Onward (film)

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Onward poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDan Scanlon
Produced byKori Rae
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Dan Scanlon
  • Keith Bunin
  • Jason Headley
Music by
Edited byCatherine Apple[2]
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date
  • February 21, 2020 (2020-02-21) (Berlinale)
  • March 6, 2020 (2020-03-06) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$175–200 million[4]
Box office$103.2 million[5]

Onward is a 2020 American computer-animated urban fantasy-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon, produced by Kori Rae and written by Scanlon, Jason Headley, and Keith Bunin. It 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 bring back their deceased father.[6]

Onward premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020 and was released in the United States on March 6. It received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $103.2 million worldwide. The film's financial shortcomings were attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the film's early closure from theaters. Like several other films released in March, it was made available digitally several weeks after its theatrical release.


In a world inhabited by mythical creatures, magic was commonplace several millennia ago, though difficult to master. After technological advances over the centuries, magic became obsolete and was largely discarded.

In the modern day, two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot (Ian is a high-schooler lacking self-confidence, and Barley is a history and role-playing game fanatic), live in the city of New Mushroomton. Their father Wilden died of a severe illness shortly before Ian was born, and their mother Laurel has a new boyfriend, centaur police officer Colt Bronco, whom Ian and Barley dislike.

On Ian's sixteenth birthday, Laurel gives the brothers a gift from Wilden: a magical staff, a rare Phoenix 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 Phoenix Gem and complete the spell, taking Barley's beloved van "Guinevere". Finding the boys gone, Laurel leaves to find them.

Ian and Barley visit the Manticore's Tavern, named for a monster possessing a map to the gem. The tavern has become a family restaurant managed by the Manticore, legally named The Manticore, also known as "Corey". Arguing with Ian over the map, The Manticore realizes how boring her life has become and 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 arrives at the scene and befriends The Manticore, who agrees to help her. The Manticore warns that the brothers' journey may awaken a curse that 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 pixies,[7] relying on Ian's newly awakened spell-casting abilities and Barley's role-playing game instincts. "Raven's Point" leads them on a trail indicated 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, during which Barley reveals to Ian that he was unable to emotionally bring himself to say goodbye to Wilden when he was dying in the hospital. They then run into one final obstacle, and surface to find themselves in front of Ian's high school. Ian, fed up with Barley's recklessness, lashes out at him 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 Phoenix Gem inside a historic fountain and retrieves it, unwittingly triggering the curse The Manticore spoke of, which creates an artificial golem-dragon out of pieces of the school and other nearby objects, 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. The Manticore 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 finally give his proper 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.

Sometime later, Ian's confidence and spell-casting have improved and he surprises Barley by painting his new van, the "Guinevere 2" or the Yellow Guinevere. The Manticore reopens her tavern in its original spirit, drawing in customers with tales of past adventures, Ian and Barley have a better relationship with Colt, and the brothers continue questing.

Voice cast[edit]



In July 2017, Pixar announced a "suburban fantasy world" film at the D23 Expo, with Scanlon directing and Rae producing.[6] The film was inspired by the death of Scanlon's father, when he and his brother were younger, and their relationship. He decided to write the story after hearing an audio clip of his father.[15] On December 12, 2018, the title was revealed.[16] In 2019, Headley and Bunin were hired to rewrite the screenplay and story.


On December 12, 2018, Holland, Pratt, Louis-Dreyfus and Spencer were announced as starring in the film.[17] While having recorded most of their lines separately, Holland and Pratt did some of their recording sessions together since, according to Scanlon, "they've worked together before and hung out together".[18] According to Rae, Holland and Pratt improvised some of their lines while recording together.[19] On December 17, 2019, Wong, Waithe and Rodriguez joined the cast of the film.[11] On February 18, 2020, Valderrama, Ullman, Bornheimer, Psarras and Ratzenberger were revealed to have been cast in the film.[12]


On April 16, 2019, Mychael and Jeff Danna were revealed to be the film's composers.[1] On February 12, 2020, Brandi Carlile revealed she recorded the song "Carried Me With You" for the film's end credits. She co-wrote it with Phil and Tim Hanseroth.[20] The film's soundtrack was released on February 28, 2020.[20]

All music is composed by the Dannas, except where noted.

Onward: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
1."Carried Me with You"Brandi Carlile, Phil and Tim HanserothCarlile3:33
2."Quests of Yore"  0:52
3."The World Was Full of Wonder"  1:37
4."A Little Magic"  0:43
5."Bad Dragon"  1:03
6."New Ian"  2:36
7."My Mighty Steed"  0:22
8."My Birthday Is Cancelled"  0:44
9."Wish I Could Spend the Day with You"  1:46
10."The Visitation Spell"  3:35
11."The Spell"  1:06
12."The Spell Only Lasts One Day"  0:56
13."Find Another Phoenix Gem"  0:49
14."Going on a Quest"  0:24
15."Laurel in Pursuit"  0:44
16."The Manticore's Tavern"  0:43
17."Tavern Remodeling"  1:12
18."The Map to Raven's Point"  1:45
19."Two Teenage Elves"  0:38
20."Magnora Gantuan!"  0:32
21."Baby Legs"  0:41
22."Pixie Dusters"  1:18
23."The Guardian Curse"  0:42
24."Driving Test"  3:17
25."Dance Fight"  2:22
26."Path of Peril"  0:41
27."Pawn Shop"  0:28
28."Tracking Guinevere"  1:04
29."Bottomless Pit"  0:56
30."The Trust Bridge"  1:20
31."Follow Your Gut"  0:52
32."Running from the Cops"  1:59
33."Sacrifice"  0:59
34."Just a Beat Up Old Van"  1:36
35."The Cave"  0:54
36."Accelior!"  0:26
37."Boom Bastia!"  0:47
38."Barley's Last Memory of Dad"  0:58
39."Led Us to Our Victory!"  1:49
40."The Truth Comes Out"  0:39
41."Share My Life with Him"  3:24
42."Battling the Dragon"  3:03
43."Voltar Thunderseer!"  0:59
44."Dad"  2:52
45."Magic Returns"  2:48
Total length:1:02:32

Deleted scene[edit]

There was a storyboard scene where Ian, Barley, and Wilden are joined with a goat girl in the journey. Ian and the goat girl come across a booth hosted by three evil mermaids. The mermaids sing their mesmerizing song to lure the two into staying in one of three houses put for rent. Ian tries to silence them with the staff but the spell is too weak. When Ian and the goat girl are finally in a trance, the mermaids place them in one of the houses. The house they are in starts to sink into the ground.

The goat girl was omitted because the filmmakers want the film to focus on the relationship between Ian and Barley. The scene itself was removed because the filmmakers felt it was too grim.[21][22]



Onward premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020[23] and was released in the United States on March 6.[8] A new short film titled Playdate with Destiny, centered around Maggie Simpson of The Simpsons, appears before the feature film.[24][25] The film was also set to be released in Italy, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea on the same day, but the release was delayed to June 4, 2020 in Italy, Japan and New Zealand and canceled in South Korea due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Home media[edit]

Onward was released digitally on the night of March 20, 2020 and became available for Disney+ subscribers on April 3, 2020 in the United States and Canada. The film was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 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 COVID-19 pandemic.[26] Over its first week of home release, the film was the sixth-most watched on Amazon Prime and second-most on the iTunes Store.[27] In Australia and New Zealand, it was released on Disney+ on April 24, 2020.[28][29]


In May 2019, two stills from the film, featuring Barley, Ian and their mother, were revealed. The following day, the film's teaser poster was released, and the teaser trailer debuted during ABC's broadcast of the 2019 NBA Finals.[30] The trailer was also shown with Toy Story 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Official trailers were released in October and December 2019.


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.[31]


Box office[edit]

Onward grossed $61.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $41.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $103.2 million.[5] The gross of the film was significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced most movie theaters to shut down within 2 weeks after its release.[32][33][34]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside The Way Back and the wide expansion of Emma, and was projected to gross $45–50 million from 4,200 theaters in its opening weekend.[35] The film held early advance screenings on February 29, and made $650,000 from 470 theaters.[36] It then made $12.1 million on its first day, including $2 million from Thursday night previews. The film went on to debut to $39.1 million, topping the box office but marking the third-ever lowest start for a Pixar film.[37][38] While the film remained in first in its second weekend, it dropped 73% to $10.5 million (the worst-ever second weekend for a Pixar film), and was part of the lowest total-grossing weekend since October 1998, with all films combining for just $55.3 million.[39] In the film's third weekend, due to the mass theater closures around the country, it made $71,000 from 135 locations, mostly drive-ins.[40]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 309 reviews, with an average rating of 7.16/10. 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."[41] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[42] 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.[37]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it three out of five stars, and called the movie "a likable family comedy that finds an easy rhythm without effort" although felt that movie's "attitude towards death" is not radically powerful as in Coco.[43] 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."[44] James Berardinelli, in his review praised its originality, emotional weight and called it "engaging and enjoyable", and that "There’s something here for everyone", though concluded that it isn't a next Disney/Pixar classic.[45] Ben Travis of Empire Magazine gave the film a five out of five stars and said: "Pixar returns with a great big power-chord of a movie — heart-pumping, resonant, and positively harmonious."[46]

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".[47]

Ban and censorship[edit]

The film was banned in the Arab countries of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as one female cyclops police officer character in the film named Specter (voiced by Lena Waithe) briefly indicates that she is a lesbian. The scene in question is a brief scene in which Colt Bronco is lamenting about how Ian and Barley Lightfoot do not respect him as a father figure. Specter then replies to him by saying, "It's not easy being a new parent—my girlfriend's daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?"[48][49][50] Homosexual acts are criminalized in these four aforementioned countries, which are predominantly Muslim, although Kuwait does not criminalize female homosexual acts. However, this ban is not universal, and the film has been screened in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Egypt.

In Russia, where the gay propaganda law officially criminalizes the dissemination of LGBT-related content to minors under 18, the Russian dub, handled by Disney Character Voices International, changed the line to "It's not easy being a new parent—my partner's daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?" instead. The Russian dub also avoided referring to Specter with gender-specific pronouns.[48][49][50]


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External links[edit]