Last week, the creative minds behind Disney’s upcoming animated film “Wish” provided a glimpse into their creative journey to members of the press at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California, and I was there!. The team, composed of Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn, and Juan Pablo Sans, engaged in a lively discussion, teasing us with insights about the film’s villain, the inspiration behind its setting, and the unique artistry that brought the story to life.
“Wish” is set to introduce a new villain to the Disney universe, King Magnifico. Disney knows that a new baddie is something that audiences have been eagerly anticipating. As Chris Buck humorously shared, “Well, for us, too, it was like we always wanted to do a nod to the Disney villains. And our audience was craving for another villain.” The story centers around Asha, a young heroine who must find the strength within herself to inspire her kingdom to stand against the villainous Magnifico.
A significant part of the discussion revolved around the blend of traditional and contemporary animation techniques used in the film. Buck described their approach as pushing technological boundaries, while Jennifer Lee emphasized their goal to capture the artist’s original vision without compromising it to fit into traditional CGI or hand-drawn limitations.
One of the highlights of the event (for me, anyway) was getting to ask a question to Jennifer Lee and her team about the inspiration for King Magnifico: “What were y’all thinking when you created him? Were there any Disney villains or any real-world figures that y’all drew from?” In response, Jennifer Lee revealed that they started by considering the type of villains they loved and how they could create something different yet familiar. She noted, “So, we knew we wanted to start where you get to watch him make choices where you might meet the best of him, and then hopefully, survive the worst of him.”
In terms of the film’s cultural inspiration, Buck clarified that while “Wish” is not set in a real location, it draws inspiration from the Mediterranean region, reflecting the cultural convergence that historically occurred there.
The team also spoke about the role of Ariana DeBose, whose expressive performances helped shape the character of Asha. As Buck explained, “She’s very active within the booth. Sometimes maybe a little too much, because the sound engineer is like, ‘Ariana, can you move back on the mic a little bit?’ But you know, she’s acting it all out.”
Furthermore, Julia Michaels’ songs for the film drew attention for their blend of classic Disney influences and contemporary styles. Fawn Veerasunthorn spoke about the modern pop sound that Julia brought to the film, and Jennifer Lee highlighted the importance of the songs in driving the story forward, saying, “every song is a reveal of character or emotion.”
As the filmmakers reflected on what they would discuss with Walt Disney if given the chance, they shared their admiration for his creative genius, his perseverance, and his ability to dream. Juan Pablo Sans spoke about the Wishing Tree in “Wish,” which was inspired by Disney’s Dreaming Tree in Marceline, Missouri.
Disney’s “Wish” promises to continue the company’s legacy of creating magical, inspiring stories that touch the hearts of audiences worldwide. The team’s passion for their work, evident throughout the press event, ensures that “Wish” will be a film that pays homage to Disney’s rich history while also pushing the boundaries of animation and storytelling.
Gray is a lifelong Disney fan! From Disney+ to the parks, he loves it all. His favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast, and his favorite attraction is The Haunted Mansion.