Disney celebrates its own in this sweet, lighthearted animated musical

Chris Pine voices an arrogant, singing magician in this rote children’s film to celebrate Disney’s centennial.

It’s a small tragedy that Disney’s centenary coincides with a moment of internal crisis for the studio, in which its intellectual property empire has grown so thin that it’s on the brink of complete collapse (with overzealous winners For a cautionary tale about what happens), see Ridley Scott’s Napoleon). We’re told this is a year of celebration for Disney, except it’s not entirely clear what we’re celebrating beyond vague memories of past glories. This has been Disney’s preferred strategy for some time now, considering the studio’s steady production line of live-action remakes in recent years.

There’s a streak of the same absurdity that’s come to shape the otherwise sweet and sweet Wish, which plays comfortably as a minor-key entry into the Disney canon, but doesn’t hold up very well under the burden of expectation. Is. Its story, written by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee and Alison Moore, is a spin-off film – of a sort – for the wishing star that every Disney princess, puppet, mermaid, street rat and Greek god has dreamed of and about. I have sung. Their heart’s desire.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Rosas, a beautifully elaborate blend of medieval Iberian influences, ruled over by King Magnifico (Chris Pine). He’s an arrogant magician kind of guy who insists that he’s taking good care of his people’s wishes, while all he’s really done is put them in little, floating bubbles so he can live happily. to delight in his personal, enchanted Orbeez collection. But, when a spunky teenage girl, Asha (Ariana DeBose), is chosen as his next apprentice, she discovers that Magnifico is not as gentle as he pretends. Desperate, she turns to the night sky for answers. And, surprise! A star answers.

Thankfully, directors Chris Buck (also of Frozen fame) and Fawn Weerasunthorn have avoided the worst impulses of modern, mainstream cinema. I wish there was less Ralph Breaks the Internet and his crossover overdrive, and more Shrek minus outsider cynicism. Cut out the few moments of genuine indulgence in the film’s closing scenes, and you’re left with a blend of traditional fairy tale tropes with a splash of revisionism. Visually, it borrows heavily from the classics, particularly 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 1959’s Sleeping Beauty – with its storybook prologue, widescreen 2:55:1 aspect ratio and rich, watercolor aesthetics. with.

It features a traditional villain and a traditional villain song, which Pine performs with gusto. “This Wish”, the film’s lead track, sits comfortably alongside Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”, and is performed so powerfully by DeBose that not resorting to that nine-month-old “She” would be physical. The seemingly impossible happened!” Mam . There are plenty of cute animal sidekicks, and Disney veteran Alan Tudyk appears in some brilliant moments as a little goat in pajamas named Valentino.
Still, none of these tributes really answer the “why” of Disney’s cultural sovereignty. We’re here because of the novelty, because Snow White laid the blueprint, The Lion King rewrote it, and then Frozen delivered an earworm for the ages. Vish puts a lot of effort into styling his computer animation like a traditional, hand-drawn style. But wouldn’t the innovation here be to return fully to 2D? Hope’s friends are a consciously diverse, seven-dwarf-inspired crew. But wouldn’t real progress be to make their leader Dahlia (Jennifer Kumiyama), whose disability is obvious, a hero for once?

Alas, obviously, it’s carefully constructed, but as its credits offer a whistle-stop tour through Disney history, it’s hard not to think — God, wasn’t it great when they did that stuff? So weird and fun and adventurous as, say, The Emperor’s New Groove?

Directors: Chris Buck, Fon Weerasunthorn. Starring: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Harvey Guillen, Evan Peters, Ramy Youssef, John Rudnitsky.

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