Review: Wish (Disney 100 Celebration)

In recent years, it has become trendy for everyone to criticize the Walt Disney Company as much as humanly possible. In many cases, it is justified, but these criticisms are unfounded regarding Wish, Disney's tribute film to their 100-year animation legacy. This is a movie that provides Disney fans with everything they have been asking, begging, and wishing of the studio for years. It is a beautifully animated original story that is all heart with no pandering and is neither a sequel nor a remake. Since the movie is also an homage to the Disney animation of the past, it is packed with subtle Easter eggs that only true Disney fans will notice and are not obnoxiously in your face like some of their previous attempts with Wreck-It Ralph 2 or Chip'n Dale: Rescue Rangers. In fact, this movie was so entertaining that it got me thinking about the characters on a deeper level than the writers may have even intended long after I left the theater.


As previewed in the trailers, Wish tells the story of Asha, an ordinary girl living in the extraordinary kingdom of Rosas, where the people's wishes are regularly extracted from their souls and given as offerings to Sorcerer King, Magnifico, in the hopes that he will one day grant them. Asha has a botched interview to be Magnifico's new apprentice with the somewhat self-serving motivation of granting her grandfather's wish for his 100th birthday when she learns that Magnifico has no intention of granting most of the wishes he collects. Instead, he keeps them safe in his castle so their owners can forget them and not have to experience the pain of longing for something that will never happen the way that he did in his childhood. Magnifico and Asha have different perspectives on what is best for Rosas. Though neither of them is entirely wrong, learning the truth prompts Asha to summon a magical wishing star with the potential to return the people's wishes, rousing Magnifico's wrath and turning him into a classic Disney villain when he is corrupted by dark magic from a forbidden book.

There are many things to love about this movie in addition to the unique plot that is inspired by Disney's history of heartfelt musicals about chasing your dreams rather than an old fairy tale. The CGI animation is blended with a unique watercolor-inspired filter to give the movie more of a classic look that is reminiscent of the hand-drawn films of the past that many people grew up with, myself included. Watching it on a big screen enhances this effect through a subtle canvas-like paper texture underneath every frame that is virtually invisible when viewing it on a smaller screen. There are also faint outlines around each character and object, creating a similar effect to the first season of Sofia the First. Many visuals throughout the film weave in references to memorable scenes from the animated Disney movies of the past hundred years, including Princess Aurora's enchanted dress, the glowing green hands that ripped out Ariel's voice, the Fairy Godmother's cloak and wand, and the opening title screen of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film is a visual feast for anyone who has ever enjoyed a Disney movie in the past. It even includes a subtle nod to Disney Television Animation.

One unique element that Wish introduced is a love interest for the villain. There was so much potential for Queen Amaya to provide a compelling story of heartbreak and the power of true love that had never been done in a Disney movie before. Unfortunately, this opportunity was squandered by making her a one-note MacGuffin who showed very little remorse toward Magnifico's transition to evil or the inevitable punishment that resulted from it. As a long-time fan of Sofia the First, I have been very compelled by the idea of a story in which an innocent maiden is able to reform an evil sorcerer, but this was not that story. I hope that the inclusion of a love interest for the villain can lay the groundwork for more complex relationships in future Disney movies. Though Amaya falls flat as a character, I loved that both Asha and Magnifico wanted to do what was right for Rosas and could have easily switched roles as the hero and villain of the story if their circumstances had been different. Asha initially wanted to benefit her own family and performed some questionable actions when she decided to betray Magnifico. Likewise, Magnifico was misguided by his traumatic past and thought he was doing what was right for Rosas and might have succeeded if Amaya had gotten through to him.

Wish stands as a refreshing departure from the wave of criticism facing Disney in recent years. The movie offers fans a heartfelt and original story, free from the overbearing references that have characterized some of the studio's past works. The homage to Disney's animation legacy is woven into the film's DNA, evident in its beautifully animated original story and subtle Easter eggs that remain true to the spirit of Disney. The film's unique visuals, blending CGI animation with a watercolor-inspired filter, provide a classic look reminiscent of hand-drawn films of the past. Furthermore, Wish introduces unique elements, such as a love interest for the villain, hinting at the potential for more complex relationships in future Disney movies. Despite some missed opportunities in character development, the film's exploration of the conflicting perspectives of its main characters adds depth and nuance to the narrative, leaving viewers pondering the story long after leaving the theater. Overall, Wish serves as a testament to Disney's ability to evoke nostalgia while forging new ground, offering a visually stunning and thought-provoking experience for audiences.

Comments

Sugar said…
Wow, you're not the only one imagining a romantic redemption story for an understandable villain in a story! In fact, many Pretty Cure fans have been pairing some of the precure girls with villainous boys for years in a fandom.
I've been looking for some books in that style but unfortunately most of them follow the plot of "Oh look the "innocent" maid isn't so good after all" or "well maybe she should just become another villain."
I like the aesthetic of the covers of the trilogy "Villains and Virtues" by AG Caggiano but it doesn't seem to be exactly what I'm looking for...and I haven't found animated series in that style, nor would the closest thing be the romance between Raf and Sulfus by Angel s Friends...
I think Disney could consider something like this in a series the redemption of someone who was a villain offers a complex romantic story perfect for adding a romantic subplot to a series and enough conflict to not have to artificially add it between the couple.
Lisa Dawn said…
The Once Upon a Villain series from a year or two ago had lots of books like that, and the newer Once Upon a Prince series has The Wicked Prince, which is a love story between a gender-bent Robin Hood and Prince John. I know I keep raving about the new anime, I'm Giving the Disgraced Noble Lady I Rescued a Crash Course in Naughtiness, but it has such an adorable leading couple in it! Even though the name lead is only called a demon by people who never met him, he is a powerful sorcerer, so that's kind of like what we're looking for minus the evil part.
Sugar said…
Oh wow, could you tell me the name of the author of Once upon a Villain? I don't think I know the series and let's say that when I searched for the name I only found smut romance sagas with naked people on the cover hahaha.
Lisa Dawn said…
Oh sorry, I think it's actually a Villain's Ever After. It's a multi author series like Once Upon a Prince. The Goblin and the Dancer that you read recently was from it.
I have been seeing the trailers for Wish but must admit I didn't think it was something I would want to watch (not sure why, but my movie watching in general has reduced over the years). Having read this though I think it would be a film I would really like. Thanks for this deep dive, it adds a dimension to the film I think that would make it more interesting to watch.
This is definitely the most positive review I've seen for the movie since it's been really heavily criticized. While I wouldn't call it the best movie ever, I still think it's solid.
Lady Culturina said…
According to concepts art, Asha should have been the virtuous daughter of villainous couple Magnifico and Amaya. And thus a by the book princess (enhanced by a beautiful dress she get in the end, instead of just make it spark.) In the movie proper, I think it’s a waste that Amaya, who have no kids, do not nominate Asha as her official heir. She would have been the first Disney princess not by birth, marriage, or because merchandising said so like Mulan, but as a self made woman and based on her merits.
Lisa Dawn said…
Interesting. I guess they were trying to make it a twist that she doesn't become a princess because that's what people would have expected. Unfortunately, it seems like they're attempts to surprise and delight audiences did not go the way they planned.
eacox said…
Some critics think King Magnifico was justified in everything he did up until he got corrupted by the book, what can you say to debunk that?
Lisa Dawn said…
No, I agree with that. That's why it's such an interesting and layered movie. Two people with two different perspectives on what's right just trying to fight for what they believe in until one of them became unhinged and had to be stopped.
eacox said…
Do you think that means none of his villainy was his own fault?
Lisa Dawn said…
Of course not. He became evil when he chose to use the book.
eacox said…
Some people even say Asha is the real villain because some of the wishes looked dangerous, and one person on Youtube even said King Magnifico is a childhood trauma survivor who managed to create a perfect safe space for himself before she ruined it. What do you say to all that?
Lisa Dawn said…
Like I said, there's a lot of layers. It's more thought provoking than most other Disney movies because it isn't all black and white. That's what makes it so interesting.
eacox said…
Why do you think so many people can't see that, then?
Lisa Dawn said…
As I said at the beginning of my review, it's become trendy to criticize Disney right now.

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