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Onward, an animated film that has touched souls

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Diverse films have given us different perspectives of magic. Some made us awe in utter belief, others made our eyelashes blink audibly due to their ridiculousness. We have all marveled at Merlin’s abilities and Khaleesi’s dragons because well, we all need to believe in the impossible sometimes.
Watching “Onward” made me want to scour for cloaked magic on earth using mundane things like diner maps and cards from elaborate magical games like dungeons and dragons. After watching the film you will realize why I have selected these particular objects.

The urban fantasy 2020 film is simply remarkable with its expertly woven storyline and well developed characters. It was first hinted during a D23 Expo by Pixar in 2017. They described the upcoming film as, “a suburban fantasy world.” 2018 followed the release of the animated film’s name and 2019 its screenplay development by Headley and Bunin. By February 21st this year, a gaggle of animation fans gathered in theaters to watch this much anticipated debut. Recently, it was released to streaming platforms and the film goat a generally warm reception. Below is the storyline, the voice casts, the rating and why you should watch this particular animated film.


In the beginning of this film we get a sojourn in magical history, how it vanished as industrialization took over. Unlike most films where magic comes easily to characters, “Onward” makes its audience understand that magic requires mastering of various concepts in order for it to execute certain actions. My first indication of, “this movie is going to be awesome!” was when a particular nerve wracked mage gave up on his magical staff and went to flick lights on and off as if that was the real wonder. Technology easily tramped magic in the movie, like an elephant stampede crossing a tulip farm.

“Onward” is based on a small knit elf family comprising of a bubbly and strong willed mother elf, a gallant and energetic Barley and an introverted Ian who is seriously lacking in the self esteem department. Ian is hell bent on shifting his course on his 16th birthday by accomplishing a number of things he writes in his note book including stuff like; learning how to drive and making actual friends. Unfortunately none of these pan out and he winds up depressed, listening to an audio recording of his late father and we, the audience, see Ian relating his father’s words to each picture plastered on his bedroom wall.

The two teenage elf brothers are handed an enchanted staff by their mother that was left as a gift for them by their late father. This magical staff is wielded by Ian who manages to channel his desire of seeing his father through it and thus conjuring him up from thin air. Except, he has not mastered the art of sorcery and therefore the spell goes wrong causing only the legs of his father, Wilden, to conjure. Yes, for almost 90 minutes of the film, we get to see the two teenage brothers interact with a pair of legs. As absurd as it sounds, the whole occurrence is phenomenal.
The brothers set out on a quest to find a jewel that is obliterated during the spell that goes belly up. Like our typical adventures, it is as risky as it is rewarding. Watching the two brothers march to the unknown is simply amazing.

Personally, I expected a clichéd reaction from Barley when Ian, instead of him, was able to wield the magical staff. Barley is the one who has believed in the concept of magic his entire life yet his doubting Thomas of a brother gets to be the wizard and he doesn’t! The film totally rewrote the infamous sibling rivalry off the bat with these two brothers. As the two join forces to bring back their father just for a single day using magic, Barley is nothing but supportive. We also see his admiration for his little brother and his efforts in trying to teach him magic in a span of just one day. What struck a chord in my heart is that all that Barley wants is for Ian to meet their father because he officially never did.

What stands out in the film is how magical creatures are trying to fit in the modern human-like era by hiding their true nature. We see this through the motorcycle gang of pixies who don’t fly, the manticore (half lion, half scorpion, has wings, breathes fire, so you can see the irony) who is just trying to pay her taxes and a police centaur who prefers cars over his exceptionally fast hooves.

The story is warm and teachable, with situations that will make your eyes glassy with tears and your sides hurt with laughter. It is an epic tale of, “what if you had your father back for just one day.”

Voice cast

The voice cast was well delegated with stars like Octavia Spencer as the “manticore” and Tom Holland as “Ian”. We also have Chris Pratt as “Barley” and the famous Ali Wong as “Officer Gore”. These voice actors make watching the film worthwhile with their emotions expertly portrayed through the decibels of their voices. My personal favorite voice was the “centaur” played by Mel Rodriguez, the constant bray like sounds are hilarious.


Critics had a generally positive reaction towards the animated film. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a solid 88% while IMDb gave it a 7.5/10 and Metacritic gave it a 66%. Sandie from Common Sense Media gives the film a rating of 4/5 saying that, “Onward is a crowd-pleasing and surprisingly moving adventure. There’s a novelty akin to that of Zootopia in seeing non-human characters inhabit a familiar human-like suburban universe.”

You heard them! If you haven’t watched “Onward” you are missing out on an epic voyage!

Why you should watch the film

Ever heard your heart glaze with warmth? Like that moment you watch a child abandon an ice cream purchase so as to give that money to a person living on the streets. Your brain cells literally shriek “aaaaw” at the sweet action.

“Onward” is a film that will make you appreciate what you already have rather than cry over what you have already lost. Its family oriented and developed in such a way that you will cultivate a new found love for your family members.

The film director, after hearing his late father’s audio, decided to write something akin to his own experience. Scanlon (the film director) and his brother had been young at the time when they lost their father. Flooded with a lot of “what if” questions, Scanlon got inspired to write this particular story. In the film, this question is answered through extraordinary lengths.

You’ve seen magic at its best and worst; “Secret Circle”, “The Legend of the Seeker”, “Cursed”, “The Witcher”, “Frozen”, “Brave” among many others. We rarely see modern era magical creatures in the animation realm and this film tries to acknowledge that gap.

Buckle up, this “Onward” ride is going to be thrilling, enchanting and as I keep saying, warm.

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