Growing up with Disney animations, they were my windows into fantasy tales, strong female examples, love stories, and were my introduction into musicals.
I was both excited and curious for Disney’s latest animation Wish, released this year during the company’s 100th anniversary. Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, with screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, and story by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn and Allison Moore, Wish stars Ariana DeBose as our main character, Asha.
The story follows Asha, already a palace worker in the kingdom of Rosas, who has applied for a job to be King Magnifico’s assistant/apprentice. Chris Pine’s King Magnifico is a magician/sorcerer that has the power of granting wishes for his citizens, which Asha finds to be a fascinating responsibility. But her outlook on Magnifico and his ways quickly change when they have a disagreement. Running away to make a wish elsewhere upon a star in the night sky, a cute little yellow star hears her plea and comes to Asha’s aid. Now, Asha is inspired to save everyone’s wishes in the kingdom.
I liked Ariana DeBose as Asha. What’s been missing from far too many animations in the past is when the speaking voice of a character is the same with the singing voice. While Disney have had actors do both in the past, it is not something that has been consistent. But DeBose does both and she does it well, filling Asha with such a likeable, feisty and loving personality, as much as DeBose can with the script she is given.
Asha is a hardworking, dedicated, family orientated individual that just wants to be productive, useful and helpful to everyone she loves. Although I liked the choice to make Asha a person of colour as representation is important, especially for younger audiences to see someone on-screen that they identify with. The decision to make Asha a person of colour with no cultural influences and significances behind her feels like an empty one, just for the sake of it and not for the purpose of cultural representation.
What makes Asha so special compared to the other lead female characters in the vast Disney franchise that came before her? There’s really nothing notable to mention that makes Asha stand apart.
King Magnifico is a very interesting character to see in a Disney film, sometimes it feels like Disney put more effort into building its quirky and unique villains and Magnifico delivers in spades. Chris Pine’s performance, as well as his singing voice, also impress in this film.
But the true stand out of Wish would have to be Disney’s lucky charm, Alan Tudyk. The brilliant actor has voiced a various number of characters for Walt Disney Animation Studios over the years but has outdone himself with the personality he injects with his vocal talent into the scene stealing goat, Valentino. It would have been more satisfying if Tudyk’s Valentino played a bigger role in the film than he already does, but I’m also not against the character having his own spin-off content. Valentino was that likable and entertaining!
Unfortunately, Wish is overstuffed with too many references to previous animations, this year being the 100th year of Disney. While the celebration is understandable, the scattering and highlighting of these overwhelming references is prolific and takes away from Wish cementing its own identity. Yes, I love an easter egg here and there, but when it’s constant, it takes away the enjoyment from focusing on the film’s main and original content.
Visually, Wish sadly looks like it’s had an Instagram filter put on it. At first, I thought the copy of the film I was watching was not right and needed some tinkering. Perhaps the cinema’s mistake? But I soon realised that these filter looking visuals were done on purpose in the attempt to make Wish look like a picture book. I can’t exactly say it was effective, but it was different, I guess!? Honestly, I can’t say I liked it either.
The strongest parts of Wish are by far the songs composed by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice. Although ‘This Wish’ is the hero song of the film, ‘Knowing What I Know Now’ is the strongest number. It’s punchy, dynamic, and is also an important plot driver in the film. In fact, Wish heavily relies on it.
The weakest part of Wish is undeniably its story. I find it baffling that four heads got together to write this and yet they still created one of the weakest Disney animated film of all time. You would be forgiven if you thought a kid could a do better job at creating a plot at this rate. I mean, the star character alone just being named ‘Star’ was lazy.
Although there is just enough magic within Wish to make it a passable somewhat enjoyable feature animation, this doesn’t change the fact that Wish is extremely disappointing, predictable, weak and forgettable, even for the die-hard Disney fans.