Onward!

Non-spoilers: I liked it. It was not as goofy as I thought it would be. I liked the raccoon-unicorns.

In fact, I really liked the raccoon-unicorns. Here is an example of an animal in a Disney-adjacent animated movie acting like a different animal, but instead of the equation being x=y where x is any animal under the sun and y is a dog, x=unicorns, and y=raccoons. How fresh and exciting! And also very weird. A very strange choice, overall.

OK spoilers underneath.

It’s typical Pixar – a detailed alternate universe/dimension world used to tell a poignant story about people’s insecurities and flaws. Specifically I’m thinking of Monsters University, where the alternate dimension was telling the story of Mike and Sully and their respective insecurities more than the ethics and energy story from the original. In Monsters U we see a slug guy being late for the entire semester. The librarian is very tall and the most terrifying person in existence, next to the Dean. Frazzled students build doors all semester and react exactly how you’d expect them to when they get destroyed.

I’m pretty sure The Good Dinosaur is that same thing but gosh golly me I can’t get through that one, which is, perhaps, my flaw. And insecurity. Toy Story is another one (that I don’t like) (but we don’t talk about that because I’m in the very small minority). Toys going through existential crises, cut in with clever explorations of how a toy society would even work. Onward does the same thing, sporting elves, centaurs, cyclopses, pixies, dragons, and so on, but it’s just a story about an anxious kid and his risk-taking DND enthusiast older brother trying to spawn the top half of their dead father before sunset. You know. As you do.

It reminded me of Wall-E with one very minor subplot. The modern day Onward universe has forsaken a lot of its magical heritage. The pixies not knowing how to fly and The Manticore turning into a frazzled businesswoman who only uses her flight power after a car crash forces her to reminded me of that “you may have experienced some bone loss” line from the Buy n Large propaganda/return-to-earth video. I don’t know how I felt about it – only that I’m glad it was minor.

I liked that the mom got to participate. She participated even more than Squishy’s mom and was similarly cute.

And then there’s the poignancy. All I can say about it is that I’m glad this movie exists. It’s doing good work. A lot of Disney/Disney-adjacent movies have dead parent(s), but this one, since it’s set in a modern-if-alternate universe, probably has more relatable things to say to actual kids who are missing a parent. And as a Frozen and Lilo and Stitch fan, I’m definitely not going to say no to brother love, which was happily the main point. More, animators. More.

I mean. I just watched it today. I’m sure my thoughts will evolve. But for now, it did my favourite thing that an animated movie can do: it surprised me by surpassing my expectations.

So thank you to all the creators out there, whatever it is you create. Someone somewhere is having an easier time because of you. Even when we’re not in a pandemic.

EXCEPT you, radio show hosts who do prank calls that I am forced to listen to at work. You can get furloughed. Forever.

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