Father-son story gets magical twist in animated ‘Onward’

By Rollo Ross

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pixar has made movies about toys, fish, robots in space and cars. Now the hit animation studio is venturing into the world of fathers and sons with “Onward.”

Although the film is set in a fantasy world populated by elves, unicorns, pixies and centaurs, the story is deeply personal for writer and director Dan Scanlon.

“Onward,” which begins its worldwide roll-out on Wednesday, is the story of elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot, who on Ian’s 16th birthday are given a magic wand to bring their long dead father back to life for a day.

However, the spell goes wrong and their dad returns only from the waist down, leaving the brothers with a pair of animated trousers without the ability to speak or see, unless they can find another magical object to summon up the remainder of their father.

Scanlon said he based the film on his and his brother’s desire to get to know their father, who died in a car crash when he was only 1 and his brother was 3 years old.

“It’s totally therapy that I can’t believe Pixar paid for,” Scanlon said with a laugh.

“It’s so indicative of Pixar to want to do something so small and real and true. I can’t think of anywhere else where we could have done something like this and been as supported as we were the whole time,” he added.

Scanlon took his brother to see a preview of the film, and emotions ran high afterwards.

“He gave me the longest hug of his life, and my life. We’re Midwestern guys, so there weren’t a lot of tears shed right away, but in our own weird punch-on-the-shoulder way, it was pretty special and wonderful,” Scanlon said

Voicing the brothers are “Spider-Man” actor Tom Holland and “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Chris Pratt, who plays Scanlon’s older brother.

“I’ve kind of always wanted to be a bit of a bigger brother. I never had an opportunity. I was always the youngest,” said Pratt.

Holland, who is the oldest son in his family, said it was “actually really nice to be the younger one for a change.”

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