'Onward' And The Touching Story Of A Formless Father


Credit : Onward/Pixar


“Onward" is inspired by the life of director Dan Scanlon himself - who lost his father at the age of 1 and spent his life collecting people's memories to create a father figure in his mind.

When I look for movie ideas, I think of sad things, because sadness contains tragedy. But there's nothing too sad in my life. 'You lost your father,' my mother said. 'But I don't miss him so I don't mind,' I replied. 'That's what makes me sad,' Mom said.

Onward (Magic Hunt) the director Dan Scanlon told Vanity Fair.

Having lost his father at the age of 1, Dan Scanlon had no memory of fatherhood. It was a permanent hole in his childhood. Until one day, he heard a rare tape recording his father's voice. Dad just said "hello" and "goodbye", nothing much.

But for the Scanlon director, two words of father were better than no memory at all. That little memory helped the director brainstorm ideas for Onward, and was transformed into the film in an emotional scene.


Credit : Onward/Pixar


Dream of a father you never met

The father figure in Onward, resurrected by magic by his son Ian (voiced by Tom Holland), lacked the upper body. The father had no face, no arms, only legs and familiar shoes, but this "formless father" still had consciousness and memories.

This shape may be weird in the eyes of many people, is Onward's controversial element? (will children find it scary?), but the symbolic meaning is great. Every child who has lost a father like Ian had such a memory hole. How can the father's figure in them be completed. Ian listened to how adults talked about his father, to gather pieces of his father's body.

Onward's central character was Ian - a shy, introverted and self-deprecating 16-year-old student. And Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) - his brother - had the opposite personality: lively, disruptive, fierce. What both of them had in common was that they lived very affectionately and loved their mother.


Credit : Onward/Pixar


On Ian's 16th birthday, mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) revealed a gift left by her father to the two brothers before his death. It was the heirloom magic staff.

The Ian and Barley families were originally from the elven lineage, but with the development of modern society, the elves have moved away from their roots and lived like normal people. What the father wanted was that the two sons could use the staff to bring him back within a day, as well as help them return to their roots.

Onward was Dan Scanlon's dream of a reunion he never had. Only in the fantasy world can the orphaned son see his father again. Dreamy, but the film still put the limit on reality as Ian only brought his father home to say goodbye, not to bring the dead father back to life, overturning the laws of life and death.

Still emotional, but the level of Pixar has faded?

The journey of Ian and Barley on the Guinevere wrecked to find the magical land - where Ian could cast a spell to revive the father in one day, was a beautiful journey. But this adventure went into a rut: the two constantly stumbled, learned their lessons, then stumbled, then fell apart, and then again realized the value of friendship.

According to the New York Times, those were "machine lessons". Those were good, but cliché and those were not up to the Pixar level. There were no truly lofty philosophies or overwhelming imagery. It was sad to say that about a movie as endearing as Onward, but when even Pixar has gone down the road, we know it was a serious matter.

According to critics, Onward has been a good film but pales one in comparison to the famous works of the Oscar-winning animation studio. At its peak, Pixar's Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Up, Inside out, Coco... were the standards of animation in terms of design, graphics, story, characters, philosophy and humanity.


Credit : Onward/Pixar


The Pixar standard helps the studio rank first in the animation world. Pixar movies are famously "tearing audiences” in a very culturally deep way.

Recently, Coco has been a prime example when the studio has taken pains to delve into the spiritual culture and traditional music of the Mexican people. Coco was born at a time when racism against Mexicans was taking place heavily in the US, so in addition to the artistic value, the film also has social value.


The times of disagreement between the two brothers are good details for the film to explore more deep value of friendship - Photo: PIXAR

"Onward may less attractive than other Pixar classics, but it makes good use of the studio's formula. On its own, Onward is a fun, warm, and brilliantly animated adventure". It  is a critical opinion acclaimed on Rotten Tomatoes.



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