In recent years, Disney has faced considerable criticism from its fanbase. Many enthusiasts believe the company has departed from its original storytelling roots, becoming increasingly entwined with the current social and political landscape in ways that make some fans uneasy. Consequently, a faction of fans has lost interest in Disney’s offerings, and a few have actively sought reasons to fuel their grievances against the entertainment giant. Although these dissatisfied voices represent a minority, their discontent has contributed to a broader sentiment of disapproval toward almost everything the company has recently released.
As someone who cherishes Disney, I find myself yearning for aspects that I once took for granted during my upbringing. Firstly, I long for the straightforward narratives of good vs. evil. In the past, even if a villain underwent a fall-from-grace storyline, it was simple and easily comprehensible. The storytelling lacked shades of gray; the delineation between heroes and villains was clear.
Secondly, I miss the traditional, non-digital animation style prevalent in older movies. Since the release of Frozen, Disney’s animation has adhered to a consistent format with characters featuring oversized eyes and smooth faces. This is a departure from earlier films like Snow White and Cinderella, where background scenes were simpler, with dulled colors and static imagery, directing attention to the focal points of the action.
Lastly, I yearn for the return of universally positive messages in Disney films. While the recent movies have conveyed messages, these tend to lean toward one side of a social issue. The merits of each issue can be debated, but this approach tends to alienate one side of the political spectrum from the other. Finding a universally agreeable message might be challenging, but it is not impossible. There are values that the majority of people can endorse, even in the complexities of today’s world.
This leads us to the latest creation from Walt Disney Animation Studios titled Wish. The narrative unfolds in the Kingdom of Rosas, ruled by King Magnifico (Chris Pine) and Queen Amaya (Angelique Cabral), centered around a young woman named Asha (Ariana DeBose). Magnifico established the kingdom after fleeing an attack on his homeland, vowing to protect Rosas at all costs by becoming a formidable sorcerer. In Rosas, newcomers present their most cherished wishes to the king, who extracts them and stores them as radiant orbs in his observatory.
As an act of benevolence, the king grants a single wish each month to the people of his realm.
Asha harbors a deep desire to become the king’s assistant and seizes the opportunity to prove herself. During an interview with Magnifico, she discovers the truth behind the wishes, a revelation that shatters her heart but kindles a rebellious spirit within her. That evening, as she gazes upon a star and makes a wish, it descends from the sky to assist her cause.
Empowered by this magical entity, she enlists the help of her six friends — Dahlia (Jennifer Kumiyama), Gabo (Harvey Guillén), Hal (Niko Vargas), Simon (Evan Peters), Safi (Ramy Youssef) and Dario (Jon Rudnitsky) — as well as her pet goat, Valentino (Alan Tudyk), who gains the ability to talk, thanks to the star. However, King Magnifico becomes aware of the rebellion and, fearing a repeat of the brutal uprisings from his past, turns to dark powers to acquire the strength needed to quash the insurrection at any cost.
`Wish addresses the points I hinted at earlier, particularly in its portrayal of King Magnifico. Initially, he is depicted as a beloved character, with the people of Rosas content under his rule. However, as the plot unfolds, we discover a darker facet of King Magnifico. The wishes, initially perceived as benevolent, are revealed to be held for oppressive purposes. While Magnifico may believe he is acting in the best interests of Rosas, it becomes evident that his actions are misguided.
When Asha confronts him and attempts to reason with him regarding this serious issue, Magnifico’s ego obstructs the dialogue, initiating his descent into the dark side. In this transformation, he evolves into the very embodiment of the evil he professes to protect Rosas from.
Wish presents a stark and clear-cut dynamic between good and evil, highlighting the complexities of morality within the narrative.
The artistic approach in Wish seamlessly blends contemporary digital styling with a touch of classic aesthetics. The characters are crafted in a 3D animation style, while the backdrop exudes the timeless charm reminiscent of early Disney films. This innovative fusion was announced at the 2022 D23 expo, revealing the integration of traditional watercolor animation with computer animation to create a distinctive visual experience.
Indeed, Wish boasts a one-of-a-kind ambiance, marrying the designs of classics like Sleeping Beauty and Peter Pan with the modern allure of Frozen. Despite the unconventional pairing, Walt Disney Animation Studios has masterfully woven these elements together, resulting in an astonishing visual spectacle. Wish radiates an aesthetic that harmoniously blends the charm of the old world with the captivating allure of the new.
In terms of its underlying message, Wish delivers a clear and resonant theme: the triumph of good over evil. Even in the darkest moments for Rosas, when it seems all hope is lost for its people and the tyrant holds complete power and control, a mere spark of goodness ignites the flame of change. The film dedicates considerable time to instilling the value that each individual is their own guiding star. Notably, a song featured prominently in the movie is titled “I’m a Star.” Initially presented with a lighthearted melody, it acquires deeper significance during the film’s climax.
Through the inherent power of the star within each person, they can rise up and confront the adversary. This overarching message transcends political affiliations, offering a universal truth that everyone possesses the inner strength to champion noble causes and stand up for their beliefs. The narrative conveys the empowerment of the individual to fight for what is right, which is a welcome resurgence, filling a void that, for some time, has been absent.
All in all, I give Wish five out of five stars. If you are looking for a family-oriented film this holiday season, Wish gets my highest recommendation. With a great message, fun characters and a nostalgic art style, Wish is a movie many of us have been wishing would come true for a long time. There are tons of great songs that will become earworms for weeks, and lots of Disney Easter eggs scattered throughout. Wish is my vote for the sleeper hit of 2023.