Roland Carroll is President of Summertime Entertainment, a multi-media company specializing in family-friendly entertainment. Roland has served as the producer of many films including Arachnophobia, Face-Off, and Cape Fear.
I had a chance to interview Ryan about his new animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return which was the only American film accepted to the Annecy Animation Festival and stars Lea Michele, Martin Short, Patrick Stewart, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammar, Megan Hilty, Bernadette Peters and Hugh Dancy; here is a link to the website:
Q: What is Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return about?
A: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is an animated feature film based on the adventure books by Roger Stanton Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum. In the story, Dorothy wakes up in Kansas to find it devastated by the tornado that had whisked her away to the magical Land of Oz. The home she was so desperate to return to has been shattered; the townspeople, with nowhere to turn, are packing up and moving out. Distressed and overwhelmed, Dorothy suddenly finds herself transported back to Oz in a giant rainbow.
Oz is also in trouble, and Dorothy’s old friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the formerly Cowardly Lion need her help. They have been captured and the land is in a state of decay. As Dorothy journeys to find and rescue her friends, she encounters a number of new companions, including an oversized Owl who thinks with his stomach, a man made of marshmallows who can’t think for himself, a china doll princess whose bossiness is a cover for her fragility and an aging tree willing to transform himself for an adventure. Dorothy must help this misfit group face their challenges and band together against a wicked Jester who will not stop until all of Oz is under his control.
One of the key themes in Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is about helping your friends, and the importance of unity and community. Doing what’s right and working together. Dorothy comes home from Oz, but when she wakes up, her “no place like home” home has been devastated by a tornado ….so how does she deal with that? How are kids today affected by natural disasters? Because her friends need her in Oz again, she is able to learn the lessons in Oz that are necessary for her to come back to Kansas and help rebuild the community. We hope that this message will resonate with the audience.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
A: I have had a fondness to Oz since I was a kid. First, I loved the classic ’39 version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and just like many families did, we used to gather around the T.V. and enjoy it every time it came on. I always remember having ice cream roll cakes… it was great. Additionally, I grew-up in Chicago where the Baum family lived when L. Frank Baum wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” They have an “Oz Park” dedicated to the story, and I used to walk through it on my way to school every day. When I was younger I had always wanted to be an artist—I loved animation, and Disney was my hero, so I always wanted to tell these stories in animation.
Q: Why do you think The Wizard of Oz has stood the test of time?
A: It has stood the test of time because the stories and environment offer a timeless truth. It’s all about the power of imagination, believing in yourself and your connection to a higher power…it is very spiritual at its core. It resonates today as much as it did 75 years ago, and will continue on 75 years from now. It’s the original American fairytale, and we as Americans need the hope it offers today and always.
Q: What qualities made Lea Michele the perfect Dorothy?
A: Lea has a real inner strength and depth to her. I believe she brings the perfect balance of confidence and sensitivity to Dorothy that we would expect from such a great actress. As she goes through her journeys, at some point she must have a huge leap of faith to move forward. I find those qualities in Lea, so I believe it when she has those moments at the crossroads. AND she has a voice that can shake the foundations– she’s awesome!
Q: Animated movies today all have big screen stars in them. What if someone is aesthetically challenged, but they are the next Mel Blanc or Don Pardo; should they just give up?
A: Interesting question. In animated films, it’s the voice that matters the most. The character images are created, and as always, life and stories are filled with all the scope of the characters. Not everyone is the ingénue, nor should they be. We need an infinite variety of actors and “types”. So though many of our talents are well known, there are many in our film who are not. Talent will always find its way to the forefront.
Q: What was the most challenging thing about making this film?
A: The most challenging thins about making “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s return” is to stay true to the spirit of the stories, and not get lost in trying to contemporize it too much. We didn’t want to make jokes about texting, or make it a joke a minute. It needed to maintain the right amount of warmth and charm it deserves, and have the musical quality you would expect from these stories. In every way, the creative talents both individually and as a team achieved those efforts. We dug deep to make sure the film excelled beyond our demands.
Q: What do you think L. Frank Baum would have thought of everything that has been done with his story? (your film, Wicked, The Wiz, etc.)
A: I think he would love it! He liked to break the boundaries and that’s what people have done, keeping with the true heart of the story. Both Wicked and The Wiz were brilliant and have added to the awareness of Oz. Our project has the distinction of source material from Roger Stanton Baum, L. Frank’s great-grandson. He’s very pleased with our film, and has joked that “granddad would approve.”
Q: Why is being accepted into the Annecy Animation Festival a big deal?
A: The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is very well respected by the animation community, and being the only American Film invited to play in competition really speaks volumes to the originality and execution of our story. Bonne Radford as the producer; Dan St. Pierre and Will Finn as directors; Prana Studios doing the animation; our wonderful score by Toby Chu, and songs by Bryan Adams, Tift Merrit, Jim Vallance, Jim Dooley and Mike Himelstein; designs by Ken Duncan, Seth Engstrom; and there are many more deserved that recognition. We had a wonderful time at the festival, and it was an honor to have our world-premiere as part of the programming.
Q: What do Hollywood and Oz have in common?
A: Unlimited possibilities—to quote “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”—so go for it.
Q: Would you have gone back to Kansas in the first place? Why or Why not?
A: Yes, I would have gone back to Kansas. I love my home and my family no matter where they are. That’s where I need to be. Family is the pillar that holds our lives together.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)