In Pixar’s new short film 22 vs. Earth, we finally get a chance to learn more about 22’s (Tina Fey) time in The Great Before. Tina Fey’s 22 is one of the most unique and amusing characters in Pixar’s Soul, which recently won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. In developing a character like 22, which is a soul without purpose stuck in the spiritual plane, it’s not uncommon that the creators would dream up an expansive backstory, even if that backstory never makes it onto the screen.
In Soul, we learned a brief history of 22 in The Great Before, and in Pixar’s new short film 22 vs. Earth, director Kevin Nolting had the opportunity to expand on that story. In speaking with a roundtable of journalists, including myself, about his directorial debut, Nolting mentioned that the idea for this story came because “we wanted to tell something about [22’s] past….As we were making the movie [Soul], we talked about 22, who she is, and why the other souls go to Earth and she doesn’t, so this was one idea to show an aspect of that.”
Nolting, who has worked as an Editor on some of Pixar’s biggest films for nearly 20 years, was drawn to this project because he empathizes with 22. “Joe Gardner is someone who has a purpose. He knows what he wants to do and targets that,” Nolting said. “I relate much more to 22, who has a harder time finding that. Who isn’t born with this thing that she wants to do….I think there are a lot of us like her who can relate to that.”
22’s struggles in The Great Before were addressed in Soul, but understandably, there wasn’t enough time in that story to more fully develop that background. 22 vs. Earth allowed Nolting to tell 22’s story in a way that is both entertaining and emotional. “We knew a lot about her but we didn’t know why, which is why we ended up making this short,” Nolting said. “For me, it was answering the question, ‘How does a soul get to be this way?’”
Of course, Nolting could not have told this story without Tina Fey, who infuses 22 with not only her voice, but her personality. I asked Nolting about getting Fey to return to the character, and he explained that “she was more than willing to do it, which is great because somebody that busy and coming off a feature doesn’t have to do this. She was just great about it. Very enthusiastic.”
Given that this is Nolting’s first film as a director, he talked about what’s next for him going forward. Nolting mentioned that he enjoys being an editor and that this experience as a director was helpful for him to gain perspective from the other side. While he would certainly enjoy directing more, Nolting pointed to the fact that it takes nearly a decade to complete an animated feature film, and said that he felt that short films were more realistic for him.
As for additional stories in the Soul world that he would be interested in telling, Nolting was very enthusiastic. “I would love to explore [22’s] mentor relationships a little bit more than we did in the feature,” Nolting said. “I would love to hear some of the dialogues with the great thinkers.”
22 vs. Earth premieres on Disney+ on April 30th!
KEVIN NOLTING, A.C.E., (Editor/Director) joined Pixar Animation Studios in June 2000 as the second editor on the Academy Award®-winning feature film “Finding Nemo.” He continued his work as second editor on “Cars,” and contributed some additional editing to the Academy Award-winning feature “WALL•E.” Nolting served as lead editor on the Academy Award-winning feature, “Up,” which was awarded best edited animated feature at the 2010 ACE Eddie Awards. Nolting then went on to be the lead editor on Academy Award-winning feature “Inside Out,” for which he also won the ASIFA Annie Award and the A.CE. Eddie Award for outstanding editing. He most recently was the lead editor on Disney and Pixar’s feature film “Soul,” which is now streaming on Disney+. Nolting makes his directorial debut on “22 vs. Earth,” which debuts on Disney+ on April 30, 2021. Prior to Pixar, Nolting worked as an assistant editor on a number of live action feature films including “Shanghai Noon,” “Hope Floats,” “The Insider,” “City Hall” and “Over the Top.” Between the years of 1986 and 2000, he worked on roughly one live action film per year. Nolting was born and raised in Hawthorne, Calif., and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in aesthetics/creative writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He and his wife have two daughters and reside in the Bay Area.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.