The Disney princess has a long and fraught history, with the animated ladies of the film being as often praised for existing as they are condemned for it. And with the Walt Disney Company celebrating its centennial, co-directors Chris Buck an Fawn Veerasunthorn of the latest animated feature, “Wish,” wanted to focus on a relatable, average young heroine in Asha (voiced by Ariana deBose).
“It’s less important if you have a royal bloodline to me in this day and age as a modern audience,” Veerasunthorn told TheWrap. “I approach the character from the point of view of being relatable to me, as an audience, so I can see myself in this person.”
“Wish” follows Asha, who lives in the kingdom of Rosas. The citizenry turn their wishes over to the magnanimous King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine), who occasionally grants a wish here and there. But when Asha learns as secret about Magnifico it sets her on a journey that sees her pair up with a mysterious wishing star.
As Veerasunthorn, Buck and co-screenwriter/chief creative officer for Walt Disney Animation said, Asha isn’t an actual Disney Princess and that, hopefully, changes the narrative on how people perceive the character and the moniker in general. “The expectations for richer, more complex stories has definitely increas[ed] over the last 20 years,” Lee said. “You see more simple connections to the old fairy tale.”
“Asha is representing a very different kind of teen,” said Lee. “She’s representing a teenager that we can all relate to today…it wouldn’t make sense for her to carry any of the burdens of whatever societal structure she was in at the beginning of the film.”
Much of this need for nuance with Disney’s heroines stems from more sophisticated audiences. “When I was growing up I wasn’t thinking about the characters as princesses or not,” said Lee. “It was more about what differentiated the characters. It ties to the classic fairy tale and the concept of this European structure at the time that we just went with but as we get older we look at it differently.” Lee cites the characters created for her film, “Frozen,” and how princesses Anna and Elsa weren’t initially written as royalty. “
“We call them Disney heroines,” said Buck, and it certainly shows a unique sea change in the Disney universe, when being a Princess was paramount. Now, thanks to “Frozen,” we have a Disney Queen (in Anna), as well as a bevy of young animated women who aren’t royal at all. “You’re hitting on something that is actually is very important,” said Buck. “A lot of times it’s assumed that our heroines are princesses. People just assume ‘Well, it’s another princess movie.” Not necessarily. Wait to see the movie.”
Disney will release “Wish” in theaters November 22.