Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Wish.
The Big Picture
- Disney’s newest animated film, Wish, explores the concept of wishes, which has been a theme throughout the company’s long history.
- Among the many wishes mentioned is Grandpa Sabino’s, who wants to create something that inspires future generations, and he is fulfills when he composes the iconic song “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
- “When You Wish Upon A Star” has a rich legacy and is not only a timeless Disney song but also represents the enduring magic of Disney.
Disney’s newest animated film, Wish, centers on an old subject. Since the company’s founding, there has been a distinct focus on dreams or wishes, as this film refers to them. Even before this film, Disney used the word with the concept of a fair godmother or other magical being to hear the wishes. The idea of wishing can be heard in classic songs like Cinderella‘s “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” or “I’m Wishing” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But Wish dives further into the subject than before as Asha (Ariana DeBose) learns the truth about King Magnifico (Chris Pine) and fights to retrieve her family’s stolen wishes. In the end, the heroes discover that it is better to remember their wish and be able to work for it themselves, which is exactly what they decide to do.
The story highlights one character’s desire in particular: Grandpa Sabino’s (Victor Garber) wish to create something to inspire future generations. After he gets his wish back, Sabino gets to work towards it, and it comes to fruition in a surprising way. As the film ends, Sabino can be seen composing the familiar melody of “When You Wish Upon A Star.” This song undoubtedly fulfilled Sabino’s wish of creating a lasting impact, as it is still well-loved decades after its release. It was the first Disney song to win an Oscar and has become the theme song for the Disney Company as a whole. Still inspiring stories eighty-three years later, “When You Wish Upon A Star” certainly has the legacy from Sabino’s wish.
Wish follows a young girl named Asha who wishes on a star and gets a more direct answer than she bargained for when a trouble-making star comes down from the sky to join her.
- Release Date
- November 22, 2023
- Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
- Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Ariana DeBose, Evan Peters
- 92 minutes
- Animation, Adventure, Comedy
- Production Company
- Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
What Is Sabino’s Wish?
Once giving their wishes to the king, the citizens of Rosas forget what they wanted, meaning Sabino has lost many years when he could have spent fulfilling his dream of inspiring future generations. When the film starts, Sabino, like Disney itself, is turning 100 and hopes his wish will finally be granted. But when Asha appeals to Magnifico on her grandfather’s behalf, Magnifico insists that Sabino’s desire to do something to inspire future generations is so vague it could be dangerous. The kind man’s wish could cause him to incite rebellion or violence, so Sabino’s innocent wish for a legacy is passed over. Asha disagrees with the king and wants to take Sabino’s wish back, leading to the film’s plot. Though Sabino, like all the inhabitants of Rosas, gets his wish back at the end of the film, it is in his own hands whether or not he fulfills it. The audience cannot be sure of this fate until the end-credit scene, where he creates a song that is all too familiar to the audience: “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
It’s no surprise for Wish to include “When You Wish Upon A Star,” as the song basically summarizes the film’s plot. But the most interesting thing about this Easter egg is its placement. Having Sabino compose “When You Wish Upon A Star” is slightly self-aware for Disney as it connects their films in an unprecedented way. But it certainly fits the centennial celebration that Wish provides. More importantly to the story, this moment gives Sabino the chance to fulfill his dream despite Magnifico’s interference. If, as the scene suggests, “When You Wish Upon A Star” is Sabino’s creation, he leaves behind an undeniable legacy, just as he hoped. In this, like his age, Sabino represents Disney as he embodies the company’s legacy. “When You Wish Upon A Star” is a timeless song that has been an important addition to Disney, and Wish acknowledges that.
What Legacy Does “When You Wish Upon A Star” Have?
In reality, “When You Wish Upon A Star” was composed by Leigh Harline with lyrics by Ned Washington. Though many singers have performed this song, it is most famously sung by Cliff Edwards with a chorus behind him. Originally, the song appeared in Pinocchio, which was only the second feature-length film Disney released. Playing twice in the film, in the opening credits and the final scene, “When You Wish Upon A Star” was unique from the beginning. While Pinocchio struggles, being considered a commercial failure upon its initial release, “When You Wish Upon A Star” didn’t share the same problem. The song won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song, becoming the first Disney song to do so. Fortunately, the film performed better on its re-release five years later. But even then, the song’s legacy was only beginning.
Though written for Pinocchio and tied into Gappetto’s (Christian Rub) wish for his carefully crafted puppet to be brought to life, the song has taken on a life of its own. In the 1980s, “When You Wish Upon A Star” became Disney’s signature song, as the theme was chosen to play behind the company’s logo before every film, and it still does to this day. It also closes out each night in Disney’s Theme Parks. Not only does the song connect to Pinocchio‘s story, but it represents Disney magic as a whole. In 2009, The Library of Congress added “When You Wish Upon A Star” to the National Recording Registry, declaring that the song fits their standards of being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Decades after its release, this song is still recognizable to almost anyone with just a few notes, proving it is as iconic as a song can be.
This Song Inspired ‘Wish’
“When You Wish Upon A Star” has a long history, but there is more to its significance. Over the years, countless people have heard the song, and it inspired a new generation of storytellers. Wish is just the latest example, but it’s a potent one. As Disney reflects on past work to celebrate the last 100 years, “When You Wish Upon A Star” jumps out to inspire this story. It’s the song’s words that created this story. After all, there is no better way to describe the plot of Wish than with the famous lyrics, “When you wish upon a star, Your dreams come true.” This is exactly what happens when Asha meets Star, but it is not true for those who rely on Magnifico, as Sabino discovers. While wishing on a star is a common legend, it’s impossible to avoid the connection to this song, especially when it plays at the end, highlighting its inspirational role.
Both in the universe of Wish and in reality, “When You Wish Upon A Star” is an important melody. Its storied legacy represents the fulfillment of Sabino’s wish, giving the character the happy ending for which Disney is famous. But Wish is just the latest addition to the song’s history as it fulfills its role as an anthem for Disney. After more than eighty years, this melody is as popular as ever, if not more so. “When You Wish Upon A Star” has long cemented its legacy and shows no signs of fading.
Wish is now in theaters in the U.S.
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