‘Elemental’ Director Peter Sohn On Oscar Nom, Honoring Parental Sacrifices & The Moment He Saw The “Magic Of What’s So Amazing About Animation”

Elemental director Peter Sohn received an Oscar nomination on Tuesday morning for Best Animated Feature. Even with a story that’s very personal to him, Sohn’s first thoughts go towards his entire crew. “I think about all the work and passion and love that they put into the film, and it fills me up in a way that is very emotional.”

The story of Elemental focuses on the love story between two opposing elemental beings, Ember and Wade, but there is an underlying theme of honoring parents and the sacrifices they made for their children. “When I first pitched, it was seven years ago,” says Sohn. “It was just this anecdote about going to this venue where I got to thank my parents in front of a large crowd, and it was a very emotional moment for me… Getting to this point with the kind of recognition, I just think of my parents looking down and hoping that they’re proud.”

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In addition to the story, the process of creating Elemental required many innovations in animation to bring these elemental beings to life. “It was a really amazing process to build a road where there wasn’t one here at Pixar, to make characters that were all effects. Creating characters like fire and water where they didn’t have any skin or a skeleton to hold them up… Some of my favorite parts of this journey was seeing them come to life through a collaboration of hundreds of really amazing artists.”

As Sohn speaks about the nomination, he thinks back to a moment during production where the COVID restrictions lifted enough to allow the crew to sit in a theater together. “In the darkness of that theater, it was the first time the artist put up Ember, our main fire woman,” he says. “Seeing her flames going and blinking for the first time, and really coming to life brought the magic of what’s so amazing about animation. She came from nothing and these artists had put her up on the big screen and it was a pretty momentous moment.”

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