Korean Animator Shares Connection to Immigrant Story in Pixar Film ‘Elemental’


The animated film “Elemental” tells a story that resonates with the personal experiences of its director, Sohn. He drew inspiration from his own childhood in New York, growing up with parents who had immigrated from South Korea and made many sacrifices for their family.

Sohn, who was born and raised in South Korea, pursued his passion for animation by studying at Centennial College in Canada. He previously worked on visual effects for Marvel Studios’ films like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Doctor Strange in the Metaverse of Madness.” Joining the animation team for Pixar’s “Buzz Lightyear” was a dream come true for him.

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Lee, a talented animator, collaborated with Sohn on the film. As a second-generation Korean American, she felt a strong connection with the director as they shared their emotional experiences and challenges as immigrants.

Creating the animated elements in the film required meticulous attention to detail. The animation team carefully studied the movements of fire and clouds to accurately depict the four elements. However, the most challenging task for Lee was bringing Ember, one of the characters, to life with vividness and authenticity.

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One particular scene showed Ember and Wade walking through the city, demonstrating their abilities to each other. Lee had to adjust the color of Ember’s lights to match her emotions, adding depth and complexity to her character.

Lee expressed her admiration for Pixar’s films, appreciating their creative and emotional storytelling. She cited the 2015 film “Inside Out” as her favorite, believing that Pixar movies have the power to heal and touch the hearts of both children and adults.

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While currently working on Pixar’s upcoming animated film “Elio,” Lee has even bigger aspirations. She sees herself becoming a director as part of her journey of self-realization. Whether it’s a short film or a feature-length project, she wants to share her own unique story with the world.

“Elemental” is set to hit local theaters on June 14, offering audiences a glimpse into Sohn and Lee’s personal experiences and artistic vision.