Disney’s Soul Issues: 4 Planes of Existence
On Christmas Day, 2020, Disney+ released “Soul,” a new Pixar feature with the voice talents of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. As expected, Pixar has done a great job of blending 3D animation with a story that touches the heart of adults and children.
This Christmas season I had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas with my family and specifically, my son and his wife (the newlyweds). We came together and had Christmas Day dinner, spent time opening gifts and then a movie.
SPOILER ALERT about a different movie: It was debated for a time to whether we would watch Wonder Woman 1984, which was also premiering on Christmas Day. Thankfully we didn’t watch WW84 and instead got to watch a delightful and entertaining movie like, Disney’s Soul. Sorry, WW84 no-good (<– in Spanglish accent).
After the movie, I took some time to think about some red-flags that popped up as I watched.
Here are some “Soul” issues that I think will be helpful to Christian parents with children, express their Christian viewpoints in light of Pixar’s Soul.
The Great Beyond
In the movie, Joe Gardner falls to his death (at least mostly dead) and is transported through a dark void to a conveyor belt (a modern stairway to heaven). The new body he appears as, is his soul’s body and it’s blue and has a basic orb shape. He doesn’t know where he is at or why he is on the conveyor because his death happened without him knowing it.
He looks around on the conveyor belt and sees other people riding along with him. Ahead, he sees a bright light. The dark void is reminiscent of outer space and at it’s center, a white circle with little star like dots expanding outward along it’s edges.
The music is ominous and Joe watches as a person reaches nearer to the bright light. They float off of the conveyor belt and ascend in to the light with an other worldly smile on their face and then ZAP! Like a bug flying into an electronic bug zapper, we hear an electric sound and a pop and they are gone forever.
He is terrified, knowing that he is about to be Zapped and he pushes his way back through the dearly departed and then falls into the dark void and falls into a different place.
This image of what happens to the human soul after it sheds it’s earthly tent is pretty dark. Although the souls look happy, they are then zapped into non-existence.
What does the Bible say about the Great Beyond?
The Bible calls the after life, eternal life. The word entails life, but that kind of life that continues forever and ever.
God values His creation and therefore doesn’t zap it out of existence. Eternal life is a continuation of the high value of His creation, the soul/spirit. The body gets old and weak and many times, because of the fragile nature of our bodies, it dies.
The soul/spirit do not die because it has been created to live forever. (John 5:29)
How does the Bible let us know this is a reality?
First, it always speaks about it as if everyone should know there is eternal life for everyone. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Secondly, Jesus Christ came from Eternal Life into our existence and has died and experience the after life for us. He has returned from that After Life to tell us how it really is. He gives us the Before and After. (John 1:1, 18)
Thirdly, God has proven this by creating humanity in His own image and likeness. He didn’t create us in His physical likeness but in His spiritual likeness. We were created to live with Him forever. (Genesis 1:26)
The Great Void
The belief that after you die there is nothingness is not a Biblical perspective. Although there are some so-called Christians that point to a few Scriptures out of context that indicate this nothingness, like Psalm 115:17, the overall testimony of Scripture, reinforces the idea that your soul continues to exist after you die and lives in a conscious state. Another false teaching about the after life is that your soul enters into sleep mode, called Soul Sleep. This can be found in the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, some Seventh Day Adventists and others.
For a great article about Soul Sleep, check out this article from Insight for Living.
The Bible teaches that God has a future for us and that future includes an extension of life beyond this current life. We are not destroyed when we die, even if your destination is hell, you will be conscious and alive in hell.
The imagery used in Disney’s Soul is dark and the soundtrack created some eerie feelings, then, ZAP! It is reasonable that the Joe Gardner would be terrified and try his best to avoid such an end. I am so glad that God has not defined that kind of end for us.
The Great Before
As Joe Gardner makes his escape from the Great Beyond, he pushes through to the Great Before. This colorful place with little circle shaped souls, is explained to us as a training ground for future souls that must fulfill some requirements before they are ready to be sent into human babies.
The Great Before is looked after by a group of people called Counselor Jerry. Although their names are the same, each have unique sounding voices and have the ability to change their shape. They are concerned and caring beings that are physically ten times larger than the souls.
As Joe explores, he is mistaken for a mentor and is taken to a mentor orientation session.
In a very clear moment of exposition, Counselor Jerry, explains the function of a mentor in the the Great Before. Mentors are After Life souls that have been chosen to help new souls get prepared for life on earth by accomplishing some tasks and gaining something called a Spark.
As Counselor Jerry is detailing what a Spark is and how it works, Joe, talks over Counselor Jerry and we and he, miss the explanation. Joe then assumes that Spark means Purpose and things continue to go from bad to worse as he tries to get his mentee, named 22, to get her Spark so he can steal it.
What does the Bible say about the Great Before?
The Bible does not teach that there is an existence for humans before they are born. The Bible does say that God knows people before they are born, but that doesn’t mean that His knowledge is of their pre-birth experience, but only of their born-life experience. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:15-16)
God has knowledge about the life I am going to live as a human. He knows the details of my life and He also knows how His influence in my life would impact my life and others. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Even though Soul does not present a reincarnation philosophy, the Great Before, resembles it. Souls get to experience parts of life, in the theoretical sense, but there is an exposure to mentors and experiences that will shape their future self. There is also a sort of pre-determination of what kind of character you will have.
The Bible teaches that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb (Psalm 139:14).
The very first human was made from the elements of the earth (carbon) and then, God breathed into that human the breath of life and he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).
Life did not begin until God caused life to begin. God then repeated those steps with Eve and she became the counter part of humanity, God created Man, male and female He created them. (Genesis 5:2)
Many religions hold to some version of this pre-existence belief, like the Baha’i Faith, Aberrant Christian faiths, Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Hinduism and Islam.
The Zone and Out of Body Experiences
In the process of learning how to return back to earth, 22 tells Joe Gardner that she can help him get back into his body by taking him to the Zone.
The Zone is a place between the Great Before and Earth. It’s a special place where people from Earth can inhabit a place between the Great Before or Great After, the Astral Plane.
The Zone is a state of consciousness that humans can experience when they are experiencing what they love and are so engrossed by what they are doing that they leave their bodies and come to this Zone.
If you have ever been involved in something so intensely that time went by without you noticing, then you were in the zone. Disney’s Soul’s, in the zone, is not just about experiencing joy that makes you lose track of time, but it is a place for your soul to come to and it’s a real place than can influence life on Earth.
The characters encounter a person who is in the Zone and also on earth. He’s a sign spinner on Earth, but visits the Zone while spinning his sign. In the Zone is the captain of a 1600’s style boat.
This start Joe on a plan to use the Zone to re-enter his body and return to life.
What does the Bible say about out-of-body experiences?
The Bible teaches that there is a Physical World and a Spiritual World. Each of these worlds are intricately connected to each other. Although they are connected, there are points of separation that God has detailed in His Word. (John 4:24)
These two worlds are inhabited by different kinds of creations.
- The Physical World has creation that has flesh and exists in our physical universe.
- The Spiritual World has creation that does not have flesh and exists in the unseen, spiritual universe.
Although these worlds are different in their creation, they have a connection to each other. For instance, humans have a spiritual body as well as a physical body; and angels have a spiritual body and at certain times take on a temporary physical body. (Genesis 18:1)(John 20:11-14)
When it comes to the Zone, the Bible does not teach of a place between the Physical World and Spiritual World. The Bible does teach that there can be contact with those who have died, but it is a forbidden practice for those who follow God.
In 1 Samuel 28, where King Saul, asks a witch from Endor (no Ewok’s there) to call up the spirit of the prophet Samuel. To her surprise, she actually does bring up Samuel and Samuel gives Saul some terrible news — “You are going to die!”
Can your spiritual body, leave your physical body?
It appears that it is possible according to the experiences recorded by the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and the Apostles John and Paul. Although they may have been experiencing a waking dream or spiritual insight, their language suggests that they were in a different place, they called Heaven or in the Spirit.
They were not in an in-between place, but miraculously transported from our world to the spiritual world. These are recording in the Bible as scarce experiences and should not be considered an experience for Christians to pursue.
- The Apostle John (Revelation 1:10)
- The Prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 11:24)
- The Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2)
- The Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1)
Disney’s Soul, in consistent fashion, uses animation to appeal to the children and philosophy to appeal to the adults. Their mixture of various beliefs create an enjoyable and meaningful experience, touching every heart, while promoting Eastern beliefs over Christian beliefs.
Eastern beliefs saturate Disney’s Soul and has the potential to lead weak Christians away from their Biblical beliefs of life and death. Sadly, those who have yet to establish their beliefs, will be convinced that what Disney’s Soul is promoting is truthful, if not, the truth.
As Christians, our job is to speak the truth of Jesus Christ to our family, friends and neighbors. When we encounter beliefs that are in opposition to that truth, then it is up to us to gently and kindly show them truth through the Bible. Then, let the truth do it’s job in changing and transforming hearts and minds.
Jesus made a promise to those who follow Him, when He said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).
Knowing the truth comes from knowing the Word of God. The freedom that comes from the truth can only come by knowing the Word of God through the Bible.