Elemental, Disney, Pixar, Movie, Immigration, Migrants, Trauma, Natural Disaster, Displacement, Climate Change, Ghetto, Segregation, First-generation Immigrants, Generational Trauma.

More than a Love Story

“Elemental” is the new feature film just released by Disney and Pixar. The story is set in Element City, a metropolis where air, water, fire and earth residents live together and in harmony. At least this is what the fire couple, Bernie and Cinder Lumen, thought when they decided to move there from their homeland, Fireland, after losing everything they had to a natural disaster. Contrary to their expectations, they found an unwelcoming community. Bernie and Cinder faced the mistrust of the other elements who considered fire people a real danger for their city and its safety. With no place to go, they ended up in a bad area outside Element City called Firetown, where Bernie and Cinder settled and raised their only child: Ember.

The conflict of the movie begins when accidentally Ember, now a young fire-woman, meets a young water-man called Wade. A series of hazardous events and adventures bring them together. But, can love be possible between fire and water? Are Ember and Wade ready to overcome the challenges ahead? At this point “Elemental” has certain resemblances with films “West Side Story” (of course with a much nicer ending, after all it is a Disney-Pixar movie) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner“.

But overall, we can consider “Elemental” an immigration tale. It can be seen as a metaphor of the challenges many people experience as a result of immigration and segregation. The emotional wounds that immigrants may have, the loss of their culture and traditions, their loved ones, the destruction and/or violence they may have lived and the trauma associated with it (we see this in the family Lumen’s story of displacement because of climate disaster). It’s also interesting to note that the director Peter Sohn is the son of first-generation immigrants, something he says inspired him while making the movie. 

Through the character of Ember, the film also shows the emotional conflict that children of immigrants can experience as they try to balance their own desires to adjust to the new cultural norm while not disappointing their family, ancestors and heritage. The following conversation from the movie shows both, Ember’s struggles and Wade unconscious bias about it: 

Ember: Want? Yeah, that may work in your rich kid “follow your heart” family, but getting to do what you want is a luxury and not for people like me!

Wade: Why not? Just tell your father how you feel. This is too important, maybe he’ll agree.

Ember: [laughs sarcastically] Oh, haha, yeah…

Wade: Funny… and this whole time I thought you were so strong. But turns out, you’re just afraid.

Ember: [Looks at Wade with anger] Don’t you DARE judge me! You don’t know what it’s like to have parents who gave everything up for you. I’m FIRE, Wade! I can’t be anything more than that, it’s what I am and what my family is, Its our way of life! I cannot throw that all away, just for YOU!

Wade: I don’t understand…!

Watch the trailer here

You can watch “Elemental” in Cineplex Theatres or on Disney+ soon.

Image Credits:
Feature Image: Mathéo Smouts, On Wikimedia. Creative Commons