Director Peter Sohn’s Personal Experiences That Helped Shape Elemental


(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

This week Disney and Pixar released the first full-length trailer of their next upcoming feature film, “Elemental”. This will take audiences on a journey to Element City where fire, water, earth, and air residents all live together.

In this city, we will explore the question of what would it be like if elements were alive and had feelings. What kind of emotions would water have? Would fire be angry and running hot all the time? Also, what would dirt be like? Through characters like Ember and Wade, we will explore what the amazing team at Pixar led by director Peter Sohn believe would be the answer to that question.

In a presentation earlier this week introducing us to the world of “Elemental” that LRM Online was a part of, Sohn talked about how personal this story is to him. Specifically, he mentioned three personal parts of his life that inspired this film.

The first one was his parents who he says moved to the United States in the late 60s early 70s to New York with not much money, no family, and without speaking English. But despite these challenges, they managed to create a “beautiful life” in the Bronx, where his father had a grocery store.

“I have so many memories growing up in this shop and all my dad’s customers came from everywhere. Like my parents, they left their homes to come to a new land and they were all mixing into these beautiful neighborhoods with their cultures and languages”, said Sohn.

Director Peter Sohn is photographed on February 7, 2023 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Second, he mentioned his outside-the-box view of the periodic table of elements as a child.

“All I thought about was that they were all apartment complexes and they all lived next to each other. Stories of what these elements were doing in their apartments mixed around in my head,” continued Sohn.

His imagination would see these elements making unexpected friendships with one another. Some that could trigger all sorts of awkward moments, banter, and funny situations. Ideas that “Elemental” would allow him to explore and develop.


Sohn’s third personal part of this film is his relationship with his wife. Specifically their experience of not marrying someone that wasn’t Korean.

“I hid the relationship from my parents at first because they—in an old-school way—wanted me to marry someone Korean. My grandmother’s dying words were literally ‘Marry Korean!’”, said Sohn.

He says that his old-school parents eventually came around and were even able to find many things in common with their eventual daughter-in-law.

With these personal parts influencing the making of “Elemental”, Sohn needed one simple and central theme to become his “North Star” of the project and he found it in the simple but complex words of “Opposites Attract”.

Now with being used as building blocks Element City was able to come to life through the amazing work at Pixar showcasing a variety of levels of relationships and how despite being different are able to co-exist or maybe even a bigger relationship than that.

Disney and Pixar‘s “Elemental” opens exclusively in theaters on June 16.

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