Thankfully, Pixar is swaying back toward the brilliant original ideas that made the animation studio so prodigious and further from recycling its own content into endless sequels. The first teaser trailer for the studio’s next film, Elemental, has dropped after igniting fans’ excitement when Pixar announced the film earlier this year. And judging by 90 seconds of stunning animation and gorgeously festive coloring, it’s the latest in Pixar’s return to form.
Elemental swoops us into Element City, the dwelling place where fire, water, air, and land residents all live together, seemingly in perfect harmony—this is Pixar, not Avatar: The Last Airbender, after all. In the teaser, one fire resident, aptly named Ember, boards the subway in her chic flame-retardant hoodie. As she moves about the car to find the perfect spot, we’re treated to a glimpse of just some of the genius ways that the animators came up with to convey the nature of the film’s concept.
There are clouds that can float past the packed train car and stand on the ceiling; anthropomorphic grass clumps that sprout weeded flowers when they raise their hands to steady themselves; fluid water puddles that lose their lipstick in their own bodies and sneeze onto plant residents sitting nearby, fertilizing them.
When Ember finally finds a spot to stand, she’s thrust by a bump in the train, her headphones knocked to the ground. Reaching down to grab them, a drop of water from another resident lands atop her hand, extinguishing part of it for just a moment. The two introduce themselves: She’s Ember, he’s Wade, and suddenly, they’ve just begun the meet-cute for their own forbidden Romeo & Juliet romance.
In just a handful of seconds, Pixar has already illustrated a world of endless possibilities, as they’ve done so deftly with films like Monsters Inc. and Soul. It may be stereotypical Pixar fashion at this point to take a couple of random, everyday things and make a movie out of them, but who could care when it’s this dazzling to look at?
Plus, the teaser trailer alone already conjures so many questions. What’s Element City like? Do these residents all really get along? Is there any way that Wade and Ember can fall in love, or do they have to settle with being friends? Is this going to be a Pushing Daisies kind of situation?
Elemental is director Peter Sohn’s second chance to shine after his directorial debut, The Good Dinosaur, flew under the radar in 2017. Along for the ride are Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie, who lend their voices to Ember and Wade, respectively. While more plot points and voice actors are yet to be revealed, Elemental certainly looks like it’s the latest in Pixar’s return to form, after films like Turning Red and Luca stunned critics and audiences over the last couple of years. We’ll know for sure when Elemental continues that pattern when the film releases in theaters June 2023.