MENU

Onward
Category

Calm and Chaos in Fantasy Suburbia

Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • February 12, 2020

The creation of Onward’s suburban fantasy world was a lot more deliberate than you might expect. Of course Pixar films are always the result of years’ worth of research and minute attention to detail, but it all looks so effortless. How hard could it be to populate ordinary neighborhoods with centaurs and trolls? Actually it was quite challenging, building a world both old and new at the same time. Here’s a rundown of how the crew in art, layout, editing, and lighting rose to the challenge.

Art – Noah Klocek, production designer 

visual development art by Chris Sasaki

One of the challenges with Onward was making fantasy creatures in a modern setting acceptable to an audience. This was achieved by making the world’s familiar elements much greater than the fantastical ones. Percentage wise, it was 70% familiar, 30% fantasy. The juxtaposition of those two elements were also represented by two more key concepts: chaos and order. And those concepts were further embodied by our main characters, Ian and Barley. 

The suburb itself was inspired by the Midwest, specifically where Dan Scanlon grew up. The array of fantasy creatures and elements were made to resemble what Dan called a “sticker book/trapper keeper fantasy.” The film’s brightly colored posters definitely pay homage to that aesthetic. And the film overall is meant to appeal to fantasy lovers and non lovers alike. 

Layout – Adam Habib 

Technical aspects were also employed to reinforce the film’s blend of chaos and order. Two types of camera styles were assigned to the Lightfoot brothers: a normal one for Ian that was closer to a human perspective with a restrained movement; and a mix of wide and long lenses for Barley that felt more unpredictable. Because magic is also unpredictable, it’s difficult for the camera to keep up with it. This is similar to how Ian reacts to magic, and by extension, the audience. 

PROGRESSION IMAGE 3 of 6: CAMERA AND STAGING – The Camera and Staging team (sometimes known by its traditional name, Layout) uses the principles of cinematography and film language to translate each moment from the hand-drawn storyboards into the three-dimensional cinematic shots that make up the finished film. This team determines the composition of each frame, as well as the choreography of camera and character movement (known as Staging) within the virtual sets. They work closely with the Director and the Editorial teams to determine the right timing and sequence of shots to best communicate the story. © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Not all of the magic in Onward is chaotic however. Wizard magic belongs in this category, with its dynamic and graceful camera movements. That’s what Barley idolizes and what Ian tries to master.

Editing – Catherine Apple

The editing department spends the most time on the film, anywhere from three to five years. With Onward, it was four years. The first step in the process involves the storyboards. They are broken down into sequences with temporary dialogue. In the early stages before the principal cast was announced or involved, Dan Scanlon voiced Ian.

ONWARD – Storyboards by Kristen Lester and Le Tang. © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

After the storyboard sequences, sound effects are added. The effects are so integral to the editing process and they all have to be created. Examples include ambient sounds, dogs barking, and a car engine. A vast sound effects library at Pixar certainly helps! Since Guinevere the van is Barley’s mighty “steed,” the car engine roars to life with a horse’s whinny. Then a temporary score is added along with the sound effects to scenes with dialogue. Sound effects also reflect chaos and order: controlled sounds and dialogue for Ian, while Barley’s dialogue is often very fast and overlapping with other sounds. He also got the louder sound effects. 

Lighting – Jonathan Pytko, lighting supervisor 

As expected of Pixar films, the lighting is one of the most compelling visual elements. The goal here was to tell the story through light and color. The familiar part of Onward is made up of funny and heartfelt moments that are meant to evoke comfort and warmth. These scenes also help the audience grow accustomed to the world. The fantasy is much more mysterious, saturated with deeper colors, as in the scene where Ian and Barley use the conjuring spell. 

PROGRESSION IMAGE 5 of 6: LIGHTING – The Lighting department helps to integrate all of the elements – characters, sets, effects, etc. – into a final, fully visually realized image. The Lighting process involves placing virtual light sources into the scene to illuminate the characters and the set. Technical artists place the lights to draw the audience’s eye to story points and to create a specific mood. The lit images are then rendered at high resolution. © 2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Onward‘s visual language is very rich, and deeply informed by specificity. It’ll be a treat to watch the entire film next month and pay attention to all these details.

Read article

New Featurette Marks Onward’s One-Month-To-Go Milestone

Dan Scanlon, Onward

Posted by Joanna • February 8, 2020

With Onward’s release date being March 6th, we’re now very much in the countdown stage. (Although honestly, we’ve kind of been counting down since the release date was first solidified). To celebrate the one-month-to-go milestone, Pixar have released a little ‘featurette’, which includes some input from Ian and Barley’s voice actors Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, their mom Laurel’s voice actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and manticore Corey’s voice actor Octavia Spencer. And director Dan Scanlon of course.

Things that we’re loving from this featurette (aside from the lovely comments from the director and voice actors):

1. That this foot-tap sign of affection is going to be a whole thing in Onward. 

2. The scenery! We can’t wait to see how fantasy shows itself in these big cities.

3. This digital clock that also has old-timey fantastical font for the numbers. All these contrasting modern fantasy features are genius.

4. This beautiful hug between two brothers.

Onward explores a relationship between two brothers that have been processing the death of their dad from a very early point in their lives. This is such a meaningful story because it’s inspired by director Dan Scanlon’s own experience growing up having lost his dad at just one year old. Let’s hope it helps bring families together all over the world when it’s released next month! It’s so touching that this was Dan’s brother’s reaction to seeing it:

Read article

Onward – More Posters Revealed

Onward, Poster

Posted by Joanna • January 16, 2020

Believe it or not, we are now a mere 50 days away from the release of Pixar’s next movie, and first of the decadeOnward.

Today, new character posters were revealed, including the one we were all waiting for: the Dad poster! Or the ‘weird, detached legs’ poster.

Just legs, and yet so much personality.

In addition to these, there are also some new UK Onward posters, featuring familiar characters but with different backdrops, and some new poses. The Ian and Barley poster is just precious – let’s just wait and see if Ian actually puts up with his big brother so patiently when the film is released.

In the background of Ian and Barley’s mom’s poster, you can just make out the sign for ‘Pizza Realm’, a clever reference to Toy Story’s Pizza Planet! Now that we’re into the final countdown to the movie’s release, keep checking back for more updates and insights into the making of Onward. We can’t wait to share more with you!

 

Read article

The Non Magical Quest for Onward’s Story

Behind The Scenes, Dan Scanlon, Interview, Onward, Onward press day

Posted by Simoa • January 14, 2020

 “If something has happened to you, and you have real questions about it, chances are people in the world are gonna have similar questions even if they don’t have the same story.” 

-Dan Scanlon

That bit of insight perfectly encapsulates Pixar’s films and according to Dan, are also why they have stood the test of time. He added that the new SparkShorts program allows filmmakers to tell stories that are unlike anything the studio has done before. Onward, his second directorial feature, is yet another Pixar first. 

I was so fortunate to visit Pixar for the third time last October to learn about the making of the film and to cross paths with more passionate storytellers. One of my favorite things about this event was the filmmaker conference with Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae.

The Onward Long Lead press days, including a press conference with Kori Rae and Dan Scanlon, as seen on October 30, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

The two have a genuine camaraderie that makes them a winning director-producer duo, and it’s no surprise that they teamed up once again after Monsters University in 2013. One other MU alum on Onward is story supervisor Kelsey Mann. We got to see a photo of the trio on Day 1 of Onward, where there was just a single lonely post-it on a big stretch of whiteboard. As Dan recalled: “It’s just so tricky to come up with something from nothing. Kelsey and Kori and I went back on that first day and I don’t know what we did other than pin up that one thing and it’s terrifying.” His words echoed Kelsey’s about the terror of a blank page. 

The Onward Long Lead press days, including Madeline Sharafian and Kelsey Mann, as seen on October 29, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Marc Flores / Pixar)

But of course, that page is filled eventually, and Dan is helped by a team of dedicated story artists, led by Kelsey. In a presentation with him and one of the story leads Maddie Sharafian, we learned all about the storyboarding process for Onward. After clearing the initial hurdle of the blank page, the fear began to dissipate. As Kelsey noted, he and Kori Rae were there to help Dan through the process, which Dan was quite vulnerable about:

It’s a really scary thing and it’s a very private and lonely thing, even though you do have a lot of help, you do have to dig into yourself and your life and talk to people, talk to your friends…it’s like therapy.”

Kelsey Mann’s involvement at the start of the project is actually unusual. Most of the time, it’s just the director or the director and the producer in the early stages of the film. The three of them were joined by a handful of others to put the story up in cards and just talk through the scenes and story beats. Dan and his co-writer Jason Headley wrote a script which was then handed to the story artists. They all read it individually and then came together as a group to discuss what worked and offer critiques about what didn’t. When a scene is finished, the temporary voices are added, and it’s sent to editorial, which mixes in the sound effects and music. Now the artist’s initial pitch is strengthened by the music and atmosphere. 

Screenings are held for 35-40 scenes in the studio’s theater, and there are brain trust screenings for the crew, along with people who aren’t working on the film. And what’s really cool is that people will help out on the ideas for the film even if they’re working on other projects. The collaborative spirit really does animate the studio’s artists. 

But the real exciting part of this whole process are the storyboards. We actually got to see them for one scene in the film! And this was after the film screening we had viewed with all the finished animation. The boards were just as compelling. For the film crew, watching each artist’s storyboard pitch is similar to watching the actual movie. Kelsey described it as a play with multiple people presenting the scenes they worked on in succession. 

It’s definitely quite a challenge to find the right story, but what I really appreciated learning about this process was how certain decisions strengthened the story and the journey of Ian and Barley. We got to see how the story artists think through those decisions, with their writing and drawings. Kelsey and Maddie actually demonstrated for us how they do this by drawing on their iPads so we could see how the storyboarded scene was edited. A tiny glimpse into one of Pixar’s story rooms!

Onward story team members, including Madeline Sharafian, Louise Smythe and Rosana Sullivan, work in the “fishbowl,” a common work space for everyone to be together while working, as seen on November 8, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

 

Onward story team members work in the “fishbowl,” a common work space for everyone to be together while working, as seen on November 8, 2016 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Dan also praised Onward’s story artists for their ability to understand Ian, who was a tough character to figure out. Because he’s so much more comfortable in the background, it was difficult for the team to find something ‘playable’ that they could all work on. He mentioned how a story artist was able to turn Art from Monsters University into a character everyone was familiar with, all thanks to the iconic line, “I can’t go back to jail!” For Ian, “It wasn’t until we got to the more blundering awkward stuff that Tom Holland does so well, that we said ‘he’s all of our horrible 16 year old selves’; all of us artists who want to hide and not be seen; he’s every awkward moment you’ve ever had embodied in a character and then he’s also the opposite of Barley. Barley is super confident and wild, he’s everything we wish we were in some way.”

Speaking of Barley, we even got to draw him with some help from Maddie!

The Onward Long Lead press days, including Madeline Sharafian and Kelsey Mann, as seen on October 30, 2019 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

 

Now you may be wondering how certain story elements are kept or discarded. Although Dan and Kori joked that he ultimately had the final say, his answer reflected a lot of thoughtfulness and humility. 

“…what makes it really hard is that everyone here is very smart and are all great filmmakers and I respect their opinion and that makes it difficult to make a choice because it’s not like I go, ‘hmph, that person’s wrong!’ I usually think ‘Wow, why are they saying that? There’s gotta be a good reason for that.’”

“It’s amazing how open Dan is and everyone is during the process because we really just want to make the best choices for the film. There are times we will debate things and we’ll leave a review. Afterwards people will go up and … [say] I’m still not sure about this decision and we will keep talking about it. That’s all we do all day long is make choices and decisions and try to move everything forward. It’s fun, it’s great, but we really do try to listen for the best idea, the thing that’s really best for the film. Dan is incredibly open. If anybody is questioning any decision that we make, we encourage them to talk to us about it. We’ve changed our minds on stuff.” – Kori Rae

While the story underwent many revisions, the core of it remained unchanged. It was always going to be a deeply personal film for Dan, one that still allows audiences to connect with it, even if they don’t share his experiences. 

Stay tuned, because more posts on this film awaiteth!

Read article

The second official Onward trailer is here!

Onward, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • December 17, 2019

Holy Tooth of Zadar! What a marvelous two minutes and 25 seconds it is!

There’s even a new poster too.

I can’t say anything just yet about the Onward screening I attended back in October, but would you believe that this new trailer inspired the same emotions in me? Mostly awe tinged with sadness. My eyes started welling up, and I’ve watched the trailer three times already. Imagine how much of a mess I’ll be when the actual movie is released!

This new footage reveals quite a bit more, but much of the plot mystery remains intact. Some of the new footage includes the Manticore sending Ian and Barley on their quest. It turns out the mighty and fearsome creature has evolved into a frazzled restaurant manager. And while manticores are usually depicted with the face of a man, Corey the Manticore Manager, is a woman!

Corey however, forgot to warn Ian and Barley about the curse, so now the Lightfoot brothers are in mortal peril! Their mother Laurel sets out after them, and we even get to see her wield a sword! Not since Brave in 2012 have we had a Pixar mom play a vital role and carry a sword!

I found my favorite character. Did I mention she has a sword?

We also see one of the newly unveiled characters from yesterday, Colt Bronco, attempting to escort Ian and Barley home in a police cruiser. There’s a lot of action sequences, but none of it overwhelms.

But it’s not all high speed car chases, sword wielding moms, fire breathing dragons, and tough biker pixies; there’s tender scenes too, and even a baby picture of Ian and Barley.

It’s clear from this trailer and the screening from a few weeks ago that Onward will have quieter moments. Considering the themes of death and grieving, that’s only to be expected. I’m anticipating how the filmmakers strike a balance between this wild fantasy world and the more familiar, human aspects. All while being uproariously funny and sad.

The trailer also treats us to stunning scenery, colors, backgrounds, and landscapes. I’m swooning just thinking of that color script.


Onward will be in theaters in almost three! months – March 6, 2020.

Read article

New Onward Character Posters, New Cast Revealed, New Trailer!

Onward

Posted by Joanna • December 16, 2019

A new Onward trailer is arriving tomorrow, and to tide us over, Pixar have provided us with some character posters and new cast reveals.

Check out the new posters below:

Most of these characters are familiar to us at this point, but the police officers seem new: Gore, Specter, and a centaur cop whose name is unknown, but that thumbs up tells us he’s a friendly guy. These characters will be voiced by Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, and Mel Rodriguez respectively.

Update: the unnamed centaur cop is Colt Bronco. (Somebody at Pixar is a football fan).

We’re still holding out hope for a character poster featuring just Dad’s legs, but we’ll have to wait and see.

March 6th! Suddenly it doesn’t seem so far away.

Read article

Pixar debuts a new Onward still

Onward

Posted by Simoa • December 11, 2019

At Brazil’s Comic Con Experience (CCXP) over the past weekend, attendees were treated to clips of Onward. Deadline reports that one bit of new footage was screened, where Ian and Barley meet biker pixies, who have only appeared briefly in the film’s trailer. Check out the latest image of the elf brothers below.

Dan Scanlon also spoke some more about the film’s inspiration, which he drew from his own experience. Ian and Barley growing up without their father mirrors Scanlon and his older brother as well. They were both still babies when their father passed away, so neither remember him. But they were able to hear their father’s voice on a recording, which was also played at CCXP. Scanlon described it as magical. So it’s no wonder that there’s a scene in the film of Ian listening to his father’s voice on a cassette tape. It’s so lovely that Scanlon could hold onto that memory and build an entire film around it.

Onward cometh to theaters on March 6, 2020.

 

Read article

The New Onward International Trailer Is The Most Magical Yet

Onward, Trailer

Posted by Joanna • November 26, 2019

A new Onward trailer has arrived, and as with most international trailers, a little bit more plot has been revealed. Watch the new trailer below.

The trailer opens with Ian listening to a cassette tape of his dad. He fleshes out the world for the audience, and touches Ian’s heart with his final words: “I hope there’s a little magic left…in you.”

The whole setting of Onward is steeped in nostalgia, even for those of us who didn’t grow up with cassette players. This might be the most touching scene we’ve seen so far. Maybe it’ll even rank in the most touching scenes of the whole movie – it’ll be hard to beat ‘son listening to his departed dad’s words of comfort and advice in a warmly lit room’.

Onward will in theatres on March 6th – a mere 3 and a half months away! Enjoy some more beautiful stills from the new trailer to help tide you over below.

The lighting here is gorgeous!

Dungeons and Dragons vibes, anyone?

Pixar have totally nailed those cosy interiors.

Read article

The new Onward trailer tells all and makes us dissolve in laughter and tears

Onward, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • October 10, 2019

Every time I’ve gone to the movies this year, I’ve seen the same preview for Onward, and so has everyone. I could practically recite it by heart. I wondered when we would get new footage and if it would ever play in front of whatever animated movie was screened before the year was out. Well now the newest trailer has officially debuted! And it’s one of the best from Pixar in recent years.

This trailer reveals quite a lot of plot! That’s a first for our favorite animation studio. For the first time, I don’t need to speculate about what’s going on, nor am I left guessing. This can only mean that even bigger surprises are being kept under wraps.

A narrator explains what we already know, namely that this new world once had magic and doesn’t anymore. It is still inhabited by mythological creatures, but they’re just like you and me. It resembles our world a little bit, but it feels like it even more.

Inside and out, the world of Onward looks beautifully fleshed out – familiar and fantastical all at once.

Ian and Barley Lightfoot, in another Pixar first, are siblings who embark on a quest. That’s par for the course in fantasy fare, but this is unlike any other quest you’ve journeyed on with your favorite characters in movies and books. On this quest, they are going to find the rest of their father. They use a wizard staff, gifted to Ian on his birthday by their dad, to bring him back, but only his bottom half! The trailer features one touching moment, that it seems only Pixar could do. Just the tap of a foot and I was reduced to tears.

Anyone who loves Monsters University like I do can see director Dan Scanlon’s distinct MO, which brilliantly blends hilarity with heartbreak. There’s so much going on in the trailer; snarling monsters and unicorns; colorful explosions; car chases; and fire. But it’s edited so well that none of it overwhelms.

Whatever excitement I had for this movie has just had a growth spell put on it. It’s huge!

Onward cometh soon, on March 6th, 2020.

Have a look at the newly revealed poster:

Read article

International Onward Poster Revealed

Coco, Onward, Round-Ups, Toy Story 4

Posted by Joanna • September 16, 2019

D23 is over, the next Pixar theatrical release seems an age away, and the ‘buzz’ from Toy Story 4 (pun intended) is slowly fading. It may seem like we’re going through a dry spell on the Pixar news front, but there’s actually plenty happening behind the scenes. Here’s a quick Woody’s Round Up from the past few weeks.

International Onward Poster

A really unique and beautiful Chinese Onward poster has been revealed. It has some paper-cutting and vector influences – very artistic and eye-catching. Take a look below:

Onward‘s scheduled release date is March 6th 2020.

Coco Live Performance

Coco is going to be brought back to life – live! On November 8th and 9th, Coco concerts will be held at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, hosted by Eva Longoria and Benjamin Bratt (voice of Ernesto de la Cruz). Miguel actor Alex Gonzelez will also make a guest appearance, along with Alanna Ubach (Mama Imelda) and Jaime Camil (Papa).

What could be more memorable than hearing “Remember Me” live on stage with the stunning visuals of the movie as a backdrop?

Toy Story 4 – Digital/Physical Release

Toy Story 4 is still affecting me all these months later. I’m not over that ending, everyone. But maybe I’ll be able to come to terms with it with repeated viewings at home. As usual, the physical and digital release dates are slightly different – Toy Story 4  will be available digitally from October 1st, and on Blu-ray and DVD on October 8th.

Read article