Pixar has unveiled the title and plot of its 27th feature film – the one that will follow next month’s hotly awaited Toy Story spin-off, Lightyear – with a classic Pixar trope given a breath of fresh air.
The film is titled Elemental, and is currently bound to hit cinemas on June 16, 2023. It’s being directed by Peter Sohn, who’d previously helmed 2015’s The Good Dinosaur (and before it, the short film Partly Cloudy). Also joining from that film’s team is producer Denise Ream.
Elemental will continue the trend of Pixar asking, “What if [otherwise non-sentient item] had feelings?” It follows in the footsteps of the Toy Story series (which brought love, sadness and existential crises to toys), Cars (which did the same to, as its title implies, cars), Wall-E (robots) and Inside Out (feelings themselves), making fully fleshed-out characters of the four basic elements: earth, air, fire and water.
It’ll focus primarily on the latter two, following the story of Ember and Wade – the former an aloof flame and the latter a quirky dash of water – as they learn to overcome their differences and embrace their similarities.
So goes the logline: “In a city where fire, water, land, and air residents live together, a fiery young woman and a go-with-the-flow guy are about to discover something elemental: How much they actually have in common.”
In a statement shared with the film’s announcement, Sohn explained that in developing its story, he was inspired by his upbringing as the child of Korean immigrants in New York.
“My parents emigrated from Korea in the early 1970s and built a bustling grocery store in the Bronx,” he said. “We were among many families who ventured to a new land with hopes and dreams – all of us mixing into one big salad bowl of cultures, languages and beautiful little neighborhoods. That’s what led me to Elemental.
“Our story is based on the classic elements – fire, water, land and air. Some elements mix with each other, and some don’t. What if these elements were alive?”
Pixar’s most recent film, Turning Red, had a similar origin, with director Domee Shi drawing from her experiences as a Chinese girl raised in Toronto.
In other Pixar news, employees for the animation giant recently claimed that Disney executives censored gay affection in its films. In an open letter attributed to LGBTQIA+ animators and allies at the studio, they wrote: “We have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were.
“Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar.”
Following the backlash, it was reported that a same-sex kiss in Lightyear, which had previously been scrapped from the film, was restored. That film is due to hit screens in exactly a month, marking Pixar’s return to cinemas (after Turning Red, Luca and Soul were all sent to Disney+) on June 17.