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‘Wish’ Brings The Magic At Walt Disney Animation Studios – Press Conference

If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air, look no further than Disney’s latest animated offering, Wish!

Wish is an all-new animated musical-comedy introducing audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas. Asha (Ariana DeBose) makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico (Chris Pine)—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

At Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, we had the chance to attend the Wish Press Conference ahead of the film. In attendance were Chris Buck (Director), Fawn Veerasunthorn (Director), Jennifer Lee (Writer/Executive Producer and animation Chief Creative Officer), Peter Del Vecho (Producer), Julia Michaels (songwriter), and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (Producer). During the press conference, the group spoke about the film’s music, the creative process, and the inspiration behind it.

Check out highlights from the Wish press conference below:

Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) in Wish. (Courtesy of Disney)

Much of the conversation centered on the film’s music, focusing on Julia Michaels’ contribution as the songwriter. Michaels shared her connection to Disney movies from her childhood and expressed the privilege she felt in adding to the rich legacy of Disney music.

Julia Michaels: I grew up watching and loving Disney movies and music. So I think that’s always been ingrained in me and was ingrained in me throughout this process. It’s obviously a huge weight, the legacy of Disney music–that doesn’t go over my head. But I had a really beautiful support system for music here and the collaborative process of making music with these wonderful people. I’m grateful that this was my first deep dive with them. I’ve always wanted to be here.

During the conference, Asha’s character design was brought up, particularly her hair and the detail put into it. The team spoke about drawing inspiration from her Southern European and North African roots. The team emphasized the significance of representation within the film and discussed their collaboration with an expert to guarantee cultural authenticity in shaping Asha’s character.

Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones: Asha has Southern European and North African heritage from her mother’s side. And we learned that maybe her mother was the one doing the braids for her. And we did have an expert named Thressa who came in and helped the art department design her hairstyles all the way through modelling. So it’s something that came from the story and that we took very seriously.

The directors come from different generations and cultural backgrounds, so they were asked what the collaborative process was like in bringing the film to life. 

Fawn Veerasunthorn: This film talks about how important a person’s wish is and the journey to make your wish come true. It offered us an opportunity to talk deeply about that. His journey and mine are very different, but the wish was the same: to work at Disney Animation.

Chris Buck: What was great was I was lucky enough to train under the nine old men. And I definitely felt like they were handing the baton to the new generation. And like we said, we’re from different generations. So I feel I’m doing that to the baton, maybe subconsciously. However, it is handing down; it wasn’t just how we did the classic Disney Animation, but they were handing down Walt’s storytelling, Walt’s passion for this kind of animation and telling stories with joy, magic and hope.

Veerasunthorn: In this building, what I find so special here is such a rich history, people we’ve been working here, and all the time people would just enter and be so excited to be here. And the sharing of knowledge is just everywhere. It’s not just the two of us when you look at the generational thing; it’s every department.

A lot can happen from the script to the screen process. The first question posed to the group was what changed the most in the final production. Jennifer Lee talked about how Pine’s role as Magnifico was expanded upon. 

Jennifer Lee: I think we had a lot less of Magnifico on his full journey. So when we opened the entire movie on him with the book opening, that was really exciting because people were excited about him but also constantly wanted to go on that journey with him to understand every choice he made. And I think that’s sort of a tell when modern audiences on where we are as storytellers we were craving it. So it was later, when we reopened, we said, ‘Let’s let you see him at his best. So you can take the entire journey.’

King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine) in Wish. (Courtesy of Disney)

As the film’s antagonist, Pine got his fair share of songs. Michaels spoke about the process of working with Pine and how surprised she was. 

Michaels: Actually, I had no idea that he could sing, and the first song that we did for Wish was “This Is The Thanks I Get.” And we kept it in this very fun, very cool cadence. And then once I learned he could sing, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re singing “At All Costs.” We are going for it!’ He exceeded all my expectations. His voice is as buttery as his face.

The film’s central theme of empowerment and self-discovery, shown beautifully through the impactful song “I’m a Star,” was a big help for the creators. Lee conveyed her hopes for what viewers take away from the film experience.

Lee: The concept was of really that thing that a wish is what drives your heart. It’s that passion, as you discover and grow the thing, that is the reason you want to get up every day; it matters. Scream it out loud. They will be helping us there. It may be a hard road, and that’s okay. I think we think that when you wish, and then it happens or it shouldn’t happen. So, no. It is a journey. And I hope it shows them how it is a journey. It’ll be hard. That’s okay. There will be those little helpers along the way.

Wish hits theaters on November 22.

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