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Pixar’s Elemental characters remind fans of classic platformer Fireboy and Watergirl

Fire, meet water

a sketch of a water man and a fire woman talking in a city Image: Pixar
Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

Pixar announced the title and release date of its next project, Elemental, on Monday. Slated for a June 2023 release, the film is set in a world where the four classic elements (fire, water, land, and air) are characters that live in the world. The film fits right in, for a studio that has created humanoid forms for emotions and souls. But the announcement, and the accompanying concept art, reminded fans of some of their other favorite elemental duos in film and gaming history.

If you think these characters look a little familiar, you might not be alone. Fans are pointing out the similarities to the Fireboy and Watergirl series of games, six in total, developed by Oslo Albet. The first of the cooperative puzzle platformers came out in 2009, and playing the classic Flash game (it’s playable on Coolmath Games) feels like traveling back in time. It’s also on Coolmath’s top ten games, at the time of writing.

Fireboy and Watergirl 1: Forest Temple has that early internet, Flash game sauce. Each level has a series of elemental puzzles that grow increasingly complex. Fireboy can only traverse through or activate red colored items, while the opposite holds true for Watergirl. Add in levers, moving platforms, and a few other tricks, and the game grows increasingly challenging. (This is especially true if you, like me, can’t find a friend to play with and operate both the arrow keys and W.A.D. keys with each hand, like a terrible version of playing the piano.) I digress.

Of course, the idea of elemental characters isn’t new. Avatar: The Last Airbender’s characters bend the elements. But film and television history also includes characters that are literal representations of those elements — even if some of them have some other features. I’m referring to the cinematic classic and Taylor Lautner vehicle, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, which hit theaters in 2005.

As much as Elemental has us looking forward to that 2023 release, it’s also given us a pretty wholesome excuse to look back at some of these 2000s cultural masterworks.