A “Menken to Miranda Drop-off,” Fans Slam Disney’s Declining Quality

in Disney, Movies

Asha's hair blows in the wind in Wish

Credit: Disney

Disney’s upcoming animated feature, Wish, is already suffering from a hotbed of controversy. For a film that was originally heralded as the “culmination of 100 of Walt Disney animated history,” it’s getting a ton of backlash, and it isn’t even out yet.

Wish is about a girl named Asha (Ariana DeBose) who lives in the kingdom of Rosas under the rule of King Magnifico (Chris Pine). When she realizes that Magnifico controls which wishes he grants or doesn’t grant, Asha takes matter into her own hands and makes a wish on a star that will allow everyone’s wishes to be granted. She soon realizes that her wish may not be everything she thought it was, and must help save her kingdom.

Initially, excitement and anticipation for the film were high, especially with it being described as featuring a mix of 2D and 3D animation styles, fans were excited at the prospect of Disney going back to their 2D roots. The studio was also praised for featuring a character of color and continuing to add more diversity to their lineup of heroines. Unfortunately, the release of the film’s trailer showed clips that fans claimed looked “half-rendered” and “unfinished,” drawing concerns over a film that’s supposedly an homage to 100 years of Disney history.

Asha looks forward sternly in the movie 'Wish.'
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Fans were also irritated that Asha appears to be yet another “adorkable” Disney character, drawing comparisons to Rapunzel, Anna, Raya, and Mirabel with her quirky and klutzy personality. When the teaser trailer was first released, many were excited at the idea that King Magnifico also seemed to be a return to true Disney villainy compared to recent “misunderstood” and redeemed villains. However, with the release of Magnifico’s villain song, “This Is the Thanks I Get?,” opinions have started to shift yet again.

In a video recently posted to TikTok, creator @andrealynnwrites compares the Wish song to another iconic Disney villain song, “Hellfire” from the 1996 Disney classic, Hunchback of Notre Dame. The text on the video says, “I feel so bad for this generation. I got this sweeping, emotionally mature, theology-critical magnum opus of a villain song and they get that wish garbage.”

@andrealynnwrites #disney #villainsong #fyp #wish #notredame #disneysongs #hunchbackofnotredame #theatre #deconstruction #theatrekid #broadway #musicals #writertok #booktok #90s #90skid #90skids #foryou #foryoupage #patriarchy ♬ original sound – Andrea Lynn

We’ve previously covered “Hellfire” and other iconic villain songs here at Inside the Magic, examining what makes them so iconic and simultaneously so chilling. “Hellfire” itself works so well because it does so many things within the context of its film. It shows Judge Frollo’s moral dilemma and fight with his personal demons while dealing with darker themes of lust, religion, and anguish, all while delivering the incredibly iconic line, “he made the Devil so much stronger than the man.”

The Miranda-ification of Disney

While it may arguably be Disney’s greatest villain song, “Hellfire” is far from the studio’s only great villain song. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from the 1998 Little Mermaid, “Savages” from  Pocahontas (1995) and even more recent songs like “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled (2010) and “Friends on the Other Side” from Princess and the Frog (2009) are all iconic in their own way. So what happened?

Frollo confronts his demons
Credit: Disney

Well, as one comment under the video claims, “Lin Manuel Miranda and his effects on Disney songs,” or, a “Menken to Miranda dropoff.” Alan Menken is responsible for writing the music for several Disney movies, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (although Stephen Schwartz is actually responsible for “Hellfire”), and Hercules, and is often credited as being a major reason why the Disney Renaissance animation period was so successful. Lin Manuel Miranda rose to fame with his smash Broadway musical, Hamilton, and would eventually join Disney to write music for Moana (2016) and Encanto (2021) and assisted with the music for the 2023 live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Miranda is known for his catchy “rap-style” singing and rhythmic tempos. While he’s seen massive success for his musical contributions, his writing style has been somewhat controversial with fans, especially in the Disney bubble.  Although he didn’t write any music for Wish, fans have stated that “This Is the Thanks I Get?” sounds like a Miranda-style song with its quick tempo and lyrical style. While his influence on modern musicals could be part of the reason the song and movie are failing to interest audiences, it’s just part of a broader problem.

“Notredame [sic] was such a good movie bru like how did they go from this to wish…” asks one comment. “We don’t need pop we need music genres that fit the style of the movie,” claims another. “I wouldn’t be surprised if wish’s movie script was AI generated,” stated another.

King Magnifico in latest Wish trailer from Disney
Credit: Disney

In another TikTok video on the same problem, the comments share similar sentiments. One comment explained that “since let it go, I think disney has been focusing too much on fun, catchy, easily digestible/marketable songs,” while another adds, “the music for their movies is no longer based in musical theater principals [sic], which made the Disney renaissance good. The music is too pop focused now.”

The broader argument to be made is that Disney isn’t taking creative chances anymore, instead focusing too much on trying to make movies that can be massively successful and profitable in a time when the studio desperately needs movies to succeed. What it adds up to are seemingly cookie-cutter heroines and pop-inspired music that kids can drive their parents crazy singing on repeat. Disney’s Renaissance era took liberties, focusing on darker stories and sinister villains because the studio could afford to make those kinds of movies.

Esmerelda and Frollo in Disney 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'
Credit: Disney

While the fan outcry proves that there’s support and a demand for Disney to return to their earlier style of films, villains, and gut-wrenching songs, it seems as though the animation giant will continue to stick to their guns. “This Is the Thanks I Get?” isn’t a bad song, but when compared to other iconic Disney villains and their songs, it just feels mediocre. Hopefully one day fans will see the return of characters like Frollo and the epic masterpiece that is “Hellfire.”

What do you think about Disney’s latest villain song? Is it catchy in a fun way or is it feeling overdone already? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

in Disney, Movies

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