28 days until Elemental
We’re steadily approaching the premiere of buzzy Pixar film Elemental which takes moviegoers inside Element City where Fire, Water, Earth, and Air residents live together.
The story introduces Ember–a 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, produced by Denise Ream, and executive produced by Pete Docter, Elemental features seemingly “impossible” animation in its wondrous world brought to life by Disney/Pixar’s Elemental Experience in NYC’s Brookfield Place.
The immersive environment invited fans into the imaginative world of Elemental with a surprise appearance from director Peter Sohn who helped commemorate the first tour stop that runs through May 21.
Sponsored by Fandango, Dolby, and I’m the Chef Too, the multi-city Elemental Experience takes over Chicago’s Yorktown Center (May 26-28), Dallas’ Stonebriar Centre (June 2-4), Los Angeles’ The Americana at Brand (June 10-12), and San Francisco’s Hillsdale Shopping Center (June 16-18).
Fans can expect film-themed activities, a chance to draw with Pixar artists, a movie-ticket grab in a wind tunnel, and giveaways/exclusive film content.
Celebrated for its commitment to spectacle, Disney raised the promo bar by inviting us to tour Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA where we nerded out inside the epicenter of cinematic innovation in Hollywood.
Check out our video recap below:
While basking in the magic, we enjoyed a sneak peek at Elemental ahead of our interviews with Directing Animators Gwen Enderoglu and Allison Rutland, Visual Effects Supervisor Sanjay Bakshi, and Production Designer Don Shank who opened up about creating Elemental in our interviews you can read below:
First up are Gwen Enderoglu and Allison Rutland who worked on Coco, Inside Out, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, and more.
GG: Take us through the process of conception to where we are now
Gwen Enderoglu: We developed the rig (process that gives characters movement) and focused on the style of animation so that each film has a different language of movement. We wanted to find someone really specific and super unique for this film.
Allison Rutland: I joined pretty close to Gwen and helped develop the style. Pete was really specific about making these elements be something that we’ve never seen before. So there were many things we had to discover and we looked at a lot of references.
We just did a lot of trial and error and, you know, kind of really found our way and that was challenging and exciting.
GG: Today, we’ve heard people say this is the first time a movie like this has been made–that it was seemingly impossible. So take us through the process of doing something that you don’t even know can be done.
Gwen Enderoglu: It’s a little unnerving, to be honest. We started animation on our first sequence without knowing what the final image was going to look like. And that’s really hard for an animator because we’re so focused on the silhouette of a character and locking down that image.
The back and forth with the effects was something totally new to us and, honestly, it wasn’t until we got into the second sequence and there’s these shots of Ember walking under the wetro station on her way home and when I saw those rendered I was like, ‘OK, I think we can make this movie.’
It actually took that long to believe we could actually do this.
Allison Rutland: And also from a character performance standpoint we like it when we can read the expressions on the character’s faces but Pete wanted all those extra movements and the fluidity and we were like, ‘can this work? Can these two things work?’
And that was a great moment where we realized, ‘Oh there’s really subtle animation here but it feels fiery so I can actually make these two things work’
Next was Production Designer Don Shank who worked on beloved films (UP) and shows (The Powerpuff Girls).
Don Shank: When Pete asked me to come on as a Production Designer, I jumped at the chance but it was sort of an overwhelming thing to achieve.
You know, I was a little bit like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here,’ like, ‘is this the right thing?’ because I saw a screening and I thought, ‘that is a lot,’ and I don’t know how they’re going to solve all that. So good luck to whoever has to do that and turned out to be me.
But I feel like if you’re a little bit scared or it’s not a little bit new and unknown then it’s not that interesting.
GG: Everyone has talked about how they thought the project was impossible to do. What would be your advice to someone who is about to do something that seems impossible?
Don Shank: Well, good for you because you’ve found a worthwhile project of interest unless you want to play it safe.
But when you’re spending three years or more of your life on something, you want it to be meaningful and there’s a lot of incredible stuff going on in animation right now and there’s a lot of shift happening and new looks and things.
What I knew was the concept itself was a great foundation for being something awesome and worthwhile and could be fitting for a new bold look. But you want something that’s just beyond your skill set because then you know it’s a challenge and it’s a leap of faith but it’s also something that you’re not setting yourself up for failure.
But this one required so many people to make something happen, right? It’s like getting that rocket to the moon that you’re really like, ‘OK, man, this is scary for me and what I gotta do? and I’m just trusting that they can do what they gotta do.
And so luckily everyone did what they had to do and we’re here with an awesome movie.
And, finally, Visual Effects Supervisor Sanjay Bakshi known for his work on Onward, The Good Dinosaur, and Monsters University.
GG: What was the moment when you realized ‘we could make this movie happen?’
Sanjay Bakshi: When we saw it on paper, on the storyboards, you’re right. It’s like, ‘we don’t have the technology right now to make this happen.’ It was universal. We don’t have what we need to finish this.
But if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t think we couldn’t do it. I’m like, ‘if you give us the right people and this place is fil with the right people’ and enough time, we’ll figure this out.
And so, for me, I never didn’t believe we could pull it off and there was never a moment where I’m like,’ oh we can pull it off.’ I had faith in it from the first moment.
GG: We talked to the stars of the movie at D23 and asked them if we were going to cry during this film and they said, ‘absolutely!’
When is the last time you cried during a movie?
Sanjay Bakshi: I cried when I saw this. So we did an audience preview of this movie and sat in the audience with a bunch of random people and watched the movie with a crowd. And I got emotional at those key moments and cried with that audience.
Even though when I watched it at Pixar with all of us I didn’t get that feeling but with that audience there’s just something about being with a bunch of people and seeing them react to it that stirs up those feelings.
Elemental opens in theaters June 16, 2023.
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