Few movies these days leave me anxious and excited for extended periods of time. “Dorothy of Oz” has had me talking since December 2009, when I first heard of the animated project.
It was rumored that Lea Michele of “Glee” and Broadway’s own Kristin Chenoweth were to take spots in the film. The cast was officially announced early in June, confirming Lea Michele but not Kristin Chenoweth. The cast is officially as follows:
Lea Michele as Dorothy Gale
Martin Short as The Jester
Dan Aykroyd as The Scarecrow
Kelsey Grammer as The Tin Man
Jim Belushi as The Formerly Cowardly Lion
Megan Hilty as The China Princess
Hugh Dancy as Marshal Mallow
Oliver Platt as Wiser the Owl
Patrick Stewart as Tugg
Set to direct the film is Dan St. Pierre, who has worked on such films as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid.” Summertime Entertainment is the company behind the production, and the screenplay is coming to us by Adam Balsam and Barry Glasser. The story is NOT a remake as some had speculated early on; rather it is based on a compilation of the Oz book series, including “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, and several of the later adventure books by Baum’s great grandson, Roger S. Baum, one of which was titled “Dorothy of Oz.”
There are literally hundreds of Oz books to pull from, but this story tells the tale of Dorothy immediately following her infamous journey to the merry old land of Oz. Kansas has been devastated by the tornado, everything has been destroyed and the townspeople have nowhere to turn, and thus are packing up and shipping out. As quickly as she returned to Kansas, Dorothy is whisked back to Oz by means of a rainbow. She finds that her trusty pals The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and Cowardly Lion have disappeared. Oz is in turmoil and the folks of the magical land need Dorothy’s help.
Familiar characters have a place in this film, but it’s also a platform for introducing brand new characters. Dorothy meets several fresh companions on her quest to save Oz. Marshal Mallow is a military man made entirely of marshmallows who can’t think for himself. The China Princess is a bossy know it all who is quite frail underneath. Wiser is a cuddly eccentric genius of an owl. And Tugg is a witty tree turned tugboat who has many different sides to him. The new villain is, of course, a wicked one: The Jester, who is trying to gain the power and control of Oz.
Along with the new characters, our beloved childhood friends from the first film, have evolved into what they thought they wanted to be. The Scarecrow, who longed for a brain, has been appointed ruler and is now the utmost authority figure in Oz. The Tin Man’s emotions can be seen prominently on his sleeve now and he has become somewhat of a weeping willow (oil can please!). The Formerly Cowardly Lion is the newly-appointed protector and guardian of Oz, but with his reputation of being a coward, he over-compensates in the role. These are great examples of “be careful what you wish for.” Preliminary character sketches were officially released with the casting announcements on the movie’s official website, which has really been the catalyst for spreading the word on this project.
Music was a vital component of the original film, and “Dorothy of Oz” is going to follow in those ruby red footsteps. Bryan Adams is going to be acting as one of the songwriters for the film, which means we are in for an all-new musical experience. A new visual experience is on the horizon as well. “Dorothy of Oz” will be shot using the latest 3D Stereoscopic techniques designed specifically for animated films.
The cast is a blend of humor, personality and vocals. Lea Michele lending such brilliant vocals as Dorothy is one of the aspects I am most looking forward to. Martin Short parading around as an evil Jester, is totally, well, Short of him. Oliver Platt will bring his unique sense of humor I’m sure. Patrick Stewart has a voice that I imagine will blend astonishingly with an animated film of this caliber and so does his “X-Men” buddy Kelsey Grammer. There is much for Dan Akroyd to play around with when it comes to Scarecrow. Megan Hilty is visually and vocally easy to see as a China Doll princess, Jim Belushi will get to play around with homages to the lion — I just hope he gets the voice right. When I heard Hugh Dancy was to play the military marshmallow fellow, I thought it was perfect.
The release date for “Dorothy of Oz” is currently set for April 2012, but I expect that to be tweaked and updated as the production progresses. A nearly two-year wait time leaves room for many more developments and changes. I just hope that this film can hold up against today’s viewing audiences. A lot of folks are tired of Oz films and I have seen on several websites people bashing the thought of another Oz film, as there have been many interpretations and such. I personally thought “Tin Man” — the made for TV mini series — was fantastic. And I would just like to take a moment to remind people that there are literally hundreds of Oz books, so when you put that thought in to perspective, it actually becomes shocking that there aren’t MORE Oz movies. There is a whole treasury of stories waiting to be told.
I am already a huge fan of the production but I still have one burning question about this film, if I watch it with no sound and play “Dark Side Of The Moon” …
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Follow Jessika Owens on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessika.