Disney’s Wish: Why the Filmmakers Hired Pop Songwriter Julia Michaels

John Nguyen

Walt Disney Animation Studios is once again bringing the magic of musical and fantasy together in Wish, the upcoming film from directors Chris Buck (Frozen, Frozen II) and Fawn Veerasunthorn. From Frozen to Encanto, Disney has been collaborating with inspired artists to write catchy and infectious songs including Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s “Let It Go” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” The filmmakers behind Wish have tapped Julia Michaels and Benjamin Rice to write the songs, with the former’s credits including Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me.”

Wish is set in the Kingdom of Rosas, and 17-year-old Asha (voiced by Ariana DeBose) is a dreamer who discovers a sinister plot from King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine). With Michaels attached, she brings her own perspective as a young woman into the songs.

“Yes, she’s still in her 20s, so she can still tap into that, of Asha,” Buck said during the Wish sneak peek event. “She understood Asha so well from the very beginning. And so that was great having her as a songwriter. She not only had love for the classics, all the Disney songs, but again, being younger, also embraces the more contemporary side, too.”

Courtesy of Disney

“More for Us” has been the main promotional song for Wish, and it’s been featured in the trailer along with a live performance from Ariana DeBose at D23 Expo 2022. The emotional song has Asha wishing for a better life for those she cares about.

“That moment when you don’t have the answers, but you know something’s wrong and you know there should be more, and [Michaels] just hooked onto that beautifully,” said Jennifer Lee, co-writer and executive producer. “[Asha] doesn’t even know exactly what she’s asking for. She’s looking for help, but there’s a generosity in her. You know, people tease, ‘Oh, teenagers only care about themselves.’ I’m like, ‘Well, they don’t. And they just have the courage to ask for a better world.’ So, she is so vulnerable in that. And Julia caught all of that, and gave back us something more inspired than what we were even thinking about. And it has been a true north for us the whole time.”

Courtesy of Disney

With Michaels’ background in writing songs for pop singers including Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, Britney Spears and Hailee Steinfeld, she adds a modern sound to the Disney formula.

“[Julia Michaels] bring in this fantastic pop sound, which you all heard today,” Veerasunthorn said of the song and clip shown at the event. “And it’s in the instrumental, the songs, too. They’re very involved. And they’re so collaborative, in terms of storytelling because sometimes it doesn’t quite have the script. In the Star song, for example, we met with her and we just talk about these 15 things, ‘Please put it in the song.’ She hits it all, and it didn’t feel like there’s a lot because she reduces it to the most truthful part about it all. And the idea of us only being connected, but we’re made of stardust.”

You can listen to “More For Us” in the official trailer, which was released today.

About Wish

Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, 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—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

The film is directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn and produced by Peter Del Vecho and Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster Jones. Jennifer Lee is the executive producer and writer with Allison Moore also serving as a writer.

The film’s score is composed by Dave Meetzger.

Wish releases in theaters on November 22, 2023.