Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones has always imagined how it would feel to get a producer’s credit on a Walt Disney animated project, so it only makes sense that his first one comes on a film called Wish. It’s something he’s been doing since he was a kid.
“Since I was five years old, when someone would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say, ‘Work at Disney,’ not even knowing what that meant,” Reyes, 48, told Remezcla during an interview. “It’s one of those things that you always dream about – that you’ll be able to be a part of something as big and as special as this.”
In Wish, audiences are introduced to Asha (Ariana DeBose), a 17-year-old tour guide living in the magical kingdom of Rosas, whose wish is answered by a cosmic force known as Star. Together, Asha, Star and a talking goat named Valentino (Alan Tudyk) must work together to reveal the scheming ways of King Magnifico (Chris Pine) and save their enchanted world.
Reyes knows a thing or two about the enchanted cinematic worlds of Disney. His earliest memory as a kid is watching the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, his mother’s favorite movie, on VHS.
“We would put that movie on over and over again,” he said. “I just fell in love with it. I also remember the first movie I saw at a theater was Beauty and the Beast. The first image where you go into the Beast’s castle, I was like, ‘What is this sorcery?!’”
Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Reyes graduated from Tecnológico de Monterrey and then earned his MFA in film and television production from the University of Southern California. He got his start in the creative development department at Disney in 2018 and has worked on feature films like Strange World and Encanto.
“I would partner up with the directors early on and have fun conversations to try to find an original idea for a movie,” Reyes said. “It’s all about finding something that feels special enough to put into production.”
For Reyes, the character development in Wish is exciting because the film is anchored by a strong and independent heroine. The production team wanted to make sure viewers could relate to Asha on a human level.
“Character development is an ever-flowing process,” Reyes said. “When Ariana came in, she brought in a lot of her personality. She’s so genuine and so energetic and someone you fall in love with.”
Reyes hopes Latine audiences will love Asha as much as he does, especially with a talented Latina like DeBose behind the character. The narrative itself may not be Latine (the Iberian Peninsula serves as inspiration), but Reyes believes the film will reach Latine viewers because the diversity is “organic and natural” to the storytelling.
“The cool thing about the world building in [Wish] is that it’s set on a magical island in medieval times before Latin America,” he said. “It’s a place where people from everywhere come. Having people that are not defined by just one thing like Ariana is something super important.”
Wish premieres nationwide at theaters on November 22, 2023.