Pixar’s ONWARD: Adventure Awaits!

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Aaron Michaels, Contributor

Fret Not, Reader! There Be No Spoilers Here! Let Your Perilous Quest Commence!

Disney and Pixar’s newest entry in their catalog of groundbreaking and heartwrenching films brings the signature warmth, heart, and emotions expected of the studio. Enter ONWARD, an original story set in a fantasy world with contemporary culture and conveniences.

Onward is strong in almost every field. The story is well thought out, moving, and profound. The art direction is beyond gorgeous. The world-building for Onward’s unique setting not only helps the film stand out from the likes of other Pixar films but adds integral layers to the film as a whole. The comedy and chemistry between its stellar cast are nearly unmatched with other Pixar films. Its characters are fully-realized and relatable, especially when it comes to Octavia Spencer’s character, the stressed and overwhelmed Corry the Manticore, who amidst a midlife crisis, goes on a destructive rampage in order to start fresh. Mood.

All is not well under the Mouse House’s roof though, as the film is one in a loooonnng list of Disney-owned films promising LGBTQ representation, only to then skim past it. LeFou in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, The blink and you’ll miss it lesbian kiss in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, another blink and you’ll miss it lesbian couple featured in about 6 seconds of Finding Dory, and Joe Russo’s unnamed character in Captain America’s support group in Avengers: Endgame all made headlines of involving LGBTQ representation, yet none made their mark. The latter three were cameo appearances built to only last a frame or two so international theatres can easily remove it to support their countries’ governmental values. The same, unfortunately, stands for Onward. While some increments of progress have been made, i.e. the lesbian character Onward promised actually has several lines and purpose, there is still such little integrity for that character within the film, her scenes can easily be manipulated and cut out entirely. All is not lost, though, as Onward’s lesbian character (named Officer Specter) is actually played by Lena Waithe, a lesbian actress of color. While Disney’s social progress is slim pickings, to say the least, there is at least one morsel for advocates to nimble on while dreaming of the day when the LGBT character in a Disney-owned film is at minimum a supporting character with a defined arc.

On a more positive note, Onward is one of a select few films that are so clearly defined, that it knows its own script like the back of its hand. There are no plotholes in sight, and every frame of screentime has both a purpose as well as an emotional payoff. Pixar really stuck the landing on this one, folks. Having an animated film with this quality is proof of just how deeply the crew and creators care about this film. The script alone is a blatant passion project practically oozing with heart. The central plot is of two brothers going on a quest to reconnect with their late father and thus becoming closer as brothers and friends. Connecting with those we’ve lost is a hefty subject, even for Pixar, but Onward never loses its footing in becoming unbearably sad (I’m looking at you Toy Story 3). Being made with equal amounts of passion and heart, Onward is one of Pixar’s most emotionally involved and moving films yet.

Onward is one of Pixar’s most powerful films that a joy to watch. It’s one of those films that sticks with you and keeps its audience thinking. The story is fun and lighthearted, yet there is always an underlying sense of pain and sorrow from the loss of a loved one that follows the blissful fun-and-fancy-free nature of the film like a shadow. Despite the protagonists being elves, Onward is an incredibly human film.

Disney and Pixar’s Onward is in theatres now!