Table of content    
  1. Elemental is an original story, but the setting doesn’t feel unique.
  2. The overall plot is quite predictable.
  3. The characters’ designs are unique but unappealing.
  4. Pixar’s marketing strategy for the movie has been poor.
  5. The initial reviews aren’t exceptional.
  6. It has too many rivals.
  7. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is simply a better option.
  8. The movie doesn’t give enough spotlight to the other two elements.
  9. The Cannes strategy didn’t work out.
  10. Pixar isn't the studio they once were.

10 Reasons Why Pixar’s Elemental Is Flopping Hard At The Box Office

Once known worldwide for making successive animated masterpieces in the 2000s and 2010s such as Up, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Inside Out, it seems that the legendary Pixar Animation Studio is stuck in a rut recently. After the underwhelming performances of Lightyear and Onward quite recently, the latest film Elemental was released earlier this month, and it’s expected to be the new move that will resurrect the studio’s reputation. However, the result isn’t what Pixar wants, as Elemental earned only $29.5 at the domestic office and $48 million globally in its first week. 

With Elemental underperforming, it feels like the studio has lost its magical touch. The movie, in its current situation, it’s going to follow Lightyear’s footsteps to become a box office disaster, and it would be a huge hit for Pixar which is descending in quality. Let’s see what went wrong with Elemental, and what Pixar should take note to not make the same mistakes again.


#1. Elemental is an original story, but the setting doesn’t feel unique.

When seeing Elemental’s official trailer, do you feel anything familiar? While the 5 nature elements play a huge part in the film, the Element City’s setting and design feel no different than the 2016 Disney hit Zootopia. Apart from the citizen, the other aspects are largely the same: the colorful modern city, unique vehicles, vibrant theme and atmosphere, different city sectors, and so on. 

It’s hard to say, but Element City feels like a cheap knockoff of Zootopia, which is way more iconic to the audience.


#2. The overall plot is quite predictable.

Pixar is widely known for their unique storytelling that often makes full use of the distinct setting of the movie. Well, Elemental is not one of them. The movie starts with a couple of Fire people coming to the big city to make a living, and of course, with their tendency of burning things, they struggle a lot to fit in with others. 

You don’t have to be a movie aficionado to guess what happens next: The Fire couple hate other Elements, especially Water, their polar opposite. Their daughter falls in love with a Water guy, and has to keep it a secret from her parents. The rest of the story is about how both of them work their way to earn their parents’ trust and approval. Predictable.


#3. The characters’ designs are unique but unappealing.

Personifying the natural elements is a pretty good move initially by Pixar, but it feels like they didn’t convey the idea very well. The characters look unique at first glance, but it gets a bit repetitive later on. Wade’s appearance is quite catching, but his family and the other Water people look generally the same.

Meanwhile, Ember’s appearance, while bringing out her fiery and tough nature, still lacks an extra bit of something to make her more charming to the audience. And in an animated movie, visual means almost everything.


#4. Pixar’s marketing strategy for the movie has been poor.

Unlike other projects, there aren’t a lot of marketing campaigns for Elemental, which is quite a surprise, considering how much budget Pixar usually pours in to promote their films. In terms of marketing, the trailer is the only effort that the studio put in, and even the trailer was uploaded relatively close to the release date. The idea for Elemental is quite unique, so it’s a shame that Pixar’s marketing strategy can’t get the same level of creativity.


#5. The initial reviews aren’t exceptional.

The initial reviews about the animated movie on Rotten Tomatoes and other sites are quite favorable, but that’s about it. The movie’s good, but nothing exceptional, there are little details that make us go WOW like Up or Wall-E. And in Pixar’s standard, good is simply not enough to bring the audience to the theaters.


#6. It has too many rivals.

Pixar might have made a wrong move to release the movie in the summer, when it has to compete against an overwhelming amount of good movies. With absolute behemoths like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, The Flash, and Fast X premiering almost simultaneously at the box office, Elemental simply has no chance.


#7. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is simply a better option.

If we compare Elemental to the most highly-anticipated animated movie this summer, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the latter is superior in both animation quality and storytelling, and it even has a great prequel to boot. I mean, Disney fanatics aside, which would the neutral audience choose to watch: a well-made animation about a famous superhero which explores the intriguing and vast concept of the Multiverse, or a Zootopia rip-off movie? 

Simply put, while not a bad movie itself, Elemental couldn’t hold a candle (no pun intended) against Across the Spider-Verse in every aspect.


#8. The movie doesn’t give enough spotlight to the other two elements.

Instead of naming the movie Elemental, Pixar should just dub it Fire and Water, since the other two elements Earth and Wind are almost nowhere to be found throughout the movie. Of course, with Ember and Wade being the main characters, we should expect that the spotlight will revolve mostly around these two, but the other elements should have their moments as well, as they would bring more variety to the story.


#9. The Cannes strategy didn’t work out.

Instead of operating a full-force marketing campaign, Pixar decided to debut the film at the 76th Cannes Film Festival earlier this May, hoping that the favorable reviews at the events would convince the audience to hit the theaters. However, the plan ultimately backfired, as the critics aren’t very fond of Elemental, even dubbing it one of the worst Pixar movies so far. And of course, the initial bad reviews once again make fans skeptical about paying the ticket, while there’re still so many good summer movies out there. 


#10. Pixar isn't the studio they once were.

It’s a cold, hard truth that the current Pixar is merely a shadow of its 2000s self. Things start going downhill for the legendary studio since Onward in 2020, and have been plummeting ever since. Soul, Luca and Turning Red, while gaining positive reactions from fans and critics, didn’t even have their chance to reach the theaters due to the pandemic, and when the box offices opened again, Lightyear and Elemental underperform. 

Pixar needs to make some drastic changes immediately to return to their former self, and regain the audience’s love once again before it’s too late.

What do you think about Elemental? Do you think it deserved to flop? Let us know in the comment.

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