may not have voiced the main character in Pixar's Soul but he's essentially the man behind the animated man. The character is voiced by Jamie Foxx but Jon Batiste served as the animation inspiration for the jazz musician's movements. Well, that and he composed all the original jazz for the film.
Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who finally gets his chance to fulfill his life-long dream to perform jazz music on stage and those are Batiste’s animated fingers playing the piano. It's a feat of both animation and music -- probably why the film just won two Golden Globe Awards: Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score for Batiste.
Batiste was a composer on the Golden Globe-winning score, a musical consultant on the film, produced a companion album (the Music from and Inspired by Soul vinyl) and, given his musical prowess, it all culminated in him serving as the animation inspiration for the studio’s first film to feature a Black protagonist.
Playwright Kemp Powers, who co-directed and co-wrote the animated film, told NPR that it helps that Batiste has, "long, lanky fingers that really lend themselves to a dynamic look" when animated. Powers also told the outlet that the scene of Joe speaking to his class and telling a story about the first time he ever heard a jazz musician play is "almost verbatim a story that Jon told us."
“I found it to be really rewarding to be animated in this movie as a part of the main character’s essence and to make music that is introducing somebody to jazz but in a way that it’s new and it’s filled with surprises and wonder. It was perfect. I loved it,” he told etalk’s Chloe Wilde.
After it was announced that Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross won for their work composing Soul’s score, Batiste posted a cute picture to Twitter with his dog, Loulou. “We did it @PixarSoul family!@ Congratulations to everyone! Great night for jazz! Goodnight from Loulou and I,” he wrote.
Batiste also spoke to Chloe about his upcoming album, We Are. He said that the new record means “vibe.” He continued, “It is a vibe. If you come to it with your heart, your mind and your spirit open, you will leave full. It’s not meant to be listened to skipping through tracks. It’s a novel that you don’t skip chapters of. It’s a movie that you don’t skip scenes of. You will leave full of life and inspiration.”
Between creating the jazz score for Soul and working on his new album, Batiste also led several peaceful and musical Black Lives Matter protests in New York last June. Thousands of people followed him through the streets of New York City as they protested police brutality with the help of music and dancing.
“I was going back and forth from leading protest marches in the middle of Manhattan with music and finishing the album. In a spiritual sense, all that energy and that time it seeped into that actual process of finishing the album,” he said.
[video_embed id='2150821']BEFORE YOU GO: Chloe Zhao becomes the second woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes[/video_embed]