From the director and studio that brought you Monsters University comes Onward. This computer-animated urban fantasy-adventure film directed by Dan Scanlon, written by Scanlon, Jason Headley and Keith Bunin, and produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Elf brothers, Ian and Barley, get to spend a day with a day with their late dad and go on a quest aboard Barley's epic van Guinevere. When their mom Laurel realises her sons are gone, she teams up with The Manticore to find them.
In July 2017, at the D23 Expo, Pixar announced a "suburban fantasy world" film with Scanlon as writer and director. The film was inspired by the death of Scanlon's father, when he and his older brother were very young children, and their relationship with each other. He decided to write the story after hearing an audio clip of his father. In mid December 2018, the title was revealed as Onward. In 2019, Headley and Bunin were hired to rewrite the script. In mid April 2019, Mychael and Jeff Danna were hired to compose the film's score. By late February 2020, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Grey Griffin, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama, Bonnie Hunt, and John Ratzenberger were cast. The film is the first Pixar film without any involvement from John Lasseter, following his departure as CEO of Disney's Animation Areas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first Disney movie to be released for digital download while still in theaters.
The film features the voice talents of Holland, Pratt, Louis-Dreyfus, Spencer, Waithe, Wong, Griffin, Ullman, Valderrama, Hunt, and Ratzenberger. Holland and Pratt are an appealing duo, and the colorful cast of characters is great fun.
Technically and talent-wise, the film is a fine one and at any other studio would be an instant Oscar contender. At Pixar, it comes off as a first-pass on a much better, deeper film that has yet to manifest. Not the best tale Pixar has told, but is still a much better and more thought-out one than most would put into a kid's film. This latest outing just goes to show that even an off-day at Pixar HQ can result in a well-told tale more than worthy of your time and attention. This film suffers slightly from that: while it may not be the most compelling story-frankly, it's a tad esoteric-it is absolutely visually breathtaking. However, the film is a physically gorgeous work that succeeds in transporting us to another world and immersing us there, where we find touching and even memorable characters. The brother relationship is the film's strength, with some heartfelt exchanges that feel as authentic as most live action films. Pixar's twenty-second full-length film is the studio's first to feature elves as its central characters, and memorable creation they are, too. The film may not match the calibre of story that's come to be expected from the studio, but it does introduce wonderful new characters that will inspire long after the credits roll.