After playing with the Toy Story franchise, Pixar is ready to conquer a new realm with its latest film. In Onward, Disney’s animation powerhouse is tackling fantasy, with the story set in a mystical (yet suburban) world of elves, fairies and (trash) unicorns.
At the centre of the story is a pair of male-oriented relationships: the brotherly bond between Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt), and their lingering ties to their deceased father, whom they're able to summon back to life, sort of, through a magical spell.
Yes, tears will be shed. The film's father-son play is so heavy, in fact, that you might call Onward Pixar's own Field of Dreams.
"I think it might be," said Pratt, who was joined by costar Holland for the film's Los Angeles press day (watch above). "This is that kind of Field of Dreams, men-will-cry [movie]."
For Pratt, his most emotional Pixar experience has always been Up, the 2009 Oscar winner that famously had audiences weeping for a grieving widow within the film's first 10 minutes.
"This movie takes that tone and really does focus it on the relationship of a brotherhood, and of sons to fathers," he said.
Pratt says the film also reminds him of Radio Flyer, the 1992 drama starring Elijah Wood and Joseph Mazzello as brothers dealing with an abusive stepfather. "My brother and I [watch] that every time it's on, we cry our eyes out," he said.
Read more: The origins of Onward revealed
Director and co-writer Dan Scanlon drew inspiration from his own life when crafting the story for Onward. His father died when Scanlon was only 1, and, like Holland’s Ian, he always imagined what his relationship with his father would be like.
"Luckily everyone at Pixar is super supportive and encouraging for filmmakers to be vulnerable," said Scanlon, who was joined by producer Kori Rae. "And Kori and I really worked together a lot, just talking about my questions about who my dad was, [the questions of] my brother and I, really. And then as the other filmmakers came on our crew, they would have [similar stories] or questions about their family. And it all goes into the pot to become its own original unique piece."
There are lessons to be gleaned from the story's portrayal of those family dynamics, said Pratt.
"I hate to talk about a movie that I'm in and how important it is for humanity or society, but I think it's important for young boys to start learning emotional intelligence. And this is one way for them to realise that it's OK to openly love, to be emotional.
“These are healthy, natural things. So hopefully Onward is going to leave the world in a better place."
Onward is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer below.