Just days after a messy dispute between Sony and Disney put his Marvel Cinematic Universe future in doubt, Tom Holland took the stage at the D23 Expo Saturday to remind us that he's still a part of the Disney family even if Spidey has to leave. Holland is co-starring with fellow MCU star Chris Pratt and comedy legend Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Onward, Pixar's next fantasy adventure about a pair of elf brothers who embark on a quest to discover a little familial magic.
"It's so good to be back here at D23," Holland said after he and Pratt received an ecstatic reception from the crowd during Disney Studios' presentation of its many upcoming projects.
Before the stars came out, Pixar's Pete Docter revealed a few more plot details about Onward, which is directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon (Monsters University) and apparently comes from a very personal place. Holland and Pratt voice the brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot, two elves who live in a modernized version of a fantasy world. Barley loves the idea of embarking on a quest, while Ian isn't interested in trying to rediscover some of the past. Both are united by a love of their dead father, and Onward will largely focus on their quest to find a magical artifact that will allow them to reconnect with him for a single day.
After the stars joined Docter onstage, we got a peek at several minutes of new footage from the film, which laid out the premise. Ian and Barley's mother, Laurel, presents them with a staff that their late father wanted them to have, but it's not just any staff. With the help of a spell, its magic can bring their father back just for a day. At first it doesn't work, but while alone in his room Ian manages to get the staff to start generating their father by reciting the spell...until the magical stone at the top of the staff explodes after summoning their Dad from the waist down. Though Barley manages to communicate with their Dad's legs with the help of music, the boys realize that if they can replace the stone within 24 hours, they might be able to see all of their Dad again. Thus begins their quest for a replacement Phoenix Gem that will allow them to finally talk to their Dad once more.
Even amid the entertaining footage, which also included a scene of Ian and Barley trying to use magic to get more gas for their van, a lot of focus remained on Holland, who has not yet commented publicly on the split between Disney and Sony that could have a major impact on his future as a superhero movie star. Near the end of the Onward presentation, he finally offered some words to fans.
"It's been a crazy week but I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I love you 3000," Holland said, referencing Tony Stark's heavily memed parting words from Avengers: Endgame. We don't know what Holland knows, or if he knows anything, but it was a heartwarming moment amid tremendous uncertainty for an actor torn between two studios, as he let fans know he appreciates their support regardless of how the Disney-Sony situation resolves.
While we haven't gotten to see any of the new footage online yet, Pixar did also drop a new poster and new art for Onward, featuring Ian and Barley attempting to use the staff with the Phoenix Gem.
Onward is in theaters on March 6, 2020. Keep checking SYFY WIRE for more from D23.