A new Disney animated film, which is uniquely timed to the company’s 100th anniversary, is a milestone film in more ways than one.
Wish, starring Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine, is due in theaters on Nov. 22. DeBose stars as Asha, a young woman who wants to answer all of her town’s wishes, an action that goes against King Magnifico (Pine).
The cast also includes Alan Tudyk as Asha’s goat Valentino, Angelique Cabral as King Magnifico’s wife Queen Amaya, Victor Garber as Asha’s grandfather Sabino and Natasha Rothwell as Asha’s mother Sakina.
Other voice actors include Jennifer Kumiyama as Asha’s friend and town baker Dahlia, Evan Peters as Simon, Harvey Guillén as Gabo, Ramy Youseff as Safi, Niko Vargas as Hal, Della Saba as Bazeem and Jon Rudnitsky as Dario.
Shadow and Act had the opportunity to speak to many of the people behind the new film after a presentation that included a good bit of footage from the project.
The film has a unique look that blends the watercolor style with 3D animation, which several of the creatives spoke to Shadow and Act about.
“I think a lot of the look and feel is reminiscent of the great artwork that’s preceded this film,” said producer Peter Del Vecho. “But we want it to feel relevant. We want to feel timely. So using modern computer technology and the blending of the two mediums I think gives it an original look, but also makes it feel like it is advancing the artwork to the future.”
Producer Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones added, “It’s story first. So all of the look and style of the movie is because of what we wanted to do with this story. It’s a fairytale. So we went back to look at Pinocchio and Snow White and those original fairytales from the time of Walt to make this movie.”
“It was essential to be able to celebrate the legacy that was rooted in the watercolor look while looking toward the future,” said Fawn Veerasunthorn, co-director. “And that aspect is an all-new fairytale, original fairytale with original pop songs. You may say bangers, tunes in this movie. So that’s what led us to that look. And we didn’t pick it just randomly. It means something to us, to be able to go back to what inspired Walt himself within those artists. And can we make this and invite our CG artists to work with the 2D artists to create a look that we have never seen before?”
Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios and executive producer of Wish told us, “Animation was actually about transcending the reel to something other, and how it was built to begin with was artists with paintbrushes. And so, you’d see the watercolors or the marks or the etchings with pencils, with pens. And as technology evolves, you have to embrace technology as it comes, or you get left behind. But the honest reality of that, [is that] we accept that technology’s going to keep moving forward. But how do we get technology to the place where the artistry, the artist, the thing that makes animation something beautifully other?”
“I always say animation is the one thing where every single thing is created,” she continued. “Everyone has to contribute a piece, and they build it layer by layer by layer. Whether that was hand drawn or CG, how do you get the artist’s intent no matter what the technology is? And that’s when we talk about it’s been many years in the making, because CG created new opportunities visually. But [what the artist was] painting, that was getting translated, [and] there was something that you lost as much as you made gains. So what this is really a celebration of is not going backward, [utilizing] the origins of what made animation beautiful, that we’d never wanted to lose.”
Diversity as far as the voice talent, as well as diversity behind the scenes, was important as well. “Certainly, the idea of inclusion is important to us,” Del Vecho explained. “The idea of people being able to see themselves on the screen and to feel relatable. But it always comes back to the story, and where the story was set in the Iberian Peninsula or a little island in the fact that Magnifico created this place where your wishes come true and invited anyone to come from anywhere. That also, just from a story point of view, made sense to have a very diverse cast.”
The team also gave a lot of kudos to Oscar winner DeBose and what she brought to the performance.
“Ariana is just full of energy and she is just so authentically herself,” said Lancaster Jones. “And that’s what we wanted from Asha as well. A person that you can be relatable, that’s fun, that’s quirky. Also, her singing is unnatural. We talk about how Julia [Michaels] writes really hard songs, and then Ariana would always hit it out of the park.”
Veerasunthorn added, ” She has such energy and a sense of fun, and every time we see her, I feel I get to know her more because she doesn’t hold back anything. We love that. We’ll be like, ‘Ariana, how do you join a circle of dance? If you were to step into that?’ She’s like, ‘Well, maybe I’ll do this.’ And she comes out later and [she’s like] “Maybe this is how Asha would walk… so I have all these ideas on how Asha would say if I should talk to you guys, or just have someone to talk to?’ We were like, ‘Come to the animation building, talk to our animators.’ They were so inspired by her.'”