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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Disney brings back the villain

From Cruella de Vil to Scar, Disney has created many of cinema’s most memorable villains — but bombastic baddies have been notably absent from the studio’s recent hits.

In movies such as Frozen 2 and Raya and the Last Dragon, heroes have battled abstract enemies like mistrust and xenophobia rather than puppy-flaying prima donnas or regicidal uncles, leaving some fans disappointed.

That is about to change with Wish, an old-school animation out in theaters Wednesday, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Disney with dozens of throwbacks to the studio’s earliest films — including their dastardly antagonists.

We hear what people are saying out there – the fans are like, ‘Just give us a villain! A real good old-fashioned villain!’” director Chris Buck told AFP.

“And a good-looking villain!” added his fellow director Fawn Veerasunthorn.

Wish follows the adventures of Asha, a plucky 17-year-old girl who unexpectedly finds herself pitted against the handsome, duplicitous King Magnifico.

Magnifico — voiced by Chris Pine — is a seemingly benevolent sorcerer-monarch, with the power to grant the wishes of his subjects and those who travel to his Medieval realm from far and wide.

But when Asha (Arianna DeBose) applies for a job as Magnifico’s apprentice, she quickly learns that the king only grants wishes that suit his own selfish purposes.

“He starts off charming,” explains Veerasunthorn, but “we get to see the evolution of how he became the villain throughout the course of the story.”

For producers Peter Del Vecho and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones, there is something “delicious” about watching a villain make all the wrong choices.

“Disney villains are funny and fun, and they are over-the-top at times,” said Reyes.

“But also they have their reasons to be villainous. And the villain song! Who hasn’t missed a villain song?”

The movie, from the creators of Frozen, was dreamt up as a way to celebrate Disney Animation’s centenary.

Early in the process, Buck and writer-producer Jennifer Lee sought inspiration by putting together a giant bulletin board with stills from all of the studio’s previous films.

They quickly realized that a common theme linking films from Pinocchio to Moana was characters wishing on stars.

Visually, Wish uses a watercolor style reminiscent of the fairytale storybooks that originally inspired Walt Disney to make his first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, back in 1937.

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