BARLEY LIGHTFOOT is a big, burly and boisterous 19-year-old elf who loves magic and immerses himself in role-playing fantasy game play. He’s a free spirit who may be slightly more passionate about the past than the present—and he’ll fight to the death, so to speak, to preserve historical landmarks. But because he's so focused on the past, he struggles to find success in the present.
While his younger brother Ian is small, quiet, and awkward, Barley is large, loud, and excitable. He is a free-spirited, roleplaying metal fan who is prone to getting into trouble. Unlike Ian, he has memories of their father, and can describe who he was in small detail. Despite being a little teasing, Barley never loses faith in his brother and is always there for him. He has a strong devotion to Ian and fully believes he can bring their father back to life and summon magic back to their world. Throughout his little brother's life, Barley has stuck by Ian's side and encourages him to rise above his own self-doubts and try new things; something Ian didn't fully realize until he recollected the journey they'd taken together had fulfilled his check-list he'd originally made to spend time with their father.
Although Barley is always optimistic and unafraid to press on, he has his own issues and regrets. His last memory of his father was being too afraid to see him in his condition on his deathbed and not going in to say goodbye. From then on, Barley swore he'd never be afraid again. Once he discovered the historically based roleplaying tabletop game "Quests of Yore", Barley became obsessed with the past, not just for it's excitement, but especially because back then, people brought out the best in themselves, whereas today, people have technology to make life simpler and less dangerous. He will fight to the death to protect artifacts from the time of magic and often gives tidbits on life and creatures in the days of old. This obsession has lead him to neglect his own responsibilities and the real world around him, and his rowdy personality and over devotion to history has lead him to be a bit of an outcast among his fellow peers and unfairly called a “screw up” (which upsets him) by the police and one time by Ian.
Barley is also rather overconfident and believes his years of playing Quests of Yore will get them far on their first real life quest. His knowledge and confidence does help, but it especially makes Ian skeptical of his brother's ideas.
Barley is a 19-year-old elf with a large and stocky build. He has blue skin, pink ear tips, hazel eyes and cheek apples, and beard stubble. He has an armband tattoo on his right arm. He wears a black beanie and T-Shirt with a "Quests of Yore" brand 'Q' on it, covered by a large denim vest with numerous patches and pins sewn on it, army green shorts, and large black and white sneakers.
Barley bears a resemblance to his mother, Laurel Lightfoot as he has her rounded face, nose, and sturdy, muscular physique.
Role in the film
Barley Lightfoot is introduced when Ian heads to the table to move the board game Quests of Yore. Thinking his brother is interrupting his gameplay, Barley holds Ian in a playful headlock, then his mother Laurel Lightfoot tells him to let him go, and he drops him. Barley tells Ian that there is a "mighty warrior" within him that he has to learn to let out. After he headlocks Laurel, who manages to throw him onto the floor like Ian could have done, she tells him to take out the trash. Barley gets up and drops the trash back into the can outside, only to discover Laurel's boyfriend, Officer Colt Bronco walking up to the house in disapproval. He shows the family footage of Barley attempting to stop a construction site from demolishing an ancient fountain, the free spirit having no regrets, remarking how the town's past is being destroyed. Laurel tells him that he has to start focusing on his future and less on the past. Colt agrees, saying "You can't spend all day playing your board game." Barley defensively says that the game he is playing is not just a regular board game but rather a historically accurate scenario about what it was like before modern technology arrived. He tells Colt of how centaurs used to run up to 70 mph instead of traveling by car and then Ian that he could learn a lot from this game and he should try it out, holding the game's wizard figurine right in his face. Ian tells Barley to be careful of his late father's sweatshirt he is wearing to which Barley tells him he doesn't remember his father wearing it, and that he had three memories of his father: "His beard was scratchy, he had a goofy laugh, and [He] used to play drums on his feet." He demonstrates this on Ian's feet and accidentally flips Ian's toast onto the floor. When he picks it back up, he accidentally tears Ian's sweatshirt and winces. When Ian heads to the front door to get some more breakfast before school, Barley offers to start an ancient 16th birthday ceremony and holds out a pretend sword, urging his brother to kneel before him. Ian nervously says no and leaves.
Later, Barley dresses as a warrior of old, abruptly arrives at the New Mushroomton High School area via his van named Guinevere, and offers to escort Ian and his invitees to their house for the birthday party. Ian is horribly embarrassed by his brother and leaves toward the van. Barley shoves a bunch of violation tickets into a glove compartment full of others to make room for Ian and offers to wipe smeared ink off his face. When Ian pushes his hand away and tells him to just take them home, Barley shrugs off the dejection and drives off, casually stating that in ancient times, birthdays were celebrated with solemn quests.
Upon receiving a wizard staff from the boy's father, Barley is blown away and says this means Wilden must have been a wizard. Barley then looks at the instruction of how to use a Visitation Spell to which he explains that a rare Phoenix Gem is required to use this spell which was included with the staff. This spell is supposed to bring Wilden back for one whole day so he can see who his sons grew up to be. Barley proudly takes a shot at trying this spell, but nothing happens. After many failed poses with the incantation, he finally slumps onto Ian's bed with Laurel, her other son, and their dragon, Blazey. Laurel tries to comfort her sons, saying at least this means how much Wilden wanted to see them. Barley sighs with disappointment and leaves the room.
Later, he walks back into Ian's room and is shocked to see Ian using the Visitation Spell as their father begins to appear starting with his feet. As the spell gets harder to hold for Ian, Barley offers to help, but Ian backs away, causing the gem to shatter in midair and render the spell incomplete. Wilden Lightfoot emerges as just a pair of legs and, since he can't hear them, Barley gets down and plays drums on Wilden's feet to let him know who is there. The legs then discover Ian's foot. Barley explains to Ian that the spell only lasts for one day and they have to find another phoenix gem if they ever want to bring him back completely. His face lighting up, Barley rummages through his Quests of Yore cards and pulls out two cards depicting the Manticore and her tavern. He proudly explains it is the place where all quests begin and the only place to find a way to the Phoenix Gem. Barley and Ian plan to start their quest via riding on Guinevere . On the freeway that night, Barley says that the first thing he's going to do when they bring their father back is introduce him to Guinevere. He catches Ian with his new checklist of things he wants to do with their father. He then tells Ian to practice using magic in order to revive his father. Ian is later seen trying to pull off the levitation spell but can't quite do it. Barley insists Ian to speak from his "heart's fire" and say the spell with passion. As Ian tries again, Barley keeps egging him on until Ian gives up for now, to which Barley gently says, "Hey, it was a good start."
Just then, they arrive at the Manticore's Tavern. They, along with Wilden, who has a fake upper body and is attached to a leash, walk up to the entrance doors as Barley says that they must give the Manticore the respect such a warrior deserves or she won't tell them how to find the gem. He also instructs Ian to let him do the talking. Upon entering, Barley bows before The Manticore, who now goes by Corey, and asks for a map to a Phoenix Gem to which she gives the two a kid's menu based on her old maps. Barley politely requests an actual map, and once they find one displayed on a wall, Barley explains what they need this map for. Corey, struggling to keep her restaurant running smoothly, refuses to give them the map at first since, according to her, she quit sending people on dangerous adventures. She goes to fix the karaoke machine and Ian tries stepping in. Barley is skeptical of his brother disobeying his instructions and after Ian's little talk, Corey is lead to feeling enraged of the lie she is now living. She angrily drives the customers out for "remodeling" and sets the tavern on fire just as Barley, Ian, and their late father escape. Barley is exhilarated by Ian's first successful use of the levitation spell to stop a beam from crushing their dad and declares he will definitely get the visitation spell down by now. The map got destroyed in the fire, so Barley hands Ian a children's menu done by a customer named Kayla with a clue suggesting the gem is at Raven's Point. Ian says the expressway will get them there the quickest, but Barley suggests using the Path of Peril, explaining that on a quest, the easy path is never the right path. He tells Ian of how one day, he and his friend where playing Quests of Yore and his friend took the easy path, sending him into a deadly gelatinous cube and Barley "followed [his] gut" and continued on the longer path.
On their way to Raven's Point, Guinevere runs out of gas to which Barley climbs on top to search for a nearby gas station. Ian suggests they use magic to fix their problem. Barley teaches Ian the growth spell to enlarge the gas can (alongside the fuel inside it). He instructs Ian to stay focused on the can, but he absentmindedly keeps distracting him, so Ian gets fed up and lets go, accidentally shrinking his brother. Ian says he didn't need Barley's help, which offends him. Ian leaves with Wilden to get more fuel at the nearest gas station and Barley, albeit pouty from Ian's request not to help him, follows. They arrive at Swamp Gas and enter the station's mart. Ian asks the storekeeper for gas while Barley hops out of the pocket, trying to get a bag of Cheese Puffs and requesting a trip to the bathroom. Ian buys a few bags and a bathroom key, increasing his total cost. After Barley uses the bathroom, he runs into The Pixie Dusters, lead by Dewdrop and begins lecturing them on sprites in the old days. Ian, panicked, grabs his brother and accidentally makes Wilden, who is attached to a leash, knock over the Pixie Duster's motorcycles, making them furious. The brothers and father rush to Guinevere, fill her up with gas, and hop in. However, due to Barley's diminutive size, Ian is forced to drive this time. Barley instructs him on every turn until they finally elude the gang of sprites and make it onto a road heading to Raven's point.
Barley congratulates his brother before he begins growing back to his normal size, causing Guinevere to swerve recklessly. Cops Specter and Gore pull them over and prepare to arrest the half dad. To save him, Ian and Barley disguise themselves as Colt Bronco via Disguise Spell and try talking the cops into handing Wilden over. Barley is disapprovingly operating as the back half while Ian does the talking. After Ian convinces them to let him go and puts him into the van, Gore speaks out about how Barley must be a handful and that Colt's gotta agree that "the guy's a screwup". Barley anxiously looks down and Ian says he doesn't agree, the lie revealing his leg and shocking Barley. The elf brothers quickly head back to their van and drive off, Barley scowling. When Ian tries to talk to him, Barley turns on his music and pulls over to get some Fire Elixir energy drink from a soda machine. Ian follows and tries again, remarking on how everything has gone wrong and how everything they've done so far has been Barley's idea. Barley says he is upset that Ian won't listen to him and take his ideas for consideration. The boys then notice Wilden feeling the vibrations of the loud rock music and dancing like nobody's watching. The pair of legs brings them over to dance with him, and they playfully make fun of how bad his dance moves are. As the song comes to an end, Barley remarks how he also really wants to see their father and Ian should give him a chance to get something right. Ian agrees and lets Barley take the Path of Peril for the rest of the quest.
The next morning, Barley brings up the dangers in they may encounter in the area, including the gelatinous cube, to which he finally explains what exactly it is. Soon, the boys come across an enormous bottomless chasm where they see an ancient drawbridge. Barley tells Ian to use a trust bridge spell to help Ian activate the lever on the side of the drawbridge. Ian is afraid and can't believe the invisible bridge to reality at first, so Barley gets a rope, tying one end to a rock and the other to Ian, in an attempt to make his brother feel better. Ian tries the bridge but plummets down, the rope catching him and Barley pulling him up. He reassures his little brother that he is still alive and he now knows the worst that can happen. Ian tries again and this time, he is able to walk all the way across the pit. Halfway across, however, his rope falls off and Barley is panicked, shouting to Ian to keep going. Ian nearly falls down, but catches himself on the ledge and pulls himself up, Barley sighing in relief. Ian activates the lever to lower the drawbridge and Barley comes over with Guinevere to congratulate him. He then notices a raven statue pointing to another and releases with glee that they must be leading to the gem. Ian remarks on how they would have been going the wrong way if they took the expressway and Barley is proud to say that his gut knows where to go. Just then, Colt Bronco prepares to escort the brothers home. Barley refuses and tries to explain what they are trying to do, but Ian insists they do as Colt says. The boys hop into Guinevere, and it's revealed that Ian has a plan. Although he doesn't feel right about it, he floors it in an attempt to escape Colt. The boys run into a dead end as Colt, along with police backup, follow close behind. Barley tells Ian that he is ready to use Arcane Lightning, the hardest spell in the Quests of Yore Enchanter's guidebook, and that he should use it on a cliff to send debris down and block the squadron's path. Ian is unsuccessful and, arriving at a difficult decision, Barley sadly sacrifices his van to block the police squadron's way by running her into the side of the cliff and raining debris onto the road. Pained, but without regret, Barley pockets a headlight that fell off and presses on to follow the ravens while Ian and Wilden follow.
After a while, they stop at the last raven which is pointing downward to a brass disk built into the ground. Barley tries lifting it up, but it won't budge. Ian notices something on the statue's chest and presses it, his progress impressing his brother. It falls out as a four pointed tablet with a water symbol and an X. The brothers then spot a river that leads into a cave and Barley explains that the X means they follow the river until they arrive at the phoenix gem's location. They enter the mysterious cave and discover a tapestry of magic etched on a wall. Using a Cheese Puff to enlarge it and use it for transportation, the two make their way down the river and play with spells for a while. Later, they sit and talk about how excited they are to see their father. Barley says he would like to ask Wilden if he ever gave himself a wizard name and that it would be nice to have more than four memories of him. It's when he says this when Barley realizes now would be a good time to tell Ian about this fourth memory: When he was supposed to go say goodbye to Wilden before his death, Barley got scared by his father's state of being and refused to go in. Since then, he vowed that he would never be scared again. Soon, they arrive in a dark chamber leading to a gauntlet of obstacles after passing through a hall of wizard statues.
The elf brothers and their father arrive at the final gauntlet where they manage to work together to avoid booby traps (including the Gelatinous Cube and a flooding chamber) and survive and continue their quest. They emerge out of a pothole and are devastated to see that they back in New Mushroomton, right where they started. Barley tries to make reason out of this and refuses to believe that they have failed to find the gem. Ian, however believes they have failed and that it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't listened to Barley. His insecurity about his brother's flaws comes out at full blast as he denounces Barley as a screwup and storms off with Wilden to spend the last few moments with his late father before sunset. Barley pleads to Ian not to go and that they can still find the gem if they keep looking. Left alone, he wanders about, desperately trying to pinpoint where the gem could be. He observes the tablet in his hand and its instructions to follow the water. He looks up at the same fountain he tried to save from the construction site and rushes over to see if the gem is there. While the police squadron arrives to get Barley off from the fountain's top, he notices a carved hole shaped exactly like the tablet and he places the flower-shaped piece into it to reveal a Phoenix Gem. Barley exclaims in victory and holds up the gem to show Ian, who is rushing back to apologize. Ian warns Barley of a mass of red smoke billowing from the fountain; opening the fountain has unleashed a guardian curse that tears pieces of the nearby school off and form them into a fire breathing dragon.
As the dragon looks at Barley with the gem, it chases after the elf brothers and their father. Barley distracts the dragon by hurling Guinevere's headlight to his left. Barley rushes to Ian with the gem and the staff but are separated by a stream of fire from the dragon who had just discovered what the taillight really was. Corey and Laurel manage to arrive and distract the dragon while Ian and Barley go to complete reviving their father. Together, they bring the spell to a point to where the gem does the rest. When the Manticore and Laurel are incapacitated, Barley offers to distract the dragon again while Ian says hello to Wilden. Ian stops him and tells him to stay and say goodbye to their dad, saying that although Ian never had a father, he always had Barley. The young adult elf is touched by this, as he had never thought of himself as a father figure before. He watches Ian leave to fight the dragon, and then turns to Wilden, who is nearly complete. After the dragon is destroyed, Ian watches Barley from afar having a brief heartfelt conversation with his completely revived father who tells him that his wizard name would be "Wilden the Whimsical". The two laugh at this name, and Wilden says he is proud of who Ian grew up to be and that he owes it to Barley. They embrace together just before Wilden fades away back into the afterlife. Barley comes over to pull Ian out of the rubble. With a soft gaze, he tells Ian what Wilden told him and they share a hug left from their father, their quest complete.
During the epilogue, Barley sneaks from behind and grabs Ian, who unleashes his inner warrior and throws Barley onto the floor. They then head outside to board Barley's new van ride, Guinevere II. Barley says he is thinking of buying her a paint job, but Ian already gave her one himself of the brothers in warrior and wizard costumes riding the Guinevere unicorn. As they enter the van to drop Ian off at the park to hang with his friends, Barley suggests they take a shortcut through the road of ruin, but Ian playfully remarks "On a quest, the clear path is never the right one", so they take the magic way to the park by making it fly off into the sunset.
- This is Chris Pratt's first animated role in a Pixar film having previously made his animation debut as Emmet/Rex Dangervest in Warner Animation Group's The LEGO Movie and its sequel.
- He shares similarities between the 2003/2009 Fullmetal Alchemist character: Edward Elric.
- Both are older siblings.
- Both protective of their younger brothers.
- Both are abrasive and excitable.
- Barley's last memory of being too afraid to say goodbye to his father is similar to his voice actor Chris Pratt's role as Star-Lord, who was too afraid to take his sick mother's hand.
- Barley shares his love of magic and bold, eccentric personality with his father Wilden Lightfoot.
- A patch on his vest says Hades, a character from Hercules, and a patch on the other side says Hydra, the monster Hercules fought.
- In the deleted scenes, Barley has a passion for playing the guitar and what would eventually become his passion for quests belonged to a satyr named Jenny, who would accompany the brothers.
- Barley's physical appearance reflects his distinct personality being messy and casual while Ian's appearance reflects his personality being neat and precise.
- Barley shares a similar personality and vehicle with Greg Universe, a character from Cartoon Network’s animated series "Steven Universe".