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Wish: Disney Recaptures Some of Their Magic

Director: Fawn Veerasunthorn and Chris Buck

Run Time: 1 hour 35 min

Wish feels soulless at times, but the film is a step in the right direction for Disney Animation Studios, as the company acknowledges they have fresh characters, not merely sequels, even if the characters retread classic storylines. Wish also comes across as studio acknowledgment that 2D animation has a place at the table, which is significant considering they’re celebrating 100 years. The film doesn’t break molds like Spider-Verse and it doesn’t bring a revitalizing freshness like Mutant Mayhem, but there are some feels created and the story of Asha is original enough to warrant a viewing. 

Asha (Ariana DeBose) is a citizen of Rosas, a Mediterranean kingdom protected by a magic sorcerer named Magnifico (Chris Pine), who provides safety for all of his citizens in exchange for their biggest dream. Every month, he grants a wish, while everyone else continues to not remember theirs. Asha desperately wants a family wish to be granted, specifically her grandfather Sabino’s (Victor Garber), but she also hopes to become the new apprentice of Magnifico. After a disagreement with Magnifico, Asha finds out that there’s more to his keeping track of wishes than she originally realized, so she enlists her goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk), her dwarf-like friends, and even a wished-upon star to free the dreams of her people and give them back their biggest wishes.

Image courtesy of Disney.

Historically, Disney uses a few different approaches for the voice cast in musicals. DiBose and Pine do some really good work in the voice acting department, whether singing or not. Their story mainly focuses on their battle of wits and strength. No other character is either a distraction or a bright spot, so I think the key is that it’s important to find actors and actresses that can do sing and voice-over, unless you’re going to craft their character around the inability or put in some serious training.

Speaking to music and characterization more specifically, the songs are functional. They are carefully crafted, potentially too much, and bring joy and goosebumps, but they aren’t quite as memorable as some of Disney’s recent turns. Basically, they’re just cheesy enough. This is where the easter eggs and references are strongest and while they’re momentarily cute, the film just needs more than that. Pine’s Magnifico performs well on his own and in the famous duo/combative style that all Disney films use, but his songs fall into a familiar category: they merely exist.

Image courtesy of Disney.

Most of Wish’s weight comes from the references to various Disney properties, but since the new material doesn’t really resonate, the references and callbacks receive more focus than they probably should. The characters and songs don’t leave much of a mark aside from Asha, Star, and “This Wish”.

The film makes it clear that Disney shouldn’t abandon 2D for another 12 years nor should 3D, CGI, and Pixar Animation Studio be their only story-telling lens. Live-action remakes aren’t the answer either and this is why Wish is so important: it should stand as a reminder that whether animated or live-action, story must come first.

Disney has already shared early photos of Inside Out 2. We also know Elio is coming out and there’s an official announcement for Toy Story 5. There’s also confirmation of Moana’s live-action along with a few other live-action films already in post-production. Disney Animation inspired generations and now those artists are creating stories such as Klaus, The LEGO Movie, and even the classic The Iron Giant. So if Disney intends to remain competitive or at the very least inspirational, they should take notes from Wish and continue to push the bar. The film is good, but it’s also very safe.

3.5 out of 5.

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