Variety does not put it lightly. Disney and Pixar’s Elemental was a total box office flop and was beaten out by Ezra Miller’s The Flash, which also opened with disappointing numbers. Elemental made only $29.6 million on its three-day opening weekend, securing its place as a “box office lightweight.” For comparison, Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid made over $160 million worldwide on its opening weekend.
While movie-goers actually rated the theatrical release of Elemental as a good experience, the sour box office numbers tell a different story. Variety also notes that this new animated movie cost about $200 million to make and another $100 million to market, so unless there’s a huge audience shift over Elemental‘s time in theaters, the overall loss will most likely be devastating. It performed even worse than Pixar’s other low hitters Onward (2020) and The Good Dinosaur (2015).
Elemental and The Good Dinosaur also share a common director, Peter Sohn. In his 23-year-long Pixar career, Sohn says that no story has ever felt as personal to him as Elemental. He relates the story of Element City to his own life growing up in New York with Korean immigrant parents.
When we saw animated films, I don’t remember translating anything for [my mom.] The medium itself was so powerful and transcendent of language that there were moments that brought her to tears. It hit me, “Wow animation can do that.” Elemental is a love letter to my parents- thanking them for building such a supportive foundation for my brother and I. Unfortunately, I lost both of them during the production of this film, and I miss them every day.
While Elemental certainly has the heart of any of its Pixar predecessors, it just didn’t generate the same turnout. Could this be a result of the pandemic on the movie-going culture? Since the pandemic and Disney’s move to release some content directly to consumers via its streaming platform Disney+, it has been difficult to generate the same animated profit.
Peter Sohn’s story about family, confidence, and choice stars the voice talents of Leah Lewis as fire element Ember and Mamoudou Athie as water dude Wade and is in theaters now.
Only time will tell if Elemental can get things sizzling at the box office, but right now, it seems to have already fizzled out.