Wilden Lightfoot is an elf in the 2020 Disney/Pixar animated feature film, Onward. He is the father of Ian and Barley Lightfoot, and the husband of Laurel Lightfoot. Though he passed away by an unspecified illness when Barley was a toddler and before Ian was born, he left his sons a staff and a spell he wrote to bring him back for a day when Ian turns 16 years old so that he could see what they had become.
Wilden Lightfoot was an unconfident young elf who eventually grew to be a much bolder and easygoing man. He attended Willowdale College where everyone took notice of his colorful personality and the kinky purple socks he would wear every day (according to his aside college friend Gaxton). Later on Wilden became an accountant just before he met, dated, and eventually happily married Laurel and then had their first son with her, Barley.
A few years later, Wilden suffered a sudden illness just as Laurel was pregnant with their second son, Ian. According to Laurel, Wilden fought the sickness as hard as he could so that he can meet his second son but the sickness won. So before his passing, Wilden found a visitation spell and asked Laurel to give their sons a gift (which turned out to be a wizard staff) when they are both over 16 so they both can bring him back for a day and see what they have become.
Role in the film
Wilden's voice is heard narrating the story of how the world went from magical and exciting to simple and technology driven. The first mention of him is when Ian comes down wearing his old Willowdale College sweatshirt. Later in the scene, Barley states that he only has three memories of their father and he doesn't remember him ever wearing the sweatshirt. Later, Ian is at Burger Shire getting some breakfast when he meets Wilden's old college friend, Gaxton. They talk a bit about Wilden and Ian is inspired to try being more like him today, but he couldn't build up the nerve to be successful. When he gets home, Ian looks sullenly at photos of his father on a corkboard in his room and we learn that he left before Ian was even born. The young elf pops in an audiotape he had listened to many times of Wilden's voice and pretends to have a conversation with him, talking about how much he would like to spend the day with him.
Later, Laurel decides to give her sons Wilden's gift: a Wizard's Staff, a rare Phoenix Gem, and a Visitation Spell that can resurrect Wilden for only one day. Ian uses the spell to resurrect his deceased father, but due to a complication between him and Barley, only the lower half of Wilden's body is physically restored before the Phoenix Gem disintegrates. The father is confused of the state he is in and fumbles around the room until he feels something touch his foot; Barley plays drums on his dad's feet to let him know who is there. Knowing Ian must be here too, he feels around for his feet and affectionately presses his foot against his son's.
In order to completely restore Wilden's full body, the brothers have to find another Phoenix Gem before sunset in 24 hours before Wilden fades away forever. Ian makes an artificial top half for his dad out of a pillow, a jacket, a baseball cap, and sunglasses and the three take Barley's van named Guinevere to the Manticore's Tavern where they find clue suggesting a Phoenix Gem can be found at Raven's Point. As the brothers make their way, Ian crosses off some items on his list of things to do with his father and smiles, saying that he just wants to meet him. He places his foot upon his dad's and he lovingly places his other foot against Ian's leg.
At the Swamp Gas area, Wilden and his sons encounter a gang of hostile sprites known as the Pixie Dusters who get angered at Wilden accidentally knocking over their bikes and then chase the three across the freeway to which they manage to escape. Later, after Ian accidentally offends Barley, who cranks up his music and makes a stop at a vending machine, Wilden notices the vibrations of the loud music and begins to dance like nobody's watching. He urges his sons to come dance with him, settling the two down. After Ian agrees to try Barley's idea of how to get to Raven's point, they all get back in their van to continue their quest.
Once the elf brothers and their father arrive at Raven's Point, they use an enlarged cheese puff to make their way down a river in a deep cave. They talk about how excited they are to meet their father to which the conversation leads to Barley revealing his fourth memory of their dad: He was supposed to go up to Wilden's deathbed and say goodbye, but he was too scared to go in on account of the traumatizing condition he was in. Soon, the three reach the end of the river and encounter a very deadly gauntlet where they encounter a gelatinous cube which disintegrates Wilden's temporary body and cap, leaving only his surviving legs. After they survive the traps and puzzles, Ian realizes the top of the hill where the Phoenix Gem would be at is by the high school he goes to. Thinking the two failed, Ian becomes very upset and walks away to spend his last moments with his father before he passes away again. When they stop at an edge overlooking the ocean, Wilden feels around for Barley but it is just him and Ian right here. Soon, Ian realizes how much Barley has been there for him throughout his life and rushes off to apologize, taking his father with him.
Barley finds the Phoenix Gem hidden in an ancient fountain which unleashes a curse that forms itself into an enormous dragon sculpture that prepares to kill the elf brothers and take back the gem. Luckily, Laurel and The Manticore arrive and distract the dragon while the brothers set their late father up to finnish reviving him before sunset. Ian goes off to fight the dragon and lets Barley say goodbye to their dad. When the dragon is destroyed, the gem finishes bringing Wilden back. He and Barley talk briefly, where Wilden mentions he always thought he'd be called "Wilden the Whimsical", and helped Barley find closure before giving him a hug and fading away with the sunset. Barley then gives Ian a hug from their father after telling him how proud he is of the great young man Ian grew up to be.
- According to Barley, his beard was scratchy and he had a goofy laugh.
- His sons describe their father to be a terrible dancer.
- He narrates the opening of Onward.
- He always thought that his wizard name would be “Wilden the Whimsical“.
- He shares similarities between the 2003/2009 Fullmetal Alchemist character Trisha Elric.
- Both are parents of two brothers.
- Both passed away from a severe unspecified illness.
- He can not hear; he understands his surroundings by feeling the vibrations in his feet.