I’m always surprised at how little time an actress like Bridgit Mendler spends recording for a full-length animated film like The Secret World of Arrietty (three days, according to the young actress), which opens in theaters on February 17th. Mendler, who stars in the Disney Channel Series Good Luck Charlie, voices Arrietty, a tiny but courageous and determined 14 year old girl who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a suburban garden home. She’s one of the “little people” who mostly remain hidden, except for the occasional stealth venture to “borrow” supplies like sugar cubes from the humans who live above her. Next week I’ll share my review of the film, which I think is absolutely brilliant.
The Secret World of Arrietty was based on The Borrowers, a juvenile fantasy novel by British author Mary Norton. The film, which was originally released in Japan in 2010, won the animation of the year award at the 34th Japan Academy Prize award ceremony and became the highest grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2010. The film has been widely accepted throughout the world and I anticipate that it will exceed Ponyo and Spirited Away when it opens in theaters next week.
Last week, Disney invited a group of bloggers and their daughters for a screening of the film and a special interview with Mendler to talk about her role in the film. Mendler, who is accomplished as an actress, musician, and songwriter, was approached to voice the female lead without an audition and recalls being “honored” that they offered her the role. Interestingly, her preparation to voice Arrietty didn’t extend much beyond simply watching the Japanese film. “I was pretty familiar with the Studio Ghibli movies and Japanese films in general from watching Spirited Away and Ponyo.” She recalls that her first impressions of the film were that it was very “visual” and had a captivating story.
As the female lead in the film, Arrietty and Mendler will likely serve as role models for girls of varying ages. When asked about her advice to young girls in pursuit of a career or their dreams, Mendler stated, “I think all girls should feel empowered, like they can go out and conquer the world. I think it’s important.” With almost 10 years in the industry and accomplishments that include lead roles in film and television series and a blossoming music career, Mendler still manages to come across as humble and relatable.
One of the ironies I found in the character of Arrietty was that despite her size, she’s courageous and adventurous. Mendler recalls possessing Arrietty’s same sense of adventure and curiosity a as a child. “I think a great thing about Arrietty is she has a pure curiosity for the world,” states Mendler. “I like that she has her heart in the right place.” Despite the story’s simplicity, some of the messages are quite deep, which I’ll explore next week in my review. Overall, The Secret World of Arrietty offers “a great message of friendship and adventure,” states Mendler.
Bridgit Mendler has a bit of experience lending her voice to animated film (Appoline in Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2) and enjoyed her experience voicing Arrietty. The most difficult part about her involvement with the soon-to-be released animated film? The ad lib parts where she would have to grunt or breathe heavily. I can imagine that the exaggeration required to put emphasis on those sounds, particularly when there is no dialogue or music in the background, would be challenging. Overall, Mendler enjoyed her experience and “got into the story in a real way.”
Bridgit Mendler is currently working on Good Luck Charlie and her very first album, produced in partnership with Hollywood Records and slated to be released this Spring. When asked what direction she was steering her career towards, she stated, “I feel like I really want to devote enough time to both of them [music and acting].” Mendler wrote the film’s theme song “Summertime,” two or three years ago and was delighted that they took a song “that wasn’t necessarily made for that project, and kind of lined [it] up in some ways [for the film].” But apart from that, she hasn’t had a lot of time to devote to her music and is hoping to focus more on that part of her career this year.
The Secret World of Arrietty opens in theaters on February 17th, 2012.
No compensation was received for this post. I was invited to a press junket, courtesy of Disney.