Onwardmay be set in a world populated by elves and centaurs, but even by those standards, a dead guy who’s just pants is a pretty strange sight to behold. And it’s one Pixar had to conjure up not with real magic, but movie magic.
In a behind-the-scenes featurette, several Pixar team members explain how they created Ian and Barley’s late father, who’s resurrected for one final day with his sons — but who only materializes from the waist down, thanks to a spell gone awry.
The character’s incomplete state presented a challenge for the animators. “What is it like to be dad and how would he move? There’s no way safely to remove the top half and feel that out,” deadpans animation supervisor Rob Thompson.
So instead, explains Adam Habib, director of photography, they put a guy in a greenscreen suit and had him move around, to get a better sense of how the father character might look.
“How dad might try to communicate with the boys, that first moment of him forming and realizing that he is in this state — I really do see some of those ideas in the way that the final shots turned out,” he says.
The family journey that ultimately made it onto the big screen is pure Pixar wizardry: a little funny, a little cute, a little weird, and a lot emotional.
“We have the promise of Ian meeting his dad, and even though the dad isn’t fully formed, it sets them off on this journey of how much Ian wants that,” says Habib.
Onwardis out on digital now and will be available April 3 on Disney+.