Wish tells the story of Asha (Ariana DeBose), a young maiden who lives in the magical island kingdom of Rosas. The kingdom is ruled by its founder, the great and powerful sorcerer King Magnifico (Chris Pine), who discovered the power to grant people’s wishes. So when each citizen turns 18, they attend a ceremony where they entrust their one true wish to the King, who seals it away until the time comes for him to grant it.
When Asha meets Magnifico, she realizes the truth that the King doesn’t actually grant everyone’s wish, but instead chooses only the best and safest, Asha’s world is shattered. She runs away, determined to find a way to free all the wishes and return them to their owner’s, who have magically forgotten about them in the process of giving them up. In a moment of heartfelt desperation, she wishes upon a star, which suddenly falls from sky and disrupts Magnifico’s power. Sensing this threat to his power, Magnifico is enraged and vows to do whatever it takes to discover the cause and to extinguish it forever.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, the filmmakers sought to make a film based on the classic Disney theme of wishing on a star. However, in its execution, the film falls flat. The plot and characters are one dimensional. The movie rushes from plot point to plot point, as if its checking off boxes instead of slowing down, allowing the audience to breath and take in the world and characters.
Asha is yet another quirky, adorkable Disney heroine à la Rapunzel, Anna, Moana, and Mirabel. Yet after more than decade of these characters, this trope getting long in the tooth. It makes you yearn for serious characters like Tiana or Belle, who were incredibly passionate about their causes but weren’t cracking jokes or being goofballs every other second. Asha also has no real character flaws and doesn’t grow or really change from the beginning of the movie to the end. There are no ups and downs of the Hero’s Journey here, just a flat line leading her directly to what she wants.
King Magnifico brings the return of the classic Disney villain and it is delectable to see the return this outwardly antagonistic archetype on the big screen. Magnifico is an attractive silver fox, exquisitely designed. However, like Asha, he lacks dimensionally. His motivations for how he acts are nothing more than the generic “this is a threat to my power.” He even has a villain song (“This Is the Thanks I Get?!”) that should make Disney fans squeal, but there’s not much meat to it. He needed more backstory to help make his turn to the dark side believable.
Wish‘s art style is unique and something that hasn’t been attempted before at Disney. To pay homage to the hand-drawn animated films of Disney’s past, the film utilizes watercolor backgrounds and pairs these with CGI characters that have a 2D overlay in an attempt to mimic traditional animation. Unfortunately, this juxtaposition of the 2D backgrounds with a CGI character feels off and is quite jarring at times, almost like watching a TV with motion-blur turned on. Even though the filmmakers didn’t quite nail the execution, I do commend the filmmakers for taking this stylistic risk, instead of just sticking with the stale 2010 era Disney CGI style.
Speaking of animation, the animation of the characters, specifically Asha, is distracting. Asha’s animation takes the animation principles of “squash and stretch” to the extreme; she’s constantly bouncing around the screen and making exaggerated movements and facial expressions that it’s hard to take her seriously or even focus on what’s happening.
Since we are celebrating Disney’s animation legacy with this film, it’s only fitting that Wish is a classic Disney musical…except it’s not. Instead of sticking with the Broadway style establish by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken in the Disney Renaissance, the movie features more modern songs by Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice, who are known for writing pop songs for artists like Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Britney Spears. These songs feel odd in the moment and are instantly forgettable, with the one exception being “This Wish”, which is an expected and harmless “I want” song.
One fun highlight is the inclusion of a many Easter eggs, referencing films from the Disney canon. Things such as a wishing well, Aurora’s blue dress, or tapping a magic wand in a certain way. These are hidden and don’t distract or take away from the movie, but keen-eyed Disney fans will delight in spotting these. The end credits further celebrate Disney’s animation legacy, but feel out of place if you were unaware that this film was the culmination of 100 years of Disney history. Also, the end-credits scene is a sweet moment that provides closure for one of the characters and wraps everything up with a bow.
Is Wish the worst Disney film ever? No. Would it make Walt proud? Probably not, but he would appreciate the risk. The filmmakers took a lot of new shots with Wish and it’s a shame that the end product just didn’t work. Wish is a mediocre Disney movie at a time when the Walt Disney Company desperately wished for a win to culminate its centennial.
Morgan is an Arizona native who's had a lifelong passion for animation. Her favorite animated films are Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Iron Giant. She earned an MBA in Marketing from Arizona State University and now runs her own business where she coaches and trains entrepreneurs how to launch, grow & scale successful online businesses.