After some very difficult years made up of not exactly unforgettable works such as Raya and the Last Dragon and Encanto and following the very low point reached in 2022 with the epic flop of Strange World, which became one of the biggest commercial bombs in film history last year, the Walt Disney Animation Studios try to raise their heads again with Wish, a new animated movie signed by Chris Buck (directing with Fawn Veerasunthorn) and Jennifer Lee (screenwriter of Wreck-It Ralph and Zootropolis and creator and co-director of Frozen and Frozen II) designed to celebrate 100 years of Disney.
Disney’s 62nd Classic according to the official canon, Wish is set in the magical world of Rosas, a fantasy land located off the Iberian Peninsula, and chronicles the story of the young dreamer Asha (new Disney princess also glimpsed a few weeks ago in the short film Once upon a studio, released on Disney+ just on the occasion of the company’s centennial), who one day makes a wish so powerful that it is granted by a cosmic force, a small sphere of boundless energy called Star, which would then be the so-called Wish Star which also appears in Disney’s logo and has previously been seen in several of the studio’s titles starting with 1940 Pinocchio.
Together, Asha (voiced in the original version by the Oscar-winning Ariana de Bose) and Star will face the sovereign Magnificent King (played by Chris Pine in the original version), a formidable sorcerer intent on controlling not only the lives but also the desires of his subjects in order to save the kingdom of Rosas from the rise of a tremendous darkness.
Wish: politics, technology, magic
In the intentions Wish is the movie that tries to reunite Classic Disney with modern Disney, the one born after the assimilation of the technical prodigies created by the Pixar, and indeed it is a very contemporary film – starting with the delusional right-wing white male ruler pitted against a good and righteous Democratic queen, yet another unmistakable sign that well-thinking Americans still bite their hands over the defeat of Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump in the penultimate election for the White House – dipped, however, from head to toe in the atmosphere and style of the great Classics, starting with the figure of the Princess and ending with the Fairy Godmother, passing of course through the topos of desire uttered with eyes to the stars.
The ruler who denies his subjects the fulfillment of their desires and thus self-improvement is a very strong metaphor rooted in the ideal of the American Dream: King Magnificent, who reverses the figure of the Wicked Witch, is finally a very successful villain-after a series of Disney films and others that had dispensed with the villain figure altogether-and after Zootropolis and Frozen 2, even Wish tells us about a rotten system that needs to be brought down and rethought.
As well as more or less explicit references toward the Classics of the past (one of the main characters is Asha’s grandfather, who is about to turn 100 just like Disney), the trait d’union that tries to tie Wish to the Disney tradition is its graphic style very particular, a child of the experimentation done on many animated shorts in recent years in 2D or mock 2D. Sort of a red herring, however, since the character design remained the same as it was post-Pixar which we are all familiar with and which, with its absolute conventionality, does not help to enhance the work done by color (this one actually being able to return a certain feeling of craftsmanship, although more about the backgrounds than the characters).
The gaping-jawed stylistic accomplishment achieved by works such as Arcane and Klaus or the recent Blue Eye Samurai (here is our review of Blue Eye Samurai) that the film evidently sought to achieve, unfortunately does not fully convince. However, especially in the ending Wish is finally able to capture the real Disney magic with a series of really successful passages that remind us that, yes, that feeling that these works are able to convey is as concrete and tangible as a hand drawing.