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Why Soul's Big Golden Globe Win Means More Than You Think

Animation powerhouse Pixar just took home the Golden Globe for Best Animated film for Soul. The film beat out Onward, also a product of Pixar, along with The Croods: A New Age, Over the Moon, and Wolfwalkers

Soul, which debuted on December 25, 2020 on Disney+, is about Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher and jazz pianist whose life is upended right after he gets an important gig that could launch his career. Too excited to pay attention to traffic, Joe falls through a manhole in the middle of the street. He ends up in the afterlife with all the other recently deceased souls, but he is determined to return to Earth in time for his gig. Luckily, he gets help from a cynical spirit named 22 (Tina Fey).

The win isn't a surprise, as the film was well-reviewed upon release: Collider called it Pixar's "most mature movie yet," while USA Today called it "a jazzy and profound riff on humanity and the hereafter." A quick look at Rotten Tomatoes reveals these critics were far from alone in their opinion. But the film's win tonight means more for Pixar, the movie industry, and viewing audiences than you might realize. 

Co-director Kemp Powers has become the first debut Black filmmaker to win a Golden Globe

Soul has already broken some major ground by being Pixar's first film with a predominantly Black cast. Now, it has done so again by making Kemp Powers, the movie's co-director, the first Black debut filmmaker to win a Golden Globe in the awards' 78 years of existence.

Powers has also become the second Black director to win in the Best Animated Feature category: Peter Ramsey, who won for 2018's widely celebrated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, shared the award that year with fellow directors Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman, as well as producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Powers was not at the ceremony, so the award was accepted by producer Dana Murray and co-director and co-writer Pete Docter. He did, however, appear through a recording on a tablet screen to say, "Our story is universal. Thank you Pixar and our families."

According to Variety, only two other Black directors have won Golden Globes in other categories: Steve McQueen, who was part of the production team for Best Picture (Drama) winner 12 Years a Slave in 2014, and Barry Jenkins, who helped produce Best Picture (Drama) winner Moonlight in 2017. Powers' win is thus also historic in that it increases diversity among the highest ranks of Hollywood. While progress has been slow and frustrating for many, the entertainment industry is taking strides to improve representation and diversity at every level.