It was bound to happen, but Pixar seems to be receiving more criticism as of late. Notwithstanding the very necessary changes at the top, there’s been mounting concerns about the amount of sequels (albeit not always direct ones) being made as well as an overall predictability that could start tiring out fans. It’s weird typing that because their most recent release is the best comedy family comedy of the decade so far, but being the king for so long means a lot of scrutiny. It’s partly their own doing really, as even repeated excellence will seem ho-hum after a while. That in mind, are some pretty same-y vibes in their newest movie, Onward, which just released a trailer, but enough Pixar charm to still make it something to put on your radar.
In a fakeout a la The Good Dinoasur trailer, we open on a fantasy world with unicorns and mermaids as we run across beautiful landscapes, only for an airplane to fly by, showing that this fantasy world is set in modern times. There are the necessary gags like gnomes slacking off pretending to be lawn ornaments and mermaids in kiddie pools before we see our elf protagonist Ian Lightfoot come home to be viciously licked by his pet dragon. Clad in plaid and voiced by Tom Holland (!!!) Ian also has an older brother, Barley (Chris Pratt), who seems a little more into the old mythology of valiant quests and heroic adventures. The brothers hop in Barley’s van for a “strange errand,” with things assuredly getting way out of hand.
If you think this looks like a suburban Zootopia with Tolkien instead of furries, it certainly has those vibes, and while I’m sure there will be some overlapping jokes, I bet the brother dynamic will be markedly different than Zootopia buddy cop masterpiece . Despite that, I’m guessing calls for Pixar going stale will only amplify with this movie, and I don’t think that’s fair. While I don’t agree that there are only 7 types of stories in the world, this does seem pretty similar to Zootopia, but there are countless more important elements in movies than the overarching plot or premise. Scripting, characterization, mood, and in Onward‘s case animation ultimately contribute more to the film’s final quality. That’s probably obvious to anyone reading this, but I still think it’s relevant in how we approach this movie.
I’m super pumped for Onward because of Pixar, Tom Holland, and high fantasy, but even if all three of those turn you off, the trailer’s charm alone has enough to at least give it a look. It’s the journey not the destination, and Pixar’s journey has gotten rockier in recent years, but that could prove a boon for the company that has made some of the greatest films ever. Yeah, I studied animation in college, how could you tell? Onward is set for March 6th, 2020 release.