This immensely creative computer-animated feature film reaches deep to the power of imagination for children to cope with the challenges and difficulties of life. Produced by Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies and featuring the voice talents of Brianna Denski, Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Garner, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, Ken Hudson Campbell, and Kenan Thompson.
The film follows the story of June Bailey, an intelligent girl interested in science and math and extreme creative, which she gets from her mother. Both of them together create an imaginative theme park called Wonderland, where animals have names and important roles in the operation of the park. They even created a detailed blueprint of the park’s details and operations. When June’s mother gets seriously ill, June loses interest in keeping up the imaginative creation and avoids even connecting with her friends. This is an interesting premise for kids to deal with loved ones who face life-threatening sicknesses and the utter feeling of loss and confusion children face. The films message is helpful to the under 10 age, in that imagination is a way to cope. June’s mother goes away for treatment.
When June’s dad sends June off to a summer camp, she feels that her dad can do nothing without her so she finds a way to escape from the bus and ends up in the woods. There she discovers an abandoned amusement park. She runs into all the animals from her imaginative Wonderland including Boomer, a large blue bear, Greta the wild boar, the beavers Gus and Cooper, Steve the porcupine, and the leader of the park, Peanut, the monkey who can create rides simply by hearing June’s mother’s voice. The park has fallen into disarray since the looming cloud of Darkness has settled upon it. The park’s monkey toys have turned into Chimpanzombies that create chaos and threaten to destroy June and her furry friends as they try to start up the mechanics of the park to restore its glory.
In all the misadventure of the story, the one point is clear. The Darkness is a result of June’s sadness over her mother’s illness. Because of it she has not continued her creative imagining, which threatens her wellbeing. Many children who struggle with complex issues and overwhelming family traumas have no outlet for their emotions. Educational experts say that creativity and art can be therapeutic for children suffering difficult situations. It is a way for them to express emotions and feelings that are impossible for them to explain much less understand.
When June finds the scrap of the blueprint her mother and she created, she sets out to restore the park to working order. When she gets home from her adventure she is welcomed by the sight of her mother who returns from treatment, looking healthier and more robust. June and her mother enjoy the fun of imagining again the wonder in Wonderland.
Though a sweet message to a rather dizzying death-defying adventure, the story lacks the power punch in children’s animation. It misses a depth that can truly help children who face such traumatic events in their lives. Yet, despite it’s lack, it is still an adventure with talking animals and wild rides that captivate a child’s imagination and hopefully their heart as well.