Like several Disney films, Wish — directed by Fawn Veerasunthorn and Chris Buck — is not what it appears on the outside. Targeted at a young audience, Wish packs the nuanced message of the power of one whistle-blower to dismantle a corrupt system, through its teen protagonist Asha.
The film’s underlying message that dreams and wishes are more potent than we think they are is rendered beautifully through CGI animation with watercolour effects. The use of this tool is particularly striking in the scenes where Magnifico performs his magic or Asha breaks into a song with the rest of the citizens.
A teenager takes on the system to bring it down
All of 17, Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) lives in the city of Rosas that is ruled by the seemingly kind sorcerer king Magnifico. According to a rule, the citizens of Rosas, when they turn 18, can share a wish with King Magnifico who will grant it at a later date when he deems fit. But the catch is one will have to forget their wish after surrendering it to the king.
Asha, whose grandfather has been waiting for years for his wish to be granted, goes for an interview with Magnifico to get a job as his apprentice and also to retrieve his special wish. During the conversation, Asha gets an inkling of the evil nature of Magnifico and decides to unmask to the people his intention of never returning their wishes.
From then on, following Disney tradition, Asha gets external support — in the form of a wish-granting star in this story — to accomplish her mission of uniting the citizens of Rosas and rebelling against the king. Though she’s not a princess, Asha has the qualities that are the hallmark of a Disney princess — a heart of gold and the courage to dare for the good of all. What makes Asha extra special for us is her mixed race and her Indian-sounding name.
Magnifico makes for a magnificent villain, but…
The sorcerer king is insecure and will do anything to hoodwink his subjects and hold on to his power. He takes people’s wishes to add them to his collection like showpieces. As someone who is not only the head of the state but also possesses magical powers, Magnifico is a strong adversary for Asha to battle against.
Star Trek actor Chris Pine, who voices Magnifico, makes you loathe him. Pine’s voice acting strikes the right balance between villainy and humour — just like he did in the 2023 film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves — making Magnifico a standout in Disney’s gallery of rogues.
The major drawback of Wish is that the character of Asha comes across as one-dimensional, with no flaws of her own to fight alongside the antagonist. This is also why, despite the promising storyline, Wish feels a bit underwhelming.
Another song-driven Disney movie
Given that it’s a Disney musical, Wish is driven by its songs just like films such as Snow White (1937), Bambi (1942), Pinocchio (1940), Frozen (2013) and Moana (2016).
The song ‘Isn’t Truth Supposed to Set You Free?’ gives a peek into Asha’s thoughts, disturbed that she is by the condition of Rosas, while ‘So I Make This Wish’ brings out the collective desire of the people to remember what they wished for once and see them come true.
Magnifico, too, sings a song in the film, venting his anger after he sees his citizens rebelling against him one by one. The song ‘This Is The Thanks I Get?!’ depicts him as an egotistical and selfish king who gives a list of things he has done for his people only to be betrayed at the end.
Packed with Disney Easter Eggs
Wish is directors Veerasunthorn and Buck’s tribute to Disney’s 100-year-old legacy. Containing more than a bunch of Disney Easter Eggs, Wish is nothing short of a magical ride for Disney fans.
As Asha wishes upon a star, it instantly reminds us of Pinocchio (1940). After the star falls from the sky creating a bright flash all over the city, Asha gains the power to talk to animals, which might remind you of Snow White (1937). Also, the fact that Asha has seven friends as her ally, like Snow White’s band of seven dwarves. With the anthropomorphic star and the talking animals, Wish is also a throwback to Alice in Wonderland (1951).
That apart, Magnifico himself is a nod to the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty (1959).