‘Wish’ Producers Discuss Bringing Julia Michaels to Write Seven Songs

Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Wish is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. And with good reason. Just in time to celebrate the studio’s 100th anniversary, Wish is a hybrid of two different animation styles. The 2D watercolor techniques combine with modern CG technology. And it creates for a unique look that has been tested many times through their shorts.

So The Nerds of Color joined their fellow journalists to watch a sneak peak of the upcoming film last week, and then had a chance to talk to Wish producers Peter Del Vecho (Frozen, Frozen II) and Juan Pablo Reyes about the film that celebrates the studio’s centennial and bringing Julia Michaels on board to write seven songs.

Wish is directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, who uses a script written by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore. It features the voice talents of Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Victor Garber, Natasha Rothwell, and Angelique Cabral. Grammy®-nominated singer/songwriter Julia Michaels and Grammy-winning producer/songwriter/musician Benjamin Rice pens seven original songs.

After watching over 30 minutes of unfinished footage and hearing four of the seven songs, The Nerds of Color sat down for a virtual interview with Del Vecho and Reyes to talk about tying the themes of making a wish to their forthcoming film, why Julia Michaels was the right choice, and how the studio can continue on the legacy of great storytelling and groundbreaking animation.

The Nerds of Color: Wish celebrates wishes and how they are a timeless concept that can be seen throughout the studio’s animated features. It is also a fitting concept to celebrate for Disney’s centennial anniversary. Not only that, but the film is merging of two different animation styles. I was wondering why it’s so important to have these sort of generational pairings, both in animation and creative artistry for a film like this.

Del Vecho: Think at its core, we’re trying to, on the film itself, we’re trying to celebrate the 100 years, which is the history but we’re also trying to make sure it’s timely and timeless in terms of the storytelling and then it pushes us to the next 100 years.

So having a having a pairing like Chris and fawn who are so different in different generations, helps us achieve that goal. And pretty much everybody behind the film. It’s a wide variety of people both in gender and where people are from, and it helps really deliver a level of storytelling that we can only do in this collaborative way.

Visual development art of Valentino and his pajamas from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay (Associate Production Designer). © 2023 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With Walt Disney Animation Studio’s animated musicals of having hit music, there’s a lot of pressure for any artist to live up to the expectations and carry on that legacy. So in your search for one, what was it about Julia Michaels that made you go, ‘she’s the right one for this and not only for the film itself, but as you were saying to commemorate the 100 years as well?’

Juan Pablo Reyes: Julia has a history of working with the studio. She was in the chorus of “Let it Go” for Frozen for the Demi Lovato version. She also has a song at the end of Ralph Breaks the Internet. Tom McDougal and Matt Walker in music have just been tracking her and she is a huge Disney fan. So she immediately came to mind when he came to someone to write the music for this movie. And she brings and she walks well the line between being inspired by classic Disney but also bring her contemporary sensibility to the table and as well as representing a character like Asha.

I think her her point of view and perspective for writing words to songs performed by a young woman like her just came very organic to to Julia [Michaels].

WISH – Asha, Valentino and Sabino. © 2023 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

We are all witnessing the ever-changing styles, techniques, and technologies that make that helped make animated features like Wish what it what it is today. What can you tell us about Disney Animation, continuing that legacy of great storytelling and also bringing us groundbreaking animation?

Del Vecho: We love what’s happening in the industry in general. There’s a real appreciation for the art. This film gives us an opportunity story-wise since we wanted to tell an original fairy tale to also look back at, you know, some of the elements that have made fairy tales so visually appealing in the past, but do it in a way that pushes the technology forward.

We’re very fortunate on the film, to have great artists and great technicians working collaboratively together to really push the envelope building on all the shorts that we’ve done over the years as well.

Reyes: Just to add to that, I think especially you know, we go back to the CinemaScope format that is very special to watch on the big screen, you know, so this movie was made with that in mind. Bringing back from the legacy of Sleeping Beauty, but also you know, having people celebrate together in the movie theater. laughing together singing along together, watching as a family is something that’s very important for us.

Wish opens in theaters on November 22, 2023.