Pixar’s new film Onward hits screens around the world at the end of the month with the much-loved animation company hoping that it will restore a little glitter to a brand that has dulled in recent years.
Onward, which screened at the Berlinale on Friday, is Pixar Animation Studios’ first original animated feature since Coco in 2017 and is closer to the world of Harry Potter than Buzz Lightyear.
It is a tale of unicorns and magic in which two brothers – Ian and Barley Lightfoot voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt – have 24 hours to reconnect with their father who died many years earlier, before Ian, the younger of the two, was even born.
It is a buddy movie that opens up fraternal relations as well as the father-son relation.
But things do not quite go as planned, as one might expect in a Pixar quest movie, and the two brothers stumble through a fantasy universe with magic wands, spells, dragons and unicorns.
In some respects it unfurls like a video game, a world unfamiliar to director Dan Scanlon who previously teamed up with Onward producer Kori Dae on the 2013 film Monsters University.
“I didn’t know very much about that but luckily we are working with Pixar and they brought their love of these games, and they taught us a lot,” Scanlon told a news conference prior to the Berlin screening on Friday.
The story came from Scanlon who lost his own father when he was a child.
“After ‘Monsters University’, we wanted to make something more personal, from an honest place,” said Scanlon.
“I told Kori about my own experience, having lost my father when I was a one-year-old and my brother only three.
“We had so many questions about what he was like and the ways in which we were like him. It’s sad because we don’t remember him at all”.
“That becomes kind of the seed of the story.”
Pixar certainly has high hopes for Onward. The success of Toy Story 4 at this year’s Oscars meant the company had racked up 10 academy awards for best animated feature since the category was created in 2001.
However, they have come under fire for the fact that four of their last five films have been sequels.