Elemental, the latest groundbreaking animated film from the collaborative powerhouse of Disney and Pixar, whisks audiences off to the imaginative world of Element City. Here, inhabitants representing the elements of fire, water, earth, and air coexist in harmony.
Within this vibrant city, we are introduced to Ember Lumen, a fiery and sharp-witted heroine whose steadfast views are challenged when she forms an unlikely bond with Wade Ripple, an easy-going, fun-loving character.
Taking on the role of director for “Elemental” is Peter Sohn, with Denise Ream, p.g.a., shouldering the crucial role of producer, while Pete Docter supervises as the executive producer.
The captivating narrative comes courtesy of the combined creativity of John Hoberg & Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh, who also shares story credit with Sohn, Hoberg & Likkel. Moreover, the film features an original score by the incomparable Thomas Newman, who lends his musical genius to both compose and conduct.
Let’s delve deeper into a few of the film’s key characters.
Elemental Characters – Voice Cast
On May 16, 2022, the announcement of Elemental revealed a unique exploration of the classical elements – fire, water, air, and earth.
Peter Sohn was the director, with Denise Ream managing the production. Drawing from his experiences as an immigrant’s son in New York City, Sohn confessed that these formative experiences sparked the inspiring idea for the film.
Director: Peter Sohn
Writers: John HobergKat LikkelBrenda Hsueh
Stars: Leah Lewis – Mamoudou Athie – Ronnie Del Carmen
- Mamoudou Athie as Wade
- Leah Lewis as Ember
- Mason Wertheimer as Clod
- Wendi McLendon-Covey as Gale
- Catherine O’Hara as Brook
- Ronnie del Carmen as Bernie
- Shila Ommi as Cinder
- Joe Pera as Fern
- Matt Yang King as Alan
Ember Lumen – Leah Lewis
Leah Lewis, a rising star, is set to embrace a breakout role as Elemental’s lead character, Ember Lumen. This Pixar film marks Lewis’ most significant cinematic endeavor to date, following a series of TV roles, notably her considerable supporting role as Cassandra Cain/Batgirl in Cartoon Network’s Batwheels series.
Ember, characterized as a “tough, quick-witted fire element,” divides her time between working at her family’s convenience store and learning about the intricacies of her fellow element-based citizens in her city.
Screenwriter Kat Likkel, “Ember is a proud fire person and is thrilled that her father trusts her to someday take over his shop. But then she’s thrown a curveball and it shakes up everything.”
Wade Ripple -Mamoudou Athie
Where fire exists, water often follows, marking the entrance of Mamoudou Athie into Elemental, playing Wade Ripple. Although Athie has earned recognition through small screen appearances, such as in the show Sorry For Your Loss, his most striking performances surfaced in cinema. He starred in the 2020 horror sensation Black Box and 2022’s billion-dollar sensation Jurassic World: Dominion.
Wade is Ember’s antithesis, embodying a fun, sappy, water-based being who dances to his rhythm.
According to director Peter Sohn, “Wade is a sap. He’s the type of character that will cry at a diaper commercial—he really feels his way through the world. What I love about him is that he’s a transparent character—literally and figuratively—you can always feel what he’s feeling. There’s nothing to hide with Wade.”
Cinder Lumen – Shila Ommi
Shila Ommi, the American-Iranian star with around 30 filmography credits, notably played a pivotal role in the Tehran series on Apple TV+, sharing the screen with Iron Man’s Shaun Toub and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Glenn Close.
In Elemental, Ommi steps into the role of Ember’s mother, Cinder, initially aligning her perspectives with her husband’s as the movie unfolds.
“Cinder is empathetic and understanding of what Ember is going through,” says Elemental producer Denise Ream. “Cinder believes in love—that’s especially important to Ember’s journey.”
Gale – Wendi McLendon-Covey
In the world of Elemental, Wade finds himself working for an air-centric, purple entity known as Gale, an intriguing character animated by the acclaimed actress Wendi McLendon-Covey. Best known for her standout roles in Reno 911! and The Goldbergs, as well as her memorable performance in the 2011 comedy blockbuster Bridesmaids, McLendon-Covey has amassed a diverse and devoted fanbase.
Despite the mystery surrounding the character of Gale, whispers of her having a “larger-than-life” persona have surfaced, providing McLendon-Covey with a golden chance to channel her unique comedic flair into this Pixar journey.
Brook Ripple – Catherine O’Hara
In Elemental, the character of Wade’s mother, Brook Ripple, will be embodied by the legendary Catherine O’Hara, an icon whose illustrious career has unfolded over almost half a century.
O’Hara’s reputation is underscored by numerous voiceover parts in animated features, including The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yet, she is perhaps most fondly remembered for her role as Kate McCallister, the caring mother of Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin McCallister, in the initial two installments of the iconic Home Alone series.
“Wade’s family is a really progressive one,” says Elemental director Peter Sohn. “They’re very well off—they live in a pool penthouse, we call it, complete with a doorman. They’re all in the arts, too, which is especially appealing to Ember.”
Alan Ripple – Matt Yang King
Matt Yang King, a prolific voiceover actor with nearly 150 credits, completes the Ripple family by stepping into the role of Alan in Elemental.
King’s prominent work includes the Uncharted video game series, a recent multi-episode stint on Riverdale, and his contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, lending additional voices to the What If…? series that debuted on Disney+.
Bernie Lumen – Ronnie del Carmen
Ronnie del Carmen, a seasoned collaborator with Disney and Pixar, showcases an extensive history in his work. Notably, he co-directed the 2015 hit film Inside Out while leaving his mark on nearly a dozen other beloved Pixar movies throughout the past two decades. However, Elemental grants del Carmen his most prominent role, allowing him to portray one of the leading characters in a Pixar film for the first time in his illustrious career.
In this captivating movie, del Carmen steps into the shoes of Bernie Lumen, Ember’s father and proprietor of the convenience store mentioned earlier. Press reviews have depicted him as “bigoted,” setting the stage for an ideological clash between him and his daughter as they navigate their perception of the world’s true essence.
According to Elemental screenwriter John Hoberg, “What I love about Bernie is that he’s a character that has nothing but wonderful intentions for Ember. I think an easier route would’ve been creating that overbearing dad who didn’t approve of his daughter. We’ve seen that before, but that’s not Peter’s story—Peter’s dad was lovely. We wanted that quality portrayed in the film.”
Clod – Mason Wertheimer
Clod, a young Earth element lad, harbors a huge crush on his neighbor, Ember. Even though she continually rebuffs his cheesy attempts to impress her, they manage to remain friends. He is a warm presence in their local community, always willing to lend a hand.
Young actor Mason Wertheimer will step into the spotlight with his feature film debut as Clod. Prior to this, he demonstrated his vocal talents in the 2022 mockumentary podcast series, Past My Bedtime.
Screenwriter Kat Likkel likens the character to an iconic Disney character. “Clod is a little bit of a Jiminy Cricket,” says Likkel. “He sees something in Ember that she doesn’t yet see herself. He really helps her in his innocent, crushy way.”
Fern Grouchwood – Joe Pera
Fern, an Earth element character, finds his bureaucratic job at the city hall increasingly exhausting. The demanding nature of his work confines him to his office most of the time, and yet, he’s not one to readily accept help. His impatient and sarcastic demeanor only serves to compound his workload and hinder his social life.
Comedian Joe Pera, renowned for his Adult Swim TV series, Joe Pera Talks with You, will lend his voice to Fern. Pera has recently graced various animated shows like F Is for Family and Bob’s Burgers with his guest appearances.
Development Of Elemental
Inspired by his experiences as the son of immigrants in New York City, Peter Sohn conceived Elemental as a film centered around the classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth. The project was officially announced on May 16, 2022, with Sohn taking the directorial reins and Denise Ream handling production duties.
He stated: “My parents emigrated from Korea in the early 1970s and built a bustling grocery store in the Bronx.” He also stated: “We were among many families who ventured to a new land with hopes and dreams — all of us mixing into one big salad bowl of cultures, languages, and beautiful little neighborhoods.
A glimpse into the movie was unveiled during the 2022 D23 Expo Presentation on September 9, 2022. Sohn, Ream, and Pete Docter took to the stage to offer attendees a first look at the film’s captivating world.
The presentation posed a compelling question: “What if these elements were alive?”
“Our story is based on the classic elements — fire, water, land, and air. Some elements mix with each other, and some don’t,” Sohn stated.
The audience was then treated to a screening of unfinished animation footage, which included a delightful clip featuring Ember and Wade on a romantic date.
They strolled through a park, where Wade sought to impress Ember by effortlessly running across water, sliding with grace, and conjuring a romantic rainbow.
This preview showcased the enchanting possibilities and imaginative storytelling that Elemental would bring to life.
Full Cast Of Elemental
- Leah Lewis – Ember (voice)
- Mamoudou Athie -Wade Ripple (voice)
- Ronnie Del Carmen -Bernie (voice)
- Shila Ommi – Cinder (voice)
- Wendi McLendon-Covey- Gale (voice)
- Catherine O’Hara – Brook (voice)
- Mason Wertheimer – Clod (voice)
- Ronobir Lahiri-Harold (voice)
- Wilma Bonet – Flarrietta (voice)
- Joe Pera – Fern (voice)
- Matthew Yang King – Alan / Lutz / Earth Pruner (voice) (as Matt Yang King)
- Clara Lin Ding– Little Kid Ember (voice)
- Reagan To – Big Kid Ember (voice)
- Jeff LaPensee -Sparkler Customer (voice)
- Ben Morris– Wood Immigration Official (voice)
- Jonathan Adams -Flarry (voice)
- Alex Kapp-Customer / Delivery Person / Earth Landlord (voice)
- P.L. Brown -Doorman (voice)
Elemental Has 2 LGBTQ+ Characters
Elemental introduces two minor LGBTQ+ characters, Lake and Ghibli. When Ember and Wade’s budding romance leads to a family introduction, audiences meet Wade’s non-binary sibling, Lake, and their girlfriend, Ghibli. They appear briefly, without dialogue, reflecting Pixar’s continued marginalization of LGBTQ+ characters.
Pixar’s track record includes small steps toward representation such as the lesbian couple in Lightyear, and Specter, a minor character in Onward confirmed as LGBTQ+. Unconfirmed but hinted at by the cinematographer, Turning Red also features an LGBTQ+ character, Priya, who plays a larger role in the storyline.
After its Cannes premiere, the film received a generally positive buzz on social media. However, critics found it ‘underwhelming,’ ranking it as one of the studio’s less impressive releases.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 73% approval rating from 30 critics, with an average score of 6.4/10. Metacritic assigns it a mediocre score of 55 out of 100 based on 11 critics’ reviews, suggesting “mixed or average reviews.”
Ben Croll from TheWrap criticizes “Elemental” for pairing familiar story beats and character turns with storytelling timidity. He commends its artistic delivery and technological advancements that breathe new life into the old formula. Meanwhile, Dirk Libbey of CinemaBlend rates it four out of five stars, praising it as Pixar’s most purely romantic film. He forewarns of the tear-jerking moments.
Siddhant Adlakha of IndieWire gives the film a ‘B’ rating, acknowledging its charming moments despite overstuffed worldbuilding. He argues that the film’s core message lies not in its ill-conceived immigrant saga but in the personal drama beneath it.
Jordan Mintzer from The Hollywood Reporter suggests that Pixar could have taken more risks with the plot, potentially delivering a film on par with their best works. However, the predictable storyline douses the creative flames, leaving a little impact. Finally, Tim Grierson from Screen Daily feels the film hints at the studio’s wit and poignancy but lacks the effortless execution of their previous successes.
Elemental | Official Trailer