Pixar's Elemental movie turns up the heat in the 2023 animation film award race

Wade and Ember smile at each other in Pixar's Elemental movie
Elemental arrives in theaters on June 16 (Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

Pixar is renowned for being a boundary pusher in the animation space – and Elemental, the studio's next movie, looks like it'll continue that tradition.

The 27th Pixar movie, which follows hot on the heels of the Disney subsidiary's two 2022 releases – Turning Red and Lightyear – is set to arrive in theaters on June 16. It's high time, then, that we were given a better idea of what its plot will be.

Luckily, Pixar as duly obliged, releasing an official trailer for Elemental – one of our most eagerly anticipated new movies of 2023 – that not only provides some new details about its story, but also gives us another look at the film's jaw-dropping visuals. Check it out below:

Honestly, we can't stop watching the satisfying fluidity of Wade's water-y make-up or the constantly burning, fiery aesthetic of Ember's design. It's a seriously impressive feat to get these contrasting visuals to operate in the same VFX engine and look as beautifully natural as they do. Anybody else expecting Elemental to be a shoe-in for a Best Animated Feature nomination at the 2024 Oscars?

As for the movie's story, it seems it'll center on a platonic or romantic relationship between the fire-based Ember and water-styled Wade. Right now, we only have a simple plot synopsis, courtesy of Pixar, to go on, which reads: "In a city where fire, water, land and air residents live together, a fiery young woman and a go-with-the-flow guy are about to discover something elemental: how much they actually have in common". This new trailer, then, reveals how Ember and Wade's worlds collide and thematically explores the notion of how opposing races and forces can co-exist. A noteworthy message for our times, eh?

Elemental will star Leah Lewis (Batwheels, The Half of It) as Ember and Jurassic World: Dominion's Mamoudou Athie as Wade. Newcomer Mason Wertheimer has been cast as Clod, a young, street smart Earth-based character, while Wendie McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!) will portray Gale, an air-based individual. Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek) voices Wade's mom Brook.

Pixar's latest feature film has been directed by veteran employee Peter Sohn, whose only other directing credit came on 2016's The Good Dinosaur. Sohn has voiced numerous characters in the Pixar-Verse, though, including Sox in Lightyear, as well as executively producing, writing, animating, and acting as a story consultant on many other Pixar flicks. John Hoberg and Kat Likkel (My Name Is Earl, Black-ish) are joined by Brena Hsueh (How I Met Your Mother) as the film's main writers.

Analysis: a summer filled with hot animated offerings

Miles Morales poses as he flips through the air in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse will push the animation boundaries later this year, too (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

With the animation genre proving to be a popular medium for audiences and creators alike in 2022 – Turning Red, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish were all stunningly gorgeous films – it seems that 2023 is set to follow in its predecessor's footsteps.

Given its penchant for breaking ground in the animation space, Pixar is helping to lead the pack with Elemental. However, the film isn't the only new release from the studio that's set to wow cinephiles with its visually arresting animation style, hues, cityscape backgrounds, and technological innovations.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the follow-up to 2019's Into the Spider-Verse, is also set to disrupt the animation medium with its own revolutionary art style and eye-popping colors – and it'll arrive just two weeks before Elemental on June 2, meaning the sixth month of 2023 will be an animated showdown for the ages.

Throw in The Super Mario Bros. Movie – the joint Universal, Nintendo, and Illumination animated flick based on Nintendo's legendary video game series – as well as Paramount's visually striking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem movie and Netflix's stop-motion animated sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, and this year could be the one where animated movies are taken far more seriously than before. Let's hope the Academy and other film award organizations take note.

For more Pixar-based content, read up on why Pixar's chief creative officer thinks Lightyear flopped at the box office. Alternatively, find out which Pixar films made it onto our best family movies and best Disney Plus movies lists.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.