23 Nov 23
Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Natasha Rothwell, Victor Garber, Harvey Guillén
When songwriters Ned Washington and Leigh Harline composed When You Wish Upon a Star for Disney's 1940 animated feature, Pinocchio, they had no idea what a mighty legacy they had sparked.
Rising out of the Great Depression, the song's message touched a universal chord: "When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are/ Anything your heart desires/ Will come to you." As Walt Disney himself realised, that optimistic yearning pierces to the very heart of his brand's values.
The Oscar-winning song became as iconic as Mickey Mouse himself. By the 1950s, it had become Disney's unofficial signature theme. You can still hear it at the start of every feature, beaming over the Magic Kingdom logo, and at the climax of firework parades in every Disney theme park across the globe. Disney Cruise liners apparently even use the first seven notes as their signal horns.
And now, as Walt Disney Animation Studios hits its 100th year, When You Wish Upon A Star is lighting up the celebrations once again.
Wish, Disney's big birthday release, is directly inspired by the question: "How did the wishing star, upon which so many Disney characters wished, come to be?"
The story is set in Rosas, a fantastical land near the Iberian peninsula. A place "where wishes come true", Rosas is ruled by the all-powerful King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine), who promises to grant people their deepest desires – some day. Only he can decide which and when.
However, our sharp-witted 17-year-old heroine, Asha (voiced by West Side Story's Ariana DeBose) suspects there's something fishy – even sinister – going on.
When Asha turns to the sky to make her own wish, her plea is answered by a cute ball of celestial energy called Star. Together, they face formidable foes and perilous obstacles to prove that when one courageous person connects their will with the power of the stars, remarkable things can and do happen.
Reuniting the creators of Frozen – director Chris Buck and writer (and Disney's Chief Creative Officer) Jennifer Lee – this family blockbuster brings out all the big guns.
There's an all-new original story; catchy hits by Grammy-nominated singer- songwriter Julia Michaels (known for her work with Gwen Stefani, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez et al); an Oscar-winning actress as the protagonist; and, of course, a cute comedy sidekick: a film-stealing baby goat in yellow pyjamas (voice by Alan Tudyk).
So, can it equal Frozen's success? The pressure is on when we're talking a story that's been a century in the making.
That Wish is a loving homage to the animation house's past and a sparkling vision of its future is reflected in the movie's gorgeous artwork, which blends computer animation with eye- catching traditional watercolour.
Yet it's not enough to merely dazzle us. As with Frozen, Wish's true appeal lies in grounding fairy-tale escapism in relatable human endeavour and deep-felt emotions.
"It's not: make a wish and it's granted," Lee explained at a Wish preview event earlier this year. "There's this concept that work matters, and that the failure that comes with pursuing your dreams is as important as the success. For a lot of us, this movie was also about that, and how do we make it relevant to our kids too."
Prepare to be swept away by the next Disney classic. Larushka Ivan-Zadeh
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