Wonder Park hits theaters this weekend, and SYFY FANGRRLS recently got a chance to chat with star Brianna Denski, who voices the character of June. The story centers on June and her mother, who imagine an amazing theme park run by the stuffed animals in her room, then draw pictures and build models of their fantasy world. As things go wrong in real life, the park starts to have issues, so June must meet with her animal friends and save the day, no matter what happens in her world. Check out what Denski had to say about working in animation after a career in musical theater, her character, and meeting co-star Matthew Broderick.
Tell us a little bit about how you got from musical theater to doing Wonder Park.
Cool. Actually, in fourth grade I did a musical, Annie, and I played Annie. Afterwards the principal of the school took me to New York to do the Broadway audition for Annie. Although I didn't get the part, it did introduce me to the world of New York auditions. I enjoyed doing that kind of audition, and so we got a manager, and soon after got an agent, and soon after I got the role.
What was it that you liked about the script?
I really liked the importance of math and science, and I also liked how the little use of technology in the movie. They do use it, however, they only use it as an aid, not as a leisurely kind of approach.
We rarely get to see female leads, especially young female leads, who are really into engineering and science and all of that. How important was that to you?
That was very important to me. Myself, I'm interested in math and biology. For the longest time I wanted to be a marine biologist, so playing a character who's really into engineering is really cool for me. My brother wanted to be an engineer for the majority of his life as well.
You have to tell us about The Pi Song in the film.
Oh, I love The Pi Song. Yes … It was really fun to record, actually. They would play the song for me and I'd sing along to it, and then they wanted me to do it without the phone. However, I didn't understand that they would be recording it, so I just kind of stood there awkwardly waiting for the song to play.
Often in animated films you have to record by yourself. What was that like? You’re used to theater, which is so collaborative.
Me and my personality, I always go off of people's facial expressions and their emotions, so working without that was kind of a challenge. However, the people that were in the booth with me, my director and the assistant, they would also help me out because they would portray those characters. Sometimes I would get a chance to see the clip of the animation beforehand so I could work off of the expressions of the animated characters.
Did you get a chance to meet any of the cast?
I got to meet Matthew Broderick [who voices June's father]. He was very sweet, but he was kind of reserved. It was kind of weird, but I really wish I got to work with them when we were recording it.
Were you a fan of Matthew Broderick before that?
Oh yes. I love all of his work and stuff like that. Actually my mom, when we found out I was going to be working with him, she was very, very excited. Another person that I was a really big fan of was actually Mila Kunis [Greta]. She was one of my acting inspirations for a very long time. She still is, actually, so I actually got to meet her on the carpet, and that was just a really big moment for me.
There are a lot of really emotional scenes in here. How did you prepare for that?
Well, I would always try to put myself in a situation with one of my best friends at the time. I would have to pretend that they were feeling really down, or they had to leave for a very long time and I didn't know whether or not I was never going to see them again. I just basically put, whatever the emotional theme was, I put their face in that situation and how I would react to it.
The dark moments in the film are pretty dark. Was that something that you were able to connect to?
I mean, personally my life has actually been very positive. I haven't had too many big downs in my life. I've only lived 15 years, so I haven't lived that long so far. But I actually took to other movies where I kind of felt connected to a character, and if anything bad happened to them, I kind of related that way.
How early on did you actually see all the characters, the drawings, of the animals that you were going to be working with?
Well, I saw my own character at one of the callbacks, actually. I want to say it was the last one before I got the role. The first time I saw the characters was very interesting. I loved how colorful they were, and I loved all the different contrasts in personality and character.
What approach did you take with the character of June?
Well, she and I are similar in some ways, so I could just relate to myself and connect with her that way. Otherwise, I don't know. You just had to read the scene and find something in your life you could relate to it with.
Did you have a favorite ride in the park? Because I want to go to that park.
Oh, Skyflinger all the way. I want to go on that.
The Skyflinger is awesome. So June's got the most connection to Peanut [Norbert Leo Butz], but is there a character that you personally felt the most connection to?
When we were creating the movie, I was kind of with June. I did feel very connected with Peanut, because some of my friends, like Peanut was for some of the movie, he was kind of down, kind of very sad, and felt like he was worthless. And some of my friends are kind of like that, so I'm very used to bringing them up and inspiring them.
What are you the most excited for people to see, and for people to take away from this film?
I'm very excited for people to see the importance of imagination, and for always letting that little kid in you live again. I feel like some adults in this world forget that they were children at some point, and that they had such a wild imagination, so I hope this movie will help them remember.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to get into acting, into voice work?
Rejection is very common in the acting industry. You just have to just accept it. Sometimes it's not your fault. You're just not what they're looking for. You can't do anything about it. Just remember, do your best and just own every mistake you do.
Wonder Park will hit theaters on March 15.