Onward Reflects a Personal, Emotional Story for Pixar's Dan Scanlon

Onward seems to be offering up the standard elements of a Pixar Animation Studios movie: tremendous animation, laughs for kids and parents, and an inevitable emotional gut punch. The film showed of about 20 minutes of footage to select members of the press at Pixar's campus in northern California, showcasing the welcoming voices of its stars Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as their characters exist in a world riddled with forgotten magic. As the story focuses on Pratt's Barley and Holland's Ian, a couple of brothers in this suburban fantasy world, it tells the story of the latter longing to meet his late father -- a story close to the heart of director Dan Scanlon. Scanlon, who was on hand to show off the footage, lost his father when he was very young, prompting this story to come from a very emotional, and very real place for the director.

"I think we have an amazing opportunity to talk to a lot of the world and have a voice that would get heard," Scanlon told ComicBook.com. "So it's an incredible responsibility I think to use it well. This is a story and a subject matter and a sort of human situation that I believe in a lot and that I'm so lucky to have experienced. And already just telling it to people on the crew as they joined, they had stuff under a similar theme that they felt in their family life. It didn't have to do with brothers necessarily or fathers, but it was the basic theme of the movie. And so to be able to put that out in the world is a complete joy."

Personal stories often equate to some of the best, something Pixar has shown off quite well with its resume, and Scanlon is truly honing in on a personal aspect of his life. "It's just an incredible honor to get to do my specific take on it," he explained. "Also in this gigantic, hilarious, weird like huge movie and you know, it's a very intimate story, but a blockbuster, crazy big movie, which I think is part of the fun of it and what makes it just feel very, very real and hopefully sneaks up on you a little bit. Hopefully you're laughing more than crying, but hopefully you're crying a lot at the end!"

The title itself might be indicative of the journey and emotional elements the film will provide. However, this seven year journey did not come with any sort of easy title selection process! Bringing back half of the main characters' father and sending them on a journey to complete a spell and bring him back in his entirety will, inevitably, send them all Onward.

"It was a hard film to title to be honest," Scanlon said. "We spent a long time trying to figure it out because we could have gone the route of like Half Dead or their world is so crazy silly. Like, so there were a whole bunch of silly things, but we wanted it to be serious or not serious, but we wanted it to really represent what the themes in the film were. And we wanted it to be positive. So Onward, it's a journey film, so it's kind of has that element to it. And it's also a coming of age story. And so it's kind of like things that happen that you want to kind of put behind you and move forward and how do you move forward in life? So kind of encapsulated a whole bunch of those ideas."


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Onward hits theaters on March 6.

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