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Q&A with producers of Disney Wish Behind-The-Scenes Documentary from NatGeo

Imagine traveling to a two-centuries-old shipyard on Germany’s North Sea to build an entirely new cruise ship featuring the latest technology and room for 6500+ crew and guests. Now imagine doing it during the recent pandemic. Then add a camera crew and documentary production team to the mix and you have a unique challenge.

“Making the Wish: Disney’s Newest Cruise Ship” is a documentary special from National Geographic and Disney that chronicles the work of hundreds of construction workers, engineers, architects, designers, animators, composers, storytellers, cast, and crew who transformed 144,000 tons of steel into Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship.”

The special show from National Geographic, in partnership with Disney’s Yellow Shoes in-house creative production team, arrives on Disney+ Friday, February 17, 2023. Created by the team of Chad Cohen and Bethany Jones, the show catches up to the Wish when it was already under construction.

Making the Disney Wish: Disney’s Newest Cruise Ship

Cohen got the call to start work on the documentary with only a few weeks notice to capture one of the most iconic moments of the show, the placing of the ship’s bridge. They assembled a small lean crew and prepared to fly to Germany. There was just one problem, Cohen says he had never been on a cruise, let alone a Disney Cruise.

Disney hooked him up with a voyage on the Disney Fantasy to get a feel for what the ultimate guest experience would be like.

After that, Cohen says they were “tracking the construction, design, implementing all of the spaces on board for a little over a year before the transatlantic crossing to Port Canaveral.”

The filming process

Some of the most exciting moments of the ships construction is the assembly. Large parts of the ship are assembled on the floor or the shipyard, then lifted in to place.

“Everything moves really slowly the shipyard,” said Cohen. “There’s a reason we use time-lapse cameras. Every piece that you see moving is hours and hours, usually overnight, because they don’t typically move them when there are workers down below.”

Rapunzel DCL

Jones said they usually operate with a very small and lean crew, so as not to get in the way. But they added a second team for the transatlantic crossing portion since a lot of the action on board was planned for the trip.

While onboard the ship, the film crew was able to visit many areas of the ship that are normally off-limits for guests, such as I-95, the single-passage in the lower decks that allows crew to get from one end of the ship to the other.

“It was important to get the behind-the-scenes footage, in part to make it feel relevant for a National Geographic audience,” said Cohen.

Everyone involved in the creation of the Disney Wish was incredibly collaborative, said Cohen. “The energy was very palpable.”


If you don’t have Disney+, National Geographic has published four mini-episodes you can watch here:

Episode 1 – Constructing a Cruise Ship

Episode 2 – Cruise Ship Propulsion

Episode 3 – Designing a Cruise Ship

Episode 4 – Dining on a Cruise Ship

Or watch this deleted scene

Making it feel like a National Geographic show

The special debuted on the National Geographic channel last December and has been well received by that audience.

The final runtime for Disney+ is shorter, because most plans don’t have commercial breaks. For the time allotted Cohen and Jones managed to insert a lot of exciting footage, but as a fan of the Disney Cruise Line experience and Disney magic in generally, I would have been happy to watch a four-part series. That would have allowed much more time interviewing the people who make the magic and watching their process. The time constraints mean this show ends up feeling more like a clip show from a longer documentary series.

The “Making the Wish: Disney’s Newest Cruise Ship” is available on Disney+ starting Friday February 17, 2023. Watch it and then let us know what you liked and disliked in the comments below.