Joe Gardner is the main protagonist of Disney/Pixar's 2020 animated film, Soul.
When he was growing up, he wasn't really into music until his dad took him to a jazz club. That night, he decided he would become a musician when he grew up. However, after becoming an adult, he was turned down multiple times by various people and ended up as a part-time middle school band teacher.
Role in the film
One day, he was made a full-time music teacher. His mother urged to take the chance of becoming full-time, but Joe lies to his mother at being invited to audition for a jazz band. He meets Dorothea Williams, the leader of the band, who did not take kindly to Joe. But after Joe plays for the band, she tells him to get ready to play. While he tells his friend Curly, he walks through multiple hazards until, when he least expected it, falls into a manhole.
He finds himself as soul, then meeting people whose bodies passed away, Joe escapes and ends up in the Great Before. There he meets Jerry, who tells him about the Great Before, and offers to take him back to his group. But Joe sneaks away from her while she attempts to and tries and fails to use to the portal to Earth. Jerry finds him and then he ends up taking a name sticker for Bjorn Borgensson and goes into a meeting as a mentor. When he watches the video, he believed by swiping a young soul's earth pass once he or she got her spark, he could return to his body. He is assigned 22, who lived in the soul world for a hundred years, having many mentors who all failed to convince her to spark.
When she hears that he wants to get her to get her spark, she willfully accepts knowing that she wouldn't have to go to Earth. However, nothing interests her, so to avoid Joe getting sent to the Great Beyond, she takes him to the Zone, the realm that connects the living and soul world to each other. They find a man who helps Joe to locate his body. Joe takes the opportunity to jump back into his body, but ends up in the body of a cat named Mr. Mittens. 22 ends up in his body instead and already feels miserable as a human being. Eventually, she finds Earth isn't as bad as she thought it was and helps Joe with his life. But when the man offers to get Joe back into his body, 22 runs away, trying to find her purpose in life. When Joe chases her, they are both caught by Terry. Joe fails to return to his body thanks to Terry overpowering him, and argues with 22 before being cut off by Terry, being told he cheated.
When being shown to the Jerrys, one notices that 22 got her spark, but Joe believed it was because she was in his body. 22, fed up with Joe, throws her pass at him and runs off before Joe can do anything else. One of the Jerrys asks him how he did it, and he implies at what happened. The Jerry, upon hearing that Joe thought a soul's spark was a soul's purpose, told him that a spark only meant that a soul is ready to live on Earth. Then Joe returns to his body, and confronts Dorothea. She calls him arrogant and gives him another chance to perform. After the performance, she reveals something troubling: Joe would have to do it again every night. He is dismayed, and she tells him a story about a fish that wanted the ocean, but only saw water.
He realizes the error of his ways and returns to the spirit world to find 22, who had become a lost soul. He chases her down and helps her break free of her despair, which was manifested thanks to Joe, believing she had no purpose. Joe tells her she's ready and follows her all the way to Earth until ending up back when he was separated from his body. The Jerrys decided to give him another chance to live and Joe accepts, saying he would live his life to the fullest.
Joe had a passion for music since hearing the jazz band. He was so determined to play in the band that he escaped death and was desperate to steal an Earth pass for himself so he could return to his body. But soon, he finds out that his dreams didn't turn out the way he expected them to, and that the reason for living is enjoying what life has to offer.
Powers and abilities
- Piano playing: Joe is very great at playing the piano, being so into it he entered the zone.
- Spirit physiology: As a soul, he is immune to death and immune to physical injury.
- Cat physiology: while in a Mr. Mittens' body, he had teeth and claws and the natural abilities of a cat. He soon got separated from that body thanks to Terry.