Get ready to get your heart broken and mended by another Disney & Pixar animated movie! Pixar released its latest animated film this June, Elemental. Everyone is super hyped and excited -as they should be because Pixar never misses! From classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Monsters’ Inc to recent movies like Inside Out, Soul and Turning Red, Pixar Animation Studio delivers masterpiece after masterpiece, never missing a beat. Whether you are five years old or fifty years old, a Pixar movie can reach the deep ends of your heart and awaken feelings you never thought existed.
With all this hype in mind, Pixar blessed us with their latest project, Elemental. Pixar went from “What if toys had feelings?” to “What if fish had feelings?” to “What if feelings had feelings?” and now we’re at “What if elements had feelings?”. Yes, you read that right! Elemental -the title is self-explanatory- is about the four elements of nature coming to life and dealing with their feelings about who they are and who they want to be.
If this needs to be hyping you more, keep reading because we will discuss everything we know about Elemental! (Don’t worry, there are zero spoilers ahead!)
Welcome to Element City!
Element City is your typical metropolitan city but with elements of nature living there instead of humans! In Element City, water, fire, earth and air creatures live in harmony with only one crucial rule: Elements cannot mix. Each element lives independently in its neighbourhoods, runs its own business and combines with only its kind.
Ember – a fire element- lives with her family in Fire Town. She works in her father’s restaurant and is the perfect daughter. She does everything she’s told and never thinks about leaving Fire Town. That is until she meets Wade.
Wade is a water element. He lives primarily in Water Town but could better follow the rules. Somehow, Wade gets stuck in the water pipes that lead to Ember’s family’s restaurant, and that is how the two meet. Surprised that Ember has never left Fire Town, Wade takes her on an adventure throughout Element City.
In the trailer, we see Ember struggling to navigate Element City as a fire element. A mother moves her baby away from Ember, afraid she’ll burn him, and an essential air evaporates when Ember comes close to him. For Ember herself, being close to Wade can hurt her as we see her hand sizzle in pain when Wade accidentally drops some water on her.
Through their time together, Ember starts to question how she lives her life and wonders if it’s time for her to discover what she wants to do instead of what her father wants her to do. Scorching hot and refreshingly cool, Ember and Wade will go on an adventure of a lifetime and discover if elements really cannot mix or if they can be the ones to break this rule forever.
Inspiration behind Elemental
Korean-American director Peter Sohn used his experiences as a second-generation immigrant in New York to shape the story and feel of Elemental. Talking about the inspiration behind the movie, Sohn says that his parents’ experience moving from Korea to New York City has been the spark that made him pitch the idea behind his movie to Disney.
According to Sohn, New York was and still is a melting pot of cultures where each neighbourhood represents a cultural background with its traditions, cushions, clothes, and relationships—learning to navigate this as someone from a one-culture country can be challenging but exciting and gratifying.
Contrary to what many might expect, Sohn was not inspired by other animated movies while creating Elemental but by romantic comedies. He listed movies such as Moonstruck and The Big Sick as big inspirations behind how he presented his story. Pixar doesn’t have a lot of outright romantic films, and Sohn wanted to change that. Ember and Wade do not just have an adventure throughout the city where they uncover big feelings about themselves; they also fall in love. And a big part of every romantic comedy’s love story is the city and how it plays into the events and feelings of the characters.
The Racism Allegory
The characters, the setting and the story of Elemental are a racism allegory. Director Peter Sohn has briefly mentioned this talking about the movie but looking at the plot and the trailer; it’s easy to catch. This film is not Pixar’s first time trying to discuss racism through animation and non-human characters. While the intention might be good, the execution is hard to nail.
In Elemental, Element City is technically New York with its various neighbourhoods and different cultures. The Water Elements supposedly represent white people. They live in all the city’s loveliest areas, move freely, and have no worries. In comparison, the Fire Elements are the minorities. They’re deemed dangerous, are confined to specific neighbourhoods and the city is not built to accommodate them or their needs.
This kind of division is not the best way to represent racism. Because if you’ve noticed, all the “oppressed people” are mushed together into one element, like they are no different from each other. On the other hand, the Water Elementals only represent one kind of people. This allegory has been criticised multiple times, most recently in Pixar’s movie Zootopia.
Discussing racism through non-human characters never works because, in all honesty, these characters usually have a valid reason not to mix. In Zootopia, predators are dangerous, and prey should be worried about them. It’s the rule of nature; it’s not a decision these animals willingly make. The same thing applies to Elementa. Water and fire can’t mix; it’s chemically impossible, as water will extinguish the fire. However, with humans, racism is a choice with no valid reasons except hatred and a sense of superiority.
It will be fascinating to see how Peter Sohn and his film handle their message and how they will deliver it. Pixar usually has very emotional and true-to-heart stories, and we hope that this movie will be no different.
Elemental Film Production
These days many film projects can be wrapped up in just a few years, but that has rarely been the case for animated movies. Writing the story, designing the characters and the setting, building the 3D environment, and all the animation and VFX work can take years and years to complete. Elemental is no different, as it took seven years to go from pitch to release.
Elemental director Peter Sohn has previously worked in Pixar films such as The Good Dinosaur, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up and more. He has also been in Pixar since 2000 and worked in the art department in various roles, even going on to voice characters in movies such as Luca and Lightyear. His vast experience in the animation industry and Pixar movies explicitly gives him a significant leg up and excites audiences and critics to see what he will have to present with this movie.
The Voice Cast
Pixar always introduces audiences to the most fantastic voice actors, and his film’s cast is no different.
Leah Lewis is a 26-year-old Chinese-American actress. She began her career as a child actress in Nickelodeon and then went on to play Ellie Chu in Netflix’s 2020 film The Half of It. She also played Georgia Fan in The CW series adaptation of Nancy Drew.
Leah is voicing the movie’s main character, Ember. Her playful and witty voice complements Ember’s nature and immediately delivers her character’s feel. Elemental will be Leah’s first voice-acting role. Still, she already booked her second voice-acting role in The Tiger’s Apprentice, an animated adventure with Sandra Oh and Henry Golding.
Wade is voiced by Mamoudou Athie, a Mauritanian-American actor. Athie is best known for playing Dan Turner in Netflix’s Archive 81. He also had many supporting roles in feature films, such as The Circle (2017) and Unicorn Store (2017) and TV series like Sorry for Your Loss (2018–2019) and Cake (2019), the latter earning him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
Elemental will be Mamoudou Athie’s first voice-acting role.
The movie also features prominent comedy actors such as The Goldbergs’ Wendi McLendon-Covey, who voices Wade’s boss, Gale, Cinder; Soul’s Ronnie Del Carmen, who voices Ember’s father, Bernie; Tehran’s Shila Ommi, who voices Ember’s mother, Cinder and Schitt’s Creek’s Catherine Anne O’Hara who voices Wade’s mother, Brooke.
What to expect from the film?
Even with excitement for the movie on the down low, especially for a Pixar movie, you can still expect to enjoy Elemental truly. The team behind the film has put a lot of effort into creating the universe, writing the story and bringing the characters to life, which will show in the movie’s final look.
Whether you are a parent taking your children to a movie or just going with friends for a fun time out, Elemental will hopefully not disappoint you. You’ll experience all the feels one expects from a Pixar movie.
Frequently asked questions
We searched the web, and these are frequently asked questions about Elemental. If you’re still wondering about the movie, check them out. Maybe you’ll get your answers!
Is Elemental a good movie?
Well, it’s still early to announce judgements about the movie since it’s not out yet. However, from what we’ve seen in the trailer and what we know about its plot ad characters, we can say that Elemental is a good movie.
Is Elemental Disney or Pixar?
Elemental is a joint production between Disney and Pixar. Disney and Pixar have worked together on animated movies before, and arguably, they are the most successful animation studio collaboration ever.
What age group is Elemental for?
The movie is rated PG, meaning children above five can watch it under their parents’ guidance. The movie is not recommended for children under five as it can be overstimulating. The PG rating also means the film contains “some peril, thematic elements and brief language.”
Is Pixar’s Elemental a love story?
From what we can assume from the trailer and the official plot summary of the movie, yes, the movie can be considered a love story. The film will focus on Ember and Wade and the theme of opposites attraction.