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Paramount’s ‘Wonder Park’ takes you for a magical ride

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“Wonder Park,” the new cartoon movie from Paramount Animation, is its use of color to tell the story.

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By Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, March 15, 2019

The thing you will notice about “Wonder Park,” the new cartoon movie from Paramount Animation, is its use of color to tell the story.

Bright fall colors — browns and greens and blues — in the forest give way to a warm montage of a mother helping her precocious child build a miniature amusement park in their living room, then gradually fades to gray when mom is taken away later in an ambulance.

The movie invites us inside a child’s imagination, where she rediscovers the wonder of childhood. Yes, that’s the theme.

As one moviegoer (identified as “Just a person who watches movies”) put it: The film “wants to be a Pixar-esque emotional ride but comes off as trying way too hard. Stunning visuals but annoying characters. I really wish they'd stop making kids movies where the moral is ‘Don’t grow up! Stay a child forever! And absolutely don’t deal with real life!’”

The storyline shows us a close loving relationship between 10-year-old June (voiced by newcomer Brianna Denski ) and her mom (Jennifer Garner). But life loses its wonder when June’s mom has to go away.

Then one day June chases a fluttering piece of blue paper into a magical forest where she comes across a rollercoaster car hidden beneath some vines. This vintage car takes her to a dilapidated amusement park, a fantasy park like she used to build with her mom. There she meets the park’s former employees, a menagerie of colorful animals. Among them is Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell), a hapless blue bear who suffers from narcolepsy.

With the help of the animals, June sets out to restore the park to its former wonder and “rediscover her sense of confidence and imagination, overcoming her fears.”

This week “Wonder Park” is taking audiences for a magical ride at AMC Fire Tower 12 and Regal Cinemas Greenville Grande 14.

Mireille Soria, head of Paramount Animation, cites the studio’s “celebrated history in animation,” listing such all-but-forgotten cartoons as “Betty Boop” and “Popeye.” She hopes to resurrect the studio’s past glory — somewhat like June restoring the Wonder Park — by launching three new animation films a year.

To do this, Soria plans to partner with vendors globally. “We won’t have a house style: Each film will have a unique look and direction dictated by the filmmakers,” she said.

“Wonder Park” is a case in point. Written by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, the animation was farmed out to Madrid’s Ilion Animation Studios. Javier Abad directed the film, with Javier Romero as VFX supervisor and Juan Garcia González in charge of layout.

Will this Tom Sawyerish let-other-people-paint-the-fence strategy work?

Stay tuned. We’ll see if Soria’s ambitious plan has a happy Wonder Park ending.

Shirrel Rhoades is a former executive with Marvel Entertainment, a writer, publisher, professor and filmmaker. He is from North Carolina and lives in Florida. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

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