Those seven songs were written by five-time Grammy nominee Julia Michaels, who has penned tracks for stars like Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, H.E.R., Demi Lovato, and Dua Lipa. “She was already signed on at the time when I joined the film,” Veerasunthorn said. “So, I was like, ‘Whoa, a pop star and pop tunes in the look of a classical Disney film!’ Because our goal from the start was to be able to honor the legacy of the studios, create something new and look forward to the future. So Julia with her contemporary sound really brought that for me.”
Crafting something new while making sure the film honored Disney’s 100-year legacy was at the very core of Wish. Buck straddles that line as someone trained under one of Walt’s original Nine Old Men — the Disney founders’ key animators from the 1950s — Eric Larson. That experience imbued a deep passion for hand-drawn animation before working on movies like Tarzan and, of course, transitioning into computer-generated animation with the studio’s smash hit, Frozen. That gave him a unique insight. “When it came to doing this movie, the desire was how can we honor that legacy? We didn’t want just to do a computer film that looked like the computer; it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like we were really honoring that beautiful legacy that is so much a part of our DNA. Then it was a matter of how can we do both. And it was the amazing artists and technicians who were able to give us this beautiful hand-drawn look to the characters, and then these beautiful backgrounds where we harken back to some of our watercolor movies.”
Looking back to the iconic and groundbreaking animated films of Disney’s history was vital in telling Asha’s story, and the creative team was kind enough to share some of the biggest influences they think audiences should watch before Wish. “We started with Snow White for the watercolor backgrounds,” Veerasunthorn shared. “Next would be Sleeping Beauty for the Eyvind Earle of it all. We really took inspiration from those two films.” She continued, “Alice in Wonderland for the fantastical elements and vibrant colors.” Buck interjected, “And that was Mary Blair,” shouting out the legendary Disney artist. He was also quick to share his love and the massive influence of Pinocchio on Wish. “What I love about that, besides all the art and everything, is also the story itself and that Walt was never afraid — just like fairy tales — to get too dark. He knew he was going to tell a happy ending. He knew it would all work out. But he wanted to take the audience on that epic journey.”
Asha’s hero’s journey only gets harder after she fights back against the maniacal King Magnifico (Chris Pine), who it is revealed has been stealing the wishes of others in exchange for giving the people who give up their wishes a safe haven in Rosas. The charming royal is poised to be the company’s newest iconic villain, complete with a fantastically over-the-top and instantly catchy villain song, “The Thanks I Get,” that Den of Geek got to experience on the big screen.
A malicious and impactful antagonist was something the creative team was eager to bring to the film. “I’m very excited about Magnifico,” Veerasunthorn told Den of Geek. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a big, larger-than-life, funny, charismatic, super evil villain.” Buck agrees. “He has a wonderful descent into madness. He’s different from some of our other villains in that those other villains have come onto the screen and they’re fully formed. Our villain is not, so you watch his descent and it’s fascinating.”
His journey to villainy happens alongside Asha’s quest to help her fellow citizens, which offers up some interesting parallels between the two, as Veerasunthorn explained. “We particularly love that, for a moment, Asha and Magnifico actually align philosophically. They see eye to eye on the importance of a wish before it breaks apart in a really epic way. They still believe in the same thing, but the way they go about it is different, and that’s what brings on the conflict.”