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Dan Scanlon
Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Writing Credits:
Dan Scanlon, Jason Headley, Keith Bunin

Two elven brothers embark on a quest to bring their father back for one day.

Box Office:
$135 million.
Opening Weekend
$39,119,861 on 4310 screens.
Domestic Gross
$61,555,145. MPAA:
Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English DTS-HD HR 5.1
English Descriptive Audio 2.0
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 5/19/2020

• Audio Commentary with Director Dan Scanlon and Producer Kori Rae
• “Quest for Story” Featurette
• “Citizens of New Mushroomton” Featurette
• “Heart’s Fire” Featurette
• “Dragon High” Featurette
• “Wizard Rock” Featurette
• “Fantasy Is Our Destiny” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers & Promo
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Onward [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 25, 2020)

From 1995 to 2019, every Pixar film opened either in summer or around Thanksgiving. With 2020’s Onward, the studio altered that pattern and went with a March release.

In a normal year, this might’ve worked. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theaters only 10 days or so after Onward hit screens, it limped to $61 million in the US and $141 million total worldwide.

While Onward clearly would’ve done much better with a longer theatrical run, I doubt it would’ve lived up to the megabucks standards of Pixar. A decent but uninspired tale, it just doesn’t connect like it should.

In the town of New Mushroomton, magic used to dominate the landscape. However, the denizens deemed those techniques too difficult and unreliable, so they turned to technology for their needs instead.

Decades later, this leaves the creatures’ magical powers essentially neglected and forgotten. However, some still believe in these forces, and elf Ian Lightfoot (voiced by Tom Holland) gets a crash course on his 16th birthday.

Ian’s father Wilden died during his mother Laurel’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) pregnancy with him, and older brother Barley (Chris Pratt) boasts only fleeting memories of his late dad. When he turns 16, Laurel presents Ian with a long-awaited present from Wilden.

Ian gets a magical staff. When combined with a rare gem, the device can bring Wilden back to life for 24 hours.

When Ian invokes this process, it starts to work, but Barley distracts him. This brings back half of Wilden – the bottom half, as Wilden materializes from the waist down.

Ian and Barley believe they can complete the spell if they get another gem. This sends them on a quest to locate one while the clock ticks toward the end of that 24-hour period.

At its core, Onward comes with promise. The notion that a once-magical society forgets those ways in favor of cheap convenience boasts social and emotional resonance, and the situations simply offer lots of opportunities for cleverness.

Unfortunately, Onward squanders most of these chances in both realms. The story barely touches on the issues related to the shift from magic to technology, and it leaves many witty stones unturned in terms of how it posits mythical creatures in a setting that resembles ours.

I get that the creators of Onward probably didn’t want their film to feel like a Shrek knockoff. That franchise boasted lots of gags about Ye Olde Whatever that looked like something from the 21st century, so I can understand the filmmakers’ reticence in that department.

Still, it feels like a missed opportunity because Onward barely gives us any fun in that domain. The convergence of mythical beings like elves and dragons and sprites and centaurs in a place that largely resembles our 21st century world should delight, but instead, these elements remain oddly tangential.

Onward also fails to explore the societal ramifications related to the shift from magic to gizmos. I suspect many allegories could emerge here, with a lean toward the ways that technology alienates us from nature and the world around us, but Onward only vaguely glances in that direction.

Without much deeper resonance, Onward settles into a groove essentially as a buddy adventure film. Sure, it digs into elements connected to the family unit, especially via the relationship between Ian and Barley, but again, these components fail to find much resonance.

Does the film offer added depth because Ian and Barley are brothers and not just pals? Sure, and their quest to allow Ian to briefly meet the father he never knew seems potentially powerful.

But only potentially, as the film doesn’t manage to develop the internal domains well. I admit that some of the themes connected to the deceased parent got to me, but that stems more from my own personal circumstances. I lost my mother at a young age, so my reactions connected to those emotions/memories, not really anything I saw on the movie screen.

The best Pixar films dig into these deeper areas and feelings, but Onward never musters real substance. The character domains seem like window dressing more than substance.

It doesn’t help that Onward often feels like a bunch of cinematic influences crammed into one place. In addition to the obvious Shrek factor, we see clear reflections of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and Weekend At Bernie’s.

These links can become literal at times, such as scenes lifted whole cloth from the Indiana Jones films. Honestly, I felt stunned that Pixar took these in the sense they did. The sequences don’t feel like winking homage – they come across as borderline theft.

Even if I ignore these factors, Onward just never gets into gear. I won’t call it a bad movie, as it keeps us with it for its running time.

But that’s about all I can claim. Essentially a package of bits and pieces borrowed from other films, Onward lacks great charm and becomes one of the weaker Pixar efforts.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Onward appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pleasing presentation.

Sharpness always looked good, as the movie exhibited fine delineation. No obvious signs of softness marred the image, and I noticed no jaggies or shimmering. Edge haloes and print flaws also remained absent.

Colors seemed solid, as the movie offered broad palette. The hues delivered lively, full tones with good reproduction.

Blacks appeared dark and dense, while low-light shots came across as smooth and clear. The image worked well.

In addition, the film’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack suited the material, with a soundscape that came to life during the movie’s occasional action scenes. Those offered lots of magical elements that popped up in logical spots and blended well.

Quieter scenes also fared nicely, as they showed good stereo music. Effects created a fine sense of place and delivered a rich sense of surroundings.

Audio quality satisfied, with natural, concise speech that lacked edginess or other issues. Music came across as full and warm, while effects delivered rich, accurate material. Onward boasted a fairly solid soundtrack.

Across the set’s two platters, we get plenty of extras, and Disc One starts with an audio commentary from director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, animation and visual design choices, music, editing, and related topics.

Pixar commentaries usually offer excellent insights, so Scanlon and Rae need to fill big shoes. They don’t live up to the best Pixar chats, but they do a more than competent job. This becomes a pretty good track that offers a good array of insights.

Quest for Story runs nine minutes, 21 seconds and offers notes from Scanlon, Rae, Scanlon’s brother Bill, story artist Austin Madison, editor Catherine Apple, production designer Noah Klocek, Scanlon’s mother Betty Scanlon Zych, story supervisor Kelsey Mann, story lead Madeline Sharafian and story artist Louise Smythe.

With “Quest”, we learn about Dan Scanlon’s real-life inspirations as well as character and design choices. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but “Quest” offers good new perspectives and it becomes a tight overview of story topics.

With Citizens of New Mushroomton, we get a 10-minute, eight-second reel that features Dan Scanlon, Rae, Smythe, Klocek, Mann, supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi, shading art director Bert Berry, associate producer Becky Neimann-Cobb, character art director Matt Nolte, animation supervisors Rob Thompson and Michael Stocker, character designer Maria Yi, layout director of photography Adam Habib, directing animator Jessica Torres, and actors Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Octavia Spencer.

This featurette looks at character design and related choices. Like “Quest”, it offers a concise and informative program.

Disc One opens with ads for Soul and The Jungle Cruise.

On Disc Two, we start with a few featurettes, and Heart’s Fire goes for seven minutes, 35 seconds. It brings notes from Dan Scanlon, Smythe, Rae, Klocek, Bakshi, Habib, Thompson, Mann, Sharafian, effects supervisor Vincent Serritella and lighting DP Sharon Calahan.

“Fire” looks at the movie’s depiction of magic, with an emphasis on animation/art domains. It becomes a fun exploration of these choices.

Dragon High lasts six minutes, 31 seconds and provides statements from Dan Scanlon, Rae, Mann, Madison, Apple, Klocek, Habib, Calahan, set designer Garrett Taylor, senior lead software engineer Josh Minor, senior software engineer Stephan Steinbach, animation coordinator Hannah Eichers, animation manager Russell Stough, animation supervisor Michael Stocker, and technology & pipeline supervisor Sudeep Rangaswamy.

This reel examines all the work put into the movie’s climactic sequence. It delivers another enjoyable and informative program.

Next comes Wizard Rock, a six-minute, 31-second show that involves composers Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna. They talk about their work for the movie in this reasonably useful chat.

Finally, Fantasy Is Our Destiny occupies two minutes, 29 seconds with info from Rae, Smythe, Holland, Pratt, Spencer, Rangaswamy, Madison, Torres, Mychael and Jeff Danna, Yi, and Nolte.

They discuss their affection for the fantasy genre. Some of the behind the scenes footage adds value, but this becomes a short and not especially memorable piece overall.

Including introductions from Dan Scanlon, six Deleted Scenes fill a total of 29 minutes, 27 seconds. These tend toward character beats, including a few alternate trends, like a version in which young Ian loved magic instead of Barley.

Those seem interesting, but a few completely abandoned plotlines – like a labyrinth turned into a mall and a cut character – seem most compelling. All are worth a look, and Scanlon’s intros offer useful context.

Disc Two concludes with some ads. Called Magic Gems, a promo offers two minutes, 54 seconds of semi-random character animation. We’ve seen this kind of material on other Pixar releases, and it’s never clear to me where these snippets run – little interstitials on Disney Channel? – but they’re vaguely fun.

We also get five trailers. These include a global teaser in English, a US trailer, a “Japan payoff trailer”, a global trailer in Ukrainian, and a global trailer in Spanish. These offer a variety of different takes on the film, so they offer a cool glimpse of various marketing approaches.

Though it offers a wealth of dynamic opportunities for adventure and comedy, Onward feels oddly off-target. The movie manages moderate entertainment value but it can’t tape into its own potential to become something truly satisfying. The Blu-ray boasts strong picture and audio along with a pretty useful set of supplements. Onward brings us a bit of a misfire from Pixar.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
1 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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