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LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN

Old Friends Return
The new adventures in LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN reunite us with Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man, who are now under threat of a new villain, the Jester. Although fans of the franchise know these characters well, the progression of the story sees them exploring new sides of themselves. "The characters from THE WIZARD OF OZ are so beloved and so beautifully realized in that movie, but what the original did was set us up for who they might become, while not actually taking us there," explains Radford. "The Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man all get what they thought they wanted from the Wizard, but they weren't really instructed on how to use their new gifts, or actually how to be leaders. Our story explores how they handle their newfound gifts and what comes along with them in the face of adversity."

These were the first characters to be cast by the production. Roland recalls, "Ryan actually originally thought of Jim Belushi for the Lion, who is such a natural, and actually hearing him do the voice for it was phenomenal. We then thought about the Scarecrow, and since we began with Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd came to mind from the whole 'Saturday Night Live' world. We were really struggling after those two to find somebody on par with them to do the Tin Man, and then Kelsey Grammer came up, and intuitively it just felt right."

The Scarecrow has become the brain behind Oz. He's invented a magic rainbow mover and hatches a plan to transport Dorothy back to help them defeat the Jester. "We tried to play to his strength, because Dan always plays the brainiac," explains Finn. "So we tried to give him little bits of jargon he could do, and he goes off into these sort of BEAUTIFUL MIND things where he sees a plan in his head, but it never goes quite as planned." Although he's become rather book smart, he sometimes struggles with common sense, and strives to find his footing between the two.

Aykroyd had to similarly hold the balance between conjuring what feels familiar about the Scarecrow from THE WIZARD OF OZ while making the character his own. "To take on an iconic role like the Scarecrow, you can't just do an impression, but you have to capture some of that old vaudevillian spirit that these characters were based on, their rhythms, and their vernacular. I tried to capture that looseness a little bit and then a bit of the goofiness of the original Ray Bolger character as the farm hand," says Aykroyd.

For Martin Short, who plays the Jester, voicing a role alongside Aykroyd represented a certain homecoming: "I first met Dan Aykroyd in 1972 in Toronto. I remember one time I was going out with Gilda Radner - I was driving Gilda's car, and Gilda was in the front, and Danny was in the back. Danny was being so funny I deliberately got lost so that I wouldn't have to let him out of the car. I thought, 'This is the funniest guy I've ever met in my life.' And he's remained a very, very good, close friend through the years."

The Cowardly Lion is now just Lion - no longer cowardly and filled with boldness. "The Lion in LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN has had his courage for years," explains Belushi. "But just like people, once you kind of have an epiphany and you discover something about yourself, you change, but you kind of float back and forth. It takes a while to really own it. And I think it takes a little while for the Lion to own the courage. So there are moments where this character is still a little afraid."

What Belushi wasn't afraid of was putting his own spin on the lovable character. "I was concerned about playing the Lion because I didn't want to do the original voice. I didn't want to imitate it, because it's just so classic and I'm not that good of a mimic. So it was a little difficult trying to find the voice, find the character, that'll bring up the feelings of that wonderful character that was created in THE WIZARD OF OZ. But I think we found something good," says Belushi. "Animation is terrific fun because you can get as big as you want and then they say, 'Can you make it bigger?' This just opens up the spirit. You can really dig down and let go. I just love it."

Newly endowed with a heart, the Tin Man suddenly finds himself on a roller coaster of emotions, wanting to try them all out. "The Tin Man in LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN actually has his heart and it's ticking away. He's experiencing all kinds of new things - emotions - that he never had before. That's the most exciting part of the manifestation of this character, because he's suddenly got a heart and he suddenly has to figure out what to do with it. He's going to overreact, he's going to make mistakes, he's going to get too involved in certain things and misunderstand things, as often the heart can do to you. But thankfully, he's got friends to help him on his way," says Grammer.

Rather than look to the 1939 film for his inspiration, Grammer chose to start from a blank canvas for his portrayal of the Tin Man. He explains, "The way to play an iconic character like the Tin Man is to forget that it's an iconic character. In this case, we're not doing the same lines as the original so there is no need to have a sense of reverence for one that's been spoken before. If you're doing Shakespeare and it's one of the most famous lines in the play, you should say it like it's a famous line. But we don't have that issue here."

Anchoring the group is Glinda, played by Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters. Now in the clutches of the evil Jester, Glinda must rely on Dorothy to free her and stop the Jester from completely taking over Oz. Peters relished the opportunity to be a part of the Oz legacy. "I thought THE WIZARD OF OZ was so magical. It's everlasting when you see it as a child," she says. "LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN is so well written, it's funny and entertaining. Everyone can enjoy it."

Michele was particularly tickled about Peters being cast in the film. "I'm a Broadway baby, so I've been a fan of Bernadette Peters' since Into the Woods," she says. "She's so incredibly talented. She is just one of those women who can really do anything, who still is starring on Broadway, going from show to show; she's a real veteran. She's also someone that I look up to because she's done such a great job in her career of crossing over between stage and TV, and then also into film as well, which is something that I obviously really admire. Having her be a part of this film - someone so vocally talented - is so great."

These old friends must distract the Jester and his team of evil cohorts while Dorothy tries to make her way to the Emerald City. But Oz has changed while Dorothy's been away, and it's not as easy as simply following the yellow brick road. She'll need some new friends to help her navigate the road to defeat the Jester and save Oz.

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