By Francisco Omar Fernandez Rodriguez
“Elemental” is the latest of Pixar’s animated films. Produced by Denise Ream and directed by Peter Sohn, this movie is a creative and positive take on cross-culture romance.
“Elemental” is a romance story between Ember Lumen, a fire-element woman, and Wade Ripple, a water-element man. It takes place in Element City, where all of the elements are supposed to live together in harmony.
However, it becomes clear very quickly that the city is not built with fire elements in mind. In fact, the city was originally built by the water elements, making it rather water-centric. “Elemental” tackles themes of immigration, prejudice, and xenophobia in a unique way.
The director, Peter Sohn, is the son of Korean immigrants living in New York. It has been stated that he used his childhood as inspiration for “Elemental.”
Sohn also directed “The Good Dinosaur,” which is known for being Pixar’s first box office bomb. Clearly he has improved as a director and story producer since then.
Ember is voiced by Leah Lewis, an actress best known for her role as the lead character in the Netflix film “The Half of It.”
Wade is voiced by Mamoudou Athie, an actor best known for his starring role in the Netflix film “Archive 81.” Their acting skills help bring their characters to life.
Ember’s family moved to Element City before she was born, resulting in her growing up in a difficult environment. Her family immediately faced prejudice when they arrived, shown by an immigration officer giving them new names for official use due to “Firish” being too difficult to understand and write. The family tried to find a place to live but they were continuously rejected because they are fire elements. They eventually bought a small place that they made into a shop.
The film does a good job expressing these realistic themes of prejudice and intolerance. This family is from a foreign land and is immediately judged and hated for it.
Throughout “Elemental” there are times where the other elements show hostility to the fire elements for no sensible reason. There are even places in Element City where the fire elements are not allowed to be in. This showcases real issues of xenophobia that exist in our everyday lives. Taking on these themes gives more awareness to issues presented in the movie.
The tone of the film is relatively light hearted but serious when it needs to be. The tension between the fire elements and the rest of Element City showcases real life xenophobia and racism.
There are scenes where the water, air, and plant elementals use harsh and seemingly discriminatory language against the fire elementals. In another scene, Ember is told that her accent is extremely clear, which she naturally takes offense to because she grew up with the language. Whenever scenes like this are on, the tone is naturally heavy. But it is still a Pixar movie meant for children, so it keeps the studio’s usual light cheerfulness throughout.
The romance between Ember and Wade is a new and welcomed approach. The film shows the differences between them and their cultures, and how despite this, the couple can still love each other.
It gives a new form of representation to cross-culture pairs. Naturally, Ember and Wade have their arguments but they still clearly care for one another.
During my first viewing of “Elemental,” I found myself enjoying it more than I originally expected. Sometimes I found myself unsure of how the movie would resolve its conflict. It is a beautifully animated film to watch if you are interested in a touching and hopeful story about a seemingly impossible love.
“Elemental” is an emotional and enlightening Pixar movie about cross-culture romance shown in a creative and unique format. I would recommend giving it a watch now that it is on Disney+.
B+: A passionate love story