It wasn’t until she started planning to attend Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas that Allison Moore realized she wanted to be a playwright. Moore had spent so much time performing on stage at Roosevelt High School, she thought she would pursue a career in acting. Her plans changed, however, when she realized SMU would give her the opportunity to do both.
“They told me that if I went on the theater studies track, I could do acting and another field in theater like directing or playwriting,” Moore, 51, told the Current during a recent interview. “I told them, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m a playwright,’ but I had never written a play in my life.”
That small formality didn’t stop Moore from forging ahead. She said she went home, “madly wrote a bunch of stuff,” and submitted it to SMU. That semester, the university accepted her into the program.
Since graduating from SMU and earning an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, Moore has written several plays for theaters across the country. She has also written for TV. Since 2012, her writing credits include the CW’s version of Beauty and the Beast, the USA Network’s thriller Falling Water, and the Prime Video sci-fi drama Night Sky, starring Oscar winners Sissy Spacek (Coal Miner’s Daughter) and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash).
Moore now makes her feature debut as a co-writer on the Disney animated film Wish, starring Oscar winner Ariana DeBose (West Side Story). Wish tells the story of a young girl named Asha (DeBose) who teams up with a cosmic force known as Star and a talking goat named Valentino (Alan Tudyk) to stop an evil king from hoarding all his kingdom’s wishes for himself.
During our interview, Moore discussed her journey from the stage to the screen and what it was like writing dialogue for a barn animal.
Wish is currently playing at local theaters.
How did you go from writing plays to writing for TV and film?
I had a whole career writing for theater and then when my son was born, I realized I needed to make more money, so I started pitching for TV. I worked in television for about a decade. In the midst of working in TV, I continued playwriting. That’s how I got on the radar at Disney.
What was different about writing for the stage and the screen?
When you’re writing plays, you’re self-employed. You’re just doing it on your own. When you’re writing a TV show or a feature at a place like Disney, it’s super collaborative. Everybody has to be on the same page with the storytelling. Then, you write, and you hand those pages off to artists, and the artists start drawing and people start recording dialogue. They say it’s a very iterative process at Disney. In TV, you don’t have time to do that. So, working [on Wish] has been incredibly soul filling and really wonderful. I feel like I’ve gotten to use every ounce of my creativity.
What’s it like watching something you write come to life through animation?
It’s surreal. Every time I sit down to watch the movie with an audience, every moment I know exactly why and how every decision was made. When you first see the animation, it’s mind blowing. It’s the most exhilarating thing. The very first time you see it with an audience and it makes somebody laugh, it’s the greatest feeling.
It must’ve felt great to know you were writing for someone like Ariana DeBose who comes from a theater background like you.
As someone from the theater, I understand that actors need playable actions. By writing that playable action, your actors are able to access all of their emotions that they would bring to bear.
Is it the same process to write for a talking goat?
(Laughs) I had never written for talking animals or any of that stuff. You have to treat every character like a full character. When Valentino starts talking, we had so many discussions about his personality. What does he want? What are his goals? What are things he would be worried about? You have to really embody that character.
What’s your earliest memory of a Disney film?
I remember having a gigantic crush on the fox in Robin Hood. He was very charming and debonair. I felt like his heart was in the right place. He was bringing justice to the people who didn’t have anything. But he also looked good in his little hat.
Would you like to continue working in animation?
Oh, yeah, I have fallen in love with animation. For me, it’s such a gift. It really gives you the opportunity to explore. It’s an incredibly rewarding way to write. You really get the whole gamut of the human experience, the animal experience, the celestial being experience. I can’t express how much fun that is.
This interview was first published in the San Antonio Current.