- “Their quest beginneth.”
Onward is a 2020 American computer-animated urban fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon, produced by Kori Rae from a screenplay written by Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin, and stars the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer. Set in a suburban fantasy world, the film follows two elf brothers who set out on a quest to find an artifact that will temporarily bring back their deceased father.
The film premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020 and was released in the United States on March 6, 2020. Despite receiving generally positive reviews from critics, the film has only grossed $131 million worldwide. The film's financial shortcomings when compared to other Pixar films were largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to widespread closure of movie theaters, thus making it Pixar's second box-office disappointment after The Good Dinosaur. Like several other films released in the early months of 2020, it was made available digitally two weeks after its theatrical opening.
The film takes place in a universe where humans don't 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 most important resource. But since it was very difficult to master, the world found a simpler way to live and abandoned the use of magic. 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 a day. 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 within the twenty-four hours.
In a world inhabited by mythical creatures, magic was once commonplace, though difficult to master. After technological advances over the years, magic became obsolete and was largely discarded.
In a time equivalent to the modern day, Ian Lightfoot, an elf high-schooler lacking self-confidence, and his older brother Barley, a history and role-playing game fanatic, live in the city of New Mushroomton. Their father Wilden died shortly before Ian was born, and their mother Laurel has a new boyfriend, centaur police officer Colt Bronco.
On Ian's sixteenth birthday, Laurel gives the brothers a gift from Wilden: a magical staff, a rare gem, and a letter describing a "visitation spell" that can resurrect their father for a single day. Ian accidentally succeeds in casting the spell, but only the lower half of Wilden's body is reformed before the gem disintegrates. The brothers embark on a quest to acquire another gem and complete the spell, taking Barley’s beloved van "Guinevere". Finding the boys gone, Laurel leaves to find them.
In search of a map to the gem, Ian and Barley visit the Manticore's Tavern, a family restaurant managed by the Manticore, Corey. Arguing with Ian over the map, Corey drives the customers away in a fit of rage, accidentally setting fire to the restaurant and the map. The brothers' only clue to the gem is a children's menu suggesting "Raven's Point", a nearby mountain. Laurel later befriends Corey, who warns that the brothers' journey may awaken a curse which can only be defeated by her special sword, which she and Laurel steal from a pawn shop.
Traveling to the mountains, Ian and Barley narrowly escape the police and a motorcycle gang of sprites, relying on Ian's new spell-casting abilities and Barley's role-playing game tricks. "Raven's Point" leads them on a trail marked by a series of raven statues, but Colt follows them, calling in reinforcements. Barley sacrifices Guinevere to cause a landslide, blocking their pursuers. Following the statues, the brothers descend through a cave and avoid a series of traps and deadly creatures, surfacing in front of Ian's high school. Ian lashes out at Barley for leading them on a wild-goose chase and walks away with Wilden.
Rereading his list of things he always wished to do with his father, Ian realizes that Barley has been a father figure throughout his entire life, and returns to make amends. Barley discovers the gem inside a historic fountain and retrieves it, triggering the curse, which turns the high school into an artificial dragon bent on claiming the gem. Ian faces the artificial dragon, but his staff is knocked into the ocean; he reforms it from a splinter and continues the fight. Corey flies in carrying Laurel, who plunges the magic sword into the artificial dragon's heart, buying Ian time to cast the visitation spell and fully reform Wilden's body. Ian sends Barley ahead to give his goodbye to Wilden, and holds off the artificial dragon long enough for Laurel to destroy it. After Wilden dissipates, Barley tells Ian that their father is proud of him, and the brothers share a hug.
Ian's confidence and spell-casting improve and he surprises Barley by painting his new van, the "Guinevere 2". Corey reopens her tavern, drawing in customers with tales of past adventures, and Ian and Barley continue questing.
- Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot
- Chris Pratt as Barley Lightfoot
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Laurel Lightfoot
- Octavia Spencer as Corey the Manticore
- Mel Rodriguez as Colt Bronco
- Kyle Bornheimer as Wilden Lightfoot
- Lena Waithe as Specter
- Ali Wong as Gore
- Grey Griffin as Dewdrop
- Tracey Ullman as Grecklin
- Wilmer Valderrama as Gaxton
- George Psarras as Avel
- John Ratzenberger as Fennwick
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 would be called Onward and would also be based on Dan's relationship with his brother. It was announced that Scanlon would co-wrote the screenplay with Zootopia and Moana animator, C.S. Anderson. The film's soundtrack was released on February 28, 2020, in CD, digital, and vinyl formats.
- Main article: Onward (soundtrack)
On April 16, 2019, Mychael and Jeff Danna were revealed to be the film's composers. On February 12, 2020, Brandi Carlile revealed she recorded the song "Carried Me With You" for the film's end credits, co-written with Phil and Tim Hanseroth. The film's soundtrack was released on February 28, 2020. All music is composed by Mychael and Jeff Danna, except where noted.
- March 4, 2020 (France, Indonesia, Netherlands, Philippines)
- March 5, 2020 (Brazil, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia)
- March 6, 2020 (Canada, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vietnam)
- March 13, 2020 (Japan)
- April 2, 2020 (Australia)
- April 16, 2020 (Italy)
- August 19, 2020 (China)
- Main article: Onward (video)
Onward was released on digital on the night of March 20, 2020 and became available for Disney+ subscribers on April 3, 2020 in the United States. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray & 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on May 19, 2020. The announcement followed Disney's earlier than planned release of Frozen II on Disney+ due to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
In January 2020, San Francisco tattoo artist Sweet Cecily Daniher filed a copyright lawsuit against Disney, Pixar, and Onward producer Kori Rae. In September 2018, Pixar rented Daniher's "Vanicorn", a van decorated with a unicorn-themed mural, for use in a one-day festival. She learned about the production of Onward in May 2019 and, after seeing images of the van used by Ian and Barley Lightfoot in the film, came to believe that Pixar had copied the design of the Vanicorn in violation of her rental agreement with the company, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Visual Artists Rights Act, and the California Artists Protection Act. She sought in her suit to prohibit distribution of the film and any infringing advertisements or merchandise.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 334 reviews, with an average rating of 7.20/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "It may suffer in comparison to Pixar's classics, but Onward makes effective use of the studio's formula -- and stands on its own merits as a funny, heartwarming, dazzlingly animated adventure." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale (tied with Cars 2 for the lowest score received by a Pixar film), and PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian rated the film three out of five stars, and called it "a likable family comedy that finds an easy rhythm without effort," though he felt that the movie's "attitude towards death" is not as radically powerful as in Coco. In a same star review Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said "It's no Toy Story—but the animation juggernaut's latest, about two elf brothers on a quest, is still worth your while." Reviewer James Berardinelli praised the film's originality and emotional weight and called it "engaging and enjoyable," adding "there’s something here for everyone," though concluded it is not the next Disney/Pixar classic. Ben Travis of Empire Magazine gave the film five out of five stars, and wrote, "Pixar returns with a great big power-chord of a movie—heart-pumping, resonant, and positively harmonious."
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called Onward a step back for Pixar, giving it two out of four stars. He said, "The story fluctuates between the uninspired and the just plain weird and then gets even weirder." While he praised the animation and said that the movie "begins with an intriguing premise," he concluded that it "doesn't come close to fully fleshing out the possibilities."
- Specter is the first LGBT character in Pixar. Disney now has an LGBT character in all of their major branches (the Disney Animated Canon has Bucky and Pronk Oryx-Antlerson, Specter in Pixar, Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Moff Mors in Star Wars).
- Specter's sexual orientation has led to complaints from parents as well as Christian organizations and parent groups.
- Due to the MPAA's rebrand to the MPA in 2019, this makes the first appearance of the new logo in the end credits for a feature-length Pixar film.
- Onward is the ninth Pixar film to be rated PG by the MPA, the first being The Incredibles, the second being Up, the third being Brave, the fourth being Inside Out, the fifth being The Good Dinosaur, the sixth being Finding Dory, the seventh being Coco, and the eighth being Incredibles 2.
- Excluding international releases, this is the first Pixar film to be released in March.
- This is Pixar's first original film since Coco in 2017 and the third post-Disney purchase Pixar film not to be released in the summer.
- This is the first Pixar film without any participation from John Lasseter (following his departure at the end of 2018), with Pete Docter taking over producing duties.
- This is the first Pixar movie not to feature the credits "Disney Presents" and "A Pixar Animation Studios Film" in the opening.
- This is the third time that Pixar releases two major films (both Onward and Soul) in the same year, after 2015's Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, and 2017's Cars 3 and Coco.
- Both Chris Pratt and Tom Holland have roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Pratt played the role of Star-Lord and Holland performed Spider-Man.
- This is the first Disney animated film to feature the voices of Marvel Cinematic Universe actors.
- This marks the second Pixar film to feature Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a voice role, after previously voicing Princess Atta in A Bug's Life in 1998.
- This is Octavia Spencer's second role for a Disney film after Zootopia, where she previously voiced Mrs. Otterton.
- This is the fifth Pixar film not to have humans in it, following A Bug's Life, and the Cars movies, and therefore making it the second one not from the Cars franchise. This is also the first PG-rated Pixar film not to have humans in it.
- This is the second time for Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna to compose the music for a Pixar film since The Good Dinosaur in 2015.
- This is the third Pixar film to be accompanied by a non-Pixar short film and also the fourth not to be an original one, but instead based on an already-existing property.
- It is also the first Disney film to be accompanied by one not distributed through Walt Disney Pictures, but instead 20th Century Studios.
- This is the first Pixar film to feature the short 2011 Disney closing logo since The Good Dinosaur.
- This is the second Pixar film to feature a non-Pixar short, in this case, a The Simpsons short, the first being Coco, featuring Olaf's Frozen Adventure.
- According to the producer, Kori Rae, there are no talks of a sequel to the film ever happening.
- This is also Pixar's second fairy tale and their first film (after Brave) to take on the fantasy genre (not counting Monsters Inc. as Disney appears to treat it more as science fiction within the theme parks than it does urban fantasy).
- This is the first Disney (and Pixar) film to have a digital release just two weeks after its theatrical release, due to COVID-19 concerns.
- In addition, it is also the first Disney (and Pixar) film to stream on Disney+ just one month after its theatrical release (and also only two weeks after its digital download release), due to COVID-19 concerns.
- It's also the only Pixar film that wasn't delayed before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
- It's also Pixar's second lowest grossing film to date, after The Good Dinosaur.
- This was the last Disney film overall to be released in theaters until 20th Century Studios' The New Mutants in August (and also the last Disney animated film in general to do so domestically until Walt Disney Animation Studios' Raya and the Last Dragon in March 2021), because due to the COVID-19, many movie theaters remained closed until mid-August when they started reopening.
- It is also the only Walt Disney Pictures film to have a domestic theatrical release in 2020. Instead, some catalog Disney films were re-released in selected theaters that year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Inside Out, Zootopia, The Santa Clause, Frozen, and The Muppet Christmas Carol.
- It was the last Pixar to be released in theaters domestically until Turning Red in 2022.
- It is the first Pixar film to be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD two months after its theatrical release (and over one month after its debut on Disney+).
- This was Rob Gibbs's final Pixar film that he worked on following his death of COVID-19.
- In the deleted scenes, there was to be a tritagonist, a female satyr called Genevieve or Jenny for short. She would have helped the boys on their quest, however she was ultimately scrapped to follow the relationship of the two brothers.
- The name Lightfoot was used for a Super-God Masterforce Transformer.
- Onward was nominated for "Favorite Animated Movie" at the 2021 Kids' Choice Awards, but lost to Soul.
- Two of the patches on Barley's vest say Hades and Hydra.
- Triple Dent Gum can be seen through the film, with a pack seen on Ian's room and an advert being seen at a gas station.
- Luxo, Sr. can be seen near the start of the film behind Colt Bronco at the Lightfoot residence.
- A version of Pizza Planet, named "Pizza Realm", can be seen in the background as one of the restaurants in the film's universe.
- A Pizza Planet Truck can also been seen when Ian and Barley start their quest.
- The chicken that can be seen on a cup with pencils is a reference to poultry place from Toy Story 4 and Small Fry.
- When Barley goes to clean up the "Quests of Yore" game Colt Bronco knocked over, a bunch of music albums can be seen. The album at the top shelf is an album made by Dorothea Williams, a jazz performer that will appear in Pixar's Soul.
- The waiters in the Manticore's Tavern wear Sorcerer Hats from Fantasia.
- The Pixar ball can be briefly seen as the symbol in a shield as Ian and Barley enter the Manticore's tavern.
- Pepita can be seen in a shelf in the tavern.
- The sea nacklace seen in the Second Chance Antiques in Toy Story 4 can be seen among the objects at the pawn shop.
- A picture of the woods from Brave can be seen on Ian’s calendar.
- A dragon figurine from Bao can be seen in the Lightfoot residence and in the Manticore's tavern as a souvenir.
- Claw game machines featuring a gauntlet resemblling the Infinity Gauntlet can be seen in both an arcade and the tavern.
- Additionally, a gauntlet holding a gem that resembles the Time Stone can be seen at the side of the machines.
- Another gauntlet resembling the Infinty Gauntlet can be seen as one of Barley's patchs.
- In Barley's map, a location named "Brave Wilderness" can be seen. This is a reference to Pixar's Brave.
- Additionally, another location named "Lock Lake" can be seen, referencing the short The Ballad of Nessie.
- The Pixar ball can be seen on shield in the background at manna quarries tavern.
- A logo resembling Captain Marvel's logo can be seen when Barley and Ian enter a cave.
- One of the skeletons in the cave can be seen having a shield from Brave.
- In the Manticore's tavern, a book with the logo of the kingdom of DunBroch can be seen alongside the Manticore's map.
- Merida's sword from Brave can be seen among the objects at the pawn shop the Manticore steals her own sword from.
- The Poultry Palace's logo can be seen in a counter at the gas station.
- Near the end of the film, a police dispatch saying that "a one-one-three is in progress" can be heard.
- An Infinity Gauntlet shaped logo can be seen on the arcade machine.
- "Pixar announces new original suburban fantasy movie". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on December 12, 2018.
- Gemmill, Allie (March 20, 2020). "Pixar’s ‘Onward’ Is Getting an Early Digital and Disney+ Release". Collider. Retrieved on March 20, 2020.
- Travis, Ben (March 9, 2020). "Onward Director Reveals Easter Egg For Pixar’s Soul". Empire. Retrieved on July 6, 2020.