Director Dave Scanlon re-teamed with producer Kori Rae (Monster’s University) in hopes to deliver a funny, yet heartwarming tale of brotherly love and the importance of family. The film stars Marvel-alumni Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot and Chris Pratt as Barley Lightfoot, two brothers who set out on a magical adventure in hopes to bring their late-father back for one day. Ian Lightfoot is a timid 16-year-old who likes to avoid danger, while his older brother Barley looks for adventure around every corner.
Based on an original story inspired by director Dave Scanlon’s own childhood, Onward focuses on the bond between two brothers and the importance of family history. Scanlon’s father passed away before he got a chance to know him, and the ideas and stories he heard about his father helped shape the ideas into what would become Onward. “It is a very personal story, much like the characters in the movie,” said Scanlon, “My father passed away when I was about a year old, and my bother was three. So as you can imagine we don’t remember him at all, but we always wondered who he was, and how we were like him. That question became the seed of Onward.” Pixar is known for crafting sincere, emotional films, so it is no surprise to see why Pixar threw their trust behind Scanlon’s personal story.
While Pratt and Holland sat next to each other on stage, it was clear why former Marvel duo was picked to voice the pair of brothers at the center of Onward. With a great sense of humor and a charming personality, both actors could help but make each other laugh through the entire junket. When asked how the two related the characters they portray in the film, Holland said, “Chris and I are obviously so close already before we even cam onto this film, it was almost like we were just playing ourselves.” Holland went on to describe how he has a personal connection to his character because had the same characteristics when he was younger. “The similarities between Ian and myself go back to when I was more still in my early teens. I was a little bit of an introvert,” Holland explained. “I was really happy to pour my past experiences into this process, and I am delighted and thrilled to where we got to.” Chris Pratt also chimed in on how his life experience of being a younger brother helped inspire him by saying, “My whole life my brother has only ever been encouraging and positive about what I have been able to do as an actor, and I think that’s what makes this brotherhood and this relationship portrayed in the film so special…”
When asked about the chemistry between the two actors, Pratt joked, “Now you know why it is called chemistry. You throw two chemicals together (Pratt and Holland) and there is heat, and explosion sometimes. A reaction and we wanted to get that heat in the film.” The two make a perfect pair for the bond needed to sell the relationship between the two main characters. Producer Kori Rae had nothing but praise for the actors, saying, “We are forever grateful for how much they invested themselves into the roles, and how they really, really took the characters and elevated them.” Rae went on to say how both Holland and Pratt were able to add complexity to both characters that were not originally in the script and helped the authenticity needed to give the film heart.
Onward is set in a world where magic and tradition are long forgotten, and technology has made the population unaware of the skills they possess. The filmmakers insist that the movie is not meant to bash technology but raise broader questions regarding how society learns to incorporate it into daily life. “We certainly didn’t want to make a movie that was saying technology was bad because technology is how we make our movies. It is magic in its own way,” Scanlon explained. “It was really a softer look at the ease that comes with it, the comfort that comes with it, and just not giving up on taking the hard road every now and then, and challenging yourself.”
Pixar’s latest feature aims to please younger audiences with silly humor, but still retain that heartfelt story that both adults and children can relate to. The story of brotherly love and the hardships that come with growing up is nothing new, but when incorporated with a fantasy-style setting and backed by one of animation’s most prestigious studios, Onward looks poised to be a hit.
Onward hits theaters nationwide on March 6th.