‘Onward’ Director Dan Scanlon Channels Pain Of Loss Into Art – Q&A – Deadline

With Onwards, Writer / Director Dan Scanlon made magic from a profound personal experience, using his understanding of loss as a basis, with which he crafted a research story like no other.

Scanlon’s second Disney / Pixar animation feature, after 2013 monsters University, Focuses on Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt), the Elf brothers who are searching for a magical artifact that will bring their father back to life for a day.

One of the few films in 2020 tried as intended Onwards Enjoy a great premiere in Berlin and debut in theaters around the world in early March. Then, with the immense degree of loss caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Scanlon movie became a more appropriate fit – its idea of ​​directing pain into art, more resonates.

Pixar’s “Onward” was Dan Scanlon’s “stark biography” – Contenders


Disney / Pixar

“A large part of the movie is about, there are things that you want in life and people that you want to be with, and make the most of what you can be with now, and what you have. This is definitely something that we all go through in this moment, in this past year,” he told Scanlon deadline. “But I think directing your life to art is a great way to connect with others as well. Chances are, people have something like that, go through it in their lives, and hopefully they will connect with the movie.”

Below, the director delves into the roots of his Golden Globe nominated film, and the visual ideas behind it, explaining why the project was paying off the “highlight” of his life.

Deadline: What can you tell us about the experiences that have inspired us Onwards?

Dan Scanlon: My father passed away when my brother and I were really young. I was a year old and my brother was three, so we don’t remember him at all, and we have no memories of him. Luckily, we had my mom, who was awesome, and she told us loads of stories about him – and when I was a teenager, we got a tape from my aunt and uncle with his voice on it, and that was really cool, because we didn’t even think we’d hear him speak. He only said “hello” and “goodbye,” which was a problem, but at least it was an idea of ​​who he was. So, the movie was really just a question, who is it, and how do we love it? This was basically the inspiration behind the movie.

Deadline: How did you come to envision the film as a work of fiction?


Disney / Pixar

Scanlon: I wanted to figure out a way to get Daddy back for a day, and at some point, we talked about, “Maybe some kind of machine that brings him back.” But the idea of ​​magic arose because it felt like a nicer way to do it. We thought, “Well, that might be a fictional world after that.” We wanted to make it modern because it is a very personal and modern story, and it led to the humor, “Who would say that the fictional world couldn’t be modern?” And this led to this very world.

After that, it was fun for us because my co-filmmaker, producer Corey Rae, we were not a fan of fiction, and we didn’t know much about the genre. So, it was fun to talk to other people at Pixar who were really interested in her and knew a lot about the history of fiction, metaphors, and then meet up with the story team and impress them, while trying to make sure we didn’t just parody the fiction, or make fun of it – it was funny, But it was real to us, and it still felt like a real world. I mean, this is Pixar’s fun, I think. You have six years to dig deep and make the world look real.

Deadline: Were there specific impacts behind this OnwardsVisually or otherwise? I know the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons was one of the inspirations in shaping the story.

Scanlon: Yeah. I felt the role-playing game part was like, “Oh, you can only do that in a modern fictional mission story,” and the idea that all of that would be real for them, and that those games were going to be based on history, felt really fun. It felt like a special way in this movie to show the boys learning magic, teaching the audience metaphors for pursuit, so we could change it a little.

This is just one of those fun things that happen when you get to have a different kind of world. After that, I think we tried to stick as much as possible with the public spheres because we were going to change them. Again, to avoid feeling parodied for a particular movie, it was much more fun to say, “Well, in every fictional movie there tends to be a bar they go to for information. So, what would our attitude be like at the bar?” It would be like, Oh, this place has, over the years, basically lost its edge, and now it’s like Chuck E Cheese. ”

Deadline: How did you get started creating movie characters?


Disney / Pixar

Scanlon: We looked at the designs of creatures and things from the past, and myths, then we tried to make sure it was cartoon and fun, but it still felt like a reality, because we were going to dress it up funny and make it look different. Then the limitations of the animation are such that we have never done something, I don’t think it has many different types, for example, gait styles – upright walking characters, four-legged walking characters, and claw-slipping characters. And this should have formed all the crowds in the background, this diversity of creatures. It gets complicated, so a lot of the work we did was to make sure that we felt like we had such a great variety, because of our ability to produce it.

Deadline: What are the biggest challenges in fetching Onwards To life?

Scanlon: In Pixar movies, as you can imagine, people build everything. Everything on the screen was created and designed, colored and lit. Therefore, it is difficult to choose only a few because there is such a collaborative process.

But it was helpful for us to have a lot of people at Pixar who love fiction, who love role-playing, and who can add this part to it – and then, too, people bring their own personal stories about their siblings. The story is a love letter to siblings, people who go above and beyond to help you become who you are – and everyone in the studio had someone like this, or they they were This is someone for someone else. So, it really helped us finish this part of the movie.

Deadline: Which sequences are the most difficult to crack?

ScanlonKaito: I loved making the film’s ending, but earning it was hard. We’ve had this end since the beginning. It was one of the first things I brought up, and then I spent years trying to win it over. Some days, as you can imagine, you make changes to the story and all of a sudden, the ending doesn’t work anymore – then you move things around and suddenly, it starts to work.


Disney / Pixar

I also think from an entertainment point of view, the big high school dragon fight took a lot of work. Everyone in all departments met on a daily basis to work through, as it has everything in it. I never thought of myself as someone who would direct big action sequences, but oh man, was it fun with that group of people – and complicated. But I like the way it turned out.

final date: Onwards It was one of the few films to debut last year to enjoy traditional performances, both at festivals and in theaters. I imagine you must have fond memories from those months in 2020 leading up to the Covid lockdown.

Scanlon: Absolutely. We were very fortunate to have traveled to a number of places around the world and shared the film, and the Berlinale was a great experience to share there. You work very hard on these things, and being able to sit in the theater with people and hear them laugh was incredibly special. I’m really lucky that we got this experience, and that other people were able to see it that way.

Then, the shutdown was largely in the aftermath. So, while we were traveling the world, places were closing in behind us. It’s the last movie I’ve seen in theater.

Deadline: How did your family react when they saw your movie, given the nature of the story you were telling?

Scanlon: My brother is not like Barley as a character. He’s not a big messy guy who listens to metal; It’s just the opposite. He’s really a kind-of-talk computer programmer, but like Barley, he’s been extremely supportive and supportive of me, and he’s almost always like a fan or a parent.



So he loved the movie. He’s in his teens now, how many times has he seen it. He kept returning to theaters and watching it until the last minute. I think he got a Guinevere license plate for his car. And there is a reason. He was always this man for me. It always made me feel like the things I made mattered, and now, I guess I broke it. [Laughs]

I mean, he’s so proud of it. The cool thing was that he was actually a normal guy and somewhat emotionally extroverted. But now, we can talk about our feelings and tell each other that we love each other. It really changed all of that, and then mom was affected by it, too. Telling our story, about the three of us, was just the highlight of my life, and it was nice to see online that other people have seen their families in this story.

Deadline: What’s next for you? he is Onwards The sequel to something discussed?

Scanlon: Corey Rae and I are under development at Pixar, we’re working on ideas for a new movie. We’re going to show it, and there are things we’re really excited about.

as far as OnwardsNo plan for a sequel, but I did manage to make a kind of graphic novel prequel about Manticore, and I did it with Mariko Tamaki, one of the best comic book authors. I’m a huge fan of comedy, so it was a dream come true.

And there will also be a game. We created “Quests of Yore” with great details about the world. It takes place in Manticore’s time, and it’s super fun. So, as someone who wasn’t a fan of fiction, I definitely became one. I excel at being able to expand this world in these different ways.

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