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The Inspiration Behind Element City And The Cultures Within | Elemental


Disney/Pixar is ready to take us on another emotional adventure with their next animated feature film, ‘Elemental’.

Here we will travel to Element City where the cultures of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth all live together, showing that despite their differences, they are able to co-exist in harmony. In a place like this opposites are bound to attract. This is the case for our main characters Ember, a tough, quick-witted, and fiery young woman and Wade, a “go with the flow” kind of guy that challenges Ember’s beliefs and the person she wants to be.

So how did the filmmakers at Pixar bring Element City and their unique cultures to life?

The Elemental Long Lead Press Days, including a filmmaker presentation with Production Designer Don Shank in the Steve Jobs Building Theater, from March 26, 2023 to March 28, 2023 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

In a recent press event attended by LRM Online, director Peter Sohn, talked about how they made that happen. It turns out it was something that he had been thinking of since he was a child.

“In middle school when you learn about the periodic table, I never saw it as a periodic table,” says Sohn. “I always saw it as apartment buildings. There was something so funny about the skyline of the periodic table—these little squares being someone’s home. Argon might live next to hydrogen—they would be neighbors.”

Decades later, Sohn developed that idea into Element City. A place where all elements would be celebrated.

“It’s a very hopeful city in terms of forming interesting elemental relationships,” says Sohn. “Water can help earth grow materials to fuel fire. Air gives oxygen to fire. Of course, sometimes there can be friction between elements, too.”


Each of the elements in “Elemental” has its specific district like real-life large cities. Now the challenge became how would they determine the cultures of each element.

Concept Art provided by Disney/Pixar

Sohn said it started with ideas from his own life. For example, wouldn’t it be funny if fire food was really spicy? But he realized that each of them needed to be universal. his biggest goal was to take from the elements themselves and pull from them to make the cultures. He used something called ‘disruption’ to help make them unique from existing Earth cultures.

“Meaning you think that there is a piece of a culture that you think is mixed with the fire element on top. But then the next one should take you to another place where it’s giving you other values of cultures that we know but without it pointing to anything,” said Sohn.

Disney/Pixar even enlisted the help of David Peterson, a linguist, and his team known for creating the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for the HBO series, ‘Game of Thrones’, to create a language for fire. They took fireplace sounds and attempted to make a language out of them.



It’s through the attention to detail in the creation of Element City and the specific element cultures that set the stage for our characters to shine.

With the release of ‘Elemental’ now a month away, advanced tickets are available to buy now!

Disney/Pixar’s ‘Elemental‘ will be in theaters on June 16.

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