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The film takes place in a universe where humans do not exist, therefore the world is instead populated by mythical creatures, including elves, gnomes, goblins, manticores, and unicorns. In the beginning, they used magic as their resource. But since it was rather difficult to master, the world found a simpler way to live and abandoned the art. In the present day, brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot are bestowed a wizard staff from their deceased father on Ian's 16th birthday, where a spell can bring their father back to life for 24 hours. But when the brothers lose control over the staff when summoning their father, they only end up bringing the bottom part back of him. With the help of their mother, the fearless manticore restauranteur Corey, and half of their toe-tapping father, the two brothers try to find a little magic left in the world with the twenty-four hours.
Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot, the protagonist of the movie. He is a rather awkward 16-year-old boy who's given a wizard staff to bring his father back to life.
Chris Pratt as Barley Lightfoot, the deuteragonist of the movie and the older brother of Ian. Unlike his brother, he is rowdy and loud and believes Ian can bring their father back to life.
Octavia Spencer as Corey the Manticore, an owner of a restaurant. Ian and Barley go to her to begin their quest, and she supplies them with everything they need . . . except about a curse, causing her to join up with Laurel to rescue them.
Onward was first announced at the 2017 D23 Expo as "The Untitled Pixar Film That Takes You Into A Suburban Fantasy World" and was described as a story about two brothers seeking to reconnect with their late father set in a human-free world of elves, sprites, trolls, dragons and "anything else that would be painted on the side of a van in the 1970s", with unicorns being depicted as common pests and dragons are pets.
On December 12, 2018, it was announced that the film will be called "Onward" and will also be based on Dan's relationship with his brother. It was announced that Scanlon will co-wrote the screenplay with Zootopia and Moana animator, C.S. Anderson.