Not a lot is yet known about Walt Disney Animation Studios latest feature, WISH but MouseInfo had the chance to learn first-hand about what the studio has cooked up and it seems like it could be a truly magical return to theaters this holiday season.
Led by Chief Creative Officer and the film’s writer/executive producer Jennifer Lee, we were treated to 30 minutes of footage from the film (some of which had never been seen before) and a Q&A session with Lee, the film’s directors Fawn Veerasunthorn (Raya and the Last Dragon) and Chris Buck (Frozen II), as well as producers Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (Encanto) and Peter Del Vecho (Frozen II).
Conceived specifically to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary, WISH tells the story of dreamer Asha (voiced by Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose) and her quest to save the mystical kingdom of Rosas from its sorcerer king Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine). When the film arrives in theaters on November 22, it will be accompanied by a new short, ONCE UPON A STUDIO. The footage we were shown was nothing short of stunning, and everyone had lots of questions for the creative team about how they pulled off what we had seen.
Below are some of the awesome things we learned about the absolute magic we’re expecting to see this holiday season…
Ariana DeBose is a force of nature
Asha is so expressive, and DeBose is a joyful explosion onscreen much as she is on screen. We asked how much of her physicality made it into Asha’s animation and Buck responded, “Uh, a lot. She’s very, very active within the booth. Sometimes maybe a little too much, because the sound engineer is like, ‘Ariana, can you move back on the mic a little bit?'” Lee continued, “And I think what’s so great about Ariana, as you all know, she’s sort of risen to great attention for her talent. And there’s a vulnerability feel when you come in as a dreamer, and then you suddenly have all of this, and she navigates it beautifully.”
Star represents Walt’s legacy
Asha’s magical sidekick, the aptly named Star, will have everybody talking. Star’s expressions were based on Mickey Mouse’s from classic shorts in the 1930s and 40s, and Lee had lots to say about the little firecracker. “Star represents the thing that was critical to Walt, that you need: you need hope. You need possibility. Doesn’t hurt to have some wonder. Don’t forget some joy.” Buck added, “The other thing that is important to this story is that Walt had that wish. He had that initial wish of creating these wondrous stories and trying to get them to everyone.”
Songwriter Julia Michaels has Disney roots
Songwriter Julia Michaels… is the youngest ever composer for a Disney animated film
The filmmakers couldn’t say enough good things about Michaels, who is the youngest ever composer for a Disney animated film. Michaels has history with the studio, despite being only 29. Her voice can be heard as a backup vocalist on the Demi Lovato pop single of “Let It Go”!
Buck said “She understood Asha so well from the very beginning. She not only had love for the classics, but being younger, she embraces the more contemporary side too.” Veerasunthorn spoke to the experience of hearing each song for the first time: “I remember the first time I heard that song, I’m like, wow, this is my favorite song now. And she would bring in another song. I’m like, oh, just kidding, that is my favorite song.”
Disney fans’ wishes inspired the creative team
The film’s story hinges on the wishes of everyone in the kingdom of Rosas. Lee noted that at a D23 event they asked fans to write down their wishes and pin them to a display. “A few people knew what we were working on at the time. But now every day in the studio, we take one of those [wishes] and we add it to the board again. Just seeing people’s wishes out there. And what we did see, of course, is they’re so personal, so specific. They didn’t all have to be grand like climb a mountain. There was someone who wants a family.”
Wish is filled with tributes to Disney’s past
While we won’t spoil the Easter eggs we noticed in the preview we saw, the filmmakers said they were mostly intentional. “There are so many nods in this movie to our legacy. They are all over it. And some people are finding nods that we didn’t even intentionally put in.” Veerasunthorn added, “Maybe subconsciously, we were going there.” When Disney’s in your DNA, it can’t help but express itself.
See it for Yourself
WISH makes dreams come true in theaters in November 22, 2023.