Elemental Writers Speak on Disney+ Vs. Theatrical Release Decision (Exclusive)

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Updated:
Elemental, Disney Plus

Pixar’s Elemental writers reflected on the decision to bring the movie to theaters.

After Onward's theatrical run was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney+ became the home of new Pixar movies for several years. While Black Widow and Mulan were released under the Premier Access tier, Pixar films, like Soul, Turning Red, and Luca, were released for free on Disney+.

After multiple streaming releases, Lightyear served as Pixar's return to the big screen after a long hiatus due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Elemental is the first original, non-franchise theatrical title to be released in theaters since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Elemental Wasn't Written With a Disney+ Debut In Mind

John Hoberg and Kat Likkel
John Hoberg and Kat Likkel

In an exclusive interview with The Direct, Pixar's Elemental writers John Hoberg and Kat Likkel, who penned the screenplay of the movie, reflected on the movie's theatrical debut instead of premiering on Disney+. 

When asked if Elemental was written with a theatrical release in mind, both of them confirmed that it was. 

While there was an initial concern that it will not release in theaters, Hoberg admitted that it was "one of those things that were so out of [their] hands:"

"When a few of them went to Disney+, I think there really was a big question, ‘What’s going to happen?’ But it’s kind of one of those things that were so out of our hands as a group, there wasn’t a whole lot of focus on it. There was a lot of tumultuous stuff going on in the United States in 2020 and 2021." 

Still, the Elemental screenplay scribe pointed out that the team behind the movie was only focused on crafting the movie inside a "beautiful little bubble" and that they had to "block the outside world:"

"And… it was this beautiful little bubble we all worked in where we were trying to tell this story about love. And we kind of had to block the outside world, including, ‘Will we go into theater or not,’ out of it all, and just focus inward. And so, it was kind of a blessing that we work on that during all these times."

Likkel chimed in by saying that Elemental's crew were "really, really hoping" that the movie will be released in theaters, noting that "there’s no better way to see a Pixar movie than on a giant screen:"

"I will say all of us were really, really hoping it would ultimately go into the theater. It’s like, we would have been fine had it not. It still would have been incredibly exciting. But I think there’s no better way to see a Pixar movie than on a giant screen. And, you know, and with a huge audience around you, because that builds so much. So, we were very excited when we were going back into the theaters."

Hoberg ended by saying that the movie is just "spectacular" on the big screen:

"Especially this movie. I mean, you’ve seen it now on the big screen. It is just spectacular. The fire and the water and everything."

Why Pixar's Elemental Deserves a Theatrical Release

Pixar's Elemental has visually stunning sequences that deserve the big screen treatment. 

Hoberg and Likkel's remarks about the crew's hopes of seeing the movie in theaters are understandable, considering that it is the ultimate goal of anyone involved in a film. 

Moreover, Elemental currently has a 76% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a good chunk of critics praising the movie's visuals that perfectly blended with its heartfelt storytelling. There's a high chance that watching the movie on the big screen definitely helped with the praise of Elemental's visuals.

Although Pixar movies' debut on Disney+ greatly helped the streaming service in terms of subscriber count as per the New York Times, there's no denying that the experience to witness an animated movie filled with impressive world-building elements and incredible visuals on the big screen is immeasurable. 

Pixar's Elemental is now playing in theaters worldwide. 

- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.