When creating a Walt Disney animated classic, there’s a simple recipe you should always follow. First, you have to have a courageous, driven main character who loves to sing and frequently has brushes with danger. That character also has to have an adorable sidekick who, steals the film with its cuteness and could also be a merch-selling machine. There has to be an EVIL witch, sorcerer, wizard, and or heel who starts off good, but lurking underneath that facade is a greedy power power-hungry villain. Lucky for us we have all of that and more in Disney’s WISH.
Set in the beautiful kingdom of Rosas, the film features Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose as Asha. Asha is a teenager who wants nothing more than to take care of her mother, pet goat, and grandfather and, of course, serve the dashing King Magnifico, played by Chris Pine. Magnifico is a sorcerer who uses his powers to both protect his devoted people and, once a year, grant one lucky person their one true Wish.
When Asha gets to meet Magnifico through a job interview, she realizes that the king isn’t as benign as he sets out to be. Betrayed and feeling helpless, Asha sets out and wishes for a star. In classic Disney fashion, the tiny star appears to Asha with magical powers, and her world changes. This is when the film truly shines, and the beauty that is WISH truly shines. Star shows its powers to Asha, sprinkling stardust over animals, trees, flowers, and even Asha’s devoted pet goat, Valentino. Voiced by the always enigmatic Alan Tudyk.
Directed by Chris Buck (“Frozen”) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (“Raya and the Last Dragon”); Wish brings that classic Disney magic with a modern twist. Inspired by both classic films Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Pinocchio (1940); Rice and Veerasunthorn bring a splendor and wonder not seen in years. Not since 2002’s Lilo & Stitch has Disney Animation used watercolor backgrounds in any of their films. The film is gorgeous. Wish is the first time the studio experimented with classic 2D techniques in their 3D landscape, and it’s stunningly effective. For example, there are several beautiful hand-drawn 2D effects exemplifying Magnifico’s magic which will remind you of Sleeping Beauty. Moments like this are spread throughout the film, along with numerous easter eggs that any Disney fan with revel in.
Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice brought their A-game when it came to the music. There are a few showstoppers like “This Wish” and “This is the thanks I get” sung strongly by Pine. But the song that really had me nodding my head to the beat was hands down, “Knowing What I Know Now”. A running theme in all the songs is the power of Wishes and, with that, the decades-long history of Disney.
One of the things that stood out to me was how much fun Chris Pine was having with Magnifico. Not since his James T. Kirk have we seen Pine so cocky and self-absorbed. His range is tested here when he at first loves and cherishes his kingdom, but when he gets a whiff of betrayal; he flips into a maleficent dictator who wants all the power he can get his hands on. It’s these moments that elevate the film and harken to Disney classics of old.
With Disney celebrating its 100th year, Wish is a very worthy addition to the studio’s rich history. This film was clearly made with love and care, and it shows especially throughout the post-credits. Goes to show you that Once you Wish upon a Star, anything can happen.
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