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Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Shows A Lot of Potential

Ember and Wade from the teaser poster for Pixar’s Elemental

We’re getting closer to the June 16 release of Pixar’s Elemental—the studio’s 27th feature and, arguably, its first romantic comedy. (RIP, Newt.)

Set in the fantastical Element City, the film follows fiery Ember and sappy water guy Wade. The couple must navigate their many differences after a rather disastrous meet-cute.

This week I attended a footage presentation and in-person Q&A with director Peter Sohn. Judging by the strong early publicity, Disney is confident in the film’s box office potential. After watching the footage, I think I can see why.

Peter Sohn begins his presentation

Four extended clips from the first half were shown, which nicely set up the story and differentiate it from earlier ones with ostensibly similar ideas (e.g. Inside Out‘s visual representation of emotions, immigrant parent-child culture clash in Turning Red).

The visual elements (pun intended) are wonder-inducing. Witty, fast-paced gags drew audible laughter from the adult audience and will have younger viewers in stitches too. The voice cast skips over big celebrities for a fresh feel that fits with Thomas Newman’s energetic scoring.

One thing that Sohn is especially proud of is that Elemental is Pixar’s first movie where the lead characters are effects rather than solids with effects. The production team put a lot into the character design, having learned that effectively anthropomorphizing fire is no easy feat.

This was a major technical and artistic challenge and required a leap in the computer power necessary for rendering. (Sohn revealed that the team was still only able to include five close-up shots of Ember.) The film is not even done yet; there’s still some lighting work to be finished.

Avatar: The Way of Water rekindled my appreciation for stereoscopic 3-D at the movies. So I did a mental fist pump when Sohn said that on Elemental, Pixar has moved away from favoring a more contained 3-D effect. I’ve been griping about the subtle approach for years; I hope we’re finally about to get some in-your-face, flinch-worthy shots.

With or without the glasses, Elemental has a lot of potential that I personally hadn’t recognized from the synopsis or even the trailers. If you can’t tell, I can hardly wait to see the rest of it.

Let us know in the comments if Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ has you burning to get back to the movie theaters to enjoy a Pixar movie again!