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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

“Elemental” puts original concept and stunning animation to use in telling a charming family story

Pixar’s latest animated family movie, “Elemental,” tells a charming romantic comedy story with plenty of heartwarming and crowd-pleasing moments.
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The beautiful animation that makes up the world of the movie “Elemental” can be seen in its opening shot. Greeting audiences with the popping colors of Element City and unique character designs for the four elemental classes of citizens.

While the visuals were the main draw and most impressive part of the film to me, its story is heartwarming and tear-jerking, like many others in Pixar’s catalog. The film was originally released in theaters in June with a lackluster box office response but debuted on Disney+ on Sept. 13. The film was not a financial success domestically but found its core audience overseas, with over $330 million garnered outside the U.S.

Directed by Peter Sohn, “Elemental” follows an immigrant family of fire people, particularly a fire person named Ember, voiced by Leah Lewis. She is set to inherit her family’s business when she meets a water person named Wade, voiced by Mamoudou Athie, she questions the trajectory of her life.

The story was set up like a romantic comedy as audiences were introduced to Ember and her struggle to please her parents. The romance between Ember and Wade introduced another Romeo and Juliet-esque conflict with the common rule that elements can never mix in Element City.

What distinguishes “Elemental” from similar films is its lively animation. Ember, being made out of fire, constantly flares when she talks and moves. Meanwhile, Wade is constantly bouncing and dripping like a water droplet.

The romance was compelling from the first moment the two characters met, mostly due to the fantastic voice acting from Lewis and Athie. Despite being natural elements, both characters feel very human.

“Elemental” isn’t all sappy romance and family drama though. It doesn’t forget the “comedy” in “romantic comedy.” Every character’s element status often played into the comedy. One repeating gag throughout the film is that water people cry a lot because they can reabsorb their tears back into themselves.

Characters can use their elemental abilities in creative ways too, like Wade growing in size when he comes into contact with another body of water, which helped flesh out the movie’s universe.

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The most interesting aspect of the film to me, though, was the absence of an antagonist. Sohn described the film as a personal story that reflected his own experience growing up with immigrant parents, and he felt that a villain made the story less realistic.

This choice paid off since the movie feels like a charming and sweet depiction of life. Even though the characters were going through a massive transition in their lives, the movie remained hopeful and light.

Overall, “Elemental” surprised me with how full of heart and humanity it is. The jaw-dropping animation enhanced the heartwarming narrative that is sure to make any Pixar fan satisfied.

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About the Contributor
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.