'Onward' scenes are mindblowing! 5 questions with director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae

David Dizon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2020 06:12 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2020 03:25 PM

'Onward' scenes are mindblowing! 5 questions with director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae

Brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot try a conjuring spell to bring back their dad but the spell goes awry. @2020 Disney/Pixar

MANILA -- "Onward," the newest Disney and Pixar animated film, introduces another fantasy world, featuring two teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) who must embark on a quest to spend one more day with their dearly deceased father.

Part-"Weekend at Bernie's" and part-Indiana Jones, "Onward" shows how these two elf brothers learn magic, fight unruly sprites and curses, and find the courage to keep going onward. 

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, "Onward" director Dan Scanlon ("Monsters University") and producer Kori Rae talked about the genesis of the idea for "Onward" and why some of the scenes are just mindblowing. 

Q: In the production notes, Dan, you mentioned that the story of "Onward" is inspired by your own relationship with your brother and how your dad passed away when you were a year old. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Scanlon: As you can imagine, we don’t remember him. We always wondered who he was and how we were like him and that led to the idea of 'what if we could spend a day with him? What would we ask him? What would he think of what we've become?' That became the idea of 'Onward.'

Q: Do you think those are the best type of Pixar movies, the ones that come from a real place? You've got 'Up' with the Carl and Ellie scene. You've got 'Wall-E' putting up an umbrella for Eve. I even got emotional for Woody and Bo Peep finally running away together in 'Toy Story 4.'

Scanlon: Absolutely. I think human emotion is always the touchstone of all the Pixar movies, regardless of the fantasy world. It's always about trying to get to some human truth.

'Onward' scenes are mindblowing! 5 questions with director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae 1
Ian and Barley Lightfoot try a magic spell that involves crossing a massive crevasse with nothing but Ian’s own faith beneath his feet. ©2020 Disney/Pixar

Q: How did you come to the decision that it should be about a suburban fantasy world? I was looking at some of the trailers and you have unicorns that look like pests. And then you have mermaids. So what was the rationale for going in that direction? 

Rae: Well, we needed magic in the film so that the brothers could go on a quest to spend a day with their father. We tried to think, 'Where would magic be available? What world would magic exist in?' We didn't really want to do a period piece, like an old fantasy film. So we thought, what about a modern fantasy world that's just like our world except with centaurs and satyrs and unicorns? How do we flip that on its head? How do we give that a twist where things have evolved?

In the opening of the film, we see how the world used to be and then we see the kind of transition into the modern world, how the world had lost a little bit of its magic. That's kind of how we landed on that. We started with the heart and the emotion and the connection between the boys and the father and we wanted to have a fun, unique world that we haven't done before. 

Q: There’s always a technical challenge in making Pixar movies. So what were the challenges you faced in order to tell the story of 'Onward'?

Rae: One of the biggest challenges was the use of magic, making sure that... because we really needed magic to tell the story and help tell the arc of Ian Lightfoot's character. Because he started out not being able to do it and then kinda having to learn lessons in trying to use magic throughout the remainder of the film. And then we wanted to make sure that the look kind of matched what Ian was feeling. So Ian, you know, was chaotic and a little bit scary because Ian was being tested by it, a little bit. 

We spent a lot of time creating the look of the magic, and making sure that it matched what we needed for the story and for Ian's arc. 

'Onward' scenes are mindblowing! 5 questions with director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae 2
When teenage elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot get an unexpected opportunity to spend one more day with their late dad, they embark on an extraordinary quest fraught with some of the most unexpected obstacles. ©2020 Disney/Pixar

Q: There's a moment in every Pixar movie that blows your mind. You've got the universe full of doors in 'Monsters Inc' or the Land of the Dead in 'Coco.' Is there a particular sequence in 'Onward' that is going to blow my mind when I see it? 

Scanlon: There is more than one! I think there are beautiful moments and exciting, thrilling moments. Obviously we've spent 6 years making these movies so we try to chock 'em full of as much entertainment as I can. I think there's a lot of really magical fun moments in the film. 

Rae: Especially in the ending! So you have to let us know what you think! 

Disney and Pixar's "Onward," featuring the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer, hits more than 200 cinemas in the Philippines for one day only on Saturday, February 29 in special advance screenings. Its official release is on March 4.