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As PP&R starts to revive its summer programs, Woodstock scores a Pixar movie that never showed in theaters!

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - PP&R presented a recent Pixar movie in Woodstock Park, as a special way to end summer, on Labor Day weekend. It drew a big crowd. The Woodstock Neighborhood Association was the major sponsor. Portland Parks' "Summer Free for All" events in city parks this year began starting up again after the pandemic break — but initially, only in small quantities. As pointed out in a previous BEE article, Sellwood's July Monday concerts in Sellwood Park returned — but only as one concert, this year, and it was in late August.

Relatively few Movies in the Park have appeared around Southeast Portland this year, but notably one that did was in Woodstock Park over Labor Day weekend. The neighborhood had the additional good fortune to receive a well-reviewed recent Pixar movie which relatively few had already seen — an animated picture called "Soul", which was released during the pandemic only online, since movie theaters were closed at the time. The jazzy soundtrack won the Golden Globe and Academy Award for "Best Original Score".

It was projected on PP&R's big outdoor screen on the relatively cool evening (at least for this summer!) of Saturday, September 3rd. Not that it wasn't warm; the line for snow cones continued to be about twenty people deep for the entire two hours.

PP&R's citywide "Summer Free for All" series of free movies and concerts is made possible by the 2020 Parks Local Option Levy passed overwhelmingly by voters, but it was one of the first times since 2019 — before the pandemic — that any Southeast neighborhood had actually hosted one of these movies in the park.

The crowd, numbered at an estimated 600 people diverse in ethnicity and age, was there at 7:30 p.m. to see the Pixar/Disney animated movie.

Families with children on blankets and beach towels; older people in lawn chairs; individuals, and couples — all lounged and visited with each other or neighbors until 8:10pm when "Soul" actually started.

COURTESY OF MIKE MORRISON  - Portland Parks & Recreation provided free popcorn for the crowd of some 600, at the Summer Free for All movie in Woodstock Park. It went fast even before the movie started - especially the bags of cheese and caramel flavored popcorn.  Some brought a picnic dinner, others snacked, and many munched popcorn donated by Joe Brown's Carmel Corn and dispensed by Portland Parks & Recreation staff. Six canopied booths set up on the east side of the park represented the Woodstock Neighborhood Association (WNA), PP&R, All Saints Episcopal Church, Woodstock Community Church, Sellwood Pet Supply, and Multnomah Votes. The popular snow cones were prepared in the Kona Ice truck at the north end of the park.

In introducing the film, PP&R Event Producer Jed Arkley thanked the Woodstock Neighborhood Association for "ponying up" the $1,000 needed to put on the event. (The "Free for All" events are free to attendees, but require a significant fee from the sponsoring neighborhood.) He commented that this was the 41st and last event for the season of the Summer Free for All movies and concerts, and he was now going on vacation!

If you, too, are unfamiliar with this movie, "Soul" is a heartfelt story with a mostly Black cast. A jazz pianist and public school music teacher (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is transported out of his body, and must find his way back into being with the actually living. The musician and teacher Joe Gardner, modeled after a real music teacher in New York City, searches for his purpose and meaning in life.

Pete Docter, "Soul" director and one of its three scriptwriters, said in an online interview: "The movie's aim is really to say that we're 'already enough'. We all can walk out of the door and enjoy life without needing to accomplish or prove anything. And that's really freeing."

The 1 hour and 40 minute film kept the attention of the park audience. All were mostly quiet, sometimes chuckling at the somewhat zany and contemplative movie. There was widespread applause at the end.

The Woodstock Neighborhood Association hopes to host another movie next summer. If you want to get involved or suggest a title, start attending the monthly first Wednesday WNA meetings — in person, or on Zoom — at 7 p.m. at the Woodstock Community Center, just west of Bi-Mart. Visit, for more information or a link to Zoom meetings.

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