Today marks the release of Wish – Disney’s 62nd animated classic – in cinemas across the UK.
Earlier this week, we sat down with four of the film’s top creatives to chat about the brand-new fairytale that takes wishing upon a star to a whole new level: chief creative officer Jennifer Lee, who has co-written the screenplay, popstar Julia Michaels, who co-wrote the songs, alongside co-directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn.
Wish follows 17-year-old Asha (voiced by Broadway alum Ariana DeBose), who lives in the Kingdom of Rosas, where a powerful sorcerer named King Magnifico (Chris Pine) rules over his people with the magical ability to grant his subjects’ wishes… if he so chooses. Discovering that the king is not quite what he seems, Asha decides to make her own wish upon a star instead, setting in motion a rebellion across the land.
That’s the plot of this original story – a rare departure from Disney’s tried-and-tested recipe for success, basing (or loosely basing) their films on previous source material – but what makes this particular feature even more special is that it has debuted during the studio’s centenary year, also serving as a love letter to 100 years of Disney animation.
A throwback to the fairytales of yore with the advantage of new technology that uses CGI to evoke the classic watercolour style of animation from the studio’s earlier years, Wish is also littered with Easter eggs that pay homage to the Disney legacy. While some of them are as easy to spot as a flying elephant in the sky, ardent aficionados will undoubtedly take great pleasure in recognising the more subtle nods.
“We wanted to craft the story first,” Buck explained. “We didn’t have a list of all these nods to the legacy yet. We crafted the story first and made sure it was solid and then came the fun of sort of layering in the nods. Some were more subtle than others, but there are over 100!”
When asked if there was a personal favourite among the Easter eggs, Buck wanted to encourage cinemagoers to stay until the very end for a touching post-credits scene, giving nothing away. However, Veerasanthorn, his co-director, gleefully confided: “I love Beauty and the Beast and for a while, I was looking for a place to put Chip, the cup, in there. These things shouldn’t be distracting from the original story we’re trying to tell, right? But he was here and there and we kept cutting those scenes. But eventually, we found a spot for him.”
“I grew up such a Peter Pan fan,” Michaels proclaimed. “I actually was Peter Pan for Halloween one year! And seeing Peter in this film made my heart so, so happy.”
“I do love that there are some mushrooms that give a little nod to Frozen,” added Lee, finally. “Because mushrooms are funny!”
Speaking of the frosty fan favourite, Lee previously adapted her screenplay of the 2013 global phenomenon into a 7-time WhatsOnStage Award-winning musical and Frozen continues to entertain the young (and the young at heart) at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane here in the West End.
“I loved adapting Frozen,” said Lee. “It was one of the most incredible experiences. I had a lot of helpers with that wish, teaching me along the way what I didn’t know about stage, but also really appreciating and treating me well for what I did know about story. What was so wonderful was that we really got to go deeper. Elsa in the film actually has very little [screen] time and she really seemed more distanced than she was in my own head. So, the warmth we were able to bring forward from opening up her journey on stage was such a rewarding experience and it actually really helped me as I was building Frozen II.”
Whether or not Wish will follow its predecessor and get the Broadway or West End makeover treatment remains written in the stars: “Oh, goodness! I mean, obviously, it would be a huge honour if anyone felt we should bring Wish forward [as a stage musical],” Lee answered. “It’s like with Frozen. we found more story and more emotion, particularly through the additional songs you get to do once you go on stage.”
“I would love to see Wish as a stage musical,” beamed Michaels. “I definitely think there are songs in this film that lend themselves to stage. Particularly, I think ‘Knowing What I Know Now’ would be such a fun moment to watch in the theatre.”
As Wish fittingly pays tribute to 100 years of Disney animation, we were also curious to know which other classic from that illustrious back catalogue the creative team would love to experience on Broadway or in the West End one day. Find out what their own personal wishes are in the video below:
Wish is showing in UK cinemas now.