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Elemental comes together with good intentions, taking a cute path to explore complex social issues like immigration, race relations, and stereotypes. It’s about mixing water and fire – water and fire people, anyway – and their individual struggles.

For Pixar though, it’s a lackluster, safe, and dreadfully predictable tale. That’s not only in reference to the romance between fire-born Ember (Leah Lewis) and water-based Wade (Mamoudou Athie) that spills out entirely as expected. That’s in reference to the jokes too, aiming to be cute by putting water beings in a sports stadium who proceed to do the wave in support. Or the team names, based on wind (it’s a cloud sport, you see), so naturally, they’re called adjectives for farts. Ember herself struggles with temper, because of course she’s a literal “hot head.”

Elemental is running on similar creative fumes

If Toy Story were Pixar at say, their season six of The Simpsons, Elemental is the studio at season 25 where instead of lampooning the Nintendo Wii, the Simpsons writers called it the “Zii” without any genuine joke or creativity behind it. Elemental is running on similar creative fumes.

It’s also a strange world, ill-explained and illogical. Wade can easily coast through water (even through a keyhole) but a rush of water somehow will kill or drown him; that diminishes tension because it’s not clear what the issue is. At Elemental’s center is a broken water dam impacting the fire-based part of the city, but seemingly no one thinks to just replace the doors. Instead, it’s convoluted and unnecessary.

All of the family interactions, from the Ember’s parents rejecting a romance with Wade because they can’t mix (no surprise – they can, actually, or the parable fails) to the resentment built between these species (races?) is utterly, completely on-the-nose and routine. Of course, Elemental is for kids. They need storyteling a little obvious, a little clearer because social standards aren’t clearly understood until they see it themselves. Even then, that forcefulness feels too central to the script, rather than these characters and their individual struggles.

There is irony in Ember’s fight to break away from what her parents want and her own desires to do as she pleases. Elemental as a whole deals with this typical coming-of-age teenage strife while simultaneously being unable to wrestle away from the tropes and cliches that restrict the concept.


Oddly noisy in places (in particular, darker shots), Elemental doesn’t have the typical pristine clarity CG produces on this format, while the encode struggles to keep pace. Elsewhere though, that pristine imagery IS here, and for the majority of the runtime. Given the story/character focus, color appears splendid. Richness in the city, the brilliant yellows and oranges in fire, the dense blues of water – it’s all wonderful.

Texture looks marvelous, especially the trees. Their small bark, moss, and flowers use every line of resolution. Fetching wide shots of the city reveal flawless sharpness, pulling out detail en masse. Fine lines within the fire/water characters carry the mark from Disney’s classic animation.

Also no surprise, the HDR swells. Elementals features endless glowing lights. Contrast sprouts from light passing through liquid or directly in the fire. Depth doesn’t stop producing the images enthusiasts look for from this high-end format.


Keeping pace with other recent Disney 4K discs that show improvement in their disc-based Atmos mixes, Elemental’s bass brings superlative range, depth, and power. The deepest? No. But, not far off, especially on the sliding scale of Disney tracks. There’s enough force, rumble, and weight to impress.

The positives out of the way, the let down comes from the positional design, sparingly using the heights even with opportunity. Rears and stereos do activate though, stretching the soundstage wide through the rears, with water or flame bouncing between each speaker effectively. Ambiance keeps the material lively even in dialog scenes.


Everything is on the Blu-ray. This includes Pixar’s short film Carl’s Date, a peek inside the animation tech/style, another on aesthetic design, deleted scenes, and a commentary.

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Pixar at their most routine, Elemental is fine animation, but tells a story through a cycle of predictable plot points.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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