What we learned today at D23 is that the basic story line is that once again, a Disney owned property has a parent that is dead, and these two brothers have just been handed that magic staff (left of the above image, held by the guy in the red shirt) by their mom, and it's on their 16th birthday, because their dead dad had given a package to her to give to them both when they both were over 16 years old (so the 16th birthday of the younger brother) and in it was the staff, that crystal inside the loose end (like if a piece of yarn started to come unwound) and there was also a piece of paper with a magic spell shown in 3 or 4 drawings that indicated to them that their dad had figured out a spell that would bring him back to life for just one day so he could spend one day with them as 16 year olds, and well, something goes wrong, and they go on a quest to find the solution.
It looks like a really cute brother buddy movie, in a world that once had strong magic, but now has become pretty mundane.
on Ian’s 16th birthday, his mother, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, says she has something for them from their dead father. It was something he wanted her to give them when both brothers were 16. So she comes down from the attic with a long, skinny item wrapped in rags. The brothers open the rags to find a wizard staff, one that looks very much like something Gandalf would have in The Lord of the Rings movies.
The staff comes with a note, which Ian reads. In it, their father explains that the world was once filled with magic, but that has gone away now because it was too hard for most people. He hopes, though, that even though he’s gone, theres’s still some magic left in the world. So he wrote a “visitation spell” that will bring him back to life for 24 hours to let him see the men his young sons have become.
Barley, who is older, realizes they can’t perform the spell without an “assist element” but there’s one wrapped up too. It’s a stone called a Phoenix Gem. And so Barley puts the gem in the staff and starts to stay the words. But it doesn’t work. He tries and tries but nothing. After a while, a dejected Ian starts to read the spell again and the staff comes to life. He keeps reading and things keep happening. Barley hears the commotion and comes in and freaks out. Ian is doing it. First the shoes. Then the socks. Then the legs. He’s bringing their father back to life.
However, Ian doesn’t know what he’s doing. and the magic starts to get too powerful for him. The gem explodes. As the brothers get up they realize there’s something in the closet. It’s the waist, legs and shoes of their father. Nothing more, just the lower half. They look at it in amazement. Is this really their Dad? So Barley taps a foot with his hand to a familiar musical beat, and the foot responds. The foot taps then the same beat and Barley answers. Yes, it’s me Dad, Barley says. They half got the spell right and now only have 24 hours before this odd, half version of their Dad goes away forever.
To fix things, they need a new Phoenix Gem, but this isn’t a world that deals in those kinds of things anymore. So, Barley goes into his fantasy card deck (kind of like Magic the Gathering but here called something like Quest Yolo) and pulls out some cards. He says the game is based on real life and they need to find The Manticore, a person who will help them find a Phoenix Gem. And that’s the end of the footage. Father will disappear in 24 hours, and the gem needed to activate the staff is busted. But there is hope, and it’s in fantasy role-playing games inspired by “Magic: the Gathering” and “Dungeons and Dragons,” which in the world of “Onward” are true stories. Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer is also in the cast, voicing a warrior who helps send the boys on a fantasy quest.
The presentation ends with the boys running out of gas on their journey and Ian casting a spell-gone-wrong that miniaturizes his brother instead of making the gas can bigger