How Disney’s upcoming animated musical film ‘Wish’ celebrates Walt Disney’s 100-year legacy

How Disney’s upcoming animated musical film ‘Wish’ celebrates Walt Disney’s 100-year legacyHow Disney’s upcoming animated musical film ‘Wish’ celebrates Walt Disney’s 100-year legacy
via Walt Disney Studios
Michelle De Pacina
September 29, 2023
Born and raised in Chonburi, Thailand, Fawn Veerasunthorn grew up with a deep passion for Disney animated films.
At a young age, Veerasunthorn fell in love with Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “Dumbo” and was filled with a desire to take part in recreating the same sense of magic that the animated musical films had given her. 
Her determination to pursue a career in animation was solidified at the age of 18 upon learning about a fellow Thai artist working at Disney’s animation studio in Florida. She, too, wished to become an artist and contribute to the creation of charm and wonder for future generations. 
via Walt Disney Studios
Against all odds, Veerasunthorn achieved her dream of joining Walt Disney Animation Studio (WDAS) in 2011. She contributed her artistic talents to many Disney movies, such as Oscar-winning feature films “Frozen” and “Zootopia,” before eventually becoming the co-director to Disney’s upcoming musical comedy film “Wish,” a story that pays homage to Walt Disney’s legacy. 
Just like Walt, Veerasunthorn’s journey began with a single wish.  
“Wish” follows the sharp-witted, 17-year-old heroine Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose), who makes a powerful wish that is unexpectedly answered by a cosmic force — a small ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront the ruler of her magical kingdom Rosas, King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine), to save her town. Asha’s journey once again proves that with the wish and will of a courageous individual, wondrous achievements can come to fruition.
“The movie about someone wishing is in the DNA of the Disney movies I grew up with,” Veerasunthorn tells NextShark. “Those movies have been giving me hope and encouragement to my own dreams. My wish was to work at Disney. It’s beyond my dream to be directing at Disney, so now that it happened, I’m just taking a moment to take it in like, ‘Yes, I’m living my dream!’” 
via Walt Disney Studios
To reflect WDAS’ cornerstone of connecting one generation to the next, Veerasunthorn was paired with director Chris Buck, who made his directing debut with the 1999 blockbuster film “Tarzan” and went on to direct “Frozen” and “Frozen 2.” Similarly, Buck, who was drawn to animation after seeing “Pinocchio,” wished to work at Disney.
“I had no idea that I would end up at the studio,” Buck says. “But to be here today and to be able to work on this film, it’s actually quite emotional because I’m able to give back to the studio that gave me so much hope for my childhood even when things were rough. It’s just a dream come true to give back.”
To Buck, the upcoming film embodies “hope, light, optimism, creativity and imagination — everything that Walt Disney represents to us here at the studio.” As this year marks the 100-year anniversary of Disney Animation, Buck began developing the idea of “Wish” in 2018 along with WDAS CEO Jennifer Lee, who also wrote and directed the two “Frozen” films.
via Walt Disney Studios
“I mentioned it to Chris Buck while we were working on ‘Frozen 2.’ We were still pretty deep in story and production,” says Lee. “And we couldn’t help ourselves. Within a few days, he had images from every movie our studio has made on boards in the hallway, just to start thinking.”  
The filmmakers eventually settled on a combination of CG/2D watercolor techniques with 3D animation to honor Disney’s animated classics, such as the studios’ earlier films like 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and 1940’s “Pinocchio.” And as music has become a significant part of Disney movies, they brought in Grammy-award nominated singer and songwriter Julia Michaels to write all seven songs for “Wish.”
“Julia loves Disney films and grew up on them. She still has that passion for them. Julia and [Benjamin Rice] were able to infuse all of that passion into the songs for this film,” Buck shares, adding that her songs “had this feeling of something classic but fresh because she brought her own contemporary ideas to it.”  
via Walt Disney Studios
Lee, the co-writer and executive producer of “Wish,” emphasizes that Disney hopes to bridge the gap between past and current generations to eventually nurture new voices and perspectives with the upcoming film. 
Lee says the theme of manifesting dreams and storytelling has always played a crucial role in her life. She recalls her own journey of finding her place in the world, initially feeling uncertain about her talents but always gravitating towards storytelling, especially through Disney. Her wish began with a desire to be connected to Disney in some way, ultimately leading her to her current career.
“The power stories can have to heal, to connect us, I was a beneficiary of that,” Lee says. “It was what I would turn to in anything I struggled through growing up, and in anything that went on in my life. It was the way you could create empowering stories full of justice and how you could weather a hard storm and persevere, I guess I fall for the fairytale all the time.” 
Reflecting on her achievements, she mentioned her desire to continue making movies but highlights a new focus on mentoring and teaching to help the next generation of storytellers.
“It’s not lost on me for a second what Disney can be for people,” she says. “What I really care about right now is helping to build the next generation because that is important. I want them to get their chance to tell their stories. I want to connect with all those people who have new kinds of point of views and stories to tell to make sure that we’re building them up to do that.”
“Wish” is a reminder of how a dream can change not only one’s own life, but also the lives of past and future generations. “Wish” releases only in theaters on Nov. 22.
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