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‘Elemental’ Mall Tour Hypes New Pixar Movie

The Mercury News

July 10, 2023

Disney and Pixar unveiled an interactive experience at Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo earlier this month, coinciding with opening weekend for its latest animated film, “Elemental.”

The June 16-18 event was part of a five-city weekend mall tour that began in New York City May 19 and included stops in suburban shopping centers around Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles before its final stop in San Mateo.

“Elemental” takes place in Element City, where characters represented by the four elements live in separate sectors of the city. Ember, a fire character, and Wade, a water character, cross paths in the story.

“What’s really cool about this movie is that it imagines a world where fire, air, water and earth are all living together. … That’s one of the rules right? Elements don’t mix,” said Lisa Cabello, Disney spokesperson for the Elemental Experience. “How can they be friends if they can’t even touch?”

Visitors at the event got to learn more about the movie while receiving free promotional goodies and having fun. Steve Lau attended with his young daughter, who wore a red and orange colored skirt that resembled the fire character Ember’s appearance.

“She’s going to like it because she relates to Ember very much, especially her fiery personality,” Lau said.

Upon walking into a decorated archway, visitors were greeted with life-size models of the main characters Ember and Wade sitting on the bench. One section of the exhibit was dedicated to each of the four elements in the movie — fire, water, wind and earth — all bursting with colorful backgrounds and interactive activities.

Visitors could win free movie tickets inside a wind tunnel. In the fire-themed section, sponsor I’m the Chef Too provided visitors with instructions and a kit to make chocolate truffles, a reference to Ember’s father’s store. The water-themed section offered fresh cups of water through a faucet. Another photo op with movie characters awaited in the earth-themed section, as well as a planter containing apple seeds. Lastly, a video tutorial by Pixar animators demonstrated how to draw the main characters in the movie.

The film also speaks to more complex real-world issues such as recognizing and working with differences among people.

“We might be different from others, but it could be in those very differences that are brought together and we can connect and really just become friends,” Cabello said. “It’s a really beautiful story, and I think that it can translate no matter what age you are.”

Amid the growing popularity of streaming services and decline of theater attendance in recent years, this mall tour is part of an effort by studios like Disney and Pixar to get people to watch their new releases in theaters.

Editor’s note: This story is part of the annual Mosaic Journalism Workshop for Bay Area high school students, a two-week intensive course in journalism. Students in the program report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.