Debating Taking Your Kids to See Disney Pixar’s Onward? Read This Review First

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I must admit, after seeing Onward I can understand why Disney is creating so many sequels, and live action remakes. We’ve built a connection with characters we’ve grown to love before we even walk in the door. I stepped into the Onward screening knowing a little bit about what to expect aside from what I saw in one trailer to get a taste. We didn’t know if we would get attached to the new characters. I walked out feeling as though I liked them, I don’t love them. And the movie was cute. But not the spectacular story I’ve come to expect from Pixar.

pixar onward movie review
Walt Disney Studios

If you’re planning to take your kids to go see Onward this March there are some things to know. In this spoiler-free review we’ll discuss if Onward is scary for young kids. I’ll also review it and share what I liked and didn’t like. I went with my 6-year-old son and my 9-year-old daughter and their Onward kids reviews are also down below. So if you’re debating whether to take your kids to see this opening weekend or waiting until it hits the dollar theater, hopefully this will help. 

A Parent’s Onward Review (no spoilers): What I Loved

I loved that Onward touched on family relationships in a way we haven’t seen before. Specifically with brothers, step-parents and even actually having a parent (or multiple parents) involved through the movie. Having three kids of my own I loved seeing a movie that touched on sibling bonds beyond what we’ve seen in movies like The Incredibles. I love that the mom doesn’t just sit on the sidelines. She’s actively a part of the story. 

The movie has a ton of adventure as it revolves around a quest. It had my son’s attention the whole time, which isn’t always the case with new movies. At one point he turned to me and asked if it was almost over (by my guess we were about halfway). When I told him no he smiled and said “ok because I really like this movie.” Onward is emotional, and has some funny parts that didn’t go over their heads. Though like many Pixar movies, there are some serious messages that can be a little heavy (loss of a parent, being different), it wasn’t so complex to where they couldn’t understand it. 

Disney Pixar Onward family review.
Walt Disney Studios

The action scenes were vibrant and exciting. I think most young children–boys or girls–would enjoy it.

Overall at the end of the movie I was teary with emotion. It struck a nerve for sure. But where most Pixar movies do this for me and even more so (I mean who hasn’t cried in at least one of them?) Onward didn’t strike the same chord. Where my kids are already excited to go see it again, I could wait until it’s on video. But let me explain. 

What I didn’t like

This is small but being sensitive to this in our home I was aware of several parts in the movie that involved a lot of reading. My kids leaned over to me and asked “what does that say?” so I had to read it quickly then decipher it to each of my kids. Not a crazy big deal, but something worth noting. If you have children who can’t read you may need to help them in those parts just so they know what’s going on.

The characters felt out of place

Another criticism that may come off as strange is I’m still wondering why Pixar decided to make the cast elves and other mythical creatures when they could have been people. The story didn’t compel me with a solid reason for why they went this route. In other movies where they’ve had characters of a different kind like Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Cars, Monsters Inc. and a Bug’s Life to name a few. We understood why those characters were who they were and where they were. It didn’t seem strange to have Monsters working in a scare factory. Or cars to be talking on a race track. They were having their own unique experience in their own world and it made sense.

In Onward I felt like these elves were living a mostly human experience in an almost human world. Why weren’t they just humans? Was it the wizard and magic aspect? Because my brain can go there. 

Diverse characters in Pixar Onward. A review
Walt Disney Studios

I feel like where Onward clearly tried to depict a diverse cast with creatures with “natural hair” and darker skin, creators missed a mark to just go ahead and make a movie with diverse humans. And we know they can do that. Just look at Coco! And you may argue that Zootopia put animals in a human experience, and they very much did, but because the film so very obviously was addressing extremely heavy issues like racism and discrimination, putting animals in the place of humans made it much easier to consume.

I think one of the reasons The Good Dinosaur didn’t do as well (which despite that, in our house, the movie is still beloved) is because we were wondering why we were watching Dinosaurs having a human experience. Farming and rounding “bulls”. And why in the world was the actual human more like a pet? It wasn’t easy to wrap our brains around because we didn’t know WHY creators chose to take this path. What was the point? Though they did do an excellent job with graphics. And to this day I think that remains one of the most memorable things about this film. Which brings me to my next little gripe about Onward. 

The Animation

The animation didn’t blow me away. This may seem like a petty thing to say. But Pixar has set the bar REALLY high. I’ve grown accustomed to noticing the incredible detail of the cobwebs in the corners of Toy Story 4. And the vibrance of the music and color in Coco. I can’t recall one scene or shot that really had me in awe. And I hate saying this but I left the movie wondering if perhaps this movie wasn’t produced by the same people that normally produce the Disney Pixar films.

In other words. Had I walked in to screen that movie and afterwards you asked me if that was made by Disney or DreamWorks, I would have guessed DreamWorks. Which hey, no hate on them. Sing was hilarious and Home still makes me cry. In my honest opinion, Onward just didn’t meet the high bar Disney Pixar has set.  

Is Onward Scary for Kids?

A scary scene from the movie Onward given as an example in a Pixar review
Walt Disney Studios

If you’ve seen the trailer for this movie you’ve probably seen the fire-breathing monsters, scary winged creatures, and magic spells. You may be wondering if Onward is scary for kids, particularly really young ones. Well my kids both report that this movie isn’t scary in the least. Well, my daughter did point out a few parts that may be scary to really young kids (maybe around 3 or 4 years old) but I didn’t find it to be particularly dark or scary. If I were to compare it to Frozen 2 I’d say this was way less intense than that. And compared to Toy Story 4 my daughter said Onward was less scary. 

Onward Kids Review

The following are Q and A reviews with my kids. I tried to take out any spoilers but if you’re concerned about a specific scary part leave a comment and I’ll reply with the words “SPOILER” first. 

What my 6-year-old thought of Onward

Q: What did you think of Onward?
A: Oh yea that movie I really liked it!

Q:What was your favorite part?
A: With the dragon. I loved it cause he was big. 

Q: Did you think it was funny?
A: I didn’t think it was very funny. Well one part was. I was kinda scared at one part and I kind of loved it too.

Q: Was it a scary movie?
A: No. But it was too scary for little kids like Lee Lee (his 1-year-old sister–She actually would love the action). 

Q:Do you want to see it again?
A: (Enthusiastically) Yea! 

Q: Do you think your friends would like it? 
A: No. It’s a big kids show. 

Q: Did you think it was boring? 
A: No, I think my friends would think it is. 

Now I name a movie and he responds with whether he liked Onward more or not.

Q: Toy Story 4?
A: No! Way not more. (Doesn’t like more then Toy Story 4–His favorite).
Q: Coco
A: Yes way more. (He’s not a fan of Coco).
Q: The Good Dinosaur
A: The Good Dinosaur a tiny bit more 
Q: Finding Dory?
A: About the same. It’s a tie.

9-year-old daughter’s review

Disney Pixar movie scene and review troll standing at a party.
Walt Disney Studios

Q: Did you like this movie?
A: Yes, it was really good.

Q: What was your favorite part?
A: The restaurant.

Q: What do you think the moral of the story was?
A: Try as hard as you can to get what you want.

Q:Did you think the movie was funny?
A: Yea, really funny. But I forgot a lot of it.

Q: Do you want to see it again?
A: Yes, it was funny and I liked it. It was entertaining.

Q: Do you think your friends would like it?
A: They wouldn’t want to go see it but I think if they took the time to see it they’d like it.

Q: Was it scary?
A: No, not at all. The only scary part was [spoiler redacted]. The dragon was a little scary. I mean not for me, but maybe a 2-year-old or something. The lady in the pawn shop might also be scary to some. Also when [spoiler redacted]. But Toy Story 4 was more scary.

Q: How is it different than other Pixar movies?
A: No other Disney movies are like this. It was unique. There are animal movies but there were like different creatures and things that they used as characters in the movie. It’s a cool life.

Q: Is it one of your favorite movies?
A: No. My 4th Pixar.

Now I name a movie and she responds with whether she liked Onward more or not.

Blue troll standing in his door.

Q: Toy Story 4
A: Not more than TS4
Q: Coco?
A: I like Onward more than Coco. (blasphemy if you ask me)
Q: Finding Dory?
A: I don’t like Onward more than Finding Dory
Q: The Good Dinosaur?
A: I like Onward more than The Good Dinosaur
Q: The Incredibles?
A: I like The Incredibles more
Q: Inside Out?
A: I like Inside Out more than Onward.
Q: Brave?
A: I like Onward more than Brave.

Onward movie review and an image depicting a scary scene.
Walt Disney Stuidos

Q: Anything else you want to say about the movie?
A: I really liked it. I like that they made new characters and a whole new world for the movie. Oh, but there weren’t enough unicorns and I didn’t like that they were kind of mean.

Final Review on Onward

Here’s the TL;DR: I understand that each Disney movie is its own thing. And generally it’s not fair to compare one against the next because they are each telling a different story with a different purpose. Still, if I’m trying to convey to you how good of a movie it is, comparing Onward to other Pixar movies is one of the easiest ways for me to do that. And Onward wouldn’t make it to my top 10. 

All that said. I would still recommend this movie. It’s a great feel good film for the whole family to enjoy. If you are like us and go to see every new Disney film that’s released, I’m sure you already have your tickets (no need to wait around for the post-credit scenes like we did. There aren’t any). If you’re a little more choosy, and wondering if you should drag all of your little ones out to see it, I’d still recommend this for you. Go see it, at least once, (even and maybe especially at a matinee) and come chat with me about it! 

But if you’re wondering whether this is worth your one movie night out this year, I’d probably suggest you wait until it comes out on video. Because Disney has a lot more family movies coming up this year including Soul, and Raya and the Last Dragon. And I have higher expectations for those. But before that, next up is live action Mulan! I’ll have that review up soon.

Are you planning to go see Onward? What do you think of the trailers you’ve seen so far? And if you’ve already seen it, what were your thoughts?

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  1. I know I’m asking for a spoiler, but it’s a rather important one as my kids have experienced the death of a dad. How does the half body thing and dad leaving again resolve?

    1. Oh I’m so sorry to hear that Shannon. I completely understand wanting to know that ahead of time! SPOILER: They are able to revive him fully but only one son is able to talk with him. You don’t hear anything he’s saying to him but sorta witness it from afar. There is also talk about how the last memory with the dad (before this) was of him really sick (essentially on his death bed). I hope that helps you make a decision about if it would be ok for your kids. Maybe that’s why they made the characters trolls… because that topic is very difficult and heavy.

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