Disney Takes On “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” In New Project

Walt Disney World has Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Transit People Mover. Disneyland has Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. We’ve had Treasure Planet (2002), Lilo and Stitch (2002), Wall-E (2008), and, most recently, Lightyear (2022), and now it seems we have another Disney space project on the horizon.

At the recent D23 convention in Anaheim, California, Disney and Pixar announced their upcoming project Elio (2024), a story that follows an 11-year-old boy who makes first contact with an alien species.

But do you notice any connections with another sci-fi alien movie?

Elio Disney Pixar

Credit: Disney

The new Pixar film’s plot revolves around Elio, a kid who can’t exactly fit in. Elio accidentally makes first contact with an alien and is beamed up to the “Commutiverse,” a “sparking space-city” like the intergalactic UN that is described as “outer space like no one has seen before.”

America Ferrera (Ugly Betty, How to Train Your Dragon franchise) is to star as Elio’s mom, who works at a secret government facility aiming to decode a message from beyond the stars. Adrian Molina, the co-director of Pixar’s popular Coco (2017) directs, while Elio is played by newcomer Yonas Kibreab.

This whole alien adventure sounds very fun, very Pixar, and strangely, very familiar. Which other well-known movie features first contact with an alien species – and a young protagonist with a similar name?

Yes, you’re thinking what we’re thinking – E.T. the Extra Terrerstrial (1982).


Credit: Universal Pictures

We’ve got aliens. We’ve got a single mother. We’ve got space. And we’ve got a kid named Elio. We mean Elliott. No, Elio.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (or simply E.T.) was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and follows Elliott, a boy who befriends an alien who is left behind on Earth. Starring Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore, and Henry Thomas, the sci-fi film tells how Elliott must find a way to help E.T. get home.

The movie surpassed Star Wars (1977) to become the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held for eleven years until Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park surpassed it in 1993. E.T. received nine nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, winning Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing, and in 1994, was added to the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, which deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

We can’t help but think of Elliott when Pixar describes Elio and his alien encounter. Of course, the difference is that in Pixar’s movie, Elio is actually transported into space, whereas Elliott is trying to help E.T. “phone home” and find a way back into the galaxy:

You’re invited on Disney and Pixar’s newest adventure… ELIO. Meet Elio: A boy who finds himself transported across the galaxy & mistaken for the intergalactic Ambassador for our planet Earth.

Who knows if Elio will find its way into Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but the E.T. ride in Universal Studios is considered one of the most beloved attractions in any theme park.

With its nostalgic and interactive queue line, a unique ride vehicle, and its famous end-of-ride experience, E.T. Adventure has remained one of the Guests’ most popular dark rides at Universal Orlando. E.T. Adventure was one of the first attractions built at the Universal Orlando Resort over 30 years ago. Although many attractions have come and gone over the years, including Back to the Future: The Ride and Jaws, E.T. Adventure remains untouched and a fan favorite.

The 90s attraction allows Guests to enter the world of the Steven Spielberg film and visit E.T. at his home, all while flying on a bike. Perhaps Guests will soon feel like Elio – visiting an alien species’ home?

e.t. adventure-universal-orlando

Credit: Universal

Elio was just one of the major announcements during the Disney Studios panel at D23 on Friday, September 9. Pixar revealed a sequel to its popular Inside Out (2015) starring Amy Poehler, and a whole new original series, Win or Lose. Guests were also treated to a sneak peek at its upcoming movie Elemental (2023), featuring the characters Wade and Ember.

Disney also made some big theme park announcements, including new nighttime spectaculars, the return of Happily Ever After at Walt Disney World, a replacement for EPCOT’s Harmonious, and a new addition to the Haunted Mansion.

We’ll have to see what Elio is like when it is released in the Spring of 2024, but for now, we’d like to think that America Ferrera, Adrian Molina, and the rest of the cast and crew are channeling E.T. and eating skittles during production.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who has worked at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Adventures by Disney! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her husband, an Air Force pilot. Find her children's book at