As the directors of Disney‘s Wish, Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn were in charge of creating a film to honor 100 years of Disney animated features. After looking at every film that came before it, they decided to use the theme of wishing upon a star and created a watercolor storybook style of animation to match.
Wish follows Asha (Ariana DeBose), a young girl who disagrees with how the kingdom’s ruler Magnifico (Chris Pine) treats the wishes of her fellow citizens. She wishes upon a star for change, but is surprised when that star comes down from the sky to answer her call. The character of Star took on many forms, before finally becoming a simplified version that exemplifies the essence of animation.
DEADLINE: Where did the story come from?
CHRIS BUCK: The story sort of originated from knowing we were doing the 100th anniversary film. We took a frame from each film printout and put it on a bulletin board, so we had the entire Disney legacy right there on one bulletin board, and you could see all the different styles and all the different color palettes and everything. It was just incredible. But what you also saw were a lot of characters wishing on stars, and so we thought that if we’re going to pay respect to the legacy of this studio, it has to be about this.
FAWN VEERASUNTHORN: That’s what led us to the watercolor storybook look, and we thought it would be awesome to combine that with the technology that we’ve been developing in the past 15 years, to allow you to walk into that storybook and be immersed in that experience. That’s where the CG choice came in and we had to develop new technology for this film that we are so excited for future filmmakers to build upon. What a great way to celebrate 100 years at the studio.
DEADLINE: Tell me about Star, what was the journey to creating that character?
BUCK: Well, Star had quite an origin story in that when they first came down to Earth, they could shape-shift into anything and they also had a voice. As we were watching several versions of the movie, we just realized it’s not the right thing. It’s not the essence, and it’s not as great as it could be. And then, we were playing with the story artists and this simple design came up that we went, ‘Oh my gosh, that is the essence of animation.’ It’s like Animation 101, it’s the first lesson you have as this bouncing ball, that you squash and stretch. And then our character designer added this wonderful heart shaped mask around Star’s eyes and mouth, which is Mickey Mouse’s mask and helps with the eyebrows and the expressions. Then we decided what also could be just the best nod to classic animation would be pantomime, just no voice. Let all the acting come from the animators, let them do what they do best. And that’s why I think Star connects with so many people, it’s that simplicity and the essence of animation.
DEADLINE: What were some of the big challenges with making this film?
VEERASUNTHORN: I would say the big challenge is to achieve this look. That was our wish, to honor the past while combining the technology of the future. And it hasn’t been easy. Everything that our team dove into was new territory, and everyone brought their expertise and really creative solutions to the table.
BUCK: Another thing was the wish bubbles. What is in those wish bubbles, how they look, and all the different looks that they take on throughout the film was really difficult. Luckily, it looks kind of effortless on screen, but it was extremely difficult to get that look. That was one of the challenges that we didn’t even know was going to be that hard. But then our effects team and everybody worked really hard. What was the name of that group?
VEERASUNTHORN: The Bubble Task Force.