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Oct 15, 4:46 PM EDT

`Annie' star Quvenzhane Wallis hopes to become a veterinarian; film opens in December


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NEW YORK (AP) -- Quvenzhane Wallis says she took singing lessons to prepare for the lead role in a new version of "Annie," opening in theaters in December.

Quvenzhane, who was nominated for a best-actress Oscar when she was 9 for her role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," said she's always listened to music, especially while on her way to her brothers' basketball games.

"My vocal chords got better as I sang in the car, and when I (took) singing lessons, they got even better," the 11-year-old Quvenzhane said in a recent interview.

The movie also stars Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne. Producers include Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay Z.

In this contemporized adaptation of the Broadway musical and the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip, Annie lives in a foster home instead of an orphanage, "and there are cellphones," Quvenzhane said.

One thing hasn't changed: the presence of Annie's loyal companion, a mutt named Sandy.

"Of course we have a Sandy. There's no `Annie' without a Sandy. We have a little doggie named Marti who is a rescue dog. She's really cute," Quvenzhane said.

Quvenzhane carried a puppy purse when she walked various red carpets to promote "Beasts of the Southern Wild." (She is one of the youngest Oscar-nominated actors ever.)

Now her 8-year-old Yorkie, Sammie, accompanies her wherever she goes. She has another dog, Shuga, who is too big to travel.

Quvenzhane said she helps care for her dogs by feeding them and making sure they have fresh water. She wants to encourage kids to "always be there" for their pets because "they're, of course, your best friend."

She hopes to become a veterinarian.

Quvenzhane wrote the foreword to a new book "My Very, Very Busy Day," the story of a dog and a cat, designed to teach kids about the responsibilities that come with having a pet. The book is available at Banfield Pet Hospitals, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to pets in need.

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Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar

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