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Kevin Nolting On Expanding Soul’s Prequel “22 vs. Earth”

22 is one of the most memorable characters in Pixar’s Soul and now 22 is getting an entire six-minute prequel short  to further explore what 22 has against Earth in 22 vs Earth.

In 22 vs. Earth, a new short from Pixar Animation Studios, Tina Fey returns as the voice of the quick-witted and sarcastic 22. Set before the events of Academy Awards winner Soul, 22 bucks the rules of The Great Before and refuses to go to Earth, enlisting five new souls to join her rebellion. But when the new souls’ activities lead to unexpected results, 22 discovers her subversive scheme might have unearthed a surprising revelation about the meaning of life.

Before 22 vs. Earth debuts exclusively on Disney+ on April 30th, The Koalition spoke with director Kevin Nolting—a 21-year Pixar veteran who edited Soul and has also worked on a plethora of Pixar films like as Finding Nemo, Up, and Inside Out—to learn how this short came together, potential spin-offs ideas (Soul Cat, anyone?), scrapped ideas, Easter eggs, working during a pandemic and more.

“We have a tradition for making a DVD short for our features on most movie not all of them, this is part of that tradition on Disney+, who is so kind to continue it. So it was going to be about the movie Soul and as we were making Soul we explored Joe Gardner’s life in great detail; we get to know his family, his friends, his past, and as we were making Soul. 22’s past didn’t really belong in the movie other than the quick little snippets of the mentors but we talked about it a lot and we has a lot of ideas and a lot of jokes about what makes a person like 22. So this was just an opportunity to take one aspect of that and explore it a little bit.”

22 vs Earth marks the directorial debut of Kevin Nolting, a longtime Pixar editor who first worked with the studio on Finding Nemo, which released in 2003. Notling’s brilliant editing and frequent collaborations with Pete Docter (Soul’s director) gave him the opportunity direct this short and resulted in some great life lessons as an editor turned director.

“I went full throttle but I think I couldn’t had a better circumstance for directing something for the first time for Pixar. It’s based on a movie I spent four years working on, so I knew it intimately. I knew all the people working on the movie, I worked closely with them for years A short is nice because you don’t have the space to run away away from the story, you don’t have the space to get too lost because you’re working in a very contained amount of time. It’s very true to the world that we just came out of with Soul. So it’s really the ideal situation to get your feet wet with directing.”

“Editors by definition are judgmental people. It’s really our job to be judgmental since the material comes in and we decide ‘yes this should be in the movie, this shouldn’t, this isn’t a good idea but that it’ it’s our opinion.  We can be pretty harsh by it, frankly. So to be the one presenting the idea to be judged by the crew was a great life lesson to me.”

“The first lesson anyone will give as far as directing is not to work with animals and children. But having worked at Pixar so long, I have a lot of experience editing children’s voices and certainly being in the recording sessions. We have this great team out in Vancouver and they were just so much fun to work with. The advantage with animation is cut the voices separate from the picture before they’re animated so you can be a little bit freer with cutting up dialogue and finding the performances so you don’t have to worry about visualizations.There’s no big surprise it’s just how they are so innocent and pure when they’re recording. It’s just great material to work with.”

During the production of 22 vs Earth and Soul a lot of idea were floated around about the short including the possibility of focusing the short on 22’s life on Earth. However, this was cancelled since that didn’t provide for an interesting story, especially since 22’s life on Earth was better left to the imagination.

Soul Prequel Short Film 22 vs. Earth Gets Disney+ Release Date

“It was always the focus on the Great Before. In the feature we storyboarded a couple scene were you see where she ended up not as an adult but in infancy and it just turned out better to leave it to the audiences imagination. For me, the bigger questions were how did she get to where she is in the movie. That to me was just a more interesting story to explore.”

To learn more about 22 vs Earth including Easter Eggs, potential future short ideas and more, check out our full interview in the video above.

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