Pixar is back at it again, and this time around, they’re tackling what it would be like if Aristotelean elements had emotions. They’re exploring that notion in Elemental which is set to be released in theaters on June 16, 2023. That’s the US release date; other countries and regions might have slight variations in the premiere dates.
Those who visited Cannes in May might have been luckier since Elemental also had an advanced screening as a competition debut back on May 27, 2023, during the final day of the 76th Cannes Film Festival.
To date, Elemental is Disney-Pixar’s 27th full-length animated feature film. It’s produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios with Peter Sohn as the director. Peter Sohn was also the director of The Good Dinosaur, another Disney-Pixar animated film, and he began working on Elemental as early as 2015.
Thus, Elemental has been in production for around seven years with a budget of $200 million and a runtime of 110 minutes.
What is Elemental?
Elemental’s premise is simple. It takes place in a world where the Aristotelean elements, fire, water, air, and earth all live in a segregated environment that caters to their physical characteristics and limitations.
At the same time, there are parts of the city where each element also must blend with others, such as the subway or other public places. Still, elements prefer to stick with their kind due to their diametrically opposing traits, such as water naturally smothering out fire.
At its core, however, Elemental is a romance story about the impossible. It’s similar to the age-old classic Romeo and Juliet. Two main characters, Ember Lumen (fire) and Wade Ripple (water), discover that they have something in common—though their elemental differences have turned their budding relationship into a monumental challenge.
Still, Wade Ripple is persistent in pursuing Ember as his potential love interest, defying the odds and surpassing cultural, physical, and fundamental barriers to prove that love is its own language.
The Deeper Implications of Elemental
While the story and the premise sound simple enough, it’s the execution and the parallels here that will likely be the film’s charming pull (as is the case with most Pixar films).
Peter Sohn, Elemental’s director and co-writer, admitted that his prime inspiration was his upbringing as an immigrant to New York City in the 1970s. It was a time when New York City’s cultural and ethnic diversity were well-highlighted.
Moreover, you can also view Elemental as an analogy for people with disabilities, which tend to affect their lifestyles and choices of partners. Wade Ripple’s lack of tolerance to fire elemental food, for example, doesn’t sit well with Ember Lumen’s parents.
Elemental’s fictional setting also draws heavy inspiration from parts of New York City, Venice, and Amsterdam, to name a few. Even confirmed locales in the film, such as Fire Town, appear to have been inspired by Chinatown’s general aesthetics and architectural styles.
So it’s easy to see how Elemental plans to tug at the heartstrings. Meanwhile, other films like Amélie and Moonstruck were also cited as some of the film’s chief inspirations for romantic notions.
Elemental has plenty of relevant messages to impart about diversity and the importance of expanding your circle, going out of your comfort zone to meet new people and cultures, and changing your worldview. More importantly, it’s about learning to work through our differences. Like Wall-E and other Pixar films, it has a timeless message for every generation.
What are the Characteristics of Each Element?
For sure, one of Elemental’s highlights would be the key differences between each element. They’re obviously analogs for ethnicities and other differences between groups of people that set them apart.
Each member of an element seems to be predisposed to their own elemental personality on top of their physical traits. They affect the flow of the movie, as the whole story and premise revolve around their differences.
Similar to other animated Disney films such as Encanto, there’s a general theme here that pervades throughout the film, and that would be the elementals’ rigid differences in Elemental.
Fire elementals, with Ember Lumen as the poster girl for her kind, are quick-witted and, well, fiery. She, along with most other fire elementals, tends to have explosive temperaments and could be quick to anger.
And it goes without saying that they’re incompatible with anything that might extinguish them with a touch, namely water elementals. That’s why fire elementals carry around umbrellas whenever they leave their little corner of the city.
Wade Ripple was best described as a “go-with-the-flow” type of guy and his curiosity and tolerance as well as the lack of definition became the driving point of the film. Wade Ripple– at least based on the trailers, is the one who constantly pursues Ember despite their differences, often adjusting to her family and her kind’s culture.
So it stands within reason that a lot of water elementals might have a similar personality to Wade perhaps to a lesser extent. More than anything, water elementals are generally more accepting of others compared to other elements, as was the case with Wade’s family.
Among the few earth elemental main characters in the film, Fern Grouchwood was prominently shown in the trailers and he works as a City Hall bureaucrat.
Fern is shown as calm, relaxed, and nonchalant– even as his whole office exploded in a fiery blaze. It’s fair to expect earth elementals to have the same or similar temperament though don’t expect to see much of them as the story is mostly about fire and water elementals.
Air elementals can fly and be as light as air and they seem to have trouble retaining their clothes. They also appear to have problems with everyone just bumping into them because of their nature, which leads us to speculate that they’re carefree individuals.
A lot of them are absentminded or impractical or are just plain unaware of their surroundings and their own issues. Again, don’t expect to see much of them apart from being comic relief since the story is about water and fire.
You’ll be able to see more of them once Elemental premieres worldwide on June 16, 2023.