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Pixar’s Elemental teaser raises 1 million questions about a world filled with fire and water people

Not since Cars have I been so shook

Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Elemental, the next big imaginative feature from Pixar, is set in a Queens, New York-esque city borough where residents made of fire, water, earth, and air live together in bustling harmony. Directed by Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur), the film finds two residents crossing paths: Ember (Leah Lewis), a “tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman” and Wade (Mamoudou Athie) a “fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy.” According to Pixar, the two will meet and challenge each others’ beliefs. Giving the classic Pixar style new twists for each element, Elemental’s striking teaser sets up the fateful encounter without giving much away.

Truly, I have so many questions. I could very easily sit back, relax, and take in the wonders of Elemental’s brief tease, but consider me activated. I want to know everything about Element City. A few thoughts:

  • The subways float across water, but ... people are made of water? What the hell?
  • How closely related are fire people to lightbulbs in this universe?
  • How are the people of Element City born?
  • How do fire people make fireproof clothing?
  • There is a man who is also a full-grown tree?
  • Why do air people choose the corporeal form of a human-shaped body?
  • Also did cloud people start as water people and undergo a horrific form of condensation puberty?
  • Why are there no metal people? Were they conquered and turned into trains and skyscrapers?
  • Why does the one cloud person think it’s OK to pluck the flower from underneath a grass person’s armpits? (If you see something, say something!)
  • A water person uses lipstick? And accidentally drops it in themselves?
  • When a water person sneezes on an earth person, and their water snot allows grass to grow, is that sex?
  • Why did the people of Element City decide to build buildings and ostensibly pave over natural earth? Rude?

Pixar being Pixar, Elemental will likely answer a few questions, hand-wave away most of the deeper world-building bits with gags that kill, and leave everything else to the imagination. None of us really understand how the cars in Cars talk, but that hasn’t stopped a devout religion from forming around the trilogy. At the very least, Elemental has me wondering how much I absorbed in 12 years of science classes, and making me google “how do lightbulbs actually work” to verify.

Elemental hits theaters on June 16, 2023.