Pixar may be gearing up for the imminent release of what just might be its most hyped sequel yet — this summer’s “Toy Story 4” — but the Disney animation house is also gearing up to make good on its longstanding promise to keep churning out original features alongside its blockbuster franchises. Following up on the success of 2017’s original feature “Coco,” Pixar’s next brand-new, non-series feature is concerned with some classic fantasy stuff: magic, and all the wonderful and weird creatures that come with it.
Set in “a suburban fantasy world,” the film follows “two teenage elf brothers [who] embark on an extraordinary quest in a van named Guinevere to discover if there is still a little magic left in the world.” “Onward” stars Marvel Cinematic Universe superheroes Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as the Lightfoot brothers, Ian and Barley, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus onboard as their mother. Octavia Spencer also has a voice role in the film — perhaps as a key magical figure in their quest? — and other actors lending their voices to the film will likely be announced soon.
The film is written and directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae, reuniting the team that made “Monsters University.” The film’s first trailer plays up the suburban ennui that has taken over what used to be a world filled with magic: unicorns are now basically raccoons, mermaids are content just to loll in inflatable pools, and even industrious garden gnomes aren’t too jazzed about the possibility of hitting the lawn all day. The Barley brothers, however, have different ideas about how life (and magic) should be, and Scanlon has previously hinted at a deeply personal side to a seemingly fun quest: they’re not just going to have some fun, they’re trying to reunite with their long-deceased father.
At Disney’s D23 Expo back in 2017, Scanlon explained that the film was inspired by his own childhood, as he lost his father when he was very young. “In the film, we’re going to tell the story of two teenage elf brothers whose father died when they were too young to remember him,” he explained. “But thanks to the little magic still left in the world, the boys embark on a quest that will allow them a chance to spend one last magical day with their father.”
Disney and Pixar will open “Onward” on March 6, 2020. (Curiously, this marks the first time Pixar has ventured into March release date territory: all other Pixar films have opened in May, June, or November.) Check out the first trailer for “Onward” below.