Pixar’s Elemental found its chemistry late in its theatrical run. While it had opened to a tepid $29.5 million at the box office, it has since grossed over $150 domestically and over $465 million worldwide. Quite an accomplishment for a film that was considered a flop in its opening weekend – although, we knew it was something special after reviewing it.
Now the film is available for you to own and enjoy repeatedly from wherever you choose. And since we’ve already shared our thoughts on it, we will take a deep dive into some of the bonus features available on the digital release.
Elemental takes place in Element City, where elements of Water, Fire, Wood, and Air live together. It follows the lives of two citizens, a clever fire element with a hot-headed personality, Ember Lumen, and a go-with-the-flow water element, Wade Ripple. The two meet and fall in love after Wade is summoned by a plumbing accident at a convenience store owned by Ember’s father, Bernie. Typically, the two wouldn’t mix because water could extinguish fire, or fire could evaporate water. However, they will soon discover more to the other than their basic elements.
This won’t be so much of a film review, as we’ve already published it when it hit theaters in June. Instead, we will look at the three bonus features of the digital version.
As with all of the bonus features, it comes with a filmmaker’s commentary and deleted scenes that didn’t make it into the film. The latter is more of a rough sketch of what could have been. Since these stories are written and rewritten constantly over some time, in this case, seven years, a lot of what you will see from the deleted scenes was from a previous version of a script.
“Ember and Wade” explores the genesis of the movie. In it, we hear director Peter Sohn talk about how it all originated based on a drawing of the water guy, Wade and a fire girl Ember walking into a city. The next was how the periodic table resembled an apartment building and how that building would be filled with the classic elements as its tenants. The next was how Sohn’s interracial marriage reflected the relationship between Ember and Wade. But as exciting as that idea was, the Pixar artists wondered how to make this happen.
The idea was to avoid making the fire characters look like they were on fire or the water characters look gelatinous, but rather have them as fire or water. So even though they look like us, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will move like us. As soon as they figured out the animation language, the next was to bring some real-life science to the film. This meant researching how these elements act or react when near each other.
“Next Stop Element City” is a ten-minute feature that centers on the world Sohn had envisioned for the film. The director wanted it to represent hope. Described as a world beyond imagination, artists had to design a city that was made for four different types of elemental characters. At times, it felt like making four different movies.
So, being part of an immigrant family, artists were influenced by Sohn’s New York upbringing. The idea was to take something people were familiar with and translate that into the respective elements while making it witty and humorous. They had to think about how each element would interact with the city. So, since the first wave of immigrants were water people, the city had to be designed with water people in mind.
So Ember entering the Water district, where it is unsafe for her, relates to Sohn’s experience growing up as the son of Korean immigrants in New York, where everything is in English and not Korean. It was a big deal to capture that sense of confusion and fear and translate that into Ember’s reaction when she enters Element City for the first time, a city that was not made for her.
The bonus feature also dives into some of the film’s mythology and how it reflects our history. So, Earth people were the next wave of immigrants. When they left their clay homes, fire people moved in and learned to adapt and mold their environment to their needs, history, and culture. Since fire and cooking were related, many buildings resembled cooking utensils like the gamasot pot – a Korean iron cauldron used to cook rice, soups, and stews. Think of it as a Dutch oven.
And so it’s no surprise that the Fireplace shop, the film’s central location, which is owned by Ember’s father, is modeled after Sohn’s father’s shop. It’s that real-world story that runs parallel with the story that he has written. The humanity of these buildings also comes through in the wear and tear. Artists talk about how these buildings were made over time, how Bernie patched things, and how it was all made by hand. The idea was to make something that looked like a city but also designed for a respective element in mind.
Paths to Pixar: The Immigrant Experience is a 14-minute bonus feature that takes a look at the immigrant hands that drew, designed, and brought Sohn’s personal story to life. The immigrant experience has always been a crucial part of Elemental as a film. Not only does it tell the immigrant story, but the animated film was made by the hands of artists from around the world. During this featurette, we see artists talk about their native countries and the journey they took to get where they are now. Some might be unexpected. Others will be heartbreaking. But as a collective, they speak of the sacrifices they and their families had to make in order to get where they are now.
The artists also talk about some of the discriminations they experienced either as children or as adults. And as much of the featurette is about the strength and perseverance to overcome that hate, it is also a love letter to the artists’ parents, who gave them a home, put food on the table, and welcomed someone who wasn’t the same as them into their home. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself shedding more than a few tears.
Here’s a full list of the bonus features that you can find on the Elemental digital release:
- Carl’s Date – Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee and Emmy® Award winner Bob Peterson and produced by Kim Collins, this all-new short, “Carl’s Date,” finds Carl reluctantly agreeing to go on a date with a lady friend —but admittedly with no idea how dating works these days. Ever the helpful friend, Dug steps in to calm Carl’s pre-date jitters and offer some tried-and-true tips for making friends — if you’re a dog. “Carl’s Date” opened in theaters in front of Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental.”
- Ember and Wade – Take a deeper look at the development of main characters Ember and Wade, from early designs to final effects, and learn how the complex work of the technical and character teams brought these characters to life.
- Next Stop: Element City – Explore how Element City is built to accommodate its different inhabitants. Director Peter Sohn and crew members share insights about the evolution of the designed world, as well as some of the research that inspired its unique look.
- Paths to Pixar: The Immigrant Experience – Hear from first-generation filmmakers on the Elemental crew as they share their journeys to Pixar. Discover how Elemental’s real-world themes of sacrifice and identity, amongst many others, reflect or diverge from their own lived experiences.
Director Peter Sohn introduces five scenes that are storyboarded, set to music, timed, and voiced, but are not included in the final version of Elemental.
- Intro Ember – An alternate opening in which our hero Ember helps a newly immigrated Fire family navigate through, and acclimate to, Element City. Scene introduced by director Peter Sohn.
- Mom Rejects Wade – Ember’s traditional parents learn that she’s enamored with watery Wade…and it doesn’t go well. Scene introduced by story supervisor Jason Katz.
- Dante Challenge – In an attempt to keep Ember apart from Wade, Bernie tasks her with finding a place to live for newcomer Dante, who Wade finds himself rather enamored with. Scene introduced by story artist Nira Liu.
- Brook Dinner – Ember joins Wade for dinner at his home, in this abandoned storyline in which Wade’s mother, Brook, is revealed to be the villain diverting water into Firetown. Scene introduced by story artist Anna Benedict.
- Beach Proposal – Sharing a tender moment on the beach, Ember and Wade propose marriage to each other. Scene introduced by story artists Yung-Han Chang and Le Tang.
- Elemental Filmmaker Commentary – Join director Peter Sohn, supe tech Sanjay Bakshi, supervising animator Mike Venturini, and directing animator Gwendelyn Enderoglu as they provide insight into the making of this remarkable animated feature while you watch it.
Elemental is now on Digital, and will be released on on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™ and DVD on September 26.