The sight of an iconic white desk lamp and a yellow ball adorned with a blue stripe and red star greets me as I rush into Pixar Animation Studios. It's just past working hours, but the building is still bustling with people as some folks head home while others lounge at the cafe. As I make my way around, everywhere I turn, I see familiar faces from beloved films, both old and new. Shortly after, I am ushered into a screening room for a sneak peek at Elemental, a new feature film set to enchant audiences in mid-June.
Directed by Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur), Elemental transports us to the vibrant, bustling Element City, a melting pot of fire-, water-, land-, and air-residents. At the heart of this tale are Ember, a fiery, no-nonsense, hot-tempered young woman, and Wade, a cool, easy-going, and sentimental soul. As their friendship unfolds, Wade challenges Ember's beliefs about the world around her, and together, they embark on a journey of self-discovery.
The creation of Elemental was a journey in and of itself. Production started when the pandemic hit, forcing the team to find creative ways to conduct research, create characters, and collaborate remotely. Sohn shares that his inspiration for Elemental has three parts. The first was his parents' immigration experience. They came to New York without any money nor did they speak the language, but despite this, Sohn says they "managed to create a beautiful life here." The second inspiration came from the periodic table. Sohn shows a drawing over a periodic table and recalls that, "when I was a kid looking at the periodic table, I just imagined that each one of these things was like an apartment complex, all sort of squished together in this crazy neighborhood." Sohn's last inspiration comes from his relationship with his wife, who is non-Korean. "These three key inspirations and our guiding light of opposites attracting is when the story started to come together." Sohn continues, "I wanted to tell a story for everyone who's ever made a sacrifice or taken a risk."
Those stories continue as Elemental's Producer, Denise Ream, shares her personal story as well as the stories of different team members who identified as first- and second-generation individuals. It was a heartfelt moment that I personally resonated with. The care, research, and dedication that went into Elemental's story and production easily shone throughout the two days Timid spent at Pixar Animation Studios. As anticipation for Elemental continues to build, the film is set to become yet another cherished entry in Pixar's collection of unforgettable stories.
The behind-the-scenes narratives and snippets of Elemental are wonderful reminders of why Pixar's films are loved by people of all ages. Though the universal themes of beginnings, belonging, love, loss, and gratitude are not new, Pixar weaves those motifs in a refreshing, yet familiar way. As Ember and Wade navigate the complexities of their budding friendship and the trials that come with life, one cannot help but root for them.
Featuring the voices of Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie as Ember and Wade, Elemental will be released on June 16, 2023.