LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY'S RETURN
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
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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