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On November 22, Walt Disney Animation Studios will release its 62nd feature film, Wish. Set in the idyllic kingdom of Rosas, where wishes literally come true, Wish tells the story of Asha–a young girl who wants nothing more than to help the handsome and charismatic ruler Magnifico make people happy by granting their wishes. Unfortunately, she quickly learns that neither Magnifico nor her wishes are exactly as she envisioned. She must then decide what to do with that knowledge, aided by her friends, a talking goat, and a star.
“So I make this wish, to have something more for us than this.”
A press conference at the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank was held on Friday, Nov 10, 2023, and in attendance were Jennifer Lee (Writer/Executive Producer and animation Chief Creative Officer,) Chris Buck (Director,) Fawn Veerasunthorn (Director,) Peter Del Vecho (Producer,) Julia Michaels (songwriter,) and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (Producer) to talk about the creative process, the challenges faced, and the inspiration behind the film’s music, animation, and storytelling.
Evolution of the Film:
One question raised during the press conference focused on the evolution of the film, particularly the changes in sequences from the initial reels to the final product. The speakers emphasized the importance of understanding Magnifico’s journey and how modern audiences crave a deeper exploration of characters. The later decision to focus more on Magnifico and open the movie with him allowed viewers to connect with him on a personal level and understand the choices he makes throughout the film.
Lee: “We said let’s let you see him at his best so you can take the entire journey with him.”
The Role of Music:
A significant portion of the discussion revolved around the film’s music, particularly Julia Michaels’ role as the songwriter. Michaels shared her experience of growing up with Disney films and the honor of contributing to the legacy of Disney music. The collaborative process of creating music with the team was highlighted, emphasizing the balance between embracing Disney’s musical tradition and infusing contemporary elements into the soundtrack.
Inspiration and References:
The press conference touched upon the numerous references to older Disney movies throughout Wish. The speakers explained that the goal is always to create an original story, but after that was set in place, the team couldn’t resist incorporating nods (over 100!) to classic Disney films. These references became a collective love letter to Disney’s 100 years of rich history, paying homage to the characters and stories that inspired generations.
Representation and Character Design:
The design of the character Asha sparked interest, particularly her hair, which was inspired by both her Southern European and North African heritage. The team highlighted the importance of representation in the film and the collaboration with an expert to ensure cultural authenticity in Asha’s character design.
Directors Buck and Veerasunthorn, coming from different generations, discussed their creative collaboration and how handing down the baton of knowledge to upcoming animators has been a long tradition at Disney. They emphasized the importance of the storytelling and animation techniques passed down from the “9 Old Men” to the new generation.
Buck: “It wasn’t just how we did the animation, classic Disney animation, but it was also…they were handing down Walt’s storytelling. Walt’s passion for animation and telling stories with joy, magic, and hope.”
The film’s overarching message of empowerment and self-discovery, as highlighted in the song “I’m a Star,” resonated deeply with the creators. The press conference revealed that the concept of stars symbolizing interconnectedness and the ability to make one’s wishes come true was a guiding theme from the early stages of development.
Lee: “It’s that your wish is yours to fulfill, and that journey is important. And it was why wishing for us was fresh in this film because it wasn’t just ‘wish upon a star and maybe great things happen,’ it’s ‘wish and make it happen.’
“Someone asked how is it possible that Star could hear her and come. Because we’re all connected. We’re all made of Stardust. We’re all the same. We’re even all made of the same minerals…that’s the nerd in me.”
The Wish press conference provided a captivating glimpse into the intricate process of bringing a magical Disney film to life. From the evolution of the storyline to the collaborative music creation and the incorporation of nods to Disney’s history, the conference shed light on the passion and dedication of the creative team. Wish promises to be a heartwarming and visually stunning addition to Disney’s timeless collection.
In addition to the Q&A with the filmmakers, there was also a large display of the many pieces of merchandise that will be available for Wish fans everywhere.
Wish opens in U.S. theaters on November 22, 2023.