Onward D23

Disney/Pixar is pumping the brakes on sequels, and its next movie is a totally original animated fantasy adventure called Onward. As usual, the cast is wildly impressive: Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer star, and Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) is the writer/director behind the new feature.

We learned a bit more about this elf-centric adventure film during today’s D23 presentation – here’s what we know so far.

Scanlon and producer Kori Rae took the stage, and Scanlon talked about how this movie comes from a very personal place: the movie’s brother characters, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Holland and Pratt, respectively), have lost their father, and Scanlon himself lost his father at a young age. He saw photos and videos of his dad, but he and his younger brother never heard their father’s voice until later in their lives. When Scanlon was a teenager, he was sent a cassette tape by a family member that featured his dad’s voice, and he described the experience of hearing it as feeling like “magic” – so you can see how this movie means a great deal to him.

And as we saw in the first teaser, Onward will show how the fantasy world has become mundane. Tons of fantasy creatures exist, but they’re living in our world, dealing with things like work, taking out the trash, and going to school. Ian, the unconfident elf brother, has a unicorn named Gwenevere. Barley, his overly-confident brother, causes more trouble than good, and has a van with a unicorn emblazoned on the side. The actors are pals in real life – Pratt says Holland is like a little brother to him, and it’s great that they can play brothers in a Pixar film.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns to Pixar after voicing a character in A Bug’s Life to play the elf boys’ mother, Laurel Lightfoot. She’s raised her sons on her own and done an incredible job, creating a team and a warm, loving family.

Laurel tries to cheer Ian up by giving both brothers something from their father, who said to give it to them when they were both 16 years old. It’s a wizard staff. Barley is stoked – he thinks his dad was a wizard. But Laurel says he was actually an accountant. There’s also a letter talking about how magic used to exist and how it disappeared from the world, and the dad wrote a spell to see what his boys grew up to be, and the spell brings the father back for only one day. (I’m tearing up already.)

Included is a very rare phoenix gem. Barley reads the incantation, but nothing happens. He keeps saying it in different ways, and it’s funny at first, but then sad. The mom says this shows how much their father tried to be there for the boys, but Ian is heartbroken. Dejected, he rereads the note, and the staff begins to shake – he picks it up and it lights up, with light emanating from the gem at the end of the staff. The dad begins appearing, first the feet, then the legs. But the staff becomes unstable, and the gem blows up. Dad is gone.

Something moves in the closet: it’s the dad, but only his legs. There’s no top half. Light particles emanate from the top of his waist, but he can’t hear his sons. Barley tries to communicate by tapping his foot, and the dad communicates back the same way. Barley introduces Ian, who thinks he’s messed the whole situation up. At sunset tomorrow, the dad will disappear and they will never be able to bring him back again. Thankfully, Ian has the gift of magic. But unfortunately, they have to find another phoenix gem…which, as we mentioned, are super rare.

Barley looks through an index of cards (which look similar to Magic The Gathering cards) and finds a location that could have the gem. Ian doesn’t believe it’s a real place, but the two of them decide to go on a quest. They come up with a dummy top half disguise to keep the dad undercover.

It was announced that Octavia Spencer is voicing the Manticore, who aids them on this journey.

In one final clip, the guys have run out of gas while traveling in the van. Ian looks at his watch, and it reads 20:06. “Is there a magic way to get gas?” asks Ian. They decide to grow gas with a growth spell. Reading from what appears to be a Dungeons & Dragons book, Ian recites the spell from the book on a gas canister, hoping to enlarge the few remaining drops of gas they have left in the canister. He has trouble at first, but begins to focus. Barley declares that it worked, but it’s revealed that Ian accidentally shrank Barley down instead.

“It’s been a crazy week, but I want you to know I love you from the bottom of my heart, and I love you 3000,” Tom Holland told fans, addressing all of the recent Spider-Man drama that’s happened this week.

Here’s the official synopsis for the movie:

In Disney and Pixar’s “Onward,” two teenage elf brothers embark on an extraordinary quest in a van named Guinevere to discover if there is still a little magic left in the world. Featuring Tom Holland as the voice of Ian Lightfoot, and Chris Pratt as the voice of Ian’s older brother, Barley.

Onward hits theaters on March 6, 2020.

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