Disney’s centenary film Wish will have fans hunting for Easter eggs, say directors
Disney’s animated films have a tradition of giving nods to earlier movies.
A fish glimpsed in the background in Moana (2016) might have first appeared in The Little Mermaid (1989), for example.
Spotting Easter eggs in the new musical fantasy Wish – which opens in cinemas on Nov 23 – will keep Disney fans busy, say its directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn during an online press event.
“We’ve been told that someone has kept a list and there are at least a hundred Easter eggs,” adds Buck, 65. Veerasunthorn, 40, believes that number is higher.
Wish commemorates the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, so its creators have packed the film with homages.
Artists in different departments would “just keep adding things in the backgrounds”, says Buck.
“They would surprise us and some of them are things even we don’t know about,” adds the American film-maker who, with Jennifer Lee, helmed the hit musical fantasy Frozen (2013), which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. He and Lee reunited to direct the sequel, Frozen II (2019).
One obscure reference in Wish that Buck knows about comes from Pocahontas (1995).
“I started as a hand-drawing animator on Pocahontas and I animated the grandmother character Willow. So the artists put Willow into Wish, in a scene set in a forest. She’s somewhere in the background. It will be a fun hunt, but it may take you a hundred viewings,” he says.
Wish features the voice of American actress Ariana DeBose – who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing Anita in Steven Spielberg’s musical film West Side Story (2021) – as Asha, a girl who lives in the kingdom of Rosas. It is an idyllic place ruled by the beloved king Magnifico (Chris Pine).
When Magnifico is discovered to be misleading citizens in order to stay in power, Asha flees. Her yearning for a better life for the citizens of Rosas summons Star, a magical being with the power to make wishes come true.
But she adds that the creative team did not develop Asha with the princess template in mind, and wanted the character to be “relatable, but also aspirational”.
“She’s someone you can root for, who’s not afraid to be herself. We didn’t really think about comparing her with other characters,” says Veerasunthorn, who is making her directorial debut with Wish.
The Thai national was born in Chonburi province, in the east of Thailand. She dropped out of medical school in her home country to pursue a fine arts degree in the United States.
She took jobs in various companies before joining Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2011 as a story artist, where she worked on Frozen and Moana before rising to the head of story position on South-east Asian fantasy Raya And The Last Dragon (2021).
She says that while it sounds corny, working on Wish has been a dream come true for her.
“Chris (Buck) has been a great mentor. We bond over having a weird sense of humour,” she says. “I’ve had an enjoyable ride and we put all of that into the film.”
- Wish opens in cinemas on Nov 23.