Onward Director Dan Scanlon Explains Sign Language Easter Egg

Pixar fans have become accustomed to keeping an eye out for Easter eggs with each and every film the studio releases, and Onward is no different. The nods to other Pixar films, and movies like Lord of the Rings, are pretty obvious throughout Onward, but there's actually another subtle little nod that few have picked up on in the months since its release. It doesn't reference any other media property or piece of pop culture, but it does reveal a hint about its main character, Ian, and shows how the filmmakers used the details to promote an inclusive culture.

Early in the movie, when Ian first goes to school, there's a bunch of kids walking around in the courtyard behind him. If you pay close attention to a pair of girls on the left side of the screen (to Ian's right), you'll notice that they are communicating via sign language. To take things a step further, the girl that is signing is actually saying that she thinks Ian is cute, which is a big deal when you think about just how insecure he is with himself at that point.

Check out the scene from the movie in the video below and see if you can spot it!

With Onward now available on Blu-ray, in addition to Disney+, ComicBook.com spoke with director Dan Scanlon and he broke down the subtle signing moment.

"We want have as much representation of the real world in our movies at Pixar as possible," Scanlon told us. "And someone had added that into the scene and we loved it. I love that there is this little story moment of like, 'Ian, you feel so left out in the school but sometimes you never know that people do admire you and it's your own fault.' And I think that's very true with Ian. It's his own insecurities that are really making him feel like he's not a part of that school."

That same notion is reflected at another point in the film, when Ian is trying to invite his classmates over for his birthday party. He's so nervous to talk to them and runs away completely when Barley shows up and embarrasses him with the van. However, the other kids were nothing but nice to Ian throughout the whole interaction. They weren't messing with him or pretending to like him for some ulterior motive, they were just good kids. It was Ian's insecurity that made him want to leave.


"And we worked really hard to do that, to make sure that it was never the other students, that it was always Ian," Scanlon explained. "And actually it wasn't even Barley that caused the problem, it was Ian's reaction to Barley. Had Ian just said, 'Huh, here's my brother, he's a bit much but I love him,' everything would have been fine. So the whole movie was always about Ian having to get over his own stuff but also having to accept his brother."

You can watch the full interview with Dan Scanlon in the video at the top of the page.