Dubbed by the movie’s producer, Kori Rae, as ‘a modern surburban fantasy,’ Pixar’s Onward opens this Friday, March 6th, 2020.
The story spotlights Ian, (voiced by Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming), an elf who lost his father before he was born. Shy and uncertain, he longs to be confident and strong, something he believes he would have been if he had known his dad. He is the total opposite of his big brother Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy), a boisterous, chaotic kid who is constantly causing problems for Ian.
On his sixteenth birthday, the boys’ mother gives them a gift from their dad. It’s a mysterious staff and a gem, along with a spell that only Ian can conjure up, giving them one day with their father.
Chris Pratt and Tom Holland talked about their new venture at the press junket for the movie, held in Los Angeles.
Onward – brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) use a spell gifted to them on Ian’s 16th birthday to magically conjure their dad—half of him, anyway ©2019 Disney/Pixar

What did it mean to you to enter the world of Pixar for the first time?

Tom Holland: I think for every young actor you set yourself goals and I had mine since I was a kid. They are still the same today. One of them was being in a Pixar movie. So when (director, Dan Scanlon and producer, Kori Rae) were kind enough to fly all the way to London to meet me and to tell me (their) story, and pitch me the movie, I was just so honored. It was the first time anyone had come to me. I thought, ‘This is amazing. And it’s Pixar.’ So it was a very easy decision. You don’t say no to Pixar, because they’re the best.

The nicest thing about it is they have this family feel that Marvel also has. I feel that we were welcomed into this wonderful family with open arms. It was an amazing process. I still can’t quite believe that this film is about to come out. It feels like yesterday that we started working on it. So I’m super punked for people to see it and to experience this amazing thing that we’ve all created.

How would you describe Ian?

Tom: He’s an awkward teenager who’s trying to find himself in this incredible world that Pixar so brilliantly created. I love the idea of creating new worlds with crazy characters who grow and change.

Onward – Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is sweet and determined with the best of intentions, but his lack of confidence and nervous energy trips him up more often than not ©2019 Disney/Pixar

Chris, what can you tell us about Barley?

Chris Pratt: Barley is overbearing. And he tries a little too hard—he can be kind of a bumbling idiot but he’s got a good heart.
Dan, our director, really wanted me to focus on internalizing Barley’s story and making it as authentic as possible by grounding it in a sense of emotional reality.

The onscreen back-and-forth between you on screen almost overlaps. Did you get to be in the booth recording together?

Chris: There were moments when we were brought together, and I think maybe part of that had to do with getting a model of what our relationship would be like. How we interacted with one another and goofed around. It’s not the most conducive to creating clean audio tracks that are usable in the movie.

So ultimately you may see something you’d like to model the behavior on and then capture that with us separate. That was oftentimes the case. In the Lego Movie we did a lot of riffing. (There were) a lot of improv comedians in it, and there’s a certain magic that’s found in the moment that doesn’t exist on the page. I don’t think that there was a lot of that in this. What’s on the page here was so magical. For the most part, everything we say was in the script.

Let’s talk about the chemistry here. Now you know why it’s called chemistry, you throw two chemicals together and there’s a heat, an explosion! They were able to see (that we were) like brothers.

Onward – Ian and Barley Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) ©2019 Disney/Pixar

If you could bring back a person who would it be and what would you do on that one day?

Chris: I would probably bring back my dad, who passed away just before Guardians of the Galaxy came out. Then I would show him Guardians of the Galaxy and if he didn’t like it I’d bring back a known criminal to beat him up on Instagram Live! If my dad didn’t like Guardians, I’d be like, ‘Alright, go back to heaven.’

Tom: My granddad Bob, he never actually met his dad. His dad passed away when he was 18 months old, so I would bring back my great-grandfather so my granddad would have the opportunity to meet his dad.

What have you taught your brothers in real life or they’ve taught you that you’ve brought into the movie?

Tom: What have I taught my brothers? How to be gracious losers at golf; I’m a terrible loser, and they have learned what not to do from their big brother.

Chris: It’s such a good question because I could list for days the things that I learned from my brother. But it’s hard for me to think of anything that I might have taught him. I’m going to call him immediately and make him tell me. I would literally wear his clothes the day after he wore them. I would pick them up off of his floor and put his clothes on. He had nice smelling cologne and he had style and knew how to match his clothes. I still don’t know how to do that. I have a stylist who does that.

Onward – brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt) use a spell gifted to them on Ian’s 16th birthday to magically conjure their dad—half of him, anyway ©2019 Disney/Pixar

This movie talks about how people have left tradition behind, the magic – was that a metaphor for what’s going on today where kids are glued to a screen and not having fun?

Tom: Being called Onward the only way to go onward is to look forward and you can’t look forward if you’re looking at your phone. For me, I deleted my Instagram to Disney’s dismay.

I think the film is a metaphor for look out, the world is an amazing place. It’s a beautiful place. Experience it through your own eyes, not through someone else’s Instragram account.

Onward Videobytes

At the press conference were Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Director Dan Scanlon and Producer Kori Rae. Here we have an extract of what Tom and Chris had to say about being brothers. Videography  is also by Judy Sloane!

Tom Holland is the oldest brother of four…
Chris Pratt on brothers relationships & Dan’s great directing
Onward – Poster: Ian and Barley Lightfoot ©2019 Disney/Pixar

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane