At first glance, Soul and Coco seem to have two wildly different interpretations of how the afterlife works in Pixar movies. So on the latest episode of Jon In Theory, I examine how these movies might share way more ideas and world building than you might expect.
Special thanks to all the new subscribers we’ve gotten over the last week. And also user NPH&g for inspiring the topic for today’s show. If you’d like to join in on the fun, simply hit the notification bell for this channel. That way, you’ll know immediately when I’m going live. Hope to see you in the live chat for tomorrow’s stream.
Yesterday, I did a longer stream covering some of the critical backlash to Soul, which you can check out here. And toward the end, someone in the live chat asked me if I think 22 (voiced by Tina Fey in Soul) might’ve become Riley from Inside Out after being born. So today I decided to devote a full live stream to covering this theory, which apparently debuted on Reddit and/or Twitter. I cover some of the arguments being made for the theory, and then dive into the reasons I think this one just doesn’t work at all. Plus, some positive speculation on who 22 could reasonably be tied to down the road.
Toward the end of the stream, I lightly touch on some early thoughts I have about how Soul fits into the overall theory. Plus, I go over the three “types” of fan theories that are out there. Hope you all enjoy this one.
I should’ve known Pixar had a few hidden tricks up their sleeve for this one. We’ve known for some time that Onward centers around two elvish brothers on a quest to find some trace of magic left in the world connected to their deceased father, which is a relic of an idea that traces back to director Dan Scanlon’s real life experience of finding an old object containing a memory of his own dad.
Now, we see this “quest” has a few curveballs, as shown in the trailer. Looks like the “magic” object is a staff, and there are some cartoony rules that dictate how and when their dad can actually come back to life. So it’s a blend of Brave and Coco in that respect.
At first glance, this familiarity worries me. How many times have we seen kids in Pixar movies trying to beat a deadline to save their parent, or the other way around? It’s well-worn plotting at this point for the studio, but this is a unique enough setting to keep me interested, plus the two main characters (voiced by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) have no shortage of charm and chemistry to make this one a proper Pixar feels trip.
The “modern mythological” setting is still a blast to discover and learn new details about, including the gag of pixie bikers harassing the dad corpse. Speaking of which, said corpse is a fun nod to Weekend at Bernie’s, which is one of many references to 80s pop culture in the movie we can connect back to Scanlon’s work on Monsters University. There’s a reason that “Quests of Yore” spell book closely resembles a Dungeons and Dragons manual, which for me is just brilliant world building.
The look, feel, and energy of this movie is just so Monsters University, down to the humor itself. As a lot of you know, I absolutely adore that film despite its baggage as a prequel, so this familiar tone only boosts my expectations for a road trip movie with enough twists and turns to make the latest original story from Pixar a positive step forward for their brand.
Pixar Theory stuff:
The voiceover narration says that “in times of old, the world was filled with wonder and magic.” This might squash any early speculation that Onward takes place in the future, post Monsters Inc., but all that said, it’s hard not to notice a lot of similarity in design between some of these characters and “Monsters.” One era Pixar has never really covered is the long stretch of time between WALL-E and Monsters Inc., so take that as you will.
The “Visitation Spell” sounds pretty similar to the rules ofhow the dead can visit the living for “one day” in Coco. And we see the same sort of thing in Brave with how the “wisps” are implied to be spirits of dead ancestors.
At minute 1:29, you can just barely spot an ad in the gas station referencing Poultry Palace, a fast food restaurant seen in Toy Story4 and the Toy Story short “Small Fry.”
In the gas station scene that follows, you can clearly see “Triple Dent Gum” being held by the pixie uttering “you got a problem, Shades?” This particular gum brand traces back to Inside Out, of course. Don’t act like you forgot the theme song…
At minute 1:38, you can see a formation of rocks that resemble not just Stonehenge, but the rock formation where Merida encounters the wisps for the second time in Brave.
The tavern is full of creatures that resemble monsters, as noted before. Worth considering if this movie shows us an early inception of how the monsters came to be, but it’s hard to square that sort of assumption with the movie’s established vibe of European folklore. Plus, we would have to explain those two moons, and writing it off as some sort of alternative universe just seems boring to me.
Did I miss anything? Of course I did. Let me know what stuck out to you in this trailer by commenting below.
This post contains spoilers for Toy Story 4 and Avengers: Endgame…obviously.
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, one of the series protagonists chooses to end a long career of service to his community of friends and allies — including a longtime rival known for having multitudes of gadgets — after fulfilling one last mission in order to finally renew a life with the woman he loves, whom he thought was lost to him forever, thus saying goodbye to his old life and bestowing an old-fashioned symbol of his heroism and leadership upon someone who isn’t a white male.
At the end of Toy Story 4, one of the series protagonists chooses to end a long career of service to his community of friends and allies — including a longtime rival known for having multitudes of gadgets — after fulfilling one last mission in order to finally renew a life with the woman he loves, whom he thought was lost to him forever, thus saying goodbye to his old life and bestowing an old-fashioned symbol of his heroism and leadership upon someone who isn’t a white male.
Let’s break that down in case you don’t believe me.
At the end of[Avengers: Endgame/Toy Story 4], one of the series protagonists [Steve Rogers/Woody Pride] chooses to end a long career of service [being an Avenger/being Andy’s favorite toy] to his community of friends and allies — including a longtime rival known for having multitudes of gadgets — [Iron Man and the Avengers/Buzz and the other toys] after fulfilling one last mission [saving half of all existence/saving Forky]…
…in order to finally renew a life with the woman he loves [becoming lost in time in order to be with Peggy Carter/becoming a lost toy in order to be with Bo Peep], whom he thought was lost to him forever [his main duty to save the world forced them apart/his main duty to be there for Andy forced them apart]…
…thus saying goodbye to his old life [serving the needs of the world/serving the needs of a kid] and bestowing an old-fashioned symbol of his heroism and leadership [the Captain America Shield/the Sheriff Woody badge] upon someone who isn’t a white male [Sam Wilson the Falcon/Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl].
Toy Story 4 and Avengers: Endgame released in theaters within two months of each other.
Tamara Fuentes, writing for Seventeen, mentioned the Pixar Theory in a recent article. She broke down the theory from its 2013 roots and finished with this interesting bit:
Negroni still hasn’t explained how newer movies like Coco and Toy Story 4 fit in, but we’re sure they fit in here somewhere. Until then, guess we’ll just have to rewatch all of our favorite Disney Pixar movies to see this theory unfold for ourselves.
I’ve been hard at work on the upcoming book based on the theory, which is being republished. And yes, Toy Story 4 and Coco, along with all the other newest Pixar movies that have come out since the original theory will be explored in my little conspiracy theory corner of nonsense. It’s a fun book, and I’m excited for you all to read it.
More than just a collection of theories, it’s a book about what it means to be a fan of Pixar movies, and movies in general. I know a lot of you have been asking about getting your hands on a copy, especially since the first book went out of print and is currently unavailable in all forms. In fact, not even I have a copy of the book (I gave them all away, mostly to readers requesting them).
In the meantime, I want to open up the comments section for something special. I want to know: what does Pixar mean to you? Answer the question in the comments below, along with the name you want credited, and it might show up somewhere in the book. It would thrill me to pieces to have even more fans of the movies involved with this project in some way.
At last, Pixar has revealed its first big marketing materials for Toy Story 4, which includes a brief teaser trailer, several character posters, and more recently a “teaser trailer reaction” video that pokes self-aware fun at the franchise in almost parody form.
The response so far has had a wide range, much of it to be expected. Of course, a lot of Toy Story fans are extremely worried about an unnecessary Pixar sequel turning out to be an inferior cash grab that diminishes an already perfect trilogy with what many consider the most satisfying ending possible. I’m one of those fans.