Pixar and Disney are prone to repetitive, formulaic storytelling. That’s why seeing last year’s Oscar for Best Animation be taken by Sony Animations is so refreshing; until Disney took back the prize this year. Dan Scanlon’s Onward, from the surface, appears to be another feature that follows the same formula, but with mythological creatures this time.
The world of Onward is adventurous, mystical, and full of magic. Emphasis is placed on magic; but not everyone can master it. So, we jump cut to a series of technological advancements that helped the mythological creatures’ daily lives. “Magic faded away,” the narrator explains, an obvious nod to how we are living our lives today with eyes glued to the screen.
Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland), an elf, turns sixteen. He embodies the typical teenage boy in every coming-of-age film: lanky, awkward, and trying out new things as he becomes an elf-man. Ian longs for his dead father, Wilden (Kyle Bornheimer), who died before he was even born. He and his older brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), a devoted history buff on the olden days, are raised by their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Laurel reveals that Wilden has left a gift: a magical staff and notes with instructions on how to put him back to life for one day. As Ian tries out the spell, only the lower half of his father’s body appears. This brings forth a journey onwards into seeking the phoenix gem that would complete their father’s body before time runs out.
Onward is a heartwarming adventurous film despite being your typical Pixar offering. It’s fun, exciting, and touching as it goes over familial dynamics that every person can relate to. Sure, this film does not seem like much on the surface—a fun watch with a moral lesson like many other Pixar/Disney films—but there is nothing like a good ol’ Pixar film to get you on an adventure and gets you a bit emotional towards the end. The way Onward deals with family and relationships and how it can be relatable for many really hits the viewers with emotion. This film is a nice watch during quarantine where you cannot really go anywhere as it takes you on an adventure onwards.
Onward is available to stream on Disney+.