I was initially skeptical about how Disney-Pixar’s Onward could work. The film centered on two brothers who go on a journey to find out if magic still exists. However, when director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae shared another look at the film today at the D23 Expo, it really gave me hope that it was going to be much more than that. See more below for our on-site coverage from D23.
Underneath all of it, is a very personal story to Scanlon, who, like the characters, Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), lost his father at a very early age, and would use magic as an outlet to cope with the tragedy.
Onward will draw inspiration from Scanlon’s loss of his own father and how he was able to share the memories of his father with his younger brother, who has never heard their father’s voice, through video recordings.
Ian seems like a timid teenager who is afraid to take any risks, whereas his older brother, Barley, is totally different but lives his life in the past, far in the past. So far that he still believes that magic exists. While Ian loves Barley, he has no real role models because his dad died at an early age.
In the clip that we were shown, Ian his been having a very bad day on his 16th birthday, and their mom, Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), says she has something to cheer them up. We see Laurel excitedly take Ian upstairs with Barley, and she gives Ian a gift from their dad. It is a wizard staff. Laurel is shocked because she knew him as an accountant. Not only is this staff magical, it has a Phoenix gem, which has the power to bring back a person for the day.
Barley, excited at the prospect of seeing his dad, even it is just for a day, recites the spell. But it doesn’t work. So he tries again. And again. Again. Every attempt leads to more disappointment. After they all give up, they all leave Ian’s room. Once he finds himself alone, Ian tries to use the staff on his own, and much to his astonishment, it works. The feet start to appear, then the legs. But Ian doesn’t have full control of the staff, and Barley walks in and tries to help. To no avail, as the gem shatters, leaving behind only a pair of legs.
The legs-only resurrected dad walk blindly into walls and is unable to hear his sons communicate with him. However, Barley figures out that he can communicate with him through a series of taps on the foot. Something only that his dad would know. Once he responds, they knew that they have brought their dad back, albeit partially. So in order to complete the spell, the two set off on an adventure to find another Phoenix gem before the spell wears off in 24 hours.
Octavia Spencer will be voicing Manticore in the animated film.
In one final clip, we see that Ian, Barley, and their dad are on the road when their van has run out of gas. In an attempt to continue their journey, Ian and Barley use a growth spell on an empty gas canister to try to refill it. Of course, they don’t know how to use a spell properly, and rather than make the canister grow, Ian shrinks Barley, who believes that Ian was successful, only to find out that he actually shrunk him.
Honestly, the first few minutes of the opening act convinced me that this might be worth watching. It certainly has more depth to it than I originally thought. So it should be interesting to see if it can follow through.
And in a very interesting way to the panel, Holland exited the stage saying, “It’s been a crazy week, but I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, I love you 3000.” A sign of hope that Disney and Sony will reconcile and come together to make a deal that they can agree on?
Onward hits theaters on March 6, 2020.
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