Pixar hasn't always had the best track record when it comes to ensuring diverse voices play a significant role in the movie-making process. Rashida Jones, who helped develop the story for Toy Story 4, has gone on the record saying Pixar is a place where “women and people of [color] do not have an equal creative voice.”
Based on Diggs' experiences, Pixar has been actively trying to remedy that problem, especially in light of Soul being the first Pixar film with a Black protagonist. In addition to voicing a character for the film, Diggs says he also served as a “cultural consultant” who offered advice on making the movie as representative as possible of the Black experience. As he puts it, “They wanted feedback on cultural relevancy from a ton of Black folks. They'd show us character designs and ask: ‘Does this feel like a person you know?' or ‘Are you offended by this in any way?' One person said, ‘In the background voices, I didn't hear anyone who wasn't speaking English, and that's not my experience of New York.' I thought that was such a brilliant note! It hadn't occurred to me. It's buried in the mix -– but somebody picked up on it.”
As such, Diggs got to see first-hand the Pixar feedback sessions in which the very people putting the movie together weren't afraid to tear things apart and start from scratch if necessary. “I don't think I could write for Pixar,” he states. “They'll hack away at a thing if it's not working. It's brutal. Nobody is concerned with anyone's feelings, they just want to make a great film. I was a newcomer, so to me it sounded like they were killing babies all over the place.” Pixar's notorious for this approach, getting rid of things at a moment's notice if it's just not serving the goal of telling the best story possible. After all, the studio scrapped a heist storyline from Soul when it became clear it wasn't conducive to the overarching plot line.
Based on early critic reviews, it seems like Pixar has once again knocked it out of the park with one of its most emotionally-charged films to date. You can watch the film for yourself when it's released on Disney+ for all subscribers to watch on December 25, 2020.