Directed by: Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn
Premise: Set in a magical kingdom, the sorcerer king (voice of Chris Pine) hordes the wishes and dreams of his people to enrich his own power. A young woman (voice of Ariana DeBose) teams with a rogue wishing star to set the people’s hopes free.
What Works: Walt Disney Animation features are historically renowned for their songs but few of their recent films have included notable music. Wish has an excellent slate of original songs including “A Wish Worth Making” and “Knowing What I Know Now” and “This Wish” which are well performed by the voice cast. The premise of Wish is interesting especially coming from The Walt Disney Company. The story is about a fairytale kingdom in which a sorcerer materializes people’s hopes and dreams on the pretense of safe keeping only to horde the wishes to enhance his power. Viewers don’t have to look too far into the premise to see a metaphor of corporate power and the way elites control people by holding their aspirations hostage. Disney in particular has hoarded intellectual property and has been repeatedly accused of stealing ideas. Like the remake of Dumbo, Wish has a bit of self-awareness that could be subversive if those ideas were followed anywhere meaningful.
What Doesn’t: Unfortunately, the ideas and storytelling of Wish are halfhearted. The film has been released to coincide with the Walt Disney Company’s centennial and Wish is clearly intended to be a victory lap for the studio. Instead, Wish is the apotheosis of everything wrong with Disney’s film and television production efforts. The company has spent about a decade stoking the audience’s nostalgia; instead of making new things that we’ll love, Disney has focused on projects that remind us of something we loved, oftentimes an inferior version of beloved properties. Wish is exactly that. It plays like a cheap, direct-to-video knockoff of their classic productions. The visual style attempts to fuse contemporary digital animation with traditional hand drawn cartoons but the result is the worst of both mediums. It looks awful. The setting is flat and the characters lack expression. Wish suffers from a clash of tones, ranging between silly and serious and the humor is lame. The narrative is a patchwork of references to other Disney films but this only reminds us of better movies and the resolution of the story is a copout.
Bottom Line: Wish is a derivative and slapdash effort that epitomizes everything beguiling Disney and the Hollywood system. It’s a corporate demo reel passing as a motion picture and the film’s lazy cynicism places Wish among the worst of Disney animated features.
Episode: #976 (December 10, 2023)