Animation is at its best when technical mastery combines with brilliant artistry to tell a touching story that is magical when told through its medium. Elemental succeeds on all counts. Each part of the animation process compliments each other through design, story, performance, and voice acting to deliver an uplifting experience which Pixar is known for.
While the immigrant story has obvious parallels to the real world, Element City adds the whimsy you want from animation. The filmmakers creatively crafted an environment where the different elements can live together. True appreciation for the environment comes upon repeat viewings where you can pick up on many of the brilliant details.
Much will probably be made about the technical innovation to have characters that are fire and water be able to embrace their elemental nature, but still able to deliver the performances and appeal that are a hallmark of animation. Perhaps the greatest testament to their success is that you only think of how difficult it must have been after the film is complete. The story overrides any thoughts of “how did they do that?” while you are immersed in the movie.
While the film's voice acting leads Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie are already accomplished in their young careers, they are not at the level where their participation could be considered stunt casting. Director Peter Shon focused on finding the perfect fits rather than big names. These are nuanced characters who require a balanced performance in order to thread the needle needed. Wade is endearing and not annoying. Ember is focused and not mean. Both Lewis and Athie maintain the balance which results in Annie Award-worthy performances.
Thomas Newman also delivers his best Pixar score yet. From the hustle and bustle of a high-speed ride through Element City to the poignant moments of familial and romantic love, Newman delivers on the specific moments while also delivering the fun you would expect in the score for an animated film.
Elemental is destined to be the next Pixar classic. It delivers on all of Pixar’s specialties. It features unique environments, technical mastery, emotional moments, and a whole lot of fun. Much like Ember and Wade, moviegoers are destined to fall in love with Elemental when it hits theaters. I give Elemental 5 out of 5 stars. It will be released, only in theaters, on June 17, 2023.