Disney Announces New Pixar Sci-Fi Adventure Comedy, Elio [D23]

Buckle your seatbelts for a new space-faring animated adventure: Disney has announced the latest Pixar film, "Elio," at the D23 expo in Anaheim. The story, per the official description, involves "a boy who finds himself transported across the galaxy and mistaken for the intergalactic Ambassador for planet Earth." America Ferrera will lend her voice to "Elio" as a character named Olga Solis, with cute and charismatic child actor Yonas Kibreab — who played a Jedi youngling in "Obi-Wan Kenobi" — starring as the titular Elio.

On the D23 stage, "Elio" director Adrian Molina and producer Mary Alice Drumm were on hand to talk about the movie, helping pose the question, "What if I told you we're not alone in the universe, and everything you've ever heard about aliens is true?" /Film's Ethan Anderton was also on the ground at D23, where the announcement of "Elio" came with a planned screen glitch and a message with alien text saying, "Bring us to your leader."

Elio is described as an 11-year-old kid who is more well-read and intellectual than he is athletic. His mom runs a secret government project trying to decode a mysterious message from space and identify who sent it, but Elio makes first contact, whereupon he's transported to the Communiverse, a city where a bunch of different species meet. Elio then becomes Earth's ambassador to the rest of the galaxy.

To infinity and beyond

Pixar's most recent film, the "Toy Story"-adjacent "Lightyear," was also set in space, though it proved to be a box office disappointment here on Earth (our review pegged it as a film that "boldly goes where many a sci-fi movie has gone before"). The premise of "Lightyear," based on an existing IP, was potentially confusing enough for audiences that it had Chris Evans (who took over the title role from Tim Allen) tweeting, "Just to be clear, this isn't Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on."

"Elio" sounds like the kind of fresh, original storytelling that Pixar built its brand on. Before "Lightyear," Pixar's previous three films, "Turning Red," "Luca," and "Soul," had gone straight to streaming due to the pandemic, which is a shame because they all earned better reviews than the middling "Lightyear." With any luck, "Elio" will mark a return to form for Pixar and help restore the studio to some of its former glory.

"Elio" is due to arrive in Spring 2024.