Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Wasn’t Always a Rom-Com, Writers Confirm

in Disney, Entertainment, Movies & TV

ember and wade in pixar movie elemental

Credit: Disney

Pixar’s latest family-friendly adventure, Elemental (2023), has officially arrived in theaters, and with it, introduced audiences to the colorful, vibrant world of Element City. Although its central romance has viewers melting, shockingly, the movie’s writers recently confirmed that it was initially supposed to be a much different genre altogether.

Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental” Wade (L) Ember (R)
Credit: Disney/Pixar

Starring Leah Lewis as Ember Lumen and Mamoudou Athie as Wade, Pixar’s Elemental is currently making a splash in theaters worldwide. Although it hasn’t been the box office hit the studio expected it to be, the film’s gorgeous animation, stylized characters, and heartwarming story are earning it generally positive reviews, setting it up to be a beloved classic for generations to come.

wade and ember in elemental in a hot air balloon
Credit: Pixar

The story follows Ember, a young shopkeep with a fiery temper, who accidentally meets the go-with-the-flow Wade after he bursts into Ember’s family business during a not-so-routine inspection. Ember, who wants only to honor the sacrifice her parents made by immigrating to Element City, tries to be the best daughter she can be, but crumbles under the pressure when her feelings for Wade, on top of a lingering threat to her family’s convenience store, threaten to destroy everything.

Check out the trailer for Walt Disney Studios/Pixar Animation Studios’ Elemental below:

The movie’s core message of love, acceptance, and pursuing your dreams is striking a cord with audiences, many of whom relate to Elemental‘s story of a first-generation daughter navigating discrimination and societal expectations. Plus, the sweet relationship between Wade and Ember is enough to melt even the iciest of hearts.

ember in pixar movie elemental
Credit: Disney

But believe it or not, the film’s writers, John Hoberg and Kat Likkel, originally had a very different idea for what they imaged Elemental to be. Speaking with ScreenRant in a recent interview, they revealed that at one point, it had a tone very similar to the noir crime film Chinatown (1974), and even discussed the possibility of Wade staying dead:

Hoberg: Our first version, so you do multiple versions. So we showed up, there was another writer, Brenda, who was there at the beginning, and she had done I think two or three versions of the movie. I think we ended up doing eight after we got there. The first one that we worked on, almost became like Chinatown where Wade’s mother was a villain who was trying to take over sections of Fire Town for real estate development.

She sent those little guys in who she would set on fire so they could infiltrate and you didn’t know until the midpoint in the movie. Wade realized he was kind of on this date with Ember as they’re trying to figure out this water problem. that his mother was a big shot, like in the city. Then you suddenly at the midpoint, discover that she’s bad news and she says, to Ember, “You either break up with my son or I destroyed Fire Town.” It was so different. It was crazy.

wade whipple eating in elemental disney
Credit: Disney Studios

Ultimately, as explained by Likkel, Elemental ended up being “a father daughter story, a parent daughter story,” taking an—arguably better—safe route that feels more in with Disney/Pixar’s values. However, it would’ve been intriguing to see a children’s movie take a darker approach to messages of family, grief, and coming into your own—with a sprinkle of Fire Town’s criminal underground on the side.

It’s always interesting to hear writers talk about the Pixar process, and especially shocking to hear about the much darker idea for Elemental that Likkel and Hoberg had. But perhaps, there’s still room for an all-out, Chinatown-esuqe crime-thriller in the animation studio’s future.

Have you gotten the chance to see Elemental yet? If so, what did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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