A chat with Kevin Nolting about his directorial debut on Pixar’s 22 vs Earth

04 May 2021 / 15:46 H.

Fans of Disney and Pixar’s Soul get to watch 22 getting up to no good in The Great Before way before she met the jazz musician, Joe Gardner in the short, 22 vs Earth.

A chat with Kevin Nolting about his directorial debut on Pixar’s 22 vs Earth

Set years before the events in Soul, 22 defies the rule of The Great Before and refuses to go to Earth. She plots a rebellion and enlists five new souls to her cause. When things didn’t go as planned, 22’s subversive plot may actually lead to a surprising revelation about the meaning of life.

22 vs Earth happens to be the Kevin Nolting’s, the lead editor of Soul, directorial debut. Nolting joined Pixar Animation Studios in June 2020 as the second editor on the Academy Award-winning feature film Finding Nemo. He proceeded to work on more critically acclaimed projects such as Cars and Wall-E. Nolting also served as lead editor on the Academy Award-winning feature Up and Inside Out.

Kevin Nolting
Kevin Nolting

Buzz managed to get a quick chat with Nolting about his directorial debut on 22 vs Earth on Disney+.

Congratulations on your directorial debut! Were you nervous directing a short for the first time?

Nolting: Yes and no. I’ve been around Pixar long enough and I worked on the movie Soul so I was familiar with the movie and everybody working on it. We’re pretty comfortable at this point in Pixar. But you know, it’s easier to be an editor and be sort of behind the scenes than being the person out there responsible so it’s definitely a little nerve wrecking.

What was the inspiration to make 22 vs Earth?

Nolting: In the film Soul, we didn’t get to talk about why she refused to go to Earth. For her, Earth is taking her friends away so she’s sad about that and reacts to it like a child with anger.

We decided to make this short before Soul was a great success. It’s kind of a tradition to have a short attached to our DVDs. Disney+ is now continuing the tradition of making a little movie or a bonus feature to explore an aspect of the film.

How did you manage to balance the theme in Soul and 22 vs Earth without making it too morbid or deep for children?

Nolting: It has become our specialty at Pixar to start the movie with a very adult theme and make it entertaining for children too. It’s just part of our DNA now to think that way. These conversations do come up when we work on projects such as Soul and Inside Out.

We start by making a few versions [of the story] and start the conversation on how to make it friendly for children. We discovered over the years that kids are a lot more astute than we give them credit for and they’re curious about these subjects. Just because they don’t have certain verbal skills to talk about it, they are curious about it and they seem to enjoy exploring these subjects.

A chat with Kevin Nolting about his directorial debut on Pixar’s 22 vs Earth

What was it like working with Tina Fey?

Nolting: She’s great to work with! She’s so nice, so professional, always on time, very adaptable and open to try new things. She’s very collaborative and is very much a natural part of [the short].

Who came up with the acronym ‘Apocalypse’? I really liked it!

Nolting: It was the writer Josh Cooley. The original word was actually ‘Chaos.’ Coincidentally, ‘KAOS’ is a criminal organisation in the old TV show that I love called Get Smart. We eventually came up with ‘Apocalypse’ during discussions and Josh came up with the words attached to it.

[Nolting stated that the film Apocalypse Now is one of his favourite films and he has included two Apocalypse Now Easter eggs in the Hall of Everything shots in 22 vs Earth]

A chat with Kevin Nolting about his directorial debut on Pixar’s 22 vs Earth

We know that the meaning of life isn’t answered in the short directly so what’s the meaning of life to you?

Nolting: That’s not fair (laughs). I didn’t answer the question in the movie for that very reason. It’s a moving target for me so I think I leave it for everyone to answer the question for themselves.

Can you define 22 vs Earth in three words?

Nolting: A certain executive at Disney gave a three word review: Smart and funny. So, I’ll go with that.

22 vs Earth is available on Disney+ now. Disney+ Hotstar will be available in Malaysia starting on 1 June 2021.

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