Disney Animation might be wishing for a crystal ball as as it decides which song from their upcoming feature Wish to submit for Oscars consideration. The Oscars’ Nov. 1 deadline comes weeks ahead of the Nov. 22 release date for the film, voice starring Ariana DeBose as young protagonist Asha and Chris Pine as villainous King Magnifico. The date means the studio could face a potential conundrum, not unlike the one its experienced in 2022 when best animated feature winner Encanto was a contender.
When the 2022 Oscar nominations for best original song were announced, Encanto‘s ballad “Dos Oruguitas” got a nom, but “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — which went on to become the studio’s biggest hit ever from a movie, sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks — did not. It left many scratching their heads, but the reason, it turned out, was that Disney Animation didn’t submit “Bruno” for consideration. The studio made that call in advance of the Nov. 1, 2021 submission deadline, which was a few weeks before Encanto‘s Nov. 24 opening and before the film’s earworm became a hit. The filmmakers and Lin-Manual Miranda (who wrote both songs) stood by their decision but one had to wonder, what if? (“Dos Oruguitas” ultimately lost the Oscar to Billie Eilish and Finneas for the No Time to Die title theme song.)
This year, Disney Animation could face another such dilemma. In the studio’s centennial year, it’s preparing to release Wish, the story of how Disney’s wishing star came to be, directed by Chris Buck (Frozen) and Fawn Veerasunthorn, featuring original songs by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Julia Michaels. But once again, the studio will again have to decide what song or songs to enter for Oscar consideration ahead of the movie’s release date.
“I think it’s going to be hard,” Disney Animation’s chief creative officer Jennifer Lee–a Wish writer and exec producer–tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We haven’t had that conversation yet with our studio music team. … Because we come out late, we have to make choices soon, but at the same time, we are going to start getting the soundtrack out a little sooner so people can start hearing the music. That might tell us a bit more.”
Disney recently previewed extended Wish footage to the press, showing off the movie’s watercolor-like CG animation, catchy original songs, and more of the story. And on Wednesday, the studio shared a new trailer:
During that presentation, the studio introduced four songs: “Welcome to Rosas” (the movie’s opening number, which introduces the fairytale Kingdom of Rosas, inspired by the look of classic Disney movies as well as towns along the Iberian Peninsula), “This Wish” (the film’s “I want” song, performed by DeBose as Asha makes her wish), “I’m a Star” (an ensemble performance featuring a cast of animated singing animals) and “This is the Thanks I Get” (performed by Pine, as the King expresses his motives).
Lee tells THR that three more songs and a reprise have not yet been unwrapped, including a DeBose and Pine duet, as well as an end credits song performed by Michaels. Of the duet, she says Asha and Magnifico “are aligned in their understanding of the power of what these wishes are emotionally–how precious they are as a part of someone’s heart–and to get to have a duet where the villain and the protagonist are aligned, even for a moment, was a thrill career-wise.”
Nothing in the Motion Picture Academy’s rules suggest that Disney would have to limit itself to entering just one song, and Disney has received multiple category nominations for the same movie on more than one occasion, including for 1992’s Aladdin, when “A Whole New World” (the only other chart topper from a Disney animated movie) won the Oscar for original song, and the film’s “Friend Like Me” was additionally nominated. Similarly, when Disney’s title song “Beauty and the Beast” won the category in 1992, two additional songs from the film, “Belle” and “Be Our Guest,” were nominated. Disney’s The Lion King (1994) earned three category nominations for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” which won the Oscar; “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata.”
But in recent years, Disney has implemented a strategy of only putting forth one song from its animated musicals for consideration. Will it enter multiple songs this year? “It is under discussion. The hard part is you don’t want to split the vote, so you generally want to pick the song that you think will best resonate with the audience,” Wish producer Peter Del Vecho tells THR. “There were so many standout songs in this movie, selecting which one we are going to put forward is going to be a challenge.”
Whatever decision is ultimately made, Lee was thrilled to work with Michaels. “She has an incredible love for Disney musicals and she worked so collaboratively as a songwriter to help our performing artists bring their ideas forward,” says Lee. “Working with her was an honor for me as a writer, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences to see how she was able to bring back not just the truth inside what we were feeling but something we didn’t even know we were articulating, to help the story transcend to a new place.”
Adds producer Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones, “awards aside, you have the return of the ‘villain song,’ you have the return of the classic ‘talking animals song’. I think for the fans, there’s a lot to love.”