There's this book we read as kids called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Whangdoodles change colors like mood rings, and grow a new pair of bedroom slippers on their hind legs every year. They used to live on our planet, but when power and greed took precedence over imagination, the very last one disappeared to create an imaginary universe, where he could rule and other imaginary subjects could be free.
We're telling you about this because Wongderland, the imaginary place in the commercial below, reminds us a lot of it. Created by Wunderman Phantasia to promote a toy store, also called Wongderland, being opened by client Wong Supermarkets, the animated short tells a familiar story—that of a boy and his toy car, and how his imagination fuels the existence of a mythic creature in another world.
It's also about how we're systematically taught to squash our imaginations in favor of baser concerns. The boy grows up and has a daughter, who likes to send her pink pony diving into the bathwater. Dad quickly corrects her by grabbing her hand, like he's saving her from a Requiem-style spiral into drugs: Ponies walk on land, not in water (we love how he takes issue with this, and not with the fact that it's pink). And though she obeys, the resentment—such a grownup emotion!—is clear on her face.
Meanwhile, over in Wongderland, a swimming pony and its equivalent
Whangdoodle Wongderlander disappear. Luckily, Wongderland has a king, who gets a dimension-breaking idea.
It all ends happily enough. Wongderland reinstitutes two residents, the king is pleased, and father and daughter are united under the auspices of imagination. The film ends with the words, "We never stop being kids when we keep imagining."
The Wongderland film appeared nationwide in movie theatres in Peru, which makes sense: Not only is it long, but it also has an old-school Pixar quality to it. What it's missing in its five minutes are deeper stakes, which perhaps would help parents better remember its lesson (and brand) at the end of whatever movie follows it.
A storyline like this would have been plenty fine when we were kids, but films like Up and Inside Out have given modern children—and their guardians—a sense of nuance. Villains aren't born, and outcomes aren't linear; they're fed by many tributaries before producing a dad who grabs a kid's hand like he's the goddamn Flash.
It's never really clear why the boy at the start grows up to be the kind of guy who cares whether his daughter knows ponies walk on land (or the sides of bathtubs), apart from a cursory pan of photos that show him marrying and getting an office job. And while you do make negotiations with your inner life as an adult, those things in themselves aren't really reasons to let your inner child go to root.
Most people spend a lot of time thinking about their childhoods, what they wanted then, and how it compares to their lives now. (While that isn't fuel for Wongderland, it's fuel for lots of therapists.)
But it's still a charming, inoffensive piece of work. Maybe it will even sell toys—more of which appear in Wongderland at the end, like the promise of so many more stories: Pigs flying, rocket ships blasting off, candy helicopters and wooden castles. It's nice, in any case, to think a place like that exists.
Client: Wong Supermarket
Agency: Wunderman Phantasia, Peru
Chief Creative Director: Jose Aburto
Head of Art: Augusto Landauro
Creative Director: Jorge "Koky" Borrero
Senior Creative: Sebastian Sanchez-Botta
Copywriters: Alvaro Camino, Bruno Calmet
Account Director: Arminda Vasquez
Account Supervisor: Erica Melgar
Account Executives: Fiorella Gomez, Claudia Drago
Production Supervisors: Luis Grieve, Sebastian Castro
3-D Modeling Supervisor: Ricardo Villar
Producer: Plan B
Music: Sordo Audio Studios
Script: Sebastian Sanchez-Botta, Alvaro Camino, Bruno Calmet