June enjoyed building imaginary worlds with her mother (Jennifer Garner), worlds that extended into the real-world where she made amusement-park-like rides out of supplies around the neighborhood. But when her mother gets sick, her father sends her to a camp for math-loving kids. Thing is, June believes her father needs her help, so she runs back toward home, through the forest.
Unlike some terrifying horror story where the children get lost in the forest and battle a monster, June instead finds herself at Wonder Park, her childhood creation. There, she sees the blue bear Boomer, the boar named Greta, the beaver brothers Gus and Cooper, the porcupine Steve, and the chimpanzee leader Peanut. (Matthew Broderick, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, and John Oliver provide the better-known voice talents).
In the park, the animals are wrestling with The Darkness – threatening to eat the goodness and wonder of the Park. Of course, the audience can see the beauty and spectacular imagination throughout the rides, but the danger to the animals and June feels tangible, too. Only the wisdom of June’s mother (“you have the light in you,” “you put the wonder in Wonder Park”) guides June through the issues she faces in the park.
And through the fear and sadness she feels in the real world.
For all of its fun and glitter, Wonder Park is ultimately about how we face our grief and our fear, how growing up changes us, and what kids experience when sickness (or tragedy) threatens a family member. It’s a magical experience but it’s also a powerful reminder about hope in the midst of the darkness. And, young or old, we could all use some of that.
Special features include the deleted scene of “Gus Yodeling,” “The Pi-Song Sing-Along,” “The Wonder Chimp Channel,” two specials with June (“Guide to Wonderland,” “Welcoming Crew”), “Making Noises (It’s Actually a Job?!”, and three drawing tutorials (Boomer, Chimp Pirate, Chimp Princess).