Family tragedy behind Disney movie
By now adults should be used to weeping through a Pixar movie, hitting us right at our gooey emotional centres.
If Toy Story 3 or Coco didn't make you teary, you may actually be dead inside.
There's a reason why Pixar movies feel so emotionally honest and relatable. Dan Scanlon has worked at Pixar for almost two decades, and has just released his second film with the studio as director, Onward.
Onward is the story of two elf brothers who lost their dad when they were too young to remember him. When a magical spell gives them the chance to spend one day with their father, they embark on a quest to fulfil their wish.
For Scanlon, Pixar stories are resonant because they start in a personal place.
"At Pixar there's a desire to tell stories that at least come from some personal place or some personal place," Scanlon told news.com.au. "I feel like we're really encouraged here to be vulnerable, because chances are if you have something in your life that you believe in or have fears about, then other people do too, and they're more likely to connect."
Onward is particularly personal for Scanlon because it's his story, rooted in his family history - just without the mythical creatures or magic.
"My father passed away when I was young and my brother and I grew up not knowing him," he said. "We grew up with our mum being our inspiration, support and protector, but we always wondered who our dad was as a human being, and how we were like him.
"That question led to this idea of what if we could spend a day with him? What if there was some way to do that? That really was the genesis of Onward."
The brother relationship between main characters, shy, insecure Ian (Tom Holland) and goofy and big-hearted Barley (Chris Pratt), is the heart of Onward, and that too is inspired by Scanlon's own life.
"My brother was incredibly supportive of me growing and was like a parental figure in my life, so the ending of Onward was always there. The hard part was earning it, creating the growth Ian would go through, creating the fun of the adventure. That took, as is often the case at Pixar, almost six years."
But it's not just family members Scanlon wanted to salute, it's anyone who had an outsized influence on our formative years, shaping who we would become.
"We wanted to tell a story about the people in our lives who go above and beyond to help us become the adults we are today.
"We all have somebody like that, sometimes it's a family member, sometimes it's a teacher or a friend. The film's goal was to honour those people and maybe inspire people to call those people if they're still around and thank them."
In addition to being adept at making adults embarrass themselves in public, walking out of cinemas with red eyes or streaking mascara, Pixar has also being hailed for crafting animations that speak to both kids and adults - not a couple of knowing throwaway jokes for the parents in the audience, but a balance so that you don't have to borrow your nephew to go to a Pixar movie.
"We just make movies that excite and surprise us, make us laugh," Scanlon said. "Obviously within reason, bearing in mind that it's a family audience, but we try not to dumb things down because kids are super smart, they really track a lot.
"The movies we grew up with had some scary stuff in them and some exciting stuff in them - they really stick with you. We make sure we're still giving a full drama experience for everyone. I think we make the movies for ourselves as film fans first."
Onward was originally due for release early next month in Australia but in the chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic has been moved up to a March 26 release, with sneak previews this weekend in cinemas.
With cinemas closed in the US and other countries, Disney announced overnight it will release Onward, which came out in cinemas two weeks ago in the US, on video-on-demand straightaway and on Disney+ from early next month.
But this seems to only apply to the US currently - Disney Australia has not returned requests for comment on whether it would follow suit in Australia.
Onward is in cinemas on March 26, with sneak previews this weekend
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Originally published as Family tragedy behind Disney movie