A Climate Message in Pixar's 'Elemental'

The new animated Pixar film 'Elemental' centers around a family that leaves their homelands after a devastating storm — and the struggles of immigration.

A Climate Message in Pixar's 'Elemental'
Art by Sho Shibuya / Follow them on Instagram

LISTENING: to my tummy growl because I'm hungry
excited about some on-the-ground reporting today
a fly buzz outside my window

If you've followed my work over the years, you know I love a climate change reference in my media consumption. I've written about climate themes in various films and shows — "Dune," "The Last of Us," "Sweet Tooth," and the list goes on.

Last week, I watched the new Disney and Pixar film "Elemental" — and I was delighted to find that this, too, carried an urgent message about a particular group of people: climate migrants.

The animated film, directed by Peter Sohn, revolves around Ember, whose parents immigrated from their homelands after a storm devasted their village. They didn't want to leave their home, but the storm left them with no choice. They bid farewell to a way of life — and a family that didn't understand their choice.

"Elemental" offers a heartbreaking example of weather driving migration. The climate crisis is making such migrations more common as rising temperatures fuel unpredictable and severe weather. Every year, weather forcibly displaces an average of 21.5 million people. Such numbers, however, fail to convey the humanity of such movement.

(I've written about climate-fueled migration several times: here, here, and here.)

As any child of immigrants knows, their parents' attempt at a new life is a heavy burden to carry — and the journey doesn't end with their arrival in a new home. The film celebrates the love and devotion we, second-generation children, hold for our parents. It also highlights what is possible when second-generation children push past the pressures we face.

The film dares us to make our wildest dreams possible despite the generational trauma we carry.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, whose parents sacrificed everything when they migrated to New York from El Salvador.

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