Asha smiles at Star in a dark forest with red yarn hanging from tree branches around them.

Disney’s ‘Wish’ Is a Delicate Fable With a Rollicking Soundtrack

4/5 stars (but, like, magical sentient stars)

On paper, Wish looks like a by-the-numbers Disney animated film: a plucky young girl discovers that all is not well in her home, and she faces a seemingly unsurmountable villain in order to make things right. The movie’s got musical numbers, a cute animal sidekick, and an inspiring happy ending: check, check, and check. But if Wish is just another Disney movie, then why was I ugly crying 20 minutes into it?

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Wish takes place in the Mediterranean kingdom of Rosas, which is ruled by a powerful sorcerer, King Magnifico (Chris Pine). Magnifico has made a bargain with his subjects: in order to enjoy the safety and prosperity of Rosas, they must give him the deepest, most passionate wish in their hearts. He keeps the wishes safe in his castle, occasionally using his magic to make one come true.

Enter Asha (Ariana DeBose). Asha’s grandfather is turning 100, and she’s certain Magnifico will finally grant his wish. But when Asha finds out that Magnifico’s hoard of wishes has nothing to do with generosity and everything to do with power, she realizes her loyalty lies not with the king, but with the people he’s betrayed.

At the center of the plot are, of course, Asha and Magnifico. After so many stories about a young hero facing off against a villainous monarch, the dynamic might feel a bit tired. Luckily, DeBose and Pine both have charisma to spare, and Asha and Magifico’s bouts are endlessly entertaining. And Asha isn’t alone. While most Disney movies give their heroines only one or two allies, Asha gets a whole Scooby gang of lovable and eccentric friends. If you’re hoping to buy plushies, don’t worry—Wish also offers the usual non-human characters. In this case, they’re a sentient star and a verbose baby goat played, hilariously, by Disney’s resident animal guy Alan Tudyk.

The film’s Iberian setting is lovely. Asha herself boasts Southern European and North African heritage, and Rosas feels like a city in the middle of a bustling trade route, where different cultures mix and blend. The movie’s songs, dances, and dialogue are infused with Spanish language and culture. Songwriter Julia Michaels has clearly poured a lot of love into the movie’s soundtrack, especially gorgeous standouts like “This Wish” and “At All Costs.”

But what hit me hardest in the film was its central conceit: that our dreams, talents, and aspirations are a fundamental part of who we are, and having those qualities stolen from us is a violation. It’s ironic that Wish, with its villain who “safeguards” people’s wishes by parasitizing their creativity, is coming out on the tail end of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, in which creatives fought against CEOs very much like Magnifico.

It’s a shame that Wish‘s powerful message is undercut by the film’s constant references to previous Disney films, a move inspired by Disney’s 100th anniversary. The references are supposed to feel like fun Easter eggs, but overall, they give the impression that the film is doubling as an ad for the rest of Disney’s catalog.

Still, though, Wish is saved by its beautiful performances and timeless, fable-like plot. If you’re guarding a wish that you hope will come true—or if you’re smarting from a wish that was taken from you—then you’ll find yourself reflected in Rosas.

Wish opens in theaters on November 22.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>