“There Was Nothing Like This Here At Pixar” How Elemental Inspired New Animation Techniques

Elemental director Peter Sohn and producer Denise Ream discuss how the movie led to new animation styles and techniques at Pixar. The animation studio is famous for its cutting-edge animation, with each movie taking another step in the evolution of animation, beginning with Toy Story, the first ever entirely computer-generated movie. Elemental presented new challenges for the team with characters unlike anything they had ever animated as they explored the world of Elemental City.


In an exclusive interview with Screen Rant for Elemental, Sohn and Ream discussed the animation behind the latest Pixar adventure. Sohn, a 23-year veteran of the studio, revealed that the movie was a new challenge for the animation studio, with Ream specifically breaking down how the characters being made of the elements was the key to the animation and look of the film. Check out Sohn and Ream’s full quotes and their interview below:

Peter Sohn: There was nothing like this here at Pixar before. We’re just doing toys and cars and humans. There was no roadmap and so you really had to start with a clean slate. It started from drawings, and then getting a technical team to do crazy experiments. These were mad scientist experiments that like a Frankenstein of fire would come on. You’re like, “Ah, that’s terrifying!

Denise Ream: Pete always wanted them to be fire, not on fire. And so the first thing was like, “Okay, what are they going to look like?” So finding that look, took a long time. And then you had to figure out, oh, how do you control the fire? How do you actually animate it? So it was a pretty lengthy process and then we were doing all of that from home. The plan was, we were all going to be together doing that.

Pixar’s Elemental Takes The Studio’s Iconic Animation To The Next Level

Voices of Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie in Elemental

One of the Pixar movie’s most challenging and cutting-edge animation aspects are the characters themselves. As indicated by its title, the beings of Elemental are fully anthropomorphic natural elements, and as such must move and behave the same way water, fire, earth, and air would, with Ember’s fire dimming or becoming brighter depending on her mood and Wade’s “hair” continuously flowing on top of his head.

Related: Disney Is Returning To Love Stories With Elemental (& It’s A Big Deal)

This adaptability is not easy, nor is the design of the elements. Wade needs to be translucent in the way that water is, but still defined, while Ember’s flames can appear and disappear as she moves them, just as fire does in real life. The challenges presented to the artists and animators with Elemental have inspired a truly unique and beautiful style of animation that takes the story to the next level, with characters fully embodying everything that makes each element stand out.

Pixar continues to be one of the best animation studios in the world, and Elemental proves exactly why. They had to create new animation techniques to make this movie over the course of years, mastering how the characters looked, moved, and acted because the audience needed to relate to and connect with these characters, who could have seemed entirely alien. Elemental proves that Pixar is on the cutting edge of storytelling, world-building, and animation.

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