Pixar’s upcoming film, “Elemental”, follows the story of Ember, a fire-elemental, and Wade, a water-elemental. It is set in Elemental City, which is very much modeled after New York City. Director Peter Sohn explains the inspiration behind this film during an early press day which took place at Pixar Animation Studios. Sohn reveals where “Elemental” came from “a mix of three very personal parts of my life.”

His Parents

The first of his inspirations comes from his parents. They came from Korea to NYC in the late 1960s, early 1970s. They did not speak any English, yet they created a beautiful life for the family in the Bronx. His father ran a flower shop and Peter has wonderful memories of growing up there.

Ember’s family is very much modeled after this concept. Her parents come to start a new life in Element City while pregnant with Ember. They build a store and a life from nothing. The relationship between Ember and her parents is very strong on screen, and it is clear that she wants to make them proud. Her goal is to takeover the store from her father, although it isn’t clear if that is her true dream or not.

The Periodic Table With A Twist

Sohn confesses that when he first looked at the Periodic Table of Elements as a child, he pictured an apartment complex. He came up with stories of what the elements were doing in their apartments, which were the boxes that they lived in. He imagined the troubles that would arise with them living next to each other and the different ways they would interact with each other.

From this came the idea of beautiful little neighborhoods in a city. This is how Element City was born. A city that was built by water, who soon welcomed land, then air, and finally, fire. Fire has not quite found their place yet in Element City as it wasn’t built with them in mind. Fire does not mix well with any of the other elements which makes it hard for them to feel welcome and accepted.

In “Elemental”, Ember must carry an umbrella with her to shield herself from water. Similarly, if she accidentally bumps into the leaves on a land-elemental, it will go up in flames.

His Wife

The third and final inspiration for “Elemental” is Peter’s wife and the idea of marrying outside of his culture. He laughs as he says that his grandmother’s dying words were “marry Korean.” A similar line is actually weaved into the movie in a hilarious way.

Peter includes his experience of falling in love with a “non-Korean woman” in the story of Wade and Ember. As explained above, elements do not play well together, so the culture clashes that are created when one dates outside of their element is a part of the story of “Elemental”.

Opposites Attract

Peter Sohn admits that even with these three staples, the possibilities were endless. There were a lot of directions that “Elemental” could go, until they settled on the idea of opposites attract. That became their North Star and the rest is history. As he puts it, “with these three inspirations and our guiding light of opposites attracting, the story started to come together.”

“Elemental” tells a story for anyone who has ever made a sacrifice or taken a risk, all set in the hustle and bustle of a crazy city. While this is very much a romantic comedy, it becomes a triangle at times due Ember’s relationship with Wade and with her father.

“Elemental” arrives in theaters on June 16th. Pixar short, “Carl’s Date”, will play ahead of the feature.

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Tessa Smith

Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.

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