Genre: CG Animation
Director: Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
Cast: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Evan Peters, Harvey Guillén, Ramy Youssef, Niko Vargas, Jon Rudnitsky, Della Saba
Runtime: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: PG (Some Frightening Scenes)
Released By: Walt Disney
Opening Day: 23 November 2023
Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all - new musical - comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp - witted idealist, 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 — 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.
“This is the thanks I get?!” Chris Pine’s King Magnifico bellows as he belts his villain number in this movie that celebrates Disney’s 100th anniversary.
This may just be the same sentiment felt by the studio executives as they realise that critics are likely to find the studio’s latest offering inoffensively pleasant to a fault. After all, the animation giant has brought magic and hope to countless individuals over the century through their wholesome content, and why can’t this supposedly landmark title hit the sweet spot?
In true Disney fashion, fans were hyped up when news were released that there is going to be a new movie to commemorate the House of Mouse’s 100th birthday. And you can expect all the Disney elements to be in place so that you will be reminded of all things Disney throughout the 92 minute runtime.
A brave young woman who disregards protocols for the greater good? Say hi to Asha who sings really well (thanks to Academy Award winner Ariana DeBose), and as a bonus - doesn’t have a romantic interest to spend time falling heads over heels in love with. A cute sidekick? Meet Valentino, a baby goat who can talk after magic dust falls on him, giving Disney’s long time voice actor Alan Tudyk another entry to his already impressive resume. How about a bombastic baddie? A show stealing Pine gets to have some fun as the kingdom’s ruler, a self absorbed sorcerer (“I can’t help it if mirrors love my face,” he sings) who unleashes scary green lightning.
The familiarity doesn’t end there. There are more adorable talking animals, a suite of awe inspiring songs (courtesy of Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice), and above all – a story about what can happen when one wishes, in this case, upon a star. Yes, that’s the beloved theme and tune from Disney’s beloved classic Pinocchio (1940). And so, for one and a half hours, you will spot countless other Disney references. Asha’s seven friends have personalities that are inspired by Snow White’s companions, while there is a bear named John and a deer named Bambi. Elsewhere, a job interview for a sorcerer’s apprentice is held and a character talks about popping the dream of a nanny.
Wait, have we not talked about the story? Given Disney’s standards, it is nothing out of the blue. Our heroine Asha lives in the Mediterranean kingdom of Rosas, where Magnifico has captured everyone’s wishes and granting selected ones every once in a while. Asha becomes upset when he doesn’t grant her grandfather’s wish to inspire others, saying that it is too vague and may cause unrest in the kingdom. She then runs off into the wilderness (while singing a song, of course) and a cute yellow star literally falls from the sky. With this newfound magic, Asha realises she can make a difference. Magnifico learns about this and becomes very angry, and you can expect an ultimate battle between the two that will eventually conclude with a Disney approved happy ending.
Helmed by veteran Chris Buck (Frozen) and first time director Fawn Veerasunthorn (a long time artist known for her work on Moana and Raya and the Last Dragon) from a screenplay co written by Buck, Jennifer Lee (Disney Animation’s chief creative officer) and Allison Moore, this very safe animated movie is often a visual treat. The artists combined the 2D and 3D look, and the result feels like hand drawn paintings featuring colourful palettes. While there is some awkwardness in the crowd scenes, it doesn’t distract you from the wholesome positivity that the movie continuously exudes. Neither will the other aspects that cynics will pick on, because there is so much Disney at work here, you wish that the animation studio will continue bringing its brand of magic to the world for the next 100 years.
(Don't be a hater - celebrate all things Disney and enjoy this feel-good animated musical that commemorates the studio's 100th anniversary)
Review by John Li