Onwards director: I hope Pixar film helps children dealing with grief

The director of Pixar film Onward has said he hopes the film gives children dealing with grief some tools to help express themselves.

Dan Scanlon wrote the animated film based on his own experience of losing his father as a very young child.

Both he and his brother had no memory of their father until a relative sent them a brief audio recording with his voice.

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Onward, which is now streaming on Disney+ in the UK, follows two teenage elf brothers, voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, who also lost their father when they were young, who hear a recording of their father’s voice and try to perform a spell that will bring him back for a day, however it all goes wrong and all they manage to revive is his lower half.

Scanlon told the PA news agency: “I think we all believe that if it’s a story that has actually happened to someone, chances are it’s something that a lot of people can relate to it and that is the fun of making art.

“Maybe when the movie came out I felt like ‘oh no what have I done?’ but just for a moment and then once I started hearing from other people who had seen the movie, who wrote to me and said ‘gosh, that feels like my life’, or ‘I lost my father’ or ‘my sister was like a parent to me’, then it all felt so so worth it.”

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He added: “Seeing stuff on social media of people who have similar experiences or who were just moved by the movie, it’s been mind blowing.

“It’s so wonderful to see people connect with a film in the way that they have, it makes it all worth it, all the hard work, all the hours and time everyone on the film put in.

“Even in my personal life, my brother loved the film and my mom, and we are talking even more openly than we ever have and I hope that people who see the movie will talk more openly with their family, and will tell them that they are appreciative for everything they have done.

“What are you saving it for? What are you waiting for? Do it now! All of that has been so wonderful.”

Discussing the new way he has been able to speak to his family about their grief, he said: “I hope it would give other people that too, especially younger kids who sadly lose parents early on, it might just give them someone to relate to, a story to put words to it.

“I think that is also why we make films, is to give people situations that they can relate to and touchstones.”

Reflecting on discussing Scanlon’s family history with him, producer Kori Rae said: “When he told the story it was so emotional and it had so much room for us to create a story around.

“I think even the fact that he didn’t have a lot of memories was an interesting thing, that he had to create a story around someone.”

She added: “It hit us so hard, it was so touching and I knew the relationship that Dan had with his brother from working together on Monsters University and I knew how close they were but I had never looked at it from that point of view, that the film did.

“I think from the beginning when you know it’s a personal story you know it’s going to relate to a lot of people so we really grabbed onto that.”

Onwards is now available on Disney+.