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Director of Pixar’s Elemental Film Addresses ATLA Comparisons

by John Paul
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Pixar’s Elemental director Peter Sohn has stated that the upcoming movie is not inspired by the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. After the Toy Story spin-off Lightyear in 2010, Pixar announced its 27th feature movie, Elemental, in May of this year. Elemental is an original Pixar film, similar to Inside Out and Soul. In this film, the elements of water, air, fire, and land are all given human form, living together in a busy metropolis. Ember and Wade, two opposing forces, are voiced by Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie, respectively, in this film.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Pixar producer Peter Sohn addresses fans’ concerns that the upcoming film may rely too much on ideas first explored in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The popular Nickelodeon series lasted for three seasons, from 2005 to 2008, and centered on a group of people who can harness the four elements of nature and build entire societies around them. Elemental has been compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender ever since it was introduced, thanks to the similarity between the show’s personification of the elements and the conflicts that arise when benders of different elements work together. Check out the director’s comments down below:

“No, [ATLA] wasn’t a touchstone, but I love the show. I saw it with my kids, and it’s great, but we’re so different from it. There’s no martial arts in our world. There’s not anything like that. It’s this city story with the romance and this family drama. But I do appreciate the connection that people are making just ’cause they love that, and hopefully, they can love this, too.”

Although both Elemental and Avatar: The Last Airbender focus on elements, their stylistic differences highlight the different approaches used in creating them, as pointed out by Sohn. Elemental humanizes the elements, in contrast to Avatar: The Last Airbender, where we watch the benders use the elements to combat one another, defend themselves, and construct their civilizations. The movie will make the elements of water, fire, land, and air into fully realized characters in their own right rather than just symbols employed by human protagonists.

Elemental and Avatar: The Last Airbender share several thematic similarities, particularly regarding the tension in society brought on by the clashing personality types of different elements. However, Elemental will focus on the romance between Ember and Wade and the family conflict. Therefore, these topics will be explored on a lower but more significant scale. The newly released teaser suggests that Elemental will be another thought-provoking installment in Pixar’s outstanding portfolio, asking about bigger societal issues as a whole.

As early as the Toy Story films, Pixar established a pattern of using anthropomorphized inanimate objects as characters in order to advance the narrative. Pixar’s movies have gotten more philosophical, meditating on inanimate objects speaking out. The imaginative and intricate worlds they depict have followed suit. If the Elemental teaser is any indication, the new original film will transport viewers to a visually striking and creative setting.



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