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Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Review | A Fiery Rom-Com Full of Chemistry

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Embrace the light and Burn brighter. Director Peter Sohn’s beautifully animated allegory is a simple but sweet story that brings the immigrant journey and the first and second-generation experience to vibrant life. One of Pixar’s best in recent years ‘Elemental’ also tells a heartwarming love story that’ll ignite your heartstrings with its colourful, fiery, rippled world of Element City which is beautifully filled with gorgeous animation and focuses on familial expectations that truly hit home.

“Elemental” is a deeply personal story for Sohn. While he can trace his inspiration for the animated movie’s whimsical premise — different elements living as neighbours — to the periodic table he first saw in science class, the heart of Ember’s story came from Sohn’s experiences as a child born and raised in New York’s Bronx to Korean immigrant parents, as well as his interracial marriage.

Synopsis

Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis) is a hot-tempered resident of Fire Town. She works at her father’s store, The FirePlace, where Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) has spent years waiting for the day to pass it on to the new generation and keep the flame alive. He and his wife Cinder (Shila Ommi) immigrated, and her reticence to accept other elements has made her protective of her community and her daughter’s outlook. However, when a water element bureaucrat named Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie) unexpectedly enters Ember’s life, things truly start to boil as the two of them are forced to cooperate to solve an existential issue for Fire Town. Along the way, they are drawn closer despite their obvious differences and encounter other, more earthy and airy characters, with each contributing their aspect to the greater community.

(Pixar)

When director Peter Sohn set out to build a world where Fire, Water, Air and Earth residents would live and interact, he knew it would be a bold undertaking. Sohn explains that when he was a child, he would imagine the Periodic Table of Elements as an apartment building. Each element block was a window looking into their world and how they would behave. That is where part of the inspiration for Elemental came from.

‘Elemental’ is set in Element City, where water, earth, air, and fire live together — but the fire folks have been discriminated against and mostly live separately from the other elements, in their own community. They are forced to live outside of the city because it was not designed with them in mind. Elements can not mix supposedly as we see Ember accidentally touch the leaves of an earth element and they go up in flames, and if water falls on Ember, she will be extinguished, so she always carries an umbrella.

The film particularly focuses on the fire neighbourhood of protagonist Ember Lumen (voiced by Leah Lewis) and her family. Cinder and Bernie voiced beautifully by Shila Ommi and Pixar’s own Ronnie del Carmen, buy a run-down building that they fix up to be both their home and their livelihood: a thriving convenience store that becomes a neighborhood hub. Brick, glass, and ceramics define the surroundings, and the question of how fire moves through life informs everything from architectural designs to cartoon gags such as a fire mother feeding her baby lighter fluid and a plethora of signage featuring fire puns. fireplaces and ovens for the fire homes, barometers for the water homes, fans for the air homes, and nature for the land homes.

This is a story about family and having to deal with the pressure of living up to their expectations. This is a point that many first-generation immigrants can completely relate to. Ember’s parents come from a completely different place and they’ve had to work hard to get to where they’re at. It’s also about How do you convey how thankful you are for everything your parents have done for you? Sohn says the story, which is very personal to him, started with a drawing of a Fire character and Water character interacting. He imagined an unexpected friendship between them a relationship sure to trigger awkwardness, banter and funny missteps. He also started layering in his relationship with his wife as he’s Korean and she’s American, half Italian,” Sohn says “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!’”

Sohn’s parents eventually came around, finding they had a lot in common with their eventual daughter-in-law’s family. They also inspired another important aspect of the story, says the director. “It’s about understanding our parents as people. From that understanding comes an appreciation for the sacrifices that they make for their kids.

POPULATING ELEMENT CITY

Ember Lumen is a clever 20-something Fire woman with a great sense of humour who can be hot-headed at times. What she lacks in patience she more than makes up for in love for her family. As the only child of immigrant parents, Ember is keenly aware of how much they sacrificed to give her a better life. She’s determined to prove herself to them and looks forward to taking over the family business, Fireplace, when her father, Bernie, retires. Ember is a proud Fire person and is thrilled that her father trusts her to someday take over his shop. But then she’s thrown a curveball and it shakes up everything. Ember has an internal fight within herself. showing her struggling with the fact that she has to deal with the feelings that she was getting for Wade, but also having to deal with the fact that she doesn’t want to disappoint her family.

Ember doesn’t want to disappoint her father and she feels the pressure of having to walk in their shoes and continue their legacy. Now, both the stories, the romantic one and the family one are intertwined. Ember’s family is a little bit more strict about how she’s supposed to do things, and how she’s supposed to act. This is in contrast to Wade’s family who are a little bit more open about things. I think the allegories are there where water is a little bit flowy, in comparison to fire, where fire is passionate, strong, and scary.

(Pixar)

Like any good romance film, finding the right performers to embody the roles are critical. With ‘Elemental’, director Peter Sohn. He found his voice talent in a rather unique way. Leah Lewis beautifully provides the voice of Ember. She has a smoky voice and a feisty, fiery personality. She also has a wonderful tenderness to her and she can toggle back and forth so naturally. Lewis empathises with Ember’s frustrations which allows the audience to do the same. Ember is very fiery, but she has a reason for it. She wants to prove to her parents that she has become the woman they’ve always wanted her to be. She’s fiercely loyal to her family and fiercely loyal to her life and her identity as a Fire person. She’s very cautious and a lot of the elements are cautious around her.

Bringing Ember to life technically was one of the film’s biggest challenges Pixar had to upgrade and buy more computers for ‘Elemental’. There were over 151,000 cores in use for this film in three large rooms at the Pixar Campus, truly a massive amount of computing power. To achieve Ember and the other Fire characters’ unique, stylized look, Pixar tapped resources at Disney Research Studios in Zurich, Switzerland. Researchers with expertise in visual computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence helped shape ideas into technological innovations. this allowed them to organise the flames into more stylised shapes using a machine learning technique called Volumetric Neural Style Transfer.

The idea is to use a painting to stylise a simulation. So they did these paintings of what the flames should look like and then ran this machine learning technique on the realistic fire simulation to stylise it and make it more of a 2D representation. They ultimately applied this technique to every frame of the movie that features ember. Each Fire character has an iconic shape that’s constantly moving. Three predominant cones form the shape of Ember’s hair. Their fire is always moving through space, but that movement is respecting these shapes without feeling like geometric solid shapes anymore. It’s this like moving fluid that constantly goes back to the iconic shape so that the audience can recognize her quickly.

(Pixar)

Wade Ripple is not afraid to show his emotions—in fact, his emotions are hard to miss. An empathetic, 20-something Water guy, Wade is observant, a good listener and literally bubbling with compassion for others. He is close with his family—a lively and strangely weepy bunch who seek out opportunities to share their feelings. Wade is the type of character that’ll cry at anything. He really feels his way through the world and what I love about him is that he’s a transparent character—literally and figuratively—you can always feel what he’s feeling. There’s nothing to hide with Wade.

Wade represents a safe place for Ember, one that won’t judge. Wade was created to help Ember see herself. He doesn’t exist to teach her anything or guide her in any way, but as a mirror so that Ember could see a new version of herself.

He was also another tough character to pull off as firstly he’s water and the team at Pixar worked for the right look. If the movement was too slow, he looked like jelly. Filmmakers wanted to create a character that was water, which wasn’t easy considering the optical properties of water: reflection, refraction, and dispersion. ‘Water is an amorphous substance that is in constant motion, which made shading water characters a challenging task,” says visual effects supervisor Sanjay Bakshi. “To create visually appealing characters, animators and technicians must determine which rules of physics to follow and which to disregard.

(Pixar)

thus developing the artificial meniscus layer that accentuates the facial features of Water characters, making their expressions more visible.

Wade has more than 50 controls—allowing filmmakers to tweak everything from the bubble activity within the character to the incorporation of edges to his nose, tongue, and teeth—filmmakers referred to this edge as a meniscus. The ability to read the character’s performance—his emotions—was paramount. In scenes in which Wade and Ember appear on screen together—which is often— filmmakers developed a protocol that would allow for the look of reflection of Fire on Water. which was evident throughout as they would light Wade’s bubbles to have Ember’s colours so you would appreciate that proximity In others in which she’s vulnerable, It serves the story moment beautifully.

Mamoudou Athie voices Wade, he has tremendous charm. His voice performance has an interesting range which hit the watery-go-with-the-flow energy that Wade has, it’s smooth and flowy. Athie resonates with Wade’s open-heartedness and his willingness to share exactly how he feels all the time is aspiring. There’s something really beautiful about his earnestness and his acceptance of everyone.

(Pixar)

Thomas Newman’s experience and artistry amplify the story’s emotional core. Newman’s score brilliantly captures the unexpected connection between Ember and Wade, Fire and Water—opposites by all accounts. The music also conveys the unique cultural undertones of the story—without leaning on any existing cultural hallmarks. From Fire, Water, Earth and Air.

“Elemental” invites audiences to journey alongside Ember and Wade as they realize that maybe they’re not so different after all. Thanks to Wade, Ember is able to see Element City for the first time without trepidation. The occasion is aptly captured in song, compliments of singer-songwriter Lauv.

How do you convey how thankful you are for everything your parents have done for you? One way to show them our thanks might be to keep dreaming big. But the film’s biggest takeaway is to always say thank you while you can.

Final Thoughts

Overall, “Elemental was cute, entertaining, and fun. All the comedy hit well. And even the serious moments were touching. By the end of the movie, I came out crying as It was emotional to see the journey Ember took, But also the journey her father took. The way that they were able to connect in the end was a joy. It was amazing. And I recommend you go to watch this movie. The studio’s artists have used personal stories and technical innovations as the groundwork for their first real rom-com.

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Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: Po and Co are Back to Pack Hilarious Punches.

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I’ve seen too many great animation franchises deliver diminishing returns with more and more sequels. To name some recent examples one could include How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Cars, etc. Kung Fu Panda is another franchise that unfortunately falls in this category. The threequel that released in 2016, was most people’s choice for the weakest entry in the beloved franchise. So that made me pretty skeptical whether the world was ready for this franchise to return and gave us good cause not to have expectations set too high, especially given the weak marketing campaign and smaller production budget. To make things worse, it was being reported that the furious five would not be a part of the story.

So I went in with my expectations in check but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been 8 years since the last Kung Fu Panda movie, but the characters are somehow still fresh and fun. One of the best things that the makers are able to do is remind the viewers what makes Po such a darling and why we love him so much. Jack Black is such a natural fit for his voice and makes this character special with his wit and wisdom in this latest entry. 

This entry is notably structured in a very different way from the other 3 entries. This one focuses on Po’s search for a successor and his ascension to the Master of Peace. The main characters are split up pretty early in the movie and are sent on separate adventures in a sort of buddy-cop-style scenario. On one side we have Po and Awkwafina’s Zhen, and on the other, we have Bryan Cranston and James Hong as Po’s dads. These two duos are a lot of fun in their own ways.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po and Xen have more of a good boy-bad boy dynamic, while the dads have more of a light-hearted brotherhood between them. Both pairs of misfits deliver a string of humorously entertaining sequences that will have you laughing your heart out. The humor here works for most parts apart from one or two instances and the dialogue in particular is very smartly written. The story, on the other hand, is where the movie is at its weakest.

The structuring is pretty generic with a very cliche twist at the beginning of the second half and the script mostly fails to provide significantly fresh plot points. But credit to it for executing the successor plotline better than a lot of movies that have tried it, especially Cars 3. The writers make sure to put their entire focus on humor and entertainment value, but they do come up with a couple of charming moments and some subplots that come full circle.

The animation here is surprisingly really good, especially given the significantly lower budget. The trailers didn’t get too many people encouraged about the quality of animation, but I can tell you that even though it’s not DreamWorks’ best, it’s still really well done. The background score also hits the right spot where it’s able to compliment the scene and lift it at the same time. The voice work here is also pretty solid. Jack Black is amazing as always and Awkwafina Ke Huy Quan are welcome additions.

(Center) Chameleon (Viola Davis) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Apart from Po, the best part of the movie is Li and Ping. They are the heart of this movie. The two of them have incredible chemistry and Mike Mitchell finds a way to bring out the best from the both of them. They play off of each other in the most silly, but whimsical manner which is just a joy to watch. We could do with a spin-off of them. Ian McShane’s return as Tai Lung is another highlight here. He is nicely integrated and fits well into the story being told. On the other hand, Viola Davis’ Chameleon is somewhat of a disappointment. For a villain that has the powers of all the previous villains, she was a rather tame antagonist.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda 4 is a return to form for the beloved franchise. It has a lot of elements that made the franchise successful and is a much-needed reminder of how much we love these characters and in particular, Po. Jack Black knocks it out of the park with Bryan Cranston and James Hong emerging as surprise standouts. It lacks the emotional depth of the first two entries and has a disappointingly tame villain. But it is a major improvement from the last entry and unsurprisingly very very entertaining.

Kung Fu Panda 4 releases in cinemas on March 8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inKs4eeHiI&pp=ygUXa3VuZyBmdSBwYW5kYSA0IHRyYWlsZXI%3D

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Animation

Marvel Animation’s X-Men ’97 | Official Trailer — Disney +

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Genre:

Animation, Action, Adventure

Release Date:

March 20, 2024

Director:

Disney +

Cast:

Jennifer Hale, Ray Chase, Lenore Zann

Post Summary:

Continuation of X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)

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Animation

Despicable Me 4 | Official Trailer — Universal Pictures

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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Despicable Me 4 [credit: Universal Pictures]

Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

July 3, 2024

Director:

Chris Renaud, Patrick Delage

Cast:

Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wig, Sofía Vergara

Plot Summary:

Plot unknown. Fourth installment of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise.

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