You’ve heard the term ‘emotional rollercoaster’? Well get ready to have that analogy animated, brought to life and thrown into an actual amusement park. Wonderland is the theme park dreams are made of, with every possible concept of ride you could imagine, and most you haven’t. Spun at the hands of Peanut the chimp, one of the animal curators of this ‘splendiferous’ place, the ideas of a girl called June (Brianna Denski) and her Mum (Jennifer Garner) are manifested through a monkey and his marker.
We learn that this Wonder Park has been a bonding force in the mother-daughter relationship for much of June’s life, from its blueprint to the inspiration her Mum ignites in her when they create together. So when June’s Mum gets sick and has to go away for medical treatment, that special thing they share becomes a bittersweet reminder of what is temporarily lost. It is a heartbreaking moment as we watch June pack away every last piece of her Wonderland creation, going so far as to burn the blueprint that started it all.
With a similar vibe to Disney Pixar’s Inside Out (2015), where we see our protagonist’s emotions personified and the world in which they exist dramatically affected by them; Paramount Pictures’ Wonder Park draws us into the emotional journey of June as she loses herself to the fear and pain of potentially losing one of the most important people in her life.
The turning point comes when June is unexpectedly thrust through a magical portal which transports her to a very grim-looking shell of the Wonderland she herself built. Joining forces with Boomer the bear, Greta the warthog, Steve the sensible porcupine and bestie beaver duo Cooper and Gus, June embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Seeing the product of her imagination disintegrating bit by bit in the face of her own darkness leads her back to herself and the light her mother could always see in her.
“I am the wonder in wonderland!” she realises.
The storyline arcs in such a way as to engage with the young audience it’s intended for, with both my 7 and 4yo understanding the basic principle of June’s sadness and its impact on her life. We all feel the highs and lows of June’s experience, a literal and emotional rollercoaster that takes us on an unforgettable ride through the power of imagination and the importance of believing in ourselves.
It’s colourful, it’s creative, it’s got something for everyone. Wonder Park is the place where we can all find a piece of ourselves as we take a turn on its bendy straw slides and roaming fish carousel, all the while imagining how we could add our own little bit of wonder to wonderland.
Wonder Park is in cinemas from 4 April.