How Onward Animated Its Memorable Dance Scene Sounds Pretty Amazing

Ian and Barley dancing with Dad legs in Onward

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Warning: minor SPOILERS for Onward are ahead!

Needless to say that Ian Lightfoot only conjuring the lower half of his father’s body resulted in a lot of complications and shenanigans during Onward, but there was a nice moment in the latest Pixar movie that Ian and his brother Barley got to share with their father, Wilden. Feeling the vibrations of the music playing from Barley’s van, Wilden’s legs started dancing in the most dad way possible, and Ian and Barley soon joined in.

Wanting to ensure that a pair of legs moving around without the upper half of a body looked authentic, the creative minds behind Onward decided to take matters into their own hands, with their on-camera contributions being described thusly on the Pixar Twitter page:

From green screen to final frame! To gain insight into how a pair of pants might move on its own for Onward, the filmmakers donned green suits, khakis, and a pair of shoes and walked, stumbled, and danced around a mo-cap stage.

Just because this is an animated movie doesn’t mean that certain aspects can’t be as realistic as possible. So without a pair of moving legs available to film, the filmmakers had to approximate how such legs would move around without an upper half capable of seeing where they were going. Not only is that how we got Onward’s memorable dance scene, this filming undoubtedly informed many of the other scenes where Wilden Lightfoot’s bottom half was wobbling about.

After dead for many years by the time Onward begins, Wilden Lightfoot came back into his family’s life on Ian’s 16th birthday, when his mother gave him and Barley a magic staff that their father left for them, along with a “visitation spell” that would allow Wilden to return for 24 hours and a Phoenix Gem as the power source. Ian only reforms the bottom half of Wilden before the gem disintegrates, requiring the brothers to go on a quest to find a new Phoenix Gem and complete the spell before time runs out.

Directed by Dan Scanlon, who also wrote the screenplay with Jason Headley and Keith Bunin, Onward is Pixar’s 22nd theatrical feature, and the studio’s first non-sequel since 2017’s Coco. Its cast included Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer, among others.

Onward was released early last month and was met with mostly positive critical reception. However, due to current events, its time in theaters was cut short, and so far has only made a little over $104 million worldwide. It has since been available for digital purchase and been thrown onto Disney+ (which is offering a free seven-day trial), but it’s unclear when the Blu-ray and DVD copies will arrive. There’s also an Onward graphic novel on the way.

Keep track of CinemaBlend for all the latest updates on the Pixar front. The studio’s next movie, Soul, is set to come out on June 19.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.