American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars is based on the doll company’s Girl of the Year and offers several positive messages in friendship, family, and the importance of getting help when needed.
Throughout the story, McKenna (played by Jade Pettyjohn) learns valuable lessons about what it takes to overcome unexpected hurdles, whether physical (like getting injured during a gymnastics competition), or emotional (like the embarrassment of needing a tutor to improve in school).
The story begins with McKenna, a fourth-grade gymnast who absolutely loves to compete for her club’s team with her best friend, Toulane. Focusing too much on gymnastics causes her grades to slip in school and her teacher recommends that her parents seek the help of a tutor, Josie.
Already embarrassed by needing assistance from a tutor, McKenna falls during a competition and injures herself… as if things couldn’t get worse! Feeling defeated, Josie, who’s in a wheelchair, teaches McKenna that if she applies the determination that she has for gymnastics to her tutoring sessions, there’s nothing she can’t accomplish.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the film just in time for the 2012 USA Gymnastics Trials held in San Jose, CA. Tyler Henson and Billy Harrison from ModernMom got the chance to interview the star of the film, Jade Pettyjohn during the trials.
Tyler: Did you have a gymnastics background before the movie?
Jade: Well I did some of the basics, but they flew me out three or four weeks before, so I actually got to train with the Junior Olympic team, which was really awesome.
Tyler: What was your favorite event?
Jade: My favorite, well, my main event was beam, so that’s basically all I was working on. I did a little bit of the uneven bars and a little bit of the floor, but not much… it was mainly beam, so now I’ve gotten to love beam!
Billy: Did you ever fall off?
Jade: The first thing they taught me was how to fall because they really want me to know how for safety. There were a few times where I’d fall, but I really didn’t get hurt, you know? I’d do just a little stumble/trip thing… nothing really dramatic!
Tyler: Was it pretty hard to learn? Was that the hardest one out of all of them?
Jade: Probably, yeah!
(Interviewing the star – in order from left to right: Jade Pettyjohn, Tyler Henson, Billy Harrison)
Tyler: Did you get to watch the event today?
Jade: Yes, I did!
Tyler: Who was your favorite? Who were you rooting for?
Jade: I liked a lot of them, but I really liked Jake!
Tyler: What about tomorrow? Who’s your favorite girl?
Jade: Oh, that’s so hard! I like all of them! I really like Elizabeth Price, she’s really cool, and I like Alicia too!
Tyler: What actor/actress do you look up to, and want to be most like?
Jade: Well, there’s a lot out there. Now it’s Nia Vardalos, she’s one of them. Nia Vardalos, and then I also really like Dakota Fanning and Natalie Portman. I want to have a career along those lines.
Tyler: Well, we read that you try your hardest to maintain straight A’s in school, but with you being on the road and everything, how is it managing all of that?
Jade: I have a really awesome private school that I go to. They’re pretty cool and they know what’s it’s like for acting so I’ll just take it for homework, or something like that. So it’s not that hard for me. I know some actors who have troubles with getting out of school, but I don’t actually have a problem with this… so it’s probably just my school, they’re awesome!
Tyler: Do you have any tips other tips to help other kids do well in school?
Jade: Just to understand everything. There are a lot of kids out there who might not know all of the words, you know? They’ll be like “I don’t know what that means!” but they don’t clear it up, they don’t look it up in the dictionary. A dictionary is a lifesaver! You must use the dictionary to look up all your words.
Billy: When you’re on set, do you go to work and go straight to study afterwards? How are your days?
Jade: Well, on set for American Girl, it was during the summer so I didn’t have to work. They have a set-teacher on set… you have to have a set-teacher on set. It wasn’t really that hard. Usually, on another set right before you start shooting, you normally have 1-3 hours of school, then you do your shooting, then it’s over with.
Tyler: Do you have an American Girl doll?
Jade: I have a few. I have one that my aunt gave me, which is pretty cool. On set they gave all the cast and crew, before McKenna came out, they gave Julie dolls out. Then after, they gave me the McKenna doll.
Billy: You have two dogs, right?
Jade: I do! I have an American Bulldog, which I bought after American Girl as a little reward. I rescued him, and his name is Porkchops… he’s really fat, he’s cute though! And then I have a Boxer, his name is Dexter. He’s really cool.
Billy: Do they go around with you when you’re out and about?
Jade: Not usually because you want to keep them at a stable place. If I’m out on the road or something, we’ll usually have my grandparents come in. When American Girl happened, my dad stayed home because he had to work so he’s still in Los Angeles while we were up in Canada shooting, so he was taking care of Dexter.
“American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 3rd, 2012 and is available exclusively at Walmart and American Girl stores. It will also be airing on Saturday, July 14th at 8pm/7C on NBC.