April 16, 2024

What better way to celebrate 100 years of Disney Animation than a movie about the brand’s famous wishing star? After all, so many Disney characters, dating back to “Pinocchio’s” Jiminy Cricket, look to the stars and cast their dreams and hopes on them.

With 61 feature films preceding it, “Wish” is filled with nods to Disney’s animation legacy. Set in Rosas, a magical kingdom built on wishes, “Wish” follows Asha, a 17-year-old girl voiced by Ariana DeBose, who aspires to be the King’s apprentice. But when she discovers the King’s true motives, she finds herself in a forest and wishes on a star. The film’s storybook opening pays homage to Disney’s early films: 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” 1940’s “Pinocchio” and 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Screen shot Disney Plus

Directors Chris Buck (“Frozen,” “Frozen 2”) and Fawn Veerasunthorn (“Raya and the Last Dragon”) knew the film would feature original characters and music, but since the studio was celebrating its centennial year, they wanted to celebrate how far Disney’s animation style had come, from its original 2D style to 3D computer-generated imagery. “How do we celebrate the CG technology now and also look to the future and where the studio is going? How do we merge those two thoughts?” says Veerasunthorn, who makes her feature directorial debut with “Wish.”

The animation team came up with opening “Wish” with a watercolor illustration book, hearkening back to the style of “Snow White” and “Cinderella.”

“We wanted to start it with [Asha] and what seems to be her greatest hero and then her greatest challenge,” says chief animation officer and writer Jennifer Lee. “I loved it because it was the homage, but then it was wholly its own approach.”

The merging of 2D watercolor and computer-generated 3D to create a painterly aesthetic was inspired by “Pinocchio.” For the sequence, the studio employed its in-house animation technology called Meander, which had been used on the 2012 animated short, “Paperman,” but never for a full-length feature.

To see if it would work for “Wish,” Buck explains, “We took this classic shot from ‘Pinocchio’ that starts with a bell tower, [then] you go down into the village. It’s a multi-plane shot. We copied that in CG but with this style. It made us think about the elegance of the camera moves they had back then, instead of spinning everything around.”

Once they had that, Veerasunthorn says, “We thought, ‘Let’s take up the whole screen space. Why don’t we do an aspect ratio of 2.55:1, the widest screen possible that was last used in ‘Sleeping Beauty’? So, we tested it in the studio and it gave us this feeling that you could be immersed in this beautiful painting and be immersed with the characters.”

Aside from the visual style recognizing the studio’s legacy, there are countless Disney-related Easter eggs. Even composer Dave Metzger’s score features the first five notes of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” from “Pinocchio.”

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