Disney and Pixar’s new original movie, ELEMENTAL, brings together Fire, Water, Earth and Air residents in a town called Element City. Director Peter Sohn, for whom ELEMENTAL is very personal, created the story with screenwriters John Hoberg, Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh from the question “What if the elements we all know were alive?”. It’s a fascinating premise and Pixar, per usual, has captured the essence of the elements perfectly.
Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) is the 20-something daughter of immigrant Fire parents, Bernie (voiced by Ronnie del Carmen) and Cinder Lumen (voiced by Shila Ommi), who emigrated to Element City from Fireland after their home was destroyed. Bernie has worked tirelessly to support his close-knit family with his business, a beautiful little shop called Fireplace.
Though Bernie longs to retire, he’s concerned that Ember isn’t ready to take over for him since she can’t seem to control her fiery temper. And a construction mistake on his part has now complicated things because an inspector for Element City, a Water guy named Wade Ripple (voiced by Mamoudou Athie), has found multiple violations in Bernie’s shop which is now scheduled to be closed.
It's up to Ember to stop this from happening, and Wade is only too happy to help. He’s quickly become enamored with Ember and her burning determination, but she’s convinced the two of them would never work as a couple. It takes multiple setbacks, Wade’s calm persistence and many other characters from Fire, Water, Earth and Air to prove to Ember just how wrong she is.
ELEMENTAL, like the Pixar feature films that have come before, is incredibly delightful and entirely entertaining. The screenplay contains a great deal of humor --- the way Wade and his family, particularly his mother, Brook (voiced by Catherine O’Hara), sprout cascading waterfalls of tears at the slightest provocation --- and clever antics --- the ”wave” in the stands at the Air Ball match --- to fill the running time of one hour and 43 minutes. (Another plus considering films have become ridiculously, arduously long --- but I digress.)
The artists and technicians have once again outdone themselves. The design of the characters is pure genius, especially Ember’s and Wade’s constantly moving and reshaping images. They are so lifelike that it’s easy to forget that they are made of fire and water --- and not flesh and blood. It’s a strong testament to Pixar’s creative teams and their devotion to their crafts.
Ember is quite lovely and beautifully voiced by Lewis. Every time she inadvertently singes something --- or someone --- it’s a hoot, as well as a reminder of the danger of fire. I found Wade’s hair to be of special interest, especially when it shifts from one side of his head to the other. It’s fascinating --- and remarkable.
Stories of forbidden love are as old as time. But Sohn’s spin on Ember’s dilemma feels much more timely. Wade’s family fully embraces Ember, but Bernie and Cinder are another matter, completely. That is until Cinder --- a matchmaker --- realizes the relationship between her daughter and Ember’s Water boyfriend is based on true love. It’s a fresh approach which both kids and adults can appreciate.
ELEMENTAL may not be on a higher plane like ZOOTOPIA and INSIDE OUT, but it should be seen at a theater because Pixar has included a special surprise. Before ELEMENTAL, there is a new animated short entitled CARL’S DATE which features Carl and Dug from the ultimate Pixar classic, UP. Honestly, it’s worth the price of admission just to see this exceptional treat.
Opinion: See It Now!
As I caught glimpses in previews of the characters in the new Disney and Pixar film ELEMENTAL, I thought initially they were not very appealing. The two main characters, one a young woman and the other a young male, are made of fire and water respectively. However, thanks to the superb writing team of husband-and-wife John Hoberg and Kat Likkel, along with Brenda Hsueh, plus director Peter Sohn, these characters are so endearing and compelling they may as well be human.
Not only is the story captivating but it also inspires a deep emotional response. As we reached the inevitable dramatic ending, our screening audience was totally silent, hanging on every word. I am not afraid to admit to a teary eye at one point.
The possibility of different cultures coming together in harmony seems to be prevalent in film right now. THE LITTLE MERMAID has done that superbly and now ELEMENTAL has given us the basic elements of Fire, Water, Earth and Air in the form of the denizens in Element City. It all works because the large teams of visual effects people and animators worked diligently to create characters that audiences can identify with and believe in while enjoying hearty laughs at the same time.
In Element City there is a downtown area called Firetown. Bernie Lumen (voiced by Ronnie del Carmen) and his wife Cinder (voiced by Shila Ommi) have a daughter named Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis). Bernie owns a shop called Fireplace that sells a variety of things unique to Fire people, but he is getting older and sees retirement in his near future. Like most dads, he wants Ember to take over his business.
She seems eager to do so, but after meeting Wade Ripple (voiced by Mamoudou Athie), she sees a different life for herself. Wade is immediately smitten with Ember and when they gingerly touch hands for the first time, the water in Wade’s body begins to bubble all over.
Wade’s mother, Brook (voiced by O’Hara), is hilarious as the matriarch of a family constantly shedding tears. Meanwhile, Bernie has erected a sign over his shop that now reads “Ember’s Fireplace” as if to ensure she stays with the plan.
ELEMENTAL is tremendously entertaining for all ages. There are a plethora of fun characters and special effects that make this movie a must for a second viewing. With music by Thomas Newman, incredible animation and a wonderful storyline, it decidedly belongs among the long list of beloved films by Disney and Pixar. And if you see ELEMENTAL in a theater, you will be able to view Pixar’s precious animated short, CARL’S DATE, featuring the voice of Ed Asner as Carl and his dog Dug from Pixar’s film, UP.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!