As a lifelong nerd who has always loved Pixar, I went into the screening of Onward with high expectations. And in true Pixar fashion, this film did not disappoint. Here is my spoiler-free review of Disney Pixar’s Onward.
Onward takes place in a modern-day high fantasy world. Where citizens would once use magic to complete daily tasks, they are now using modern technology not unlike our own. On his 16th birthday, Ian Lightfoot and his older brother Barley Lightfoot are given a gift from their deceased father. It is a staff and a magic spell that will bring their dad back for exactly one day. But when the spell goes awry, the two boys find themselves on a quest to complete the spell.
Those familiar with the lore of high fantasy tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons might recognize several fantastical tropes throughout the film. The two main characters and their family are elves. They live amongst the likes of ogres, fairies, and unicorns with a centaur as a local police officer. Add to that the very idea of going on a magical quest and you’ve got yourself the makings of a solid D&D campaign.
The idea for Onward stemmed from the loss of director Dan Scanlon’s own father when he was very young. At the screening the day before the press conference, Scanlon spoke to us a bit about his inspiration.
“My brother and I had never heard my father speak and we figured that we never would. Until one day my aunt and uncle sent an audiotape. They said ‘we weren’t able to listen to this, but we think your father’s voice might be on it.’ And for my brother and I who were teenagers at the time, this felt like magic.”
Scanlon isn’t the only person involved with the project who feels a personal connection to it. At the Onward press junket, Chris Pratt who voices “Barley” in the film spoke about the connection he has to his own brother being much like Ian and Barley in the film.
Speaking of the cast, they are perfect. The undeniable chemistry between Tom Holland and Christ Pratt makes it easy to believe their brotherhood. I must also mention the phenomenal job done by Julia Louis-Dryfuss (Laurel Lightfoot) and Octavia Spencer (The Manticore) who find themselves on a side quest of their own in the film. Much like the chemistry between Holland and Pratt, Spencer and Dryfuss connect to the audience in a way that only the best of actors know how.
If you love adventure and fantasy, be sure to watch Onward when it comes to theaters on March 6, 2020. Bring tissue, and prepare for a tidal wave of simultaneous emotion and hilarity.