Pixar's latest film, Onward, tells the story of two elf brothers in a magical version of the modern world, on a quest to find lost magic and bring their late father back to life for one more day. It's an incredibly personal story for director Dan Scanlon, who modeled the characters and their relationship after his real-life older brother. It's also an incredibly unique tale for Pixar, as the film represents the studio's first all-out foray into mythical fantasy. The Dungeons & Dragons/Lord of the Rings vibe of Onward certainly helped get fantasy fans excited to see it, but the earliest version of the story was actually in a different genre altogether.
Following the early release of Onward on-demand, ComicBook.com spoke with Scanlon about his experience bringing this magical movie to life. When we asked about the breaking of this story, and how he transformed his personal journey into the quest seen on screen, Scanlon said that the film was initially about two scientists who brought their father back from the dead, piece by piece.
"Initially we thought, 'Well, we want to have a story about these two brothers who get an opportunity to bring their dad back to life," Scanlon told us. "And my early version of the story was in our world and they were humans and their father was a scientist who had invented a machine that could he hoped communicate with the dead in some way, but it didn't work. And so after the dad died, the boys were scientists too and they were trying to prove that their father's machine would work. And in doing so they inadvertently brought parts of him back. And we could have gone that way. It started to feel a little episodic because they were bringing back pieces of dad, like his feet first, then his legs, then his torso. And it also just felt a little cold and clinical. And then the idea of magic as a way to bring him back felt way more romanticized and just special."
"And that led to the thought of, 'Well, we don't want to set this in some era long ago, like a lot of fantasy films are set,' and because this was such a personal modern story," he continued. "And then again, that led to the idea of what about a modern fantasy world, which got us laughing because it's ridiculous and would lead to really funny scenes. So it's kind of a long way to get there. But I think one of the things I like is the world matches Ian in some ways. The world is a place that's lost a little bit of its potential and Ian's a kid who's not living up to his potential and so you get to see both the world and Ian grow and live up to their potential together."
Honestly, that version of the movie sounds more like Pixar's Frankenstein than the Onward that was ultimately released. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the cut of Onward that made it to the screen is one that Pixar fans will be watching again and again for quite a long time.
Onward is now available to purchase digitally on-demand. It's set to arrive on Disney+ Friday, April 3rd.