In a strange new world of pandemic, isolation, and toilet paper shortage, Pixar has introduced their own new world in their latest film: Onward. Its theater run was cut short due to the coronavirus, but the movie about two brothers, Ian and Barley, going on a magical quest to be able to spend one more day with their deceased father, is now available on Disney+. If you’re looking for something to watch in the midst of your binging, I recommend checking out this film.
Like many of Pixar’s movies, there are several themes embedded throughout it. Not just timely for our society before the crisis, but also, and perhaps even more so, now in the midst of it. (WARNING: spoilers ahead.)
Don’t Forget the Magic.
In Onward, Ian and Barley live in a world of elves, goblins, centaurs, and pixies, but it’s not like your typical fantasy world. In this world, a manticore owns a family-friendly restaurant instead of an adventures tavern. Pixies no longer fly because they now have planes. Centaurs now ride in vehicles instead of majestically galloping. And magic has been replaced with convenience.
Like the world of Onward, we live in a world of technology. We have tech to cook our food for us, to 3D print new things, and to even order toilet paper (when it’s available that is). We live in societies where phones are practically glued to our hands. I mean, when I get bored, I have found myself habitually reaching into my pocket, to pull out my phone so that I can find something to watch on Youtube.
Now, I’m not one of these doom and gloom guys who’s saying that all technology is evil and robots are going to take over the world one day. I love the convenience of air conditioning and indoor plumbing, and Facebook has been keeping me sane during this time of social distancing (being an extreme extrovert, who’s surviving in an apartment with no spouse, pets, or roommates). What I am saying, is that sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our tech, that we miss the world, the wonder, the magic around us.
Technology is not evil nor is it good. Just like a hammer, it’s only a tool, capable of either building a house or tearing it down.
Before the two brothers even begin their quest, Ian’s phone is broken during the casting of a spell. Therefore, he doesn’t take it with him. And as they go on their adventure, something changes little by little, as the brothers reintroduce magic into their world.
I’d like to encourage us, to work at balancing how much time we spend on a screen, and how much time we spend in the world around us. It’s one thing looking at a picture of a mountain, it’s another thing entirely to experience it.
Don’t forget the magic that’s around you.
Go on an Adventure.
While planning their route to Raven’s Point to find the Phoenix Gem, Ian and Barley debate in which route they should take. Ian wants to play it safe and take the expressway, which leads them straight to the mountain, while Barley protests, wanting to take the Path of Peril, justifying, “On a quest, the clear path is not always the right one.” Which is a very true statement, and the Path of Peril, ends up being the right one.
Many times, we like our comfort. We like our comfy couches and our big screen TV’s and our fast food, and despise anything that takes that away from us. We like our daily routines and go bonkers when something changes. However, what kind of life, is one spent on the TV twenty-three hours a day? How much of a difference do we make in this world, if we’re just focused on finding the next entertainment to make me happy? Or is it truly worth it, if I’m doing everything it takes to make me comfortable?
In my experience, the most fulfilled lives, are the ones where risk and conflict are involved. There are many challenges which will not be fun while we endure them, but they will mold us, and make our story a better one to tell. Imagine the stories we’ll be telling soon, of how we survived the pandemic of 2020.
Sometimes in life, it’s about the journey, not just reaching the destination.
As the Manticore once said, “You have to take risks in life to have an adventure.”
Be bold. Go on an adventure.
At the beginning of the film, Ian is a teenage-elf wrestling with several insecurities. He doubts himself, is afraid of numerous things, including taking risks, and has little confidence in his own abilities. But by the end of the movie, he’s a spell-casting wizard who’s brave enough to face off against a dragon. Nothing physically changed Ian during his quest, but his adventure showed him that he was capable of driving, crossing a bottomless pit without a rope, and casting spells by giving him opportunities to step up.
You are capable of doing amazing things. No, you may not be old enough to be the president, or have the materials to build a rocket to blast you to the moon in your backyard, but are you capable of doing amazing things. Even if you have physical disabilities, lack the fundage, or don’t have the support from family and friends, you have the capability to conquer. Most of the time, the only thing holding you back, is the faith in yourself.
You are amazing. Created in the image of God! Capable of overcoming great deeds.
And overcoming will look different for everyone. Perhaps you have social anxiety. Convincing yourself to give a speech will be a great deed. Perhaps you’re being taken advantage of. Learning how to stand up for yourself will be a great deed. Or perhaps someone hurt you. Learning how to forgive them will be a great deed.
You are capable of doing great things. Be confident in yourself.
Value Your Family.
We don’t get to pick the families we’re born into. At first, Ian is embarrassed of his loud, abrasive, older brother, and even believes him to be incompetent and a failure. But, during their quest, Ian learns to appreciate his brother, seeing the good in him in the midst of his quirks and weirdness. The two brothers rely on each other to overcome the obstacles that they face, Ian with his magic and Barley with his knowledge. They are even able to slay a dragon with the help of their mom.
Family is important. And as seen in this film, we don’t know how long we have with them, and for now, the effects of death are permanent. You may have a loved one that you’ll be able hold to for over twenty years, or maybe only two more hours; we don’t know. So during this time of social distancing, make sure that you’re spending this precious time with your family. For once it’s up, it’s up.
And for those of you who don’t have a close family for one reason or another, we don’t get to pick the families we’re born into, but adoption can be stronger than blood. Sometimes, we’re not part of a ‘typical’ family, but a family nonetheless.
Value your family.
Beware of Gelatinous Cubes.