Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ looks like a stunningly ambitious return to form

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Fortunately, Pixar is swinging back to the brilliant original ideas that made the animation studio so wonderful and moving further away from recycling its own content into endless sequels. The first teaser trailer for the studio’s next movie, Elementary, has dropped after sparking fan enthusiasm when Pixar announced the film earlier this year. And judging by 90 seconds of stunning animation and beautifully festive colors, this is the latest in Pixar’s return to form.

Elementary plunges us into Element City, the hometown where fire, water, air and land dwellers all live together, seemingly in perfect harmony – this is Pixar, not Avatar: The Last Airbender, and last but not least. In the teaser, a firefighter, aptly named Ember, boards the subway in her chic flame retardant hoodie. As she moves through the car to find the perfect spot, we’re treated to a glimpse of just some of the genius ways the animators came to convey the nature of the film’s concept.

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There are clouds that can float past the crowded train car and stay on the ceiling; anthropomorphic clumps of grass that sprout weed flowers when they raise their hands to steady themselves; puddles of liquid that lose their lipstick in their own bodies and sneeze on plant inhabitants that sit nearby and fertilize them.

When Ember finally finds a place to stand, a bump on the train pushes her and her headphones fall to the floor. As she reaches down to grab them, a drop of water from another resident lands on her hand, briefly extinguishing part of it. The two introduce themselves: she is Ember, he is Wade, and suddenly they just started the meet-cute for their own forbidden Romeo & Juliet romance.

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In just a handful of seconds, Pixar has already illustrated a world of endless possibilities, as they have so deftly done with films like Monster Inc. and Soul. It might be stereotypical Pixar fashion right now to take a few random, everyday things and turn them into a movie, but who cares if it’s so dazzling to look at?

Plus, the teaser trailer alone raises so many questions. What can you expect from Element City? Can these residents all get along? Is there any way Wade and Ember can fall in love, or do they have to settle for being friends? Will this be one Push daisies kind of situation?

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Elementary is director Peter Sohn’s second chance to shine after his directorial debut, The good dinosaur, flew under the radar in 2017. Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie ride along, lending their voices to Ember and Wade respectively. While there are still more plot points and voice acting to be revealed, Elementary it certainly looks like this is the latest in Pixar’s return to form, following movies like To blush and Luke stunned critics and audiences over the past few years. We know for sure when Elementary continue that pattern when the film hits theaters in June 2023.

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