Part of the joy felt by Onward's director, Dan Scanlon, and his team at Pixar came from conjuring up all the various ways in which fantasy creatures could be adapted into the modern world of their new film. Some sequences they pitched worked, like how pixies make the perfect motorcycle gang and how a manticore's heroic tavern now becomes a themed chain restaurant. Other ideas, not so much. Here's an example of the latter, which Scanlon says is still quite fun to watch after the fact.
A deleted scene, that EW can exclusively reveal, shows an early storyboard animatic about an encounter with sirens with elf Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and Jenny, a character cut from the film.
In Onward, Ian and his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) receive a wizard's staff posthumously from their late father that allows them to resurrect him for a single day. When the spell backfires and only summons half of him, the siblings set out on a mission to acquire the spell's ingredients and finish the enchantment.
"In early versions of the film, the brothers were going on this adventure not only with half of dad but also a character named Jenny," Scanlon tells EW. "She was a satyr who was super into fantasy." The story makes a pitstop at the Manticore's Tavern, so the brothers can acquire a map to the Phoenix Gem from the titular manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer). Jenny, Scanlon continues, was meant to be "a waitress at the Manticore's Tavern who they pick up along the way. She was someone who was gonna help them on their journey. She was a great character that we loved: super boisterous and a complete fantasy enthusiast."
The deleted scene shows Ian, Barley, and Jenny lost on their way to find the gem, when Ian and Jenny stumble onto sirens. In the context of this modern setting, these sirens have become real-estate agents who use their hypnotic song to lull their victims into purchasing timeshares. Scanlon's crew thought this "would be the perfect version of sirens in our world" as creatures that "are about calming you down and luring you into something that seems positive that has other intentions behind it."
The scene, and Jenny, ultimately didn't work for a couple reasons. For one, the sirens felt too murderous for the tone Scanlon was looking to strike. "These characters are out for blood and pretty much out to kill these kids," the director explains. "We realized, 'Well, that's crazy. Why would they be out to do that?' So, it was a lesson learned when we realized a lot of our danger had to come from situations rather than people with bad intentions."
One of the writers brought up another good point about this particular sequence: "Why are they trying to get kids to buy a house?"
Then there's Jenny. Those who've seen Onward, either through its limited time in theaters or through its early digital release, know that "fantasy enthusiast" role became part of Barley's character. Jenny, as a result, faded out overtime during the writing process. "We wanted it to be a story about these two brothers not getting along, and having this third character really kept the brothers from arguing and talking to each other," Scanlon notes. "But that said, I'm really glad folks will really get to see the fun of Jenny."
Due to theater closures and the on-going situation with coronavirus, Disney made Onward available for purchase digitally on March 20. It will now be available to watch on the Disney+ streaming platform starting Friday, April 3. As Scanlon told EW, he hopes the movie can bring "some joy" during this stressful time.