Thanks to a thriving cinematic relationship spanning many years, Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios certainly know plenty about engaging and entertaining audiences.
While the relationship between characters is often a central part of the storytelling, Pixar’s 27th major production was also their first romantic comedy-drama.
Intriguingly, this particular slice of animated fantasy is also grounded in reality, given that Elemental (2023) takes its inspiration from the cultural and ethnic diversity in modern cities.
However, in this fantasy world, the diversity of the animation voice actors represents the natural elements: Fire and Water, Earth and Air.
Bringing the fascinating characters to life was a challenging and rewarding process, which is not an uncommon sensation for voice artists in the industry, including those who demonstrated their acting range as the Elemental movie characters.
Let’s explore the cast who voiced the characters, alongside their thoughts and experiences working on Pixar’s animated feature.
“Is this for real?” thought Leah Lewis, following a six-hour audition, when told that Pixar was offering her the role of Ember Lumen in the Elemental movie.
Aside from the “surreal” hiring process involved, her initial reaction was one of disbelief. “I felt punked,” she recalled with amusement, initially believing that someone was playing a practical joke.
Of course, voiceover work brings its own unique challenges.
Even considering she was playing a fire elemental, “I was surprised how much I was sweating,” explained Lewis, when speaking about the voice recording process for Elemental during an interview at Pixar with Collider.
“I surprised myself,” she admitted, providing some insight into the thought process involved.
“How am I going to drown or how am I going to be running on a train,” explained Lewis, highlighting the complexities of capturing the moment, but only using her voice.
“How am I going to go from being super cheery with my dad to crying that something happens to Wade,” she added, thinking about the wide range of emotional sensations her voice alone needed to convey.
Nevertheless, this was a “really cool” experience for Lewise, getting to be involved in portraying one of the lead characters in the Elemental movie.
“This movie’s so beautiful, and it’s everything that I’ve ever wanted to do.
I got an endless well for that,” explained Mamadou Athie, who provides the voice for Wade Ripple in Elemental.
Yet even with previous experience working on animated features, his recollections highlighted the tiring yet fun sensations that surrounded the overall efforts involved.
“I didn’t know that four to five hours in a booth could be so draining, in the most exhilarating way,”
Athie acknowledged, talking about the mental and physical demands when interviewed by take2markTV online.
“You’re putting every bit of yourself into the performance because you’re creating a lot of images in your mind,” he underlined regarding the emotional investment.
“You’re doing take after take and we’re going for it every time. And by the end of it, I felt like I needed to take a nap, but it was a great feeling,” said Athie of his own sensations, working hard to make sure that every voiced line or sound was conveyed to perfection.
As for the pairing of his voice work and the animations, Athie recognized that it’s “really hard to comprehend what they did,” excited by the outcome of the Elemental movie project, along with meeting the animators and gaining an appreciation for their work.
“It’s all like, you know, just magic to me,” he suggested of the technology involved.
No stranger to participation in animated feature films, including work as a storyboard artist for Wall-E and Ratatouille, among many others, Ronnie Del Carmen gets to put his voice-acting talents to great use in the Elemental movie.
He was especially keen on portraying the character of Bernie Luman, given this was a role that he could resonate with.
“I get to channel my own journeys as a son and as a father, and put them into Bernie’s story,” Del Carmen reflected, speaking with Esquire magazine.
Voicing a parent and father came naturally for the actor, who also provided insightful thoughts regarding his emotional impetus for the role.
“Your workshop and your laboratory is your own experience. You place yourself in there to give it weight and gravity and authenticity,” he pointed out with sincerity, having cherished the opportunity.
“I felt so honored,” enthused Shila Ommi, delighted that Elemental director Peter Sohn invited her to play the role of Cinder Lumen in the movie.
“He felt that I resembled certain characteristics of his mom’s voice,” she explained, having thoroughly enjoyed her part in bringing this animated character to life.
“I love doing voice work,” explained Ommi, even with lots of experience acting on stage and in front of cameras.
However, there’s clearly a big difference between mediums, and most of all, she relishes the liberating sensation of relying entirely on her voice for character portrayal.
“With voice work, what I love is that they don’t see you, so you can be as big as you need to, and you can have all kinds of crazy facial expressions. You have a lot more freedom,” she concluded.
“It’s amazing. I’ve never done anything quite like this before. It’s incredible,” said Mason Wertheimer, the young actor who voiced Clod in the Elemental movie.
This was only the second feature he’s worked on, but clearly one that was lots of fun, having provided an additional voice in the Past My Bedtime podcast series in 2022.
“There are some cartoon gigs that I have done from my own closet,” mused Wendi McLendon-Covey, when asked about performing the voice of Gale in the Elemental animated feature film.
“But not with Pixar. This was a quality situation and I was happy to do whatever I needed to do. I said yes before even reading anything,” she acknowledged.
“How can she make crying so funny?” Said co-star Wendi McLendon-Covy, speaking of Catherine O’Hara, who plays the role of Brook Ripple in the Elemental movie.
As for her own thoughts, “It was really fun to record,” suggested O’Hara, who really enjoyed joining the talented voice cast of the animated feature.
American comedian Joe Pera is best known for his Adult Swim’s voice work on the Cartoon Network.
But getting to perform as Fern Grouchwood in the Elemental movie for Pixar, well, that brought additional benefits.
“It was a great experience, and the director Peter even showed me the microphone that James Earl Jones recorded his lines for Mufasa,” in The Lion King, he posted with clear excitement via social networks.
From live acting roles on TV and movie screens to a plethora of voice acting credits, including a huge list of animations and video games, Matthew Yang King has quite literally been there and done it all.
He “really loved Elemental” and lent his natural voice to several characters, most notably that of Alan Ripple, plus Lutz and the Earth Pruner.
As an aspiring young acting talent, getting to add the latest major Pixar production to his growing list of credits was huge for Innocent Ekakitie, who brings a childish charm to the characters of both Moco and Polo Ripple in Elemental.
Supporting characters like these are just as important in such productions, helping to convey the humor and captivating nature of the story.
Animation features often involve a sizeable cast of voice artists, each one of them contributing to the success of movies and TV shows.
Here at Voice Crafters, we have talent available for every kind of role or style required, offering a wealth of experience and vocal skills that can benefit all types of projects.
This includes the uniquely Spanish sound and range of Javier Fernández-Peña, who delighted audiences as the voice of Spanish Buzz in Toy Story 3.
Whenever taking on any role, “make it genuine and make it fun,” has become a personal mantra. “Seeing the character coming to life, with a personality of its own,” these are key elements for Javier, whatever the role.
As for the work itself, while many projects involve lengthy preparation cycles and time to prepare, sometimes need to think on their feet and jump straight into roles.
“Most of the time it’s in at the deep end, and you would be surprised how many characters I’ve had to improvise at the last minute with minimum brief,” he acknowledged, pointing out the need to be flexible.
“Sometimes you don’t recognize yourself in the character,” he admitted, highlighting the scope of tones and styles used for voiceovers. Boasting his own professional recording studio, Javier is available for TV and radio ads, audiobooks, and narration, as well as video games, animations, and much more.