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Onward (film) facts for kids

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Onward poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Produced by Kori Rae
Written by
  • Dan Scanlon
  • Jason Headley
  • Keith Bunin
Music by
  • Mychael Danna
  • Jeff Danna
  • Sharon Calahan
  • Adam Habib
Editing by Catherine Apple
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release date(s) February 21, 2020 (2020-02-21) (Berlinale)
March 6, 2020 (2020-03-06) (United States)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $175–200 million
Money made $141.9 million

Onward is a 2020 American computer-animated urban fantasy adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is 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 who set out on a quest to find an artifact that will temporarily bring back their dead father.

Onward premiered at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020, and was theatrically released on March 6, 2020. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, but has grossed $141 million worldwide. The film's financial shortcomings were a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the widespread closure of movie theaters. Like several other films released in the early months of 2020, it was made available digitally several weeks after its theatrical opening.


In a world inhabited by mythic creatures, magic was commonplace several millennia ago, though difficult to master. After technological advances over the centuries, magic became obsolete and was largely discarded. In the modern-day, two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, live in New Mushroomton. The younger brother, Ian, is a high-school student struggling with self-confidence, and the older brother, Barley, is an enthusiastic yet impulsive role-playing gamer and historical fanatic. Their father, Wilden, died of a severe illness shortly before Ian was born, and their mother Laurel has a new boyfriend, centaur police officer Colt Bronco, whom Ian and Barley dislike.

On Ian's sixteenth birthday, Laurel gives her sons a gift from Wilden: a magical staff, a rare Phoenix gem, and a letter describing a "visitation spell" that can resurrect their father for a single day. Ian succeeds in casting the spell but has significant trouble finishing it when Barley intervenes, forcefully offering his help. 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, taking Barley's beloved van "Guinevere." Finding the boys gone, Laurel leaves to look for them.

Ian and Barley visit the Manticore's Tavern, in the hopes of finding a map to the gem stored inside. However, the tavern has become a family restaurant managed by the Manticore ("Corey" for short). While arguing with Ian over the map, Corey realizes how unfulfilling her life has become and drives the customers away in a fit of insanity, 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 agrees to help her track both of them down. Corey warns Laurel that the brothers' journey may awaken a curse that can only be defeated by her sword which is currently held at a pawn shop. After incapacitating the shop clerk and stealing the sword, they end up in a car accident that forces Corey to regain the use of her wings to catch up with Ian and Barley.

Traveling to the mountains, Ian and Barley narrowly escape a motorcycle gang of pixies. After a tense encounter with the police, Ian inadvertently reveals that he has believed Barley to be a screw-up. They argue over Ian not being considerate of Barley's ideas, primarily not taking what Barley claims to be the "Path of Peril" to the gem. Their argument is cut short when Wilden's legs begin dancing to the music playing from Guinevere, and the brothers promptly join in. After Ian allows Barley to guide the three of them on the Path of Peril to the gem, they stop at an unopened draw bridge. Ian is forced to use a spell that allows him to walk across the open chasm, where he overcomes his lack of confidence and releases the draw-bridge for Barley and Wilden.

They arrive at "Raven's Point" which leads them on a trail indicated by a series of raven statues, but Colt follows them, calling in reinforcements. After coming to a dead-end, Barley sacrifices Guinevere to cause a landslide, blocking their pursuers. Following the statues, the brothers descend through a cave where Barley reveals to Ian that one of the final memories he had of his father was how he could not emotionally bring himself to say goodbye to Wilden when he was dying in the hospital. Traveling deeper into the cave, the brothers wind up narrowly avoiding a series of traps including a deadly creature that absorbs and dissolves anything it touches known as a Gelatinous Cube. The final obstacle sends them back to the surface, where they find themselves in front of Ian's high school. Infuriated at having listened to Barley's advice, Ian lashes out at him for leading them on a wild goose chase and walks away with Wilden to spend whatever time he has left with his father.

Rereading his list of things he always wished to do with Wilden, Ian realizes that Barley has been a father figure throughout his entire life and returns to make amends. Barley discovers the needed gem inside a historic fountain across the street from high school and retrieves it, unwittingly triggering the curse Corey spoke of, which creates a dragon-shaped golem out of pieces of the school and other nearby objects, bent on claiming the gem. Corey flies in carrying Laurel, and together they distract the golem long enough for Ian to finish casting the visitation spell, but they aren't able to defeat the Golem on their own. Ian runs off to fight it, allowing for Barley to be the one that wishes Wilden a final goodbye. Ian's staff is knocked into the ocean during his fight with the golem, but he reforms it from a splinter embedded in his hand and defeats it. Trapped behind a pile of rubble, Ian peeks through a small crack and 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.

Sometime later, Ian's confidence and spell-casting have improved, and he surprises Barley by painting his new van, christened "Guinevere The Second." Corey reopens her tavern in its original spirit, drawing in customers with tales of past adventures. She and Laurel become friends, and Ian and Barley develop a better relationship with Colt, who was inspired to start galloping with his own feet. As the world begins to rediscover the past's magical arts, the brothers set off on a new quest.

Voice cast

  • Tom Holland as Ian Lightfoot, a teenage elf
  • Chris Pratt as Barley Lightfoot, Ian's older brother, who longs for a magical quest
  • Kyle Bornheimer as Wilden Lightfoot, Ian and Barley's late father. Ian and Barley's objective is to resurrect him for 24 hours.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Laurel Lightfoot, the widowed mother of Ian and Barley
  • Mel Rodriguez as Colt Bronco, a centaur police officer and Laurel's boyfriend
  • Octavia Spencer as "Corey" The Manticore
  • Lena Waithe as Specter, a cyclops police officer
  • Ali Wong as Gore, a faun police officer
  • Grey Griffin as Dewdrop, a pixie and the leader of the Pixie Dusters biker gang
  • Tracey Ullman as Grecklin, a goblin pawn shop owner
  • Wilmer Valderrama as Gaxton, an elf and college friend of Wilden
  • George Psarras as Avel, an elf police officer
  • John Ratzenberger as Fenwick, a cyclops construction worker


In January 2020, San Francisco tattoo artist Sweet Cicely Daniher filed a copyright lawsuit against Disney, Pixar, and Onward producer Kori Rae. In September 2018, Pixar rented Daniher's "Vanicorn," a van decorated with a unicorn-themed mural, for use at the LA Auto Show in 2019. She learned about the production of Onward in May 2019 and, after seeing images of the van used by Ian and Barley Lightfoot in the film, came to believe that Pixar had copied the design of the Vanicorn in violation of her rental agreement with the company, as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Visual Artists Rights Act, and the California Artists Protection Act. She sought in her suit to prohibit distribution of the film and any infringing advertisement or merchandise.

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