This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
“Elemental” is an original feature film set in Element City, where residents of Fire, Water, Earth and Air live together. The story introduces Ember, a tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman, whose friendship with a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade challenges her beliefs about the world they live in. Directed by Peter Sohn (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Partly Cloudy” short), and produced by Denise Ream (“The Good Dinosaur,” “Cars 2”), “Elemental” features a screenplay by John Hoberg & Kat Likkel and Brenda Hsueh, and stars the voices of Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie as Ember and Wade.
For in-depth thoughts on Elemental, please see my colleague Dom Fisher’s review from its original theatrical release here.
Elemental comes to 4K UHD Blu-Ray with a wondrous and vibrant 2160p HDR transfer. One of the areas where this film excels is the detail and fluid nature of the character designs. With each feature, Pixar finds new ways to top themselves with some of the most gorgeous imagery in the business. The level of detail these animators put into each environment shines through here. You learn a lot about these characters through their part of the world they inhabit, so each environmental detail is so important and is rendered famously. In nearly every frame you are greeted with a visually brilliant world that you could pause and explore for the impressive spectacle that it is.
When it comes to the characters, all of the individual flickers of flame and drops of water are unique and flowing in a believable manner. The colors present in this transfer are unbelievable and leap off the screen with the wide range of hues permeating every inch of the frame. Black levels are incredibly strong with no hint of compression artifacts or digital anomalies of the sort. Highlights are bright and firm with great confidence. The textures of the character designs and the environments are extremely impressive and give the film a real sense of depth. The quickest way to describe this presentation is that it is visual perfection. Disney has delivered something special with this one.
This 4K UHD Blu-Ray utilizes a Dolby Atmos track that provides this immersive film with an insanely dynamic soundscape. Dialogue is crisp and clear without ever getting muddled amongst the music or sound effects. The low end effects from the subwoofer give certain exciting moments a bit of extra weight, although it does feel like it could be a bit more substantial at times. The film really pleases when it comes to the music, and this track fills the room in a really enveloping manner. The heartfelt score from Thomas Newman is an essential element in elevating the big emotions within the narrative.
Atmospheric sound effects are rendered favorably within the mix so that directionality is never an issue. There is an emphasis on the front channels for many of the sounds, but activity is pretty constant in the surrounds and rears as you are moving through the city. The implementation of the height channels truly transport you to this bustling metropolis with so many creative facets. Elemental has been gifted with a track that is not lacking for nuance. Fans of the film should be very pleased with this presentation. There are optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles provided.
- Audio Commentary: Director Peter Sohn, VFX supervisor Sanjay Bakshi, supervising animator Mike Venturini, and directing animator Gwendelyn Enderoglu provide a very informative commentary track in which they discuss the idea behind the narrative, the personal elements they brought to certain backstories, the music in the film, the aesthetic of the feature and inspirations, subtle elements they included in the background, the themes that were so important to them, and so much more that is worth a listen if you dig the film.
- Carl’s Date: An eight-minute short film featuring Carl from Up preparing to go on a date for the first time in years while trying to get some advice from an unexpected source.
- Ember and Wade: A 15-minute look at the intricate process and artistry involved in creating the two main characters with insights from the creative team. The subjects discuss the evolution of the designs, the challenges of actualizing the elements, bringing them to life visually and through the vocal performances and more.
- Next Stop – Element City: A 10-minute piece which looks at the momentous city at the center of the film, the designs and how they accommodate the different types of elements, the evolution of the designs, the research they put into getting certain details right and more.
- Deleted Scenes: Three unused scenes with introductions from various creative figures all totaling 11 minutes are provided here which show moments with deleted characters and completely different story arcs. Not only are the scenes pretty entertaining, the insights provided help put things into perspective even more.
Elemental is a very satisfying addition to the pantheon of Pixar as it tackles heartfelt themes through a perspective that will resonate for many. Upon first glance, the aesthetic seems familiar to fans of the studio, especially as they seem intent on anthropomorphizing just about anything you can dream up, but once you explore the specifics the creativity comes more into focus. It is not the absolute best of Pixar, but it is still one of the best animated films we have seen this year. Disney has provided this one with a 4K UHD Blu-Ray that is stunning on all accounts from the lovely A/V presentation to the engaging special features. This is the Pixar that we all know and love, and they do not disappoint. Highly Recommended
Elemental will be available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray and DVD on September 26, 2023. The film is currently available on Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Disney Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.