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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

"Wish:" Disney's Biggest Disappointment

2023 marks the 100 year anniversary of Disney Animation Studios, a company that has put out countless classics in the past century. It's practically impossible to find someone nowadays who has never seen a Disney movie. To celebrate this monumental achievement, Disney released Wish, their latest addition to their series of princess movies. With the weight of a century of success on its back, expectations were high for Wish, and the world seemed excited to welcome their latest project to their screens, but things started to change as soon as the promotional material came out... So what went wrong here? Is Wish fit to cap the 100 year legacy of Disney? Let's discuss.

First and foremost, the release date of Wish put the movie in an unusual position. 2023 has been one of the most catastrophic years for Disney...ever. Their releases this year consisted of the live action Little Mermaid, Elemental, The Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones 5, The Marvels and Ant-man: Quantumania. Not only were these movies not well recieved by critics or audiences, but they also bombed at the box office. The best of the list was easily Elemental, but it was considered a financial failure for the company. In fact, The Marvels had the lowest-grossing opening weekend ever for an MCU film. Shortly afters its release, it saw a 78% drop in ticket sales, making it also the all-time largest drop for a Hollywood superhero film. This year literally saw unprecedented failure for the studio. It seemed that Disney was unable to release a film this year that was both critically and financially successful, something they've rarely struggled with in the past.

Wish was the final release from Disney this year, coming out on November 22nd. It was directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, who both worked on Frozen. It follows the story of Asha, who lives in the city of Rosas, where the sorcerer King Magnifico collects all the citizen's greatest wishes and occasionally grants them in ceremonies. The plot revolves around Asha realizing King Magnifico's gradual decent into power-hungry madness as she tries to take back all the wishes and return them to the townspeople of Rosas. From the time the first trailer released, Wish received criticism, first off from its animation style. Audiences were vocal about wanting a tried and true 2D animated movie, like the ones Disney became previously released. However, Disney did not fulfill this wish, and animated the film in a way that attempted to blend the styles of 2D and 3D together. This sounds like a unique, innovative idea in concept, but it resulted in the movie looking almost...unfinished. However, there are still some defenders of the animation style. The strongest aspect of Wish has got to be the voice acting, but only because everything else is so underwhelming. Ariana Debose and Chris Pine both put genuine effort into their roles but were stifled by the lackluster script they were given. The usually amazing, Alan Tudyk played Valentino the goat sidekick and delivers unfunny joke after unfunny joke, kind of making me resent his voice by the end of the film. Not to mention, the sentient star character, creatively named, "Star" is essentially a ripoff of Luma from Super Mario Galaxy.

Wish has also drawn criticism for its characters. The main character, Asha came off as annoying for some audience members. It seems like for the past decade, every Disney princess has been quirky and awkward in an attempt to make them seem relatable. We've seen this in Rapunzel in Tangled, Anna in Frozen, Moana, and Mirabel in Encanto. It's a style that people have begun calling the "adorakable" epidemic. This writing worked for some of the aforementioned characters, but at this point, audiences are sick of it, and it comes across as plain lazy writing. Asha is not the most severe example of this adorkable trend, but she is the straw that broke the camel's back. In terms of King Magnifico, audiences at first seemed excited for the return of a classic Disney villain, as they have been largely absent for most of Disney's recent films. But is King Magnifico worth being placed among the ranks of Ursula, Scar, Gaston, and Cruella De Vil? Absolutely not. His motive is weak, and he lacks the dastardly charisma that made you almost root for Disney's past villains. The other characters that weren't either annoying or unlikable were just plain forgettable. There are several characters playing Asha's friends that have considerable screen time. However, I cannot recall a single one of their names...and I watched this movie last night. Their designs and costumes are bland, their dialogue is annoying, and any attempt at humor falls flat.

So the characters are bad and the dialogue is bad, but this is a Disney movie? Surely the music is good right?....right? Wrong.

For the past century, Disney has delivered so many classic songs through their movies, written by legendary songwriters such as Alan Menken, Robert Lopez, Danny Elfman, Howard Ashman, and even Elton John. So who did Disney hire for Wish to follow such an accomplished line of musical theater writers? That's right! Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice? Wait...who? Julia Michaels is a pop songwriter who has written hits for Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony, while Benjamin Rice is a producer who has worked with Norah Jones and the Jonas Brothers. I have been racking my brain for hours wondering why on Earth Disney would want to cap off its 100 year anniversary by hiring Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers' songwriters? But then it all became so clear. Last year, Encanto's We Don't Talk About Bruno became a #1 hit on the Billboard top 100, and Disney is trying to do that again with Wish. But instead of having one song sound like a pop hit, Michaels and Rice attempt to have every. single. song. sound like this, i's exhausting. The songs in Wish range from forgettable to straight up annoying. The classic "I Want song" is present in the form of "This Wish" which includes the baffling lyric of "I'll look up at the stars to guide me, and throw caution to every warning sign." This is not a phrase. This makes no sense. On top of this, "I Wish" is the song that Disney is trying hardest to make a pop hit.

While the music may be disappointing, none commit a greater sin than King Magnifico's villain song, "This is the Thanks I Get?!" Before Wish came out, or the entire song was even released, this song received so much vitriol from the internet. The lyrics: "I let you live here for free and I don't even charge you rent. I clean up all your messes and I'm always there when you need to vent" garnered a vicious reaction from thousands. It became a trend on Tiktok to juxtapose the song with Disney's previous villain songs like "Hellfire," "Poor Unfortunate Souls," or "Be Prepared" to showcase just how far the studio had fallen in terms of songwriting. Just a brief clip of this song turned off thousands from seeing the film in theaters and attracted ridicule from every angle. A popular complaint was that it sounded like a Lin-Manuel Miranda knockoff when in reality, he had nothing to do with the production. "This is the Thanks I Get?!" is yet another attempt from Disney to create a top 40 hit, and it failed miserably. I never thought I'd say this, but the worst part of this Disney movie is the music.

One of the few complaints with Wish that I do not share is the use of past Disney references. A lot of viewers have claimed they are too frequent or overt and that it's just shameless fan service. I, on the other hand enjoyed these playful references and they are only obvious if you've basically memorized past Disney films. Yes, having straight up Peter Pan make a cameo was weird, but in terms of things this movie gets wrong, this isn't very high on the list.

Wish currently holds a score of 47 on Metacritic and 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, which seem to be slowly depleting by the day. Making it one of the lowest scoring films in Disney's catalogue. But even though its not a hit with critics, it's a Disney movie...surely it'll make a lot of money...right? Wrong again. With an approximate budget of $175-200 million, Wish has only grossed $48.9 million as of November 28th. If you're not too familiar with how movie budget's work, a film is widely considered a failure if it doesn't gross at least double the amount of its budget. When it comes to Wish, this has been a catastrophic failure. Disney will lose money on this. What a way to close out their 100th year!

When I first started writing this review, I did not expect it to be this long, but the more I reflected on Wish, the more problems began to show. Disney could not have picked a worse movie for their 100th anniversary if they tried. Let's hope this legendary studio is able to dust itself off in 2024 and get back to creating classics that captivate and excite audiences rather than bore and disappoint them.

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