The latest 2020 animation film ‘Soul’ is produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The protagonist, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), however is not all animation and fiction. He is based on a teacher from Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens, New York, named Dr. Peter Archer, who retired recently and is the actual soul of the movie ‘Soul.’
“It began with Pixar research,” Dr. Archer tells TODAY. “They found me out and conducted several trips to New York and brought me on board as a consultant to authenticate things a bit, because I am a middle school band teacher and I am also a professional musician.”
Pixar got in touch with Archer and observed his classes. In fact, they even measured the classroom to make the movie’s classroom look as realistic as possible. Archer says that it is his classroom (modified) that is shown at the beginning of the movie. It is also his expertise they needed since he has taught for over 30 years as a school band teacher. And since he is also a performing musician, he talked to them about handling both, teaching and performing, making it one of the reasons Pixar was interested in his expertise. “So they wanted to understand how I balanced both a career as a performer and an educator as well,” he says.
Having graduated from the music program at Queens College, Archer wanted to work with a symphony orchestra. Becoming a teacher was a happy accident when he was given an internship offer. “People have this notion that people who can’t play teach … it’s a negative stigma of sorts attributed to musicians not able to find employment,” Archer says. He was held back for a moment because of this stigma but then took the internship and loved teaching while still continuing to perform.
His experience not only helped the moviemakers but also his students. “The fact I was out there and performing at the same time, and the fact I could bring in the reality and make things really interesting for them [the students] … that is so powerful,” Archer explains.
This film is the immortal acknowledgement for a teacher, for Archer. Undoubtedly, the educator community will never forget and neither will the students!