Disney dedicated a huge chunk of its CinemaCon presentation to this summer’s original Pixar movie “Elemental,” as theater owners got to see the first 20 minutes of the film.
Directed by Peter Sohn and inspired by his immigrant parents’ life in New York, “Elemental” stars Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie as Ember and Wade, two residents of a city where personifications of water, fire, air and earth live alongside each other. But living alongside each other is as much as they can do, as fire elementals are physically incapable of touching water elementals just as earth elementals cannot touch fire elementals.
The film opens with Ember’s fiery parents, Bernie and Cinder arriving by boat to their new home with other travelers from air, earth and water. Murals show the arrival of those three elements to the city, but Bernie and Cinder are among the first fire elements to arrive at this new metropolis, as seen by their problems getting around the language barrier and getting denied apartments by water and wood landlords.
With nowhere else to go, Bernie and Cinder settle down in an abandoned apartment, where Ember is born and learns about the traditions of fire through her childhood. Bernie starts up a cafe called The Fireplace for other fire elementals as more and more of them move in. But Bernie is distrustful of water elementals who show up and passes that prejudice along to Ember, who chases two water teens out of the shop.
As Ember grows up, she tries to prove herself worthy of taking over The Fireplace, but her fiery temper gets the best of her when she deals with pushy customers. Bernie promises that if she can run the shop on her own for a day without losing her temper, she will be ready.
Unfortunately, her temper does get the best of her, and when she lets it out in the shop’s basement, she causes a pipe to burst and flood the place. And with that flood comes Wade, who works as a city inspector and weepily writes up a citation when Ember lets it slip that her parents built the shop without a permit. A chase scene breaks out as Ember tries to stop Wade, leading her to leave the Fire District for the first time.
“Elemental” is unlikely to be a box offfice hit on the level of the runaway smash success “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” nor does it need to be in order to be a success for Disney. But “Elemental” needs to do better than the poor $226 million global total that “Lightyear” earned at the box office last year in order to get Disney back in the right direction as a major draw for family audiences to movie theaters.
“Elemental” hits theaters June 16.