Are you ready for WISH?
Walt Disney Animation Studios is celebrating 100 years of boundless magic with enchanted Musical-Comedy WISH that’s sure to fill starry-eyed dreamers with wonder.
In WISH, audiences are whisked to the magical kingdom of Rosas where a sharp-witted idealist named Asha (Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose) “makes a wish so powerful that it’s answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called “Star,” per the official synopsis.
“Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—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.”
Check out the trailer below:
Directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, WISH also stars Chris Pine as the perfectly coiffed and caped King Magnifico, Angelique Cabral as Queen Amaya, Alan Tudyk as Asha’s pet goat, Valentino, Victor Garber as Asha’s grandfather, Sabino, who, at 100-years-old, is patiently waiting for his wish to be granted, and Insecure alum Natasha Rothwell as Asha’s loving mom, Sakina.
We had the pleasure of attending the WISH press day in LA where Writer/Executive Producer Jennifer Lee, directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, and producers Peter Del Vecho and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones gave us a sneak peek at the buzzy film before sitting down for interviews. Check them out below:
First up is Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Writer/Executive Producer of WISH, known for her work on the Frozen films and Wreck-It-Ralph.
Global Grind: I saw you get emotional during the presentation. How many cries do you feel like you need to cry before you know it’s right?
*laughs* that’s funny! That’s a great question. What’s interesting is you cry a lot when you know it’s wrong, too, but in a different way, I think.
But there’s always a moment where what you do is you have a series of moments that burst through. And I remember we just watched WISH as we’re working on the final mix. And I’m someone who–yeah, I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s hard to push me into the feels.
And when it hits you, it has a moment that takes your breath away. That’s the stuff where you go, ‘Oh, wow, there’s something going on. I don’t know what it is. I don’t. The world will tell us, but there’s something that is hitting.’
And you’re kind of grateful for the moment because it is a lot of tears of failure and trying again and again and again more so than getting to experience what we get to experience with the audience. That’s a very special thing.
Global Grind: I love your sense of humor. Can you give me a little sneak peek into your process of infusing the funny into the projects you’re working on?
Comedy comes from all sides and all shapes and sizes, too. So what’s important to me about comedy as we enjoy it is there are all kinds of comedy. Like I have one comedy style and other people bring far better physical comedy and I’m more dialogue driven and I will love when characters fall, which is ridiculous, but I do.
But I think, for me, I always say what I get delighted by with comedy is when it’s something only that character would say that no one else could say.
I’ll tell you a line Valentino said. He’s the little goat and Star is gathering all these strings of wool and he goes, ‘Careful! They shaved my mother for that wool.’ And I’m like, ‘Only Valentino could say that.’ No one in the world can say that but him and so what I always look for is specificity and it’s hard as heck.
And I will draw on some of the hilarious minds at Disney and Jared Bush, who’s worked on Zootopia and Moana and Encanto, very funny. And we will brainstorm, you know. And it takes hours to do something–if we can make each other laugh and not just politely like, ‘Oh, you told a joke,’ but really make each other laugh, that’s the most wonderful thing.
Comedy is so hard *laughs* so it takes, ‘nope, nope, again and again,’ but because I’m in words, it’s more that. But the animators, everything they bring, they will find so much comedy in just in a turn, just the way Star floats. They will do these things that I am just in awe of.
Global Grind: Do you remember the moment you fell in love with Disney? That one moment, that one film, ride, character?
My sister will attest to this. When I was little, I was given two books of Cinderella and Mickey and the Beanstalk. And they came with records and the books and I would play them on repeat and I would study every frame. And this is before I could see it in the theater because they’d get reissued now and then.
And then the Wonderful World of Disney was on Sundays when I was a small child. It was like reruns of them in the 70s. Yes, I’m old. And it was that combination–this is the world I want to be a part of. It was transportive. It was beautiful, funny. It was an escape. And so, for me, what’s interesting is I don’t remember a time before Disney because I remember the books.
I remember because when I finally saw Cinderella and I used to look at the pages for anything I had not seen yet. ‘Can I find a detail I’ve missed?’ And so when it got reissued and I was about 8 or 9, that was it. To be a part of it in some way was all I could hope for. So yeah, it was early on *laughs*
Next up are directors Chris Buck (the Frozen films) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (Moana, Zootopia, and Raya And The Last Dragon).
Global Grind: This is the ultimate love letter to Disney. What was the most reward part of making this film?
Fawn: To me, I grew up loving Disney movies and the joy, hope, imagination, inspiration and the love of the art. And I put all of that into this movie, and it’s part of the nostalgia of like, ‘Oh, that’s what I love. So let’s do that.’
And same thing for you and the same thing for our animators. Everyone’s kind of come together and this is our chance to make a love letter.
Chris: Yeah, and we’ve always said we made it for the fans but it was made by fans because we’re some of the biggest fans out there. I grew up with Disney. I loved it. I was always drawing Disney characters, you know, kind of obsessed with it.
And to be able to be involved with this project and to really celebrate not just what Disney means but what it’s brought to the world, what Walt did. That’s a dream come true.
Global Grind: I have to ask you about King Magnifico because he’s such a funny character and I feel like you all have been in a room cackling about this.
What was it like seeing him unveiled? The cape, everything about him, is just so over the top. What was it like creating that?
Chris: *laughs* You ain’t seen nothing yet. Oh, there’s more to it.
Fawn: We’ve been talking about it. We love us some great villains. And the fans has been asking for this.
Chris: Oh yeah, they have. And it was great. I mean, it was great to do. When we did Frozen, it was great to do Hans who was , you know, a hidden villain. He comes out at the end and people love that kind of shock.
But it was also a desire from a lot of us to do a villain that the audience [loves] like Ursula and Cruella and Maleficent that when they come on the screen, they come on pretty early, and you’re like, YES, you love to hate them, right?
It’s those kind of characters. And that was kind of our desire to create something that as soon as that character comes on the screen, people are like, ‘Yes, it’s going to get it’s going to get real here.’
Fawn: And we were like, ‘We need to give him some juicy backstory.’ You know, a great villain always has a compelling story as to why they do what they do. And what I find fun about this movie is that you get to see Magnifico’s descent into his villain self throughout the course of the film.
Global Grind: I have some guesses as to where it’s going and I can’t wait to see how things unfold. And my last question for you both–what keeps your inner magic alive?
Chris: I would say, for me, especially, having been in the studio for quite a few years, the young artists that come in and they’re just as excited about Disney as I was when I started and still am.
But to see what it means and then to hear the stories of how much these films meant to everybody and how much and why they’re at the studio, that’s exciting. That keeps me going.
Fawn: For me, every film I have worked on, nothing has ever been the same, right? You go on a new movie and then there are new sets of challenges and wonderful people that you work with. And I love when there’s a moment when everything starts clicking and you’re like, ‘Oh, I see it now and I’m here for it.’
And when that happens, I’m like, ‘Trust the process. This will happen.’ People will come together and we’ll hold hands. We’re like, ‘We’re making this movie. It’s going to be amazing.’ So that’s what keeps me going from film to film.
And for the finale we caught up with producers Peter Del Vecho (known for Frozen and The Princess And The Frog) and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones (known for Frozen II and Strange World).
Global Grind: how are you feeling about the early reception and the energy surrounding this film?
Peter: We think we have something very special to share with fans who pick up on all of the sort of love that we put into this film. It was a great feeling.
Global Grind: What was your reaction to King Magnifico?
Peter: I think from the beginning we wanted to have a great classic Disney villain. Hiring Chris Pine was a big part of it because what we knew is we wanted Magnifico to be charming and charismatic.
We wanted to believe that people would actually change their lives and come there and give them his wish. So he has to have that charming, charismatic part, but he can also bring that sort of villainous part. And that evolution of his character in the movie is fun to watch.
Juan: And we did look back to all of our classic villains, he is obviously an original creation, but bringing stuff like the green magic, that means villainy, and a lot of other things that you will see when the movie comes out. You will see that there are nods to the other villains as well.
Peter: What I also love about Magnifico is you watch him make some bad decisions but you understand why he’s making them. And, to me, that makes him a delicious character.
Juan: And you see him go down the rabbit hole of villainy which is different.
Global Grind: Do you remember that moment that you fell in love with Disney and everything that it stands for?
Peter: I remember watching Bambi as a kid and that feeling I got because there were parts that were very scary, especially for a kid. And yet the next moment, you know, Thumper is on the ice and making you laugh.
But that being able to watch a film in the safety of a theater with your parents yet experience these emotions it really stuck with me, even in making films today.
Juan: My first memory in the movie theater is Beauty and the Beast and I remember I went with my brother. I was little. And that first shot where you’re going into the castle and I’m like, ‘What is this?’ Because you are getting sucked into this magical world, you know?
And then I came back from the theater, and my mom was watching something on television. It was the making of Beauty and the Beast. And Angela Lansbury was giving an interview. I’m like, ‘Oh, so you can make these things, you know?’
Global Grind: What keeps your inner magic alive?
Peter: For me, it’s working with such a creative, talented team. I’ve been doing this for a while but it’s always a pleasure to walk in the door and sit down with such talented people. It inspires me. It keeps me going.
Juan: I mean, working at Disney Animation is a dream come true for a lot of us. So even on complicated days, walking inside that building is like a pinch me moment.
And sometimes things get tough but you need to remember that doing this is your wish come true. And things are never easy but it’s worth it.
Disney fans will be thrilled with the massive collection of WISH merch including Mattel’s singing Asha dolls, LEGO Disney WISH sets, shopDisney’s all-new WISH collection, WISH-themed Funko Pops, UNO cards, children’s books, and much more.
And to add even more magic, for each WISH item sold from the collection, Disney will donate 10% of the sale price (up to $1,000,000) o Make-A-Wish to help grant more life-changing wishes for children living with critical illnesses.
WISH opens in theaters November 22.
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