This week, Walt Disney Animation Studios released its latest movie, “Wish”, in cinemas around the world. The film tells the story of Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, who 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.

Recently, I got to speak with the composer of the film, David Metzger, who has worked on many of the greatest Disney films over his 25-year career, including “Moana”, “Avengers” and “Frozen”. David also most recently worked on the score for the “Once Upon A Studio” short that revived beloved characters, paying tribute to Walt Disney. David Metzger has beautifully crafted the music that will resonate with audiences everywhere. Both “Wish” and “Once Upon A Studio” are celebrating Disney’s 100th anniversary.

In this classic Disney score, David has created captivating melodies and orchestrations that harken back to the timeless magic, audiences worldwide have cherished for a century. With his expert touch, he transports us to a world where dreams come true, where wishes are granted, and where the power of music fills our hearts with wonder.

Check out the full video interview below:

Could you give us an introduction to yourself?

Sure. I’ve been around for quite a while, and I’ve really had the opportunity to work on a lot of Disney films over my career. Altogether, I’ve worked on about 85 films, but in the Disney animation world, I’ve worked on… I believe “Wish” is my 11th film out of the 62, I think, that has ever been produced. So I’ve been very fortunate, and I’m very thankful for that opportunity.

The first one I worked on was Tarzan, a long time ago, with Phil Collins, and Mark Mancina was the score composer. I was the orchestrator and arranger of the entire film. Did every note in that film. And then went through the years. I took a big step-up in Frozen, the first Frozen film, where I was brought in as the arranger of the songs working with Bobby and Kristen Lopez. And after that would’ve been “Moana” with Lin-Manuel Miranda, and then “Frozen II”. And I think then here we are at “Wish”, where I’m the score composer and also the arranger and orchestrator of the songs as well.

When you go through Disney+ does it kind of feel a bit like your own back catalog?

I’d never quite thought of it like that, but I suppose a little bit.

How did you start your career at Disney?

Well, I started out, believe it or not, my first Disney job was when I was 22 years old working as a bass player out at Disneyland Park. And so I did that in live shows and stuff like that. Did that for a couple of years. But, though, my first real larger project with Disney would’ve been the Broadway version of the “Lion King”, actually, was the first major project I worked on, and I was brought in as the orchestrator for that. And the producer of all the music for that show was Mark Mancina, and he had just been hired at that point to be the composer for “Tarzan” for the score. And we got along so well on the “Lion King” that he asked if I would be interested in orchestrating the score for “Tarzan”. So that was actually my first entryway into films for Disney.

And along the way, a guy named Tom MacDougall was working in the music department at the Disney Music Department. And Tom then has moved up through the ranks over the years to where he then became the head of music for Disney Music Animation Department. He’s the one who brought me in then to work with the Lopez’s on “Frozen”. And then now Tom has moved up to be the head of, I don’t know his official title, but he’s kind of the head of all music for Disney. I believe he and Matt Walker played quite a role in bringing me in to be the composer of “Wish”.

How did you come up with the overall feel of the music for Wish?

One of the goals when I first talked with Chris and Fawn, the directors of the film, we talked about what sort of music we wanted to have, what role we wanted the music to have. And all along, it always came up as being a nod to the history of Disney film music. And I think that’s probably one of the reasons I might’ve been engaged in the project, was just I have this kind of deep knowledge and a long-running experience with it.

So we really wanted to have a classic Disney sense to the score, but also with modern elements, too, so it just wasn’t a complete homage. So I went back and studied. I have scores of all the classic “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan”. I have of all those scores, because I worked on them in iterations in some form for a long time. So I went back then and studied what were the orchestrational tendencies that were used in those eras again, and just the melodic shape.

So I then put that all to use in how I didn’t want to make it just sound like it was straight out of the ’30s or ’40s, right, but I did allude to those sounds and those techniques. So that was really a lot of the part of the fun for me was to be able to do that. And then I brought in electric guitars and synthesizers and different elements like that to modernize and to try to connect with the songs as well, because the songs are much more of a modern feel. And so I had to bridge that gap, figure out how I was going to bridge the gap from a classic sounding score, but to get in and out of the songs as well.


How did you work with the other songs in the film?

One of the great things was that they did bring me in to work on both the score and the songs. So the first thing we work on are the songs because a major part of the story arc for the whole film, and so those have to be dealt with first. So the first eight months or so I was working on the film, it was purely on the songs. I didn’t start on the score until probably June, I think it was, and had to write the whole score in about six weeks. But at that point I’d been living with the film for a long time, so I already was formulating ideas and stuff.

But working with Julia Michaels and Ben Rice was just a fantastic experience. They’re not only extremely talented musicians, but they’re incredibly lovely people. So, at first, we didn’t know each other before this project so one of the first things, really, and most important was for us just to spend time altogether so that I could get to know them and they could get to know me. And I could understand where they’re coming from and we could discuss what are we going to be… How much classic Disney are we going to try to add to the songs, or are we going to keep them living in more of a contemporary world?

And so that was really one of the first things. We just spent days together hanging out, and just getting to playing through different ideas together and bonding in that regard. So then I would do my take on the songs and they’d have notes for, “I like that. I don’t like that.” And we’d just eventually whittle it down to where we ended up at.

What was the biggest challenge in working on “Wish”?

I think the biggest thing was just, it’s my first film as a composer, where I’m the only composer. Where I’m the composer. And so always before I’ve done a lot of additional music composition on different projects I’ve worked on, but it’s always been a partnership where I could run ideas off of somebody else and I didn’t have to make all those decisions by myself.

So that was a little bit of a learning curve, to be honest, at first of, “Oh my gosh, it’s all on me to make these decisions and figure it out.” And so that was probably the biggest challenge. But a little bit into it, I got… It’s not anything I haven’t done before, it’s just a matter of, well, I just had to… But then, obviously, it’s a joy to be able to be in that position and to make those decisions. And so once I got my feet under me, it was just sheer joy, frankly, and it was a complete dream come true to have that opportunity.

Last month, Disney released a new short, “Once Upon A Studio”, on Disney+ to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary. What was it like working on that project?

Well, Roger, I got to say that was an absolute amazing experience. And again, as we’ve been talking, I have this long history with Disney and a deep love of Disney music. So to have that chance to work on a short that was that absolutely adorable… I don’t know, I mean, you could put a whole ton of superlatives in front of it, but it was just a complete joy to work on. It was the sort of deal, it was quite complicated because it moved from, I had two seconds of working with one character on screen or whatever, and then I had to flip gears dramatically to get to the next thing that might last for four seconds and then jump back and forth. So it was really quite complicated to figure it out, but it was just a chance to, again, revisit all the glorious Disney music.

And some songs we used specifically as they were in the original films, but the majority of the short was my compositions to be… but I had to then figure out how was I going to, again, honor this history and work in the feel of those original films. And a lot of it, honestly, too, was the recording technique, right? I picked the right room I thought to have the sound that it would’ve been, and the recording, the engineer used David Boucher, the engineer used microphone setups that would’ve been vintage, kind of the way they would’ve recorded as much as possible. And if you listen to the score, there’s not a lot of reverb. It’s really a fairly dry kind of a sound as it would’ve been recorded back… they didn’t have digital reverb in 1937. So it was just… I mean, I could go on forever talking about “Once Upon a Studio” because it was just sheer pleasure for me.

With both “Wish” and “Once Upon A Studio” being major releases to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary, how did it make you feel to be such an important part of the celebration?

I mean, I think I’ve already said that it was a complete dream come true, right? This all came so unexpectedly to me. To have this opportunity to work on both of those projects in the role of composer, I never would’ve imagined it was ever going to happen, and lo and behold when it did… And then to have them be just both so lovely of projects. I was so lucky. And the teams on both of those projects were incredibly… they’re wonderful people. I mean, blown away. I literally was crying at the premier of Wish, of just seeing it come to life on screen and realizing the journey that it’s been for me to get to this point, and the deep appreciation of the people that helped me get here and having that opportunity, and how beautiful the projects turned out to be.


You can check out many of the films and shows that David Metzger has worked on, on Disney+ now and “Wish” is out now in cinemas.

For the latest Disney+ news, follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

Related Article