Wish, the newest Walt Disney Animation Studios feature, celebrates 100 years of magic and wonder by bringing the Disney nostalgia.
Please make sure to stay for the scene at the end of the credits. The other fun thing about the credits is how the film pays homage to the animated films that came before.
Wish owes a solid amount to what came before. We see this through the decision to bookend the film with a storybook. Its 2.55:1 aspect ratio pays homage to Sleeping Beauty. The animation style also offers the best of both worlds as far as Disney’s animated library is concerned but the watercolor style is a throwback to the earliest feature films. Animation has come a long way since 1923. In another universe, Wish would be in 2D but it wouldn’t be the same–not with the advances in technology. There are homages all over the place, including in Dave Metzger‘s score paying homage to “When You Wish Upon a Star.” After all, this is a studio with a history of making dreams come true! Speaking of the score, the deluxe soundtrack is over two hours in length!
Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn co-direct the film. Buck started at Disney back when hand-drawn animation was not a thing of the past–he was mentored by one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, Eric Larson. Veerasunthorn makes her debut as a director. Together with Walt Disney Animation Studios CCO Jennifer Lee, they came up with a story that truly celebrates the Walt Disney legacy. Aesthetically speaking, it really is a celebration of 100 years of magic and wonder. And yet, it’s still different from what has come before.
The film introduces audiences to the magical island kingdom Rosas just off the Iberian Peninsula’s southern tip. King Magnifico (Chris Pine) holds onto everyone’s wishes and grants a wishing ceremony every month. Once they give him their wish, they’ve already forgotten them. You might even say that it changes them as a person. Anyway, Asha (Ariana DeBose) applies to be his new assistant but things don’t so well. Asha thinks her grandfather is due to have his wish granted but the king doesn’t see eye to eye with her, believing the wish would destroy Rosas. How typical–he might not look like a villain but he’s a classic Disney villain. Anyway, Asha decides to make a wish of her own and it results in Star arriving in Rosas. The two of them must go on a journey to save Rosas in a way that can only happen in a Disney movie.
According to the production notes, Buck describes Star as a “ball of energy that embodies hope, light, optimism, creativity and imagination—everything that Walt Disney represents to us here at the studio.” After watching the film in mid-November, there’s no disagreement from me.
There’s some fun moments here that come as a result of Star’s arrival. For one, plants and animals such as Asha’s goat, Valentino (Alan Tudyk), suddenly have the ability to talk. Anyway, Star’s arrival leads to one of the stand-out songs, “I’m A Star.” This is a song that pays homage earlier Disney films especially with animals singing. It’s catchy and like others, it’s sure to become a fan favorite. Oh yeah, Valentino also wears pajamas. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Unusual, maybe. But anyway, have you ever seen a goat leading an orchestra of chickens?!? Well, let me tell you–it’s an experience!
Chris Pine’s Magnifico gets a few songs but “This Is The Thanks I Get” is a classic villain song if I’ve ever heard one. It’s a song where we watch him reach the point of no return, much like the likes of Ursula, Jafar, and Scar–although they were villains from the get-go. In this case, it’s a gradual descent into villainy. When it comes to Disney villain songs, this song is one of the best by far. I really enjoy Pine’s characterization as the villain evolves. At the same time, Metzger changes up the Magnifico theme throughout the film. I know, I know–it sucks having to root against Chris Pine but here we are!
Overall, Wish is a classic animated Disney musical as far as tropes go. Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice pen the lyrics and music for the songs. That they come from a pop music background rather than theater makes them an interesting choice. “Welcome to Rosas” sets the tone much like “Little Town” or “For the First Time in Forever.” Obviously, one or two songs will probably contend for the Oscars with “This Wish” already having contended at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards. However, there are certainly a few other songs that will be playing on repeat. In addition to “I’m A Star” and “This Is The Thanks I Get,” another one is “Knowing What I Know Now.” It speaks of Asha, her friends, and Queen Amaya standing up to Magifico.
I know I’ve been late in getting my review online but I hope the film finds an audience. We’re living in a world where people are trained to wait for films to arrive on Disney+ and that’s something of shame. I hope the theatrical run is extended since Bob Iger is back at the helm. But anyway, when people don’t support such films in theaters, studios tend to stop making them. Sure, there were films that were both day-and-date during the pandemic but that was supposed to just be a pandemic thing. Wish offers fine storytelling and it benefits from a theatrical experience. I’m not sure where I would rank it among the 62 feature films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
DIRECTORS: Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
SCREENWRITERS: Jennifer Lee, Allison Moore
CAST: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Evan Peters, Harvey Guillén, Ramy Youssef, Niko Vargas, Jon Rudnitsky, Della Saba