Elemental parents guide

Elemental Parent Guide

Stunning visual design and an appealing story come together in a magical family film.

Overall A-

Theaters: In a city where fire, earth, air, and water residents live, a young fire woman meets a water man and learns to step outside her comfort zone.

Release date June 16, 2023

Violence B
Sexual Content A-
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is Elemental rated PG? The MPAA rated Elemental PG for some peril, thematic elements, and brief language

Run Time: 109 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis) has a lifelong dream – running Fireplace, her father’s neighborhood store. That goal is threatened when she loses her temper, bursts pipes in the basement, and comes across city inspector Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie). Wade issues numerous tickets and informs Ember that the store was built against code and must be closed down.

Determined not to have her father’s life’s work destroyed, Ember chases Wade through Element City, finally persuading him to help her save the shop. As the two work together, their relationship deepens but they face a unique obstacle. Ember is a Fire – a person made of flame – and Wade is a Water – a man composed of H2O. Fire and water don’t mix. In fact, as everyone knows, they will destroy one another if they touch.

Elemental is a uniquely appealing movie. It’s rich, thoughtful, sweet and, best of all, contains limited amounts of negative content. There are scenes of peril involving fire and floods, an implied death scene, and some very minor sexual innuendo. Little ones might be scared by the dangerous moments, but there’s nothing else to worry about here.

Where Elemental shines is in its exquisitely detailed worldbuilding. The city has inhabitants who are made of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water and the filmmakers have given them distinct physical characteristics and dwellings. Water people are weepily emotional and live in glass skyscrapers. Air dwellers are made of clouds and live with a pastel color palette. Earth residents are plants who come in many different shapes. In a humorous take, puberty is signaled by the growth of flowers in their armpits – a quirk that is repeatedly played for laughs. Fire people eat charcoal, wear metallic clothing, and live in brick, stone, and clay homes. As with other Pixar films, the detail is astounding and the artistic renderings superb. It will take more than one viewing to absorb all the minutiae the animation artists have packed into this production.

The movie doesn’t just look good; it also tells an absorbing story. This is obviously a film about diversity, but it does more than just repeat that “diversity is good” – it demonstrates that diversity is beautiful. As Ember and Wade get to know each other, they marvel at the wonders of each other’s worlds and talents. There are truly breathtaking moments in this movie when Ember makes glass, Wade creates a rainbow, or the couple take an underwater voyage to see a magical tree.

The film also tackles difficult issues – perhaps too many to fit comfortably in its runtime. Fire people are clearly an underclass in Element City and the story addresses prejudice, exclusion, class differences, cultural preservation, and clueless good intentions. A major plotline concerns Ember’s struggles with her parents’ expectations. As a daughter of immigrants, she feels trapped by the magnitude of her parents’ sacrifice and must learn to express her own hopes and talents. The script follows a well-trodden path but does so with gentle honesty.

Real originality comes in the movie’s love story. Ember and Wade are the unlikeliest odd couple – an explosive, radiant woman with anger management issues, and a chill, emotionally open guy with surfer dude vibes. Somehow it works. Their relationship is fraught with peril but also lit with acceptance, love, and joy. That’s not something you see every day in a kids’ film but being able to tap into these elemental emotions explains why Pixar continues to dominate the world of family entertainment.

Directed by Peter Sohn. Starring Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen. Running time: 109 minutes. Theatrical release June 16, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for Elemental

Rating & Content Info

Why is Elemental rated PG? Elemental is rated PG by the MPAA for some peril, thematic elements, and brief language

Violence: Dangerous floods put characters at risk and cause property damage. A character’s death is implied on screen. Children playfully hit each other with sticks. Fire characters are discriminated against by being denied access to an attraction. A character causes property destruction when she loses her temper and inadvertently sets things on fire.
Sexual Content: There is some brief, minor sexual innuendo. A male and female character kiss. Two very minor female characters are introduced as “girlfriends”. An adult mentions “hanky panky”.
Profanity:  The word “ash” is used as a substitute for an anatomical term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.

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Elemental Parents' Guide

Why does Ember feel responsible for taking over her father’s store? Why is she afraid to tell him what she really wants to do?

What do Ember and Wade love about each other? What do they learn from one another? How are their lives enriched by their time together? Have you ever spent time with someone with different talents or who comes from a different culture? What did you learn from them?

This movie has striking visual design. If you want to learn more about how the film was made, follow these links:

Mama’s Geeky: Designing Element City & Its Residents for Pixar’s Elemental

Laughing Place: Building Element City – The Real Stories That Inspired Pixar’s “Elemental”


Loved this movie? Try these books…

There are plenty of books to choose from if you’re looking for something that will help your child appreciate other cultures – and get along better with others.

This Is How We Do It follows a day in the life of kids from Italy, India, Iran, Japan, Peru, Russia, and Uganda. Written by Matt Lamothe, this book gives kids the chance to learn what it’s like to live in another culture.

Kids who want to learn more about other cultures can read Our Favorite Day of the Year, a book that explains cultural holidays and is written by A.E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell.

In rhyming text Are Your Stars Like My Stars? encourages children to imagine how children in other parts of the world experience their lives. This picture book is written by Leslie Helakoski and illustrated by Heidi Woodward Sheffield.

Pen pals Elliot and Kailash learn about their differences and similarities in Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.

Cultural differences – and similarities – are made easy to understand in Everybody Cooks Rice. In this book by Norah Dooley and Peter J. Thornton, a girl’s trip through her neighborhood uses food to show how people can take a simple ingredient and produce marvelously different foods.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

The benefits of diversity take center stage in Zootopia, the tale of a rabbit who wants to be a police officer in a world where those jobs are usually taken by larger animals.

Sea monsters and humans learn to look beyond their biases and stereotypes and live together peacefully in the animated film Luca.

Learning to value diverse gifts, particularly those that are not seen as important, is the theme of Encanto, the story of a family living in an enchanted house that begins to lose its magic.

MeiMei is the daughter of immigrant parents and she discovers an unexpected family trait when she turns into a giant red panda. Turning Red gives viewers of all ages a magical tale about family, friendship, cultural adaptation, and courage.