“Wish,” the upcoming animated film from Disney Studios, tells the story of a young girl who embarks on a grand adventure in hopes of having her wish fulfilled.
Jennifer Kumiyama, a singer/actress who grew up in Fontana, can definitely relate to that storyline because she is one of the stars of the movie.
“Being a part of ‘Wish’ is my eight-year-old self’s wish come true,” she said. “This movie truly embodies the Disney magic that struck me the first time I saw my first Disney animated feature film.”
Kumiyama, 43, is no stranger to the Disney spotlight, having been a singer for 13 years in “Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular,” a live stage show in California Adventure Theme Park.
But it has taken an extraordinary amount of hard work and determination for her to achieve her dream of being featured on the big screen.
Kumiyama was born with arthrogryposis and uses a wheelchair for 100 percent of her mobility needs. Arthrogryposis is a variety of conditions involving multiple joint contractures (or stiffness).
“Growing up, kids like me with disabilities didn’t see themselves represented in any media. I get the distinct honor of being that representation for kids today. Representation really matters, and kids with disabilities need to see themselves in every aspect of media,” she said.
Kumiyama, who attended Maple Elementary School and Alder Middle School before graduating from Fontana A.B. Miller High School, was praised by someone who has known about her talents for many years — James Griffin, the drama teacher at Jurupa Hills High School.
“Beyond her on-screen prowess, Jennifer stands as a source of inspiration for all who have the privilege of knowing her, and her personal journey parallels the profound narrative unfolding in ‘Wish,’ Griffin said.
In the movie, Kumiyama voices Dahlia, the best friend of Asha (Ariana DeBose), the town baker and the unofficial leader of their friend group of teens. Together with a whimsical cast of characters, Dahlia and friends support Asha on a captivating journey into a world where anything is possible.
Kumiyama’s portrayal of Dahlia is part of Disney’s commitment to showcasing diverse and exceptional talent, Griffin said.
“Ms. Kumiyama navigates the world with resilience and grace,” he said. “Her inclusion in ‘Wish’ not only exemplifies Disney’s dedication to inclusivity but also serves as an inspiring testament to the triumph of diversity in the cinematic realm.”
Kumiyama was the first performer in a wheelchair to be on any Disney stage in the world.
She was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2010, and she is the owner of the Ms. Wheelchair California Foundation, a leadership and advocacy based program for women in wheelchairs.
Now Kumiyama, who lives in Long Beach, is wishing that the theaters will be full when “Wish” opens on Nov. 22.