Pixar was once Disney’s crown jewel, a reliable hit-maker that not only delivered money into the company coffers, but also reliably put trophies on shelves. The last few years have been rough, though, with Pixar movies—again, once one of the most reliable box office performers in the entire industry—were treated as chum for streaming waters. Lightyear saw Pixar return to theaters after a two-year pandemic hiatus, but it wasn’t a triumphant comeback for the animation studio, as it barely scraped together $226 million at the box office (against a $200 million budget—not good, Bob). 


The trailer for a new Pixar movie, Elemental, dropped yesterday and was trending for a bit, suggesting Pixar can still generate interest on their name alone. Elemental is set in a world where each of the four elements—air, water, earth, and fire—exists within in its own “city” and the elements never mix, clearly no witches were involved in the writing of this movie. Leah Lewis voices Ember, a spunky fire girl trying to appease her demanding father, and Mamoudou Athie voices Wade, a laid-back water guy. Catherine O’Hara voices Wade’s water-mom, and Wendi McClendon-Covey voices his employer. I am most excited by Joe Pera voicing a tree bureaucrat, a perfect piece of casting (watch Joe Pera Talks With You).

This is just Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? with all the overt racist bits removed and transitioned into an allegory more palatable for young kids, which is a grand Disney tradition (a part of me has never recovered from The Fox and the Hound). Director Peter Sohn also attributes inspiration to his childhood as the son of Korean immigrants who ran a grocery store in the Bronx (obviously the model for Ember’s family store). That’s genuinely sweet, and I wish the trailer was doing more for me, but it’s not really moving the needle. 


It reminds me of Soul, like I can see how the Pixar formula will work here, but I am not convinced it will appeal to actual children (theoretically, Pixar’s primary audience). But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Elemental can bring back that old Pixar magic.