National Geographic's special on the making of the Disney Wish comes to Disney+ this Friday. The hour-long show documents the construction of the Disney Cruise Line's latest ship, which first welcomed passengers last summer.
Today, Disney invited several reporters to watch the special online and speak with the its director, Chad Cohen, about the production.
"They're building a giant cruise ship during the pandemic," said Cohen, who started working on the show in the spring of 2021. "None of this is easy. It's an incredible challenge from a from a design point of view and from a innovation point of view."
Nor was it easy to document the final year of the Wish's construction, which included a six-week delay for the ship's launch and the cancellation of a cast member preview voyage, as workers rushed to prepare the Wish for its press preview Christening voyage.
"We first had to frame what is our story," he said. "Are we doing a a mega-engineering construction show? Are we doing design or technology or all these things? You have to figure out what is it that we're trying to do."
"We found that the easiest way was to break it up. Yes, we're building amazing ships - a huge, 144,000-gross-ton ship, nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower is high. So mega engineering is easy - a no brainer for National Geographic. We do those shows all the time. That was the easiest one for us to get our head around. But then it's not just a ship. It's a Disney ship, and so you want to see it come to life. You want to see these amazing innovative, imaginative people take this steel and breathe life into it."
Cohen and his crew filmed cast members and crew workers as they completed the thousands of tasks needed for the Wish not only just to sail, but also to entertain, feed, and house thousands of guests on each voyage. That required building relationships with people who are not used to letting outsiders see an unfinished product.
"There were there were things early on where they were like, 'no, it's not going to happen.' But it did happen," he said.
One of the behind-the-scenes moments includes a look at Avengers star Anthony Mackie filming his scenes for the Avengers: Quantum Encounter dinner show in front of green screens in a North Hollywood, California studio. Another takes viewers on board the Wish for its North Atlantic sea trials.
"No one has ever gone out on [to film] the sea trials for any of these ships," Cohen said. "You're taking it out of the hangar, essentially, for the first time, and you're kicking the tires on the ship to see what it can do. As you can imagine, there's lots of things that could go wrong. It hasn't been tested yet. There are these new systems."
"So they let us on the thing... to get out on the sea trials to have this very National Geographic [moment], testing science and speed, and it's a really cool aspect of the film."
Having sailed on that initial press voyage last June [see All Aboard the Disney Cruise Line's New Disney Wish], this special not only left me with a deeper appreciation for all the work that went into making the Disney Wish, it also reinforced just how close to the deadline all the teams at the Disney Cruise Line were working right up until the moment the ship departed Port Canaveral.
"We worked really hard to not make this be an advertisement," Cohen said. "If it felt like we were selling something, our audience is going to turn off, and I don't want to do that to them. There's a legitimate story here - passionate people and cool stuff."
"But to do it, we did want to show things that they wouldn't normally get to see, and so for us it was really important to get to those spaces. It was really important to get behind the scenes, to make it feel relevant for our National Geographic audience."
"Making the Wish: Disney’s Newest Cruise Ship" debuts on Disney+ this Friday, February 17. For our complete coverage of the Disney Wish, including abundant on-board videos, please see our post, All Aboard the Disney Cruise Line's New Disney Wish.
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