A cat is a pivotal character in the new Pixar movie, “Soul,” which premiered on Disney+ on December 25.
The movie, which takes a page or two from the 1978 movie “Heaven Can Wait,” is about a jazz musician named Joe (Jamie Foxx), who finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime — and then suffers a near-fatal accident. He finds himself at a way station for souls, but ducks out of the line to the Great Beyond to try to make it back to Earth.
Instead, he’s mistaken for a Mentor, who is assigned to help each new soul find its “spark” before heading to Earth. He’s paired with 22 (Tina Fey), a stubborn soul who’s resisted becoming human for decades. Can the two of them get things sorted out before Joe’s dream gig happens?
How does the cat figure in? [SPOILERS]
What’s the cat’s name and who voices it?
With the help of Moonwind (Graham Noton), Joe realizes he’s in a hospital bed, where a therapy cat named Mr. Mittens has been brought in to help him regain consciousness.
In a colossal mix-up, 22 ends up in his body and he winds up in a chubby calico cat’s body! Now he’s got to talk 22 through the mechanics of being a human (she failed “body test drive”), so he can keep his gig and get his body back.
The only one who can understand Joe as Mr. Mittens (still voiced by Jamie Foxx) is 22, so they’ve got to work together. She ends up giving a Joe a perspective on his own life he never had before, not to mention providing the film with some of its most comedic moments.
If Joe’s soul is in Mr. Mittens, where is Mr. Mittens’ soul?
In a blink-and-you’ll miss it moment, we see a blobby blue cat on the conveyor belt to the Great Beyond right after Joe realizes he’s in the cat. (This happens at 37:13 minutes into the movie. Thanks to reader sashtonwam for pointing out this important detail!) So that’s confirmation that Pixar believes cats have souls. And probably a joke about cats having nine lives since Mr. Mittens is very much alive even after all the switcheroos.
Why does the Mr. Mittens Funko has a pizza slice in his mouth?
One of the best scenes has Joe (as the cat) stealing some pizza for 22, who’s never had food. Along the way, he walks past a rat dragging a pizza slice just as big. (You remember NYC’s Pizza Rat?)
Why did the filmmakers include a body-switching plot?
Filmmakers Pete Docter and Kemp Powers explained to Slashfilm that the idea for the body switch came from co-writer Mike Jones.
Docter: Mike had this idea to bring him down and switch them so that Joe could see his own life from a different point of view instead of going back into his own life, because that’s, of course, what he wants. So on one level, it seems like, “Oh, that works perfectly”… Our hope was, in this particular way, we still get to represent Joe’s life. He’s not in his body, but we’re still seeing his body walk through all his spaces and interact with all the people that he does in his normal life. So it was a bit of a tricky thing to pull off.”
Powers: “In a traditional body swap, you would have had Joe and 22 get separated, and 22 would do this whole series of things where she’s on her own living Joe’s life better than he is… it was purposeful for us to keep them together. Because even though he was in the cat, he had a certain amount of control over his own body.”
What happens to Mr. Mittens?
While we don’t see Mr. Mittens’s soul re-entering his body, we see (at least in one reality) that the cat is happily reunited with the hospital therapist and presumably back to normal.
Aren’t most calico cats female? So is Mr. Mittens really a girl?
Yes, most calicoes are female. It is very rare, but not impossible, for a calico cat to be male. So either Mr. Mittens is a boy cat or no one ever noticed that she’s really a girl. Thanks to reader Gabriel for the question!
Is there really such a thing as therapy cats?
Yes! Cats can be trained (and even certified) to help at schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Here’s how to get your cat certified (or find a cat visiting program).