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Onward

Onward is a 2020 American computer-animated urban fantasy adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film was directed by Dan Scanlon, produced by Kori Rae and 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 named Ian and Barley Lightfoot who set out on a quest to find an artifact that will temporarily bring back their deceased father for 24 hours before it's too late.

The concept of Onward is inspired by the death of Scanlon's father, who died in a car accident, when Scanlon and his older brother were very young children. The film was announced at D23 Expo in July 2017.

Onward premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 6, 2020. The film received positive reviews from critics, but underperformed at the box office, grossing only $141 million worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to its financial shortcomings, due to the widespread closure of theatres, making it Pixar's second box-office failure after The Good Dinosaur (2015). Like several other films released in the early months of 2020, it found far greater success on VOD. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 78th Golden Globe Awards and 93rd Academy Awards, but lost both awards to Soul, another Pixar film. Onward was the final Pixar film released in theaters worldwide until Lightyear in June 2022.

Plot[]

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

In the modern day, Ian Lightfoot is a teenaged elf struggling with self-confidence; his older brother, Barley, is an enthusiastic and impulsive role-playing gamer. On Ian's sixteenth birthday, the boys' mother, Laurel, gives her sons a gift from their father, Wilden, who died shortly before Ian was born: a magical staff, a rare Phoenix gem, and a letter describing a "visitation spell" that can resurrect Wilden for a single day. Ian succeeds in casting the spell but, interrupted by Barley, is unable to finish it. As a result, 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 before sunset, taking Barley's beloved van "Guinevere." Finding the boys gone, Laurel leaves to look for them.

Hoping to find a map to another gem, Ian and Barley visit the Manticore's Tavern–once a gathering-place for would-be adventurers, now a family restaurant managed by the Manticore ("Corey"). While arguing with Ian over the map, Corey realizes how unfulfilling her life has become and loses her temper, 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 Corey, who warns Laurel that the gem is guarded by a curse that can only be defeated by an enchanted sword. After stealing the sword from a pawn shop, they set out in pursuit of Ian and Barley.

Traveling to the mountains, Barley proposes following what he calls the "Path of Peril", but Ian insists on taking the freeway. As they travel, Ian begins mastering magic spells that Barley remembers from his role-playing game. They narrowly escape a motorcycle gang of pixies at a gas station and have a tense encounter with the police, which the boys disguise themselves as their mother's boyfriend, Colt Bronco, during which Ian inadvertently reveals that he considers Barley to be a screw-up. To apologize, Ian agrees to follow the Path of Peril. Ian's self-confidence is boosted when he successfully uses a spell that allows him to walk across a bottomless pit, where, unbeknownst to him, he was walking without the rope that Barley tied him to over the second half of the pit. Bronco catches up to the boys and forces them to come home, Ian agrees, but as he starts the van, he drives away, leading to a wild police chase. When they are pursued by the police, Barley sacrifices Guinevere to cause a landslide, blocking their pursuers.

"Raven's Point" turns out to be a series of raven statues leading them into a cave. As they explore the cave, Barley confesses that he was too afraid to say goodbye to Wilden when he was dying. The brothers evade a series of traps, including a Gelatinous Cube that dissolves anything it touches. Emerging from the cave, they find themselves back 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's legs to spend whatever time he has left with his father. Rereading his list of things he wished to do with Wilden, Ian realizes that Barley has been a father figure for him throughout his life and returns to make amends. Barley, refusing to give up, discovers the needed gem inside a fountain across the street from the school and retrieves it, unwittingly triggering the curse Corey spoke of: a stone dragon, built of pieces of the school building, bent on claiming the gem. Corey and Laurel arrive and distract the dragon long enough for Ian to finish casting the visitation spell, but they aren't able to defeat the dragon on their own. Ian runs off to fight it, allowing Barley to wish Wilden a final goodbye. He uses the magic skills he has learned to defeat the dragon by propelling Corey's sword into its heart. Trapped behind a pile of rubble, Ian sees Wilden's body briefly reappearing to talk to Barley. After Wilden dissipates, Barley tells Ian that their father is proud of him, and the brothers share a hug.

Some time later, as the world begins to rediscover the past's magical arts, the brothers set off on a new quest.

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