It’s easy to imagine the wind having attitude or fire being angry. A happy bunch of flowers could absolutely brighten the day of a lonely pot of dirt and water might be calm and collected one day and in a big hurry the next. But, what if the elements we all know were alive living and breathing organisms or people?
Set in Element City, where fire, water, earth and air residents live amongst one another, Disney and Pixar’s Elemental follows the journey of Ember (Leah Lewis), who’s tough, quick-witted and fiery. Ember’s life gets turned upside down when her friendship with a fun, sappy, easy going dude named Wade (Mamoudou Athie) challenges her beliefs about the world they live in and the person she ultimately longs to e.
Peter Sohn directs this very personal story working out a relationship sure to trigger awkwardness, banter and funny missteps. “I started layering in my relationship with my wife—I’m Korean and she’s American, half Italian,” Sohn says. “I hid the relationship from my parents at first because they—in an old-school way—wanted me to marry someone Korean. My grandmother’s dying words were literally ‘Marry Korean!’”
Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis, adorably bring Wade and Ember to life. Athie’s sense of quirky, awkwardness coupled with Lewis’ headstrong vulnerability make Elemental delightful to watch. Not to mention, Pixar’s attention to detail and culture is always on point and impressive, making this just a few of the reasons their films always hit the heart strings in just the right spot. To make the immigrant/culture story as authentic as possible, the filmmakers spoke with more than 100 first or second generation immigrants about their emotional stories of what people go through when making another country home and the impact it has on one’s family.
Life lessons centered around curbing your temper, killing with kindness and leaning into fear of make life decisions in opposition to what your parents may have mapped out for your future are things one can take heed to as an adult, teen or small child. It’s our individuality that makes us unique.
Infused with just as bright and bold colors as the characters themselves, at its core Elemental is a story about relationships while glaringly illustrating how our surface differences are almost always obsolete when it comes to penetrating the heart. In addition it teaches audiences how to embrace complex and loving relationships through Ember and Wade, between parents and their kids, all those who might not look like us and the grace we must have to embrace all of it in its purest form.