Going On a Quest with the Cast and Crew of ‘Onward’

This Thursday, Pixar will unveil their latest adventure — a fantastical bromance of humor and emotion that will surely get your eyes soaking wet with tears, as par for the course from this studio. I’m speaking of course of their latest film, Onward, starring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. You can check out our NOC review here. Additionally, The Nerds of Color was recently invited to the press conference of the film, to hear from Pratt and Holland themselves, as well as director Dan Scanlon, and producer Kori Rae. Here’s what the party had to say about the new film. Here’s what they had to say about the film.

“This is a very personal story,” began Scanlon. “Much like the characters in the movie, my father passed away when I was about a year old, and my brother was 3. So as you can imagine,  we don’t remember him at all. But we always wondered who he was and how we were like him. And that question became the seed of Onward… And then we added elves and sprites to that.”


On the process of crafting the story, Scanlon, who started writing the film six years ago, continued on. “At Pixar it takes a really long time to do the animation, but also the majority of that time is spent on story, and rewriting. And getting notes on it and thoughts on it.”

Rae, producer on the film, was asked what it was like to bring together the noteworthy cast of Onward. “What we found was how invested everyone got into the film… Everyone was really into it and into the role they had. So Octavia Spencer, she had a challenging role as the Manticore, because it’s basically two characters. But she just brought it and was amazing. Julia [Louis-Dreyfus] obviously was so incredibly funny, and portrayed Laurel Lightfut in just a humorous and beautiful way. And then Tom and Chris were just amazing. We’re forever grateful for how much they invested themselves into the roles, and how they really really took the characters and elevated them, and made them so much more complex and real within the film. It’s amazing.”


“When we originally wrote Ian,” added Scanlon, “He was a little more at times, sarcastic. And Tom brought a sincerity and vulnerability to him that was crucial in a way that I didn’t quite understand. It just naturally comes from him. And then Chris was very protective of Barley. You know, Barley was always kind of a goofball, and crazy character… but he was very protective of Barley as a character and a human being… The performers came in and made them real and gave them heart.”

On the subject of how he related to his character, Holland had this to say:


“I think it’s interesting. I’m the eldest brother of four, and Chris is the youngest brother of two. So we kind of switched. So now I’m playing the younger brother and he’s playing the older brother. So it was really nice of us to kind of make that switch. And because Chris and I were so close already, even before we came onto this film, it was almost like we were just playing ourselves. But the similarities between Ian and myself go back to my early teens, when I was 12 or 13. I was a little more of an introvert. I was a very nervous kid, and I had a hard time at school. It wasn’t until I went on this adventure, that was Billy Elliot, that I came out of my shell… so what drew me most to this character was that we get to see that entire journey from when I was a kid in him throughout this film.”

Pratt took a quick opportunity to comment on the state of the couches he was sitting on.

Then he continued to describe Barley:

“[Growing up], I was Ian, and my brother was Barley. And my brother always wanted to be an actor. He was an actor who did plays. And the first time I saw my mom cry was during one of his plays… And seeing him, I said, ‘wow! now I want to be an actor.’ He went into the army, and I became an actor. And there’s a moment [in the movie] where Barley realizes Ian has the [magical ability]. And he comes in. And my instinct was ‘Do you think Barley wishes he had the magic gift?’ And this was the heart of the film. He loves his brother so much, that he’s just so proud of him that he’s been given this gift. And when I saw it in the movie, it made me really appreciate how my brother was, because my whole life he has only ever been super encouraging and positive about what I’ve been able to do as an actor. And that’s what makes this relationship so special. And it’s why grown men come up to me and say ‘Wow I really cried like in Field of Dreams or Radio Flyer.’  It celebrates that love between two brothers.”


Holland was then asked about what it was like to enter the legendary world of Pixar for the first time.

“I think that every young actor sets their goals. And I’ve had mine since I was a kid, and they’re still the same today,” started Holland. “And one of them was being in a Pixar movie… I firstly was just so honored, because it was the first time anyone had come to me [in London for a role]. So it was a very easy decision. You don’t say no to Pixar. And the nice thing about it was they have this family feel that Marvel also has… It was such an amazing process.”

On the process of working with Holland on the film, Pratt had this to say:

“There were moments where we were brought together. And I think part of that had to do with just getting a model of what our relationship would be like… it’s not the most conducive to create clean audio tracks that are usable in the movie. So ultimately you may see something you want to model the behavior on, and capture that separately. For instance on Lego Movie we did a lot of riffing. We had a lot of comedians in there. And there’s a certain magic that’s found in the moment that doesn’t exist on the page. And I don’t think there’s a lot of that in this because what’s on the page here was so magical and so protected… So for the most part everything we said was written in the script. So they isolated us to do that. But at the same time they brought us together so a.) we can shoot some promotional stuff. Getting Tom and I together — let’s talk about the chemistry here! We wanted to get that heat… [And b.)] they were able to see how we interacted as brothers. So we had to shoot it and record it.”

And on Friday, audiences everywhere will get to experience the chemistry first hand, when Onward hits theaters, March 6!