How many times have Disney fans heard the words 'when you wish upon a star' and wondered what if they too could make their dreams come true by starlight?
Well, that's exactly what Walt Disney Animation Studios is looking to examine in its new film, Wish, which comes out in November.
At a special event for the production, Yahoo UK was able to see 20-minutes of footage — the first to be made available to press — ahead of the film's release, with Disney’s Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee sharing new details about what viewers can expect.
What is the plot of Wish?
Wish began its journey as a simple idea: What does Disney mean to people? It is the question at the heart of the company, Lee says, and they "kept coming back to our dreams and wishing on stars."
"What I love about the word 'wish' is that it is so active, and when you make a wish I like to think it's a declaration of 'I'm going to try' and that drives all of our characters, and it's something that we all do," she explains.
The animation is set in the Medieval era in the fictional Kingdom of Rosas which is situated in the Mediterranean. It's a realm where people's wishes can be granted with magic, and it is where viewers will be introduced to the film's plucky protagonist: Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose).
Who is Asha?
Lee describes Asha as a "sharp-witted idealist" who, at 17-years-old, is a "leader in the making" even if she doesn't realise it yet.
Speaking of DeBose, Lee adds: "What's so beautiful about her is she's so talented but she's so humble, she's nervous, there's a lot happening in her career very quickly.
"She reminds me of Asha, in that Asha is like 'I'm just a normal teen' and then getting challenged in this world to be put in the spotlight and have these expectations [put on her], it's like [DeBose] knows that journey intuitively."
Asha is keen to find out everything there is to know about wishes by becoming the apprentice of King Magnifico (Chris Pine), the "self-named" royal who harnesses the magic to make wishes become a reality.
The first footage we are shown features Asha and Magnifico, who the teen meets for an interview to become his apprentice. The scene shows a glimpse of the stunning art style which lends the animation a dream-like quality used.
It teases what leads Asha to become motivated to change the way things are in Rosas, as she realises that Magnifico may not be the benevolent leader he seems to be after he holds an elaborate wish granting ceremony but dismisses everything she says about it.
Asha's sidekick Valentino
Asha is not alone in her journey of self-discovery, because she also has her grandfather, mother, and a pyjama-wearing baby goat named Valentino. Yes, you read that right.
The character was created by Chris Buck, the creative mind behind Frozen's Olaf, and Lee shares that he thought of the sidekick after becoming enamoured by videos of the real-life animals.
She adds: "The big thing was how does he fit into this journey?
"Goats are climbers, they fall a lot, [but] they always persevere and keep going and finding this part of Valentino... just this concept of how he can be that youthful driver of idealist ambition, willing to fearlessly climb and willing to go on that journey."
Asha's adorable sidekick is voiced by Alan Tudyk, an actor whom Lee describes as Disney's "good luck charm" and who has voiced several Disney characters over the years.
Wish's unique art style
Wish takes inspiration from Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty, but its art style was developed through short films like Paperman, Feast, and Far From the Tree. It uses stunning watercolour paintings mixed with CG to bring Asha's breathtaking world to life.
Lee explains that the animation has "layers upon layers" of art, which is something that has "been a want in the studio" adn that really represents the art that we care about, so we made that a priority," Lee says of the art style.
This is highlighted in the next round of footage that is presented, an 18-minute snapshot of the film featuring two big musical numbers including the very catchy You're A Star, which introduces the celestial being named, quite aptly, Star.
The song explains how Disney creatures have the ability to talk, something Lee jokes she's "always wondered", and presents the idea that everyone deserves the chance to make their wish a reality.
"The songs are emotional critical moments and also the songs are part of the story that drives it forward that always propels you with new information, new character understandings, or a discovery in a song," Lee says.
The music of Wish
Julia Michaels is the composer behind the Disney film's songs, a person who has mixed her love for classic films with contemporary vibes. Lee heaps praise on Michaels approach to writing songs, adding that their conversations about the music prompted Lee to even rewrite some of the script around the ideas that Michaels brought to the table.
Wish will also make several nods to Disney's iconic movies, Asha's seven friends have certain attributes similar to the dwarves from Snow White and we spotted references to Bambi and The Jungle Book in the film's big musical number, You're A Star.
Lee shares that the film is designed to be a celebration of the company whilst also bringing something new and original to fans and Lee explains that while there will are Easter eggs for Disney fans to spot the team "wanted to make sure [they] were telling the story organically for what it was."
Gushing about the forthcoming film, she adds that it focuses on "this concept that work matters, and the failure that comes with pursuing dreams is as important as success."
Lee says: "A lot of it was about being able to talk about that and how we make it relevant for our kids too, [so they know] to have the hope to drive through hard times."
Wish premieres in cinemas on 24 November, 2023.