An interview with Hirokazu Kore-eda about his new film Monster, working with children, and the film’s Rashômon-style approach to story.
Fawn Veerasunthorn and Peter Del Vecho Make Dreams Come True with Wish
August 25, 2023
Last week, Disney shared scenes from their highly anticipated animated film, Wish. Co-director Fawn Veerasunthorn and producer Peter Del Vecho were in Toronto to introduce the film that also marks Disney’s 100th anniversary.
In Wish, which releases in theatres November 22., sharp-witted idealist Asha (voiced by West Side Story’s Ariana DeBose) makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico (voiced by Star Trek’s Chris Pine) —to save her community. They prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.
We sat down with Fawn, who makes her directorial debut, and Peter, who has produced award-winning films like Frozen, which won him an Oscar, to chat all things Wish.
Having worked as a storyboard artist and now as a director, what are most excited about as you took over reins as the director?
Fawn: I’m excited to see a scene that started in the story get better and better with each process that we got into. And the sense of collaboration and the sense of entertainment that [came] with each step. As we kept adding things, and I was like, ‘It gets better, it gets better!’
As someone who has been producing fan-favourite titles, what is it about Wish that made you want to stand behind it and reinforce everything that Disney has done so far?
Peter: It’s the opportunity to work on a film like this; it’s a producer’s dream. It’s working with a creative team that can create an original story with original songs and characters and at the same time, evoke the feeling of all the Disney movies that come before us.Getting that up on the screen is an incredible challenge.
Animation is not an easy process because you put so many years into it. So from the get-go, what was always at the heart of the story no matter how many drafts came along?
Fawn: To me, it’s always about when you have a big wish in your heart, you’re not afraid of going on that journey, no matter how hard it would be. At the end, your journey of self-discovery should be a fun and wondrous one.
Peter: That was the guiding light in all of this and, of course, bringing in music as an important element as that’s also part of the Disney legacy. We wanted to create seven songs that hopefully will stand the test of time. [The preview included sneak peeks of two of those songs, including the theme “This Wish,” featured in the trailer above.]
Speaking of Disney’s 100th anniversary, how do you think Wish captures the brand legacy of what Disney has stood for?
Fawn: When you look at Disney films from the past, there are so many moments of people gazing up upon the starry sky when [they’re] looking for hope or inspiration. In this movie, we’re taking that story even further and we’re pairing the magic of the stars with someone with such conviction. And together, they go on the journey to prove that there will be nothing in the way of someone who [has] that drive to go after your dream.
Peter: I think in all of our Disney films, you want that feeling of hope. We may take you on a quite a circuitous ride during the film, but they always end with a positive message.
We’ve come so far with animation, so what are some tools or techniques that create the visuals that we see in the movie?
Fawn: In terms of story, no matter what the new tools are, the process is still the same. But we’re excited about the new technique of the look of the film that’s able to let us do this in the feature length. You know, we only were able to do that in a short amount of screen time before.
Peter: We don’t always know how to achieve something, but the very challenge that they threw at us got the team excited to solve the challenge.
When you first showed the film to family, friends and executives during the initial screenings, what feedback impacted the final draft or the final version?
Peter: The great part is when we started to share the film a little bit wider. All of it was, “We want to know more, we want to see more.” And as an example, with Magnifico’s backstory, they wanted to understand a little bit more, why he is the way [that he is] and so we retooled the movie a little bit to help answer that question.
Fawn: To me, [when] you’ve seen the movie so many times in the process of making it, sometimes you kind of forget the effects certain things had upon you the first time you see them. So seeing it with the audience is also incredibly important to see what works with fresh eyes.
Is there anything we have seen or will see in the film that seemed impossible at the time but now you’re like I can’t believe he actually made that happen?
Fawn: To me, the song, ‘You’re a Star.’ That song when we set out on that journey… we wanted to make it as fantastical and vibrant and fun as possible, and Alice in Wonderland was mentioned. We didn’t know quite how to do that with so many animals to create the look of the film and the use of magic. If you notice, the background drops away. I don’t know if you get that sense or not, but we really wanted to take the audience out of reality to really experience the magic of the star.
When was the last time you made a wish and it came true?
Fawn: When I decided to apply for animation school. I was like, ‘I’m gonna go do this’ and it didn’t matter if people said that it was crazy.
Peter: I think part of the wonder of working at Disney is that we’re constantly dreaming and making wishes. What’s great is that it’s such a collaborative process that if you just speak in terms of where it is you want to go, others work with you to get you there. That’s certainly been the case with this film and this crew.
Speaking of this crew, Peter, what did you see in Fawn that made her the perfect person to co-direct?
Peter: I’ve known Fawn since Frozen, and then watched her go into Moana and other movies as well. And then she became head of story on Raya and the Last Dragon and then came on initially as head of story on our movie, but she was so invested in the movie, that it was a very obvious choice for her to become a co-director with Chris Buck.