It’s unclear if any European versions of Soul will be recast or remade.
The European ports of Pixar‘s Soul completely undercut the significance of the film. And they’re stirring up a good deal of controversy across the pond.
According to a recent report from The New York Times, white voice actors were cast to overdub black characters in several European versions of the film. Critics in Denmark were the first to point out the issue when the national newspaper, Berlingske, reached out to academics and local activists who identified the casting as a clear example of structural racism. After the piece was published, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, the white actor who voices Soul’s lead, Joe Gardner, in the Danish dub, issued a fairly tonedeaf statement on his Facebook page. “My position with regards to any job is very simple: let the man or woman who can perform the work in the best possible way get the job,” Lie Kaas wrote, not quite grasping the systemic critique.
In Portugal, a petition calling for their version to be recasted and remade has garnered more than 17,000 signatures. “This movie is not just another movie, and representation matters,” the petition reads. Black Portuguese actors have also weighed in on the casting, condemning Disney for perpetuating “a persistent and systemic race disparity practice in the Portuguese media, that results in the invisibilization of Black performers who constantly struggle to get roles in entertainment projects.” It remains unclear whether either of these dubs (or the half-dozen other European versions that also feature white actors dubbing black charaters,) will be redone. Disney and Pixar have yet to offer comment.
Soul was released on December 25th, 2020 via the Disney+ streaming service. The film arrived to widespread acclaim for both its casting and content, placing Jamie Foxx at the lead of a star-studded cast of black actors, comedians, and musicians. Foxx’s character, Joe, is the first black antagonist in a Pixar film.