Pixar’s latest film Onward arrives on Disney+ today, just over six months after it debuted in cinemas – and its director has picked out the moment from the film he’s most proud of.
Dan Scanlon, for whom the film was a very personal project, pointed to a scene towards the beginning of the film in which the main character Ian has a conversation with a tape recording of his father, who died when he was a young child.
Scanlon himself lost his father at the age of just one, and like much of the film this moment was inspired directly from his own childhood.
“There’s a scene early in the movie where Ian, the main character, talks to his father the only way he can – which is via an old audio cassette recording of his dad,” he told RadioTimes.com.
“That’s a really personal scene for me because I also had an audio cassette of my Dad where he only spoke two words – hello and goodbye – and although I didn’t talk to it like Ian does, it’s just a great example I think of taking something personal and dramatising it.”
Scanlon extensively mined his own experiences for the film, and he said he was wary of focusing too much on the personal.
But the other writers and artists on the project were very keen for him to go as deep into his personal story as was necessary, and he said that they constantly encouraged him in that direction.
“I think my fear was that I would get too stuck on the reality of what happened so I really probably pushed myself away from that for a little while and tried to get away from the personal story,” he said.
“And some of the other writers and artists on the film said ‘you’re pushing away too soon, don’t back away too soon, we tell you if you become crazy and start making this literally about your family.’ I was amazed how supportive they were for me to keep going deeper.”
Of course, directors always hope for a positive reaction to their work – but when a film is so personal there must be that extra degree of apprehension about the release.
And Scanlon said he’s been bowled over by the response he’s seen to the film since its original cinematic release, with the feedback having been extremely positive.
“It’s been so amazing, on social media there’s been people sending their personal stories, how they connected with the film, how it’s moved them, how family members and teachers and friends have supported them growing up.
“And that’s wonderful, I mean that’s why we make movies and make art, it’s to connect with people or to open up something in people, open a conversation.
“People have told me that they called their brother or called their sister and said ‘thank you so much’ that’s great, it’s been really, really moving to see that.”
While Scanlon’s favourite moment from the film comes early on in the runtime, for producer Kori Rae it’s the ending that she’s most proud of.
Rae said that they’d planned the way the film was going to end for a number of years, and she was overwhelmed by the end result.
“I was absolutely amazed at how the final climax of the film turned out. Visually, animation wise, story wise, emotionally – it kind of has it all,” she said.
And Rae is particularly happy with the way the film – as has been the case with so much of Pixar’s output – is able to tackle challenging themes as well as providing entertainment for the whole family.
“We have an opportunity in animation and storytelling in general to get families talking about challenging topics,” she said. “And handling it in a way that is sensitive but will open the door for a conversation to happen for family members, or kids to see themselves in a movie and talk about something they may not have otherwise brought up with their parents or their sibling.
“So I think that’s the joy of the medium and the satisfaction we get as storyteller, to kind of do that to try and help some of those challenging conversations.”
Onward is available on Disney+ from Friday 2nd October 2020. You can sign up to Disney+ with an annual subscription for £59.99 or £5.99 a month.