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LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN

Collaboration
Co-directors St. Pierre and Finn first worked together in the late '80s on the Disney classic THE LITTLE MERMAID. They traveled in the same circle of animators, traveling back and forth among various studios and jobs, before finding each other again on LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN. "I was really thrilled to get called to come on this show, which Dan had already been on," explains Finn. "Knowing Dan and his talent for visuals and storytelling, and all of the various departments that he's been in and been the master of, I was really excited."

St. Pierre was likewise pleased to have an old colleague come aboard to share the load, calling him a "brilliant animator and master storyteller," who freed him up to play close attention to the developing art pieces and music pieces. "I handle most of that kind of stuff, and Will handles everything from re-storyboarding sequences to doing scratch voice-over to looking after dailies and story idea stuff, which keeps evolving." The partnership suited the two men's diverse talents and allowed each of them to devote attention to the details that make the film what it is.

"I've mostly worked in partnerships as a director, and I like that. These animated movies can take a long time to make. They can be done by one person, but if you'd like the person to survive, it's nice if there's somebody to come in and be a buddy, a shoulder to cry on, and a fresh pair of eyes and ears," explains Finn. "I learn so much from Dan. He comes from a different perspective and has different disciplines. And I think we keep each other honest, too."

Lush landscapes with flying flowers, vibrant candy colored mountains and a forest filled with talking trees: the lands of Oz are just as magical and mysterious as they ever were, especially through the medium of animation. Art director Seth Engstrom was brought on early to begin fleshing out the aesthetics of Oz and, along with St. Pierre, he masterfully created the exciting new worlds, painstakingly outlining and storyboarding the designs that would eventually become Candy County, Dainty China Country and the other fantastical areas the characters visit.

Notes Radford, "Seth's brilliant. He and Dan [St. Pierre] go back to Dreamworks. Through their work, we have gone into a world that feels like it's a universe that exists. Stylistically, there are big differences between the locations and the counties in Oz. You feel like it's a place you've gone to. And it's a really wonderful, magical place, and Seth and Dan are largely responsible for that." St. Pierre adds, "Seth and I have a shorthand. We talk about texture, color, shape as a visual language."

St. Pierre continues, "Back in the old days, we used to have to draw every camera angle. When you're doing 2D animation, you'd have to draw the new camera position if you wanted to change it. CG is an extension of that, where we still have to draw it and design it on paper. But then it gets translated into a virtual set. And that's fun, because then you can actually walk around on the set and keep your angles and decide what is a good vantage point or not." Bringing those 2D images to life was Mumbai based visual EFX house, Prana Studios. The crew in Los Angeles would look at color and animation dailies, while an army of people in India was creating the shots. Given the time difference, LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN became known as "the production that never sleeps," In the end, over 300 people worked tireless hours across two continents to bring the magical new worlds to the screen.

And it wasn't just about the scenery. The characters also had their special treatment, much of which was based around the characteristics and performances of the voice talent. "Early on, we decided we were going to cast a few of the roles on the movie, so that it would help inform us as we designed the story and imagined the characters and their design," explains Radford.

Peters, for one, really appreciated that influence while voicing Glinda. "When I came to work, I said, 'Slow it down so I can see what they're doing,' and they said, 'No, no - you just go ahead and create, and we'll animate around you.' That's really fun and very freeing and very creative." Aykroyd also understood the gravity of how the ante was raised by exploring Oz through animation. "The animation and the characters in LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN are just classic, and I think this film is going to pop the world of Oz up to where it's never been. We have the ability to do the characters and the backgrounds and the settings in a kind of limitless, almost FANTASIA way."

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