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Headscratchers / Onward

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  • So unicorns are the equivalent of filthy, trash-raiding vermin in the setting. Then how come Barley's van has the image of one painted on its side? It would basically be the equivalent of using rats and cockroaches as car decals in our universe.
    • They hiss like cats, so maybe it's like the difference between mangy feral cats and sleek panthers or jaguars. The movie also establishes that Barley is very much aware of the rich magical history of his world and used his van painting to show unicorns as the majestic creatures they used to be.

  • We know Barley did most of the driving on the trip. If we saw that he was awake around 7 am on Ian’s birthday, then that means he kept going all day, all night, and at least until sunset the next day. Two days with minimal sleep and just cheese puffs for food, plus a hike of several miles through rough terrain. How are these kids still standing? Teenage stamina + adrenaline?
    • They're elves. Maybe they can handle this stuff better than a human could.
    • Barley is also a tabletop gamer, and has probably run marathon game sessions in the past.

  • How did technology cause magic users to disappear so completely? The trust bridge, impersonation, and growth spell should be practical reason enough for magic users to still be around, but the resurrection spell really seals the deal. Lots of people would probably give anything to be brought back to life for a day after their death. There does not seem to be any proper technological substitute for these spells.
    • Magic can only be used properly by a rare few, while technology can be used by anyone. Regarding the spells, the trust bridge isn't really that useful : you use it to cross gaps, which is not something most people need to face with on a daily basis; as for the impersonation one, again it's worth repeating only certain people can do it properly so for most of the public they'd have to drag someone along, and honestly? There aren't many reasons to impersonate someone that isn't questionably ethical at best and illegal at worst. The resurrection one requires a Phoenix Gem and Barley states they're rare, so perhaps that's another factor why they disappeared: all the useful spells the magic users were unable to cast even if they wanted to.

  • How many adventurers died in their quest to find the Phoenix Gem? It was still at the fountain, so clearly no one had managed to obtain it in the last thousand years. If no one was successful, was Corey knowingly sending these adventurers, as well as the brothers, on a suicide mission?
    • It's possible that she never knew it was there the whole time.
      • Unlikely though, since Corey and Laurel knew to fly back to town instead of heading towards Raven's Point.

  • Who hid the Phoenix Gem and created the trap-filled dungeon? Did they disappear along with the world's magic users? And where do Phoenix Gems come from, anyway?

  • Barley suggests using a growth spell to enlarge the gas can so they have more gas to put into Guinevere. Ian accidentally shrinks him, but he says it's okay because the side effects are temporary, and indeed he seems to grow big again an hour or less later. Wouldn't this have actually made enlarging the gas can a bad idea, since the gas would then shrink back to only a few drops after moving for a bit and leave them stranded again (this time much farther away from a gas station)?
    • The shrinking is stated to be a side effect of the spell backfiring. The enlargements are permanent, as seen with the splinter in the end.

  • Why does the disguise spell only work until you stop telling the truth? Because it doesn't sound too practical, it only increases the chance of getting caught. Besides, if you portray yourself as someone else, you're practically already lying.
    • Quote from the movie: "if you disguise yourself as someone else you are already lying". It's exactly the point. Because the spell already has to support the big lie of the disguise, it can't bear any more. It still makes it pretty inconvenient for most stealth purposes though, but hey - it's a limitation by the Laws of The Universe™ so it's not like the inventor was just being a jerk.
    • Possibly it was originally intended to be an anonymity spell rather than a disguise spell: something to allow the caster to pass inconspicuously through an area where they might otherwise draw unwanted attention. Not so much to trick people as just to avoid confrontations, whether with pesky fans, creditors, or folks who keep bugging the caster to perform magical favors.

  • Ian discovers that the Visitation Spell only works for half a day, and seemingly accepts that he won't get to spend much time with his dad Wilden. However, he still writes his bucket list with one of the things to do being spend his entire life with his father. Why write that when he knew it would be impossible?
    • The actual wording was "Share my entire life," meaning that he would tell his dad all about himself. Nice little double meaning, since he realized that he had literally shared his entire life with Barley.

  • The mermaid in the kiddie pool is clearly a one-off gag, but it does bring up the question on how legless, water-dependent merpeople are able to function in urban society?
    • Mermaids are frequently shown to be able to breathe both underwater and up in the air, and as the last respondent pointed out wheelchairs do exist.
    • Perhaps they're distantly related to the sea monsters who live in Italy.
    • They could have their own underwater suburbs to live in, complete with seaweed lawns and hippocampi that raid their garbage bins.

  • The reveal that the Path of Peril leads all the way back to New Mushroomton by going through the sewers. Does the town's sewage department know that there is an ancient underground path filled with booby traps and sentient gelatinous cubes?
    • For all we know, they could be using the gelatinous cubes as a form of waste disposal...

  • The Curse Dragon is shown to be unable to reconstruct lost parts, as shown when Corey slices its wings off and it stays wingless for the rest of the battle. So why didn't they try incapacitating it in some other way, like destroy its tail which it uses as a weapon, or its head? It can't be truly destroyed unless its "heart" is pierced but Corey could have bought them more time.
    • The wings were the only parts made of mostly magic; everything else was covered in concrete. That sword might be strong in the magical sense, but it probably wasn't sharp enough to cut through what was essencially rock. Regardless, after Corey cuts off its wings, she is struck down with an injury and can't move, leaving the combat to Laurel.

  • So how aware are Wilden's legs? Given that his last moments was him dying at a hospital, how was he suddenly awake, yet devoid of his ability to see, hear or speak? Is he at least aware of the brothers' quest to revive him? He does seem to recognize Barley once he sees him for the brief moment that his body is complete.
    • He was the one who created the Visitation Spell and provided Ian and Barley with the means to use it, so he would know why he was suddenly alive again.
    • It's possible he's been conscious this whole time in some sort of afterlife, and then when the spell is cast he can suddenly feel his real-world legs again. He would know that the spell must have backfired, and he'd be hoping that they'd find a way to fix it before time ran out.

  • So Corey burnt down her restaurant which was occupied by many people, including children. And somehow...this has no repercussions? People still went to her "renovated" restaurant tavern, even though it now has a reputation of the manager nearly killing their patrons? This doesn't cause any legal issues that Corey herself mentioned earlier?
    • It seems the police are rather aware already that she had a minor psychotic break and they were trying to get her completely calm before taking her in. Given that she and Laurel then helped save the day from the rock dragon, a little leeway might be in order. Some Values Dissonance might also be in play - in Real Life we don't have fire breathing people, but they do, and maybe their laws have some special exceptions. Plus, they are friends with one of the police officers. Not saying nepotism is good, but perhaps Colt Bronco managed to convince his partners to let it slide.

  • Why do male elves have beards and mustaches? Male elves never have those! Half-elves maybe but never purebred, or even interbred elves for that matter!
    • Given that they're also blue, it's likely Pixar wasn't trying to accurately depict elves from the D&D official lore, anyway.
    • King Balor from Hellboy 2 had a beard. How is this in any way an issue?
    • Our Elves Are Different.
    • Elves are fictional creatures, and as such can have whatever attributes the creator wants.

  • How come we see very little of the other races, with most of the background characters consisting of elves, cyclopses and trolls? The mermaids are justified since they probably have a hard time living on land, but it's odd that in an entire city we only see one centaur, one manticore, and a small gang of pixies.
    • Presumably, any given cities are broadly limited to one species, not in a legally-enforced segregation way but as a practical results of the various species' bodies demanding different accommodation. There are presumably pixie-sized cities where they don't have to go through all that trouble to open a door, which likely have to deal with a small percentage of e.g. elf hoodlums.
    • The Law of Conservation of Detail. The other species don't play a role in the story, so we don't get to see them.

  • If Wilden invented the Visitation Spell, couldn't he have foreseen that there might have been a risk of it failing? At least have a second crystal in the set in case the first breaks? Or perhaps design the spell to last longer or work more than once?
    • There was no indication Wilden invented it, he just chose to use it. The limit is highly unlikely to be by design but because of how the universe works. Phoenix Gems are rare, so getting his hands on a second one was likely not possible, especially considering there's indication that Wilden only started his quest when he felt he was running out of time.

  • In the end, Ian casts the Visitation spell again, complete with a new gem. If magic in this world is anything like D&D magic, the second casting should have reset the spell's duration, giving them another day with Dad.
    • Thus we can conclude it doesn't work like D&D magic. QED.
    • He was only using the Gem to complete the botched original spell, not cast a whole new one. Since the spell only brought back Wilden's top half, the bottom half would still have disappeared in the original time limit, so the rules of the magic mean that all of Wilden disappears in that timeframe.
    • The spell's own wording specifies that it can only be used on a given person on one occasion. The occasion in question being the day of the original casting.

  • Why was Ian surprised when he saw the pixies coming out from the bikes? When you are born into a fantasy world things like that should be common and normal to you. Wouldn't that be like reacting to a stray cat or dog?
    • That probably WOULD be common and normal if you lived in the bad side of town, apparently.
    • Pixies may normally use pixie-sized vehicles; this particular biker gang may only use larger ones because big bikes look more impressive. The pixies' existence wasn't surprising, but their behavior was.