Make Your Wish Come True with Disney’s “Wish”
To celebrate the release of Disney’s Wish, Walt Disney Animation Studios gave press an inside look at the place where the magic happens at its famous Burbank, California headquarters.
Selected journalists were able to cover the press conference and participate in different Disney activities on Friday, Nov 10, 2023, and in attendance were Jennifer Lee (Writer/Executive Producer and animation Chief Creative Officer,) Chris Buck (Director,) Fawn Veerasunthorn (Director,) Peter Del Vecho (Producer,) Julia Michaels (songwriter,) and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (Producer) to talk about the creative process, the challenges faced, and the inspiration behind the film’s music, animation, and storytelling.
WISH Press conference with Jennifer Lee (Writer/Executive Producer & Animation Chief Creative Officer,) Chris Buck (Director,) Fawn Veerasunthorn (Director,) Peter Del Vecho (Producer,) Julia Michaels (songwriter,) and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones (Producer)
Message of Empowerment:
The film’s overarching message of empowerment and self-discovery, as highlighted in the song “I’m a Star,” resonated deeply with the creators. The press conference revealed that the concept of stars symbolizing interconnectedness and the ability to make one’s wishes come true was a guiding theme from the early stages of development.
Jennifer Lee: The concept was of really that thing that a wish is what drives your heart. It’s that passion, as you discover and grow the thing, that is the reason you want to get up every day; it matters. Scream it out loud. They will be helping us there. It may be a hard road, and that’s okay. Someone asked how is it possible that Star could hear her and come. Because we’re all connected. We’re all made of Stardust. We’re all the same. We’re even all made of the same minerals…that’s the nerd in me.
The directors come from different generations and cultural backgrounds, so they were asked what the collaborative process was like in bringing the film to life.
Fawn Veerasunthorn: This film talks about how important a person’s wish is and the journey to make your wish come true. It offered us an opportunity to talk deeply about that. His journey and mine are very different, but the wish was the same: to work at Disney Animation.
Chris Buck: What was great was I was lucky enough to train under the nine old men. And I definitely felt like they were handing the baton to the new generation. And like we said, we’re from different generations. So I feel I’m doing that to the baton, maybe subconsciously. However, it is handing down; it wasn’t just how we did the classic Disney Animation, but they were handing down Walt’s storytelling, Walt’s passion for this kind of animation and telling stories with joy, magic and hope.
Fawn Veerasunthorn: In this building, what I find so special here is such a rich history, people we’ve been working here, and all the time people would just enter and be so excited to be here. And the sharing of knowledge is just everywhere. It’s not just the two of us when you look at the generational thing; it’s every department.
Music and Finding The Voices:
Finding the voices that would honor the legacy of animation would be even more of a challenge. And Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose, who voices Asha; and Chris Pine, who voices King Magnifico bring voices to the characters that feel timeless.
As the film’s antagonist, Pine got his fair share of songs. Michaels spoke about the process of working with Pine and how surprised she was.
Julia Michaels: Actually, I had no idea that he could sing, and the first song that we did for Wish was “This Is The Thanks I Get.” And we kept it in this very fun, very cool cadence. And then once I learned he could sing, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re singing “At All Costs.” We are going for it!’ He exceeded all my expectations. His voice is as buttery as his face.
The film also features seven original songs written by Grammy®-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels and Grammy-winning producer songwriter-musician Benjamin Rice. Michaels shared her experience of growing up with Disney films and the honor of contributing to the legacy of Disney music. The collaborative process of creating music with the team was highlighted, emphasizing the balance between embracing Disney’s musical tradition and infusing contemporary elements into the soundtrack.
Julia Michaels: I grew up watching and loving Disney movies and music. So I think that’s always been ingrained in me and was ingrained in me throughout this process. It’s obviously a huge weight, the legacy of Disney music–that doesn’t go over my head. But I had a really beautiful support system for music here and the collaborative process of making music with these wonderful people. I’m grateful that this was my first deep dive with them. I’ve always wanted to be here.
As a part of the experience, select groups were treated to a private drawing class with Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay, production and costume designer on Wish, where they learned to draw the film’s character Star.
During the drawing class, Sastrawinata-Lemay explained how years of Disney Animation history went into the designs for every character and environment in Wish. “Star’s face shape is a heart, which is also inspired by the face of Mickey Mouse,” Sastrawinata-Lemay explained. “And you will notice Star does not talk and spreads magic dust, just like Tinker Bell.”
Star isn’t the only character with some classic inspiration. It’s clear from watching Wish that each of main character Asha’s (Ariana DeBose) friends are inspired by the seven dwarf characters from Snow White, including Safi (Ramy Youssef) representing Sneezy, Simon (Evan Peters) as Sleepy, Dario as Dopey (Jon Rudnitsky) and Gabo (Harvey Guíllen) as Grumpy.
Sastrawinata-Lemay also shared that Asha herself was inspired by Walt’s original concept for his Disney princesses, in which the princess herself appears in contemporary garb while surrounded by supporting characters who dress in the style of the time period.
“If you look close, you will notice Snow White has a 1930s hairstyle, Cinderella wears a 1950 Dior-style dress. This was done on purpose by Walt, to be more relatable,” said Sastrawinata-Lemay. “So you will see in our film, Asha has contemporary braids that many African-American women wear today.” But the queen character is the only one to wear buttons as in the film’s 1500s-1600s time period, she added, as “only the wealthy could afford buttons as they required help to put on.”
Other nods to classic Disney movies in Wish include two appearances by Peter Pan — once in an orb controlled by King Magnifico and another towards the end of the film. Animals also play a part, with a deer named Bambi and a bear named John, based on Little John from Robin Hood. Asha is also referenced multiple times as a “fairy godmother,” in a nod to Cinderella. And of course, the film ends with a classic firework show, including Mickey Mouse-shaped fireworks and a wink from Star.
Wish Merchandise & Walt Disney’s Office
In addition to the Q&A with the filmmakers, there was also a large display of the many pieces of merchandise that will be available for Wish fans everywhere.
During our Disney Tour, we also had the opportunity to get an intimate look at the personal space of Walt Disney in his office on the Walt Disney Studio lot in Burbank, California! Check out our full coverage below which includes a look at his secretary’s office, his formal office, his working office, and his private living area and kitchen.
Make Your Wish Come True – Disney’s Wish Opens In Theatres November 22
Dulce Osuna has over a decade of dedicated and extensive work experience in television, radio broadcasting and digital media. Whether behind or in front of the camera, Dulce has excelled as a producer, journalist, host, anchor, radio personality and YouTuber|Content Creator. She is a content creator on YouTube with around 300K and 300 Million Reproductions/Views and she is the co-founder and co-creator of Holahollywood.com, a bilingual entertainment digital magazine.