Onward: When Disney is Terrified of its Own Movies

Starring: Chris Pratt, Tom Holland

Director: Dan Scanlon

Year: 2020 | Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

Walt Disney Pictures | USA

Onward is literally the less expected film from Pixar Animation Studios since it was founded back then in 1986. No fabulous release dates – Summer, Thanksgiving or Christmas -, not too many tv ads, no fancy popcorn boxes on theaters, no super promotional banners. It almost looks like Disney wanted to give it the least visibility possible, as if Disney didn’t really trust this project. Or worst, as if they were terrified of releasing it, and after seeing it I can understand why.

pixar’s inner conflict

When Pixar launched Toy Story 25 years ago, it proved that it was a different animation studio: it was not simply a generator of colored figures, to keep children excited for an hour and a half in a movie theater. No, from the very beginning Pixar showed with its films, metaphors full of fantasy and color that touched fibers on the human condition- they proved that they were in the game to capture all audiences with quality. In short, they redefined the concept of family film.

However, when Disney bought the studio in 2006 – just as it happened recently with the acquisition of 20th Century Fox – they super promised that Pixar’s philosophy would not change, but at a time when Disney was only interested in the word franchise , as well as complementing the millions of dollars at the box office with their toy sales, obviously the focus of their films changed. It is not for nothing that its two most recent films have been sequels: Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4.

And just like its main character, who turns out to be the weird boy in his school, Onward turns out to be the weird film within the Pixar library.

ONWARD, a weird pixar movie

To be honest, Onward really follows many of the rules Pixar and Disney have decreed as mandatory for their films: A context full of fantasy and color, characters with serious internal conflicts, a human drama that transcends their context, and above all a shot that leaves more of one with a lump in the throat and eyes full of tears. So why is film so weird, then?

Unlike classic Pixar movies, where metaphors are not apparent at first glance, in Onward the metaphor is so faint that it would even be possible to make this story out of the possibilities of animation. That is, all Pixar movies need to be animated, in order to tell their stories. Onward does not.

WHY you need to SEE ONWARD

Onward is the first Pixar movie in which the connection with real life is obvious: Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) lost his father, when he was just a baby, and the support he has in his mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) does not seem to be enough to understand how to start becoming an adult.

The story, of course, uses the magic context to put Ian and his brother Barley on a mission: complete the spell that will bring their father back for a day; a mission in which both will discover their relationship as brothers and in which Ian will learn a lesson that all costs us time, work and sacrifice to understand: many times what we want and need, is much closer than we think.

Of course, there are fun moments, moments of action that will catch the children’s eyes, but it is also a valuable lesson for grown ups, too. And although Disney evidently did not trust this film, for not fitting perfectly in its definition of animated blockbuster, it revives Pixar’s philosophy of taking risks with an animation that touches human fibers, beyond the recognition of a franchise or toy sales.


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