Book Review: “The Art of Onward” Shares a Detailed Look at Disney & Pixar Film

Hi everyone –

I received the book “The Art of Onward” to review. The book takes an in-depth look (much of it in concept art) at the animated Disney and Pixar movie. My film review is here and we also have an article from the press conference we were invited to. What I really like about the “Art of” books is that they tend to be terrific companion pieces to the movies.

The Introduction is from Onward director Dan Scanlon, who lost his father when he was an infant. Scanlon says the film “is about the person in my life that went above and beyond to help me become the adult I am today”.

One segment of the book is called The Lightfoot Neighborhood and talks about how New Mushroomtown came to be – they wanted to make it familiar and comfortable but different as well. They wanted to create a sense of “suburban normalcy”.

Another section is called The Brothers and talks about Ian and Barley Lightfoot. While the movie was drawn from Scanlon’s life, it isn’t fully based on it. Ian and Barley started out more like Dan Scanlon and his brother but Scanlon found it “hard to watch”, so they drew upon other aspects of their personalities. When the movie first was written, Ian and Barley had more similar personalities to each other. And through these pages, there is fun concept art of the brothers – some art that looks as we know them now but some that doesn’t look much like the duo. And there are a couple of pages on Guinevere, which is the van that is really another character in the film.

Family is important in Onward, and Laurel is my favorite character – she is included, as is Colt. And the paragraph about Colt discusses how they wanted him as a centaur. I would have liked to have seen a little more of them in the book.

Quests of Yore is the fantasy game that is integral to the film, and there are a number of pages on it. There is also discussion on the various species in the film – production designer Noah Klocek says that it was challening to choose what species to add, as it couldn’t be unlimited. And of course, unicorns were necessary but they wanted to make a twist on them.

There is a page of text on The Manticore’s Tavern with some nice concept art on it. Scanlon had never heard of a manticore before (part bat, part human, part scorpion and part lion). And one aspect of the film I didn’t understand was the sprites, and there is artwork and a couple of small paragraphs about them and how they came about – especially the motorcycle aspect.

I was hoping to come away with a better understanding of the ending of the film but I didn’t. The older “Art of” books tended to be very heavy in text, but most of the newer ones offer much less – often just enough to move the book along with a lot of concept art (hundreds of different images). I would like to see a return to more text along with the wonderful concept art that is within the pages. If you like concept art, “The Art of Onward” has plenty and it is fun seeing the various character studies, storyboards and more. While I was sent “The Art of Onward” to review, it is a book that I would purchase otherwise.


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