Given that Onward is less than seven months away, there is a lot that we didn’t know about the film, other than it taking place in a world where magic had become less popular, while technology took over. Today at the D23 Expo, though, the film’s cast and crew blew the curtain away and unveiled a significant amount of information! We saw a lot of things to love – the heart and humor that are so central to Pixar films were on display!
Director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae were on hand during the Walt Disney Studios panel to speak about the heart-warming story of the film. They discussed how the two main characters Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older brother Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) lost their father years earlier. The story is inspired by Scanlon’s childhood – the director has been outspoken about losing his father and finding tape recordings of his years later.
Two scenes from the film were shown, that essentially set up the characters’ main conflict. The first scene, the longer of the two, clocked in at approximately eight minutes. Here is a brief summary:
On Ian’s birthday, his mother (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives him a gift left by the departed father. It turns out to be a staff with details on a spell that could bring the father back for one day. After Barley humorously fails to cast the spell, Ian starts to work some magic, with not-so-successful results, as the gem it was powered by explodes. Their father is back, but only his bottom torso (think pants and shoes only). Although he has no ability to hear/listen, he is able to use his feet to somewhat communicate. This sets up the story – the boys must set out on a “quest” to replace the gem and successfully cast the spell so they can spend some time with their father. However, remember, they only have 24 hours, and then their dad will be gone (again) forever.
Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus joined the production duo on the stage. Holland received, by far, the biggest cheers (multiple times), as the crowd showered the actor with love, in light of the recently-exposed ongoing disagreement between Sony and Disney/Marvel over the upcoming Spider-man films. Holland briefly chimed in on the situation, saying, “Listen, it’s been a crazy week, and thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I love you 3,000.” It was as if Holland broke the third wall, and the crowd ate it up. The place went absolutely nuts.
It’s hard to transition away from that, but Scanlon did, as he spoke a bit more about the film and the second scene was shown:
The brothers have dressed up their father’s legs, adding a shirt so the character doesn’t look out of place to passers-by. Barley’s van (which he has nicknamed Guinevere) runs out of gas, but Ian has the idea to try and grow their almost-empty gas can using magic so they can have enough to start the car. The way to cast the spell is to provide undivided focus on the object. Unfortunately for them, Ian gets distracted by Barley and fails, instead shrinking Barley.
The scenes were sprinkled with moments that broke my heart, especially when it came to Ian and Barley’s father. The humor was also strong, as Holland and Pratt clearly vibe with each other in their scenes.
Scanlon also updated the audience on Octavia Spencer’s character, the “Manticore,” who will “provide a clue” for the boys’ quest. I’m intrigued!
These scenes likely won’t be seen in full outside of the Expo, at least not until the film is in theaters. Onward is set for release on March 6th, 2020.