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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mt Holyoke chapter.

Commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the studio, Walt Disney Animation’s most recent venture, Wish, seemed like it had all the ingredients for another family-friendly hit; plucky female heroine, talking animal sidekick, musical numbers, and, of course, no dearth of the studio’s signature magic. 

I, personally, did not see the film in theaters because, as the broke college student I am, I figured I’d save a few bucks and wait until it came out on Disney+. The joke was on me as, due to poor box office performance, the movie was only just released on the platform on April 2nd after only being available to buy or rent for the past few months. While its abysmal numbers and generally negative online feedback were overwhelming, I was still willing to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, as I was intrigued by the story and excited about the pseudo “return” to hand-drawn animation. 

Having finally watched it, I can say with certainty that the film is aggressively average. By no means the worst thing the studio has ever produced, it was fun while it lasted, and the animation, I will say, was gorgeous. But it is far from the classics that it quotes throughout in subtle (and not so subtle) references.

The general consensus from my friends after we watched it was along the lines of “it was cute” or “I would have loved it when I was little.” But therein belies what I see as one of Disney’s biggest problems in the past few years; whereas something like Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Princess and the Frog, or Mulan has endless watchability and timeless appeal no matter what age you are, Wish feels like a movie that was made specifically for children, reflected in the simplicity of the script, flatness of the characters, and overall bland, formulaic story. 

Now, before you accuse me of being a Disney adult, I know what you’re thinking—isn’t Disney made primarily for kids? Well, yes, but the point I am making is that the movies are usually of such a standard of quality that adults can enjoy them too, if only for the spectacle of the animation itself. But even outside of that, the stories are compelling, the characters are interesting, and some genuinely powerful, moving messages are created. 

Wish, on the other hand, feels like a kid playing dress-up in the closet of its forebears, coming so close to capturing some of their magic yet never fully coming through on the promise.

Perhaps one of the biggest faults I found with the movie was the music, so bear with me for a long-winded tangent on this point. The Disney animated musical has always been one of the studio’s biggest cash cows, but Wish falls flat on its face in my opinion. Good music is so integral to Disney movies, so from the disappointment of the very first song, I knew I was going to find it hard to enjoy the rest of the film. Departing from the typical Broadway sound of most Disney musicals, the Wish soundtrack by Benjamin Rice and singer-songwriter Julia Michaels seems like it is trying to imitate Lin Manuel-Miranda soundtracks like Encanto, adding a modern, pop flair. Yet it lacks the understanding of how music, rhyme, and rhythm, you know, actually work that make Manuel-Miranda’s music successful. 

While I think the instrumentals of the songs are catchy, the lyrics are bland, clunky, and don’t flow with the backing tracks at all—syllables seem awkwardly crammed or drawn out in order to fit within each line. And truly poetic lyrics like “Wait ’til they hear our feet go dun, dun, dun, dun” and “Watch out world here I are” feel like such far cries from the deftly-crafted lyricism of Disney legend Howard Ashman, responsible for the music of some of Disney’s most iconic “Renaissance” films. Lyrics like “Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling, soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky” or “There goes the baker with his tray like always, the same old bread and rolls to sell. Every morning just the same, since the morning that we came to this poor provincial town” not only paint vivid pictures in the audience’s mind, help characterize the singers or setting in some way, and use complex language instead of dumbing down their audience, but they have rhythmic flow as well. 

The lyrics in Wish, by contrast, are just . . . bad, there’s no other word for it. Something like “if someone tried to hurt you, I don’t see how that could happen. I’d fight for you in ways you can’t imagine. Felt this, no, I haven’t, I hope it would be all right to stay right here beside you” are just awkward and have no flow, and if there are any images conjured at all, they’re all packed with cliches. Even the main song, “This Wish,” which is probably one of the better ones, is just so clunky—just listen to “so I make this wish to have something more for us than this” and tell me it isn’t so awkward. From a rhythmic standpoint, it just doesn’t work; the syllables are unbalanced and feel rushed through in order to fit into the line. 

The story itself is also . . . fine. It is very simple, revolving around Asha’s attempts to free the wishes of the people of Rosas from Magnifico’s grasp after wishing on a star. I could get past simple stories if the characters at least had something interesting to do, but none of them are really developed at all. I came away from the movie feeling like I still really didn’t know anything about Asha—interestingly, although her main goal throughout the film is to return the wishes, we never actually learn anything about her wish, her ambitions, or what she wants. Asha is essentially just a copy-and-paste, quirky, “not like other girls” character, which to me, seems like it has become Disney’s recent cop-out to actually crafting compelling, dimensional characters. She doesn’t strike me as different or special from previous princesses in any way, which was so disappointing given the talent they were working with in Ariana DeBose. 

The rest of the film is a crowd of side characters that are similarly underdeveloped, and Magnifico himself is also very flat—at the start of the film, the audience is given a hint into some background about how he lost his family, which seems like it would offer important insight into how he became the person he is. But nope! It is never mentioned again, and he proceeds to be nothing but a stereotypical bad guy, seemingly just because he can. 

I will admit, the references to other movies were fun to pick out, and I think it was cute how the whole movie was basically just a love letter to the studio and its brand of fairy godmothers, wishing stars, etc. It was actually really heartwarming that Sabino was 100 years old and seemed like he was either allegorizing the studio or Walt Disney himself, even plucking the start of “When You Wish Upon a Star” on a guitar in an end credits scene.

However, I can’t help but feel like we deserve more than just nostalgia. Take the Disney live- action remakes, for example. I’ve actually enjoyed a lot of them. Still, at the mechanic rate they’re being pumped out, many of them have no reason to exist other than their nostalgia factor, offering nothing new or substantial to the original story. 

I’m fine with a few little references here and there, but ultimately, Wish proves even nostalgia can’t save a poorly crafted story and half-baked characters. For a film celebrating the achievements of Disney and paying homage to some of its most classic films (with nods to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and more sprinkled throughout), the lackluster songs feel like an insult to the very legacy it is tributing, so known for its amazing soundtracks. 

This review was way more eviscerating than I intended, so I’d just like to clarify that I very much am a Disney girlie—many of my favorite movies of all time are Disney movies, and if you ask anyone, they’ll tell you that they are the films I return to the most for comfort watches again and again. It’s because I love the studio so much that I am being so critical. Yes, Wish was a fine movie. But why should we settle for mediocrity? A studio should not have to sacrifice quality for nostalgia-bait, and I expected so much better from a company responsible for such classic and acclaimed movies—especially from its anniversary movie! There’s a reason why Disney movies have slowly been slipping out of the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, and I think Wish should really be used as an opportunity for the studio to reassess its creative values over its mindless profit off of nostalgia with no substance to back it. 

Sarah Grinnell

Mt Holyoke '26

Hi! My name is Sarah, and I am a sophomore at Mount Holyoke with a prospective double major in English and studio art. I love to read (Jane Austen is one of my faves <3), write, paint, and watch movies and cartoons, and I'm super geeky for all things fantasy and sci-fi