Over the weekend, Disney Pixar premiered Elemental, the animation studio’s first film to feature a non-binary character.
Elemental takes place in a city where residents of water, fire, air and land live together. The computer-animated feature film directed by Peter Sohn explores themes of xenophobia, community, and how love can transcend differences.
According to the film’s synopsis, the story follows “a fiery young woman” called Ember and a “go-with-the-flow guy” called Wade. While building this new friendship, the two challenge each other as they explore their intercultural differences and together discover “something elemental: how much they actually have in common”.
Wade’s younger sibling, Lake Ripple, is a non-binary character who uses they/them pronouns. While they aren’t a major protagonist, their presence marks a notable first for gender representation. Lake is voiced by non-binary actor Kai Ava Hauser, who celebrated the historic debut on Twitter.
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT I got to play Pixar’s first nonbinary character! Meet Lake!
I voice Lake in the new movie #Elemental! I’m seeing it in theaters tonight with my friends, so you can catch it in theaters too if you wanna see them. ? pic.twitter.com/6kBPGvCATE
— ? Kai Ava Hauser ? (@JustAVoiceActor) June 16, 2023
Disney has worked to advance their representation of LGBTQ+ and other marginalised communities in recent years, but these efforts have been met with resistance. In November 2022, the studio released Strange World which included its first openly gay teen who has a crush on another boy, and a Florida teacher was investigated for showing this in her classroom.
Back in 2020, 14 countries banned the film Lightyear for including a same-sex kiss. The scene was initially cut and then reinstated after LGBTQ+ employees at Pixar released a statement: “We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were.”
The statement added: “Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest… Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.”
While Lake is the first official non-binary character in a Disney-Pixar film, some fans have called attention to the film A Bug’s Life, which featured memorable gender-ambiguous characters like Francis who appeared to exist outside of the binary.
— melia (@melschnef) June 17, 2023
Elemental is premiering in theatres worldwide during Pride month. It is the first Disney-Pixar film to premiere exclusively in Cinemas since the Covid-19 pandemic, and Pete Docter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, said: “Elemental is so funny, full of heart and, frankly, stunning to see.”
The film made over €23 million at US and Canadian box offices over the weekend, and it will be released in movie theatres across Ireland on July 7.
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