TAEM Interview with Producer Ryan Carroll

Legends of Oz logoTAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine is excited to be at the forefront of the news in letting our vast readership know of upcoming films. We have uncovered a major animated film that will be reaching the silver screen in 2014. The production company for the production is Summertime Entertainment whose CEO is Ryan Carroll.

Ryan, the name of your project is Legends of OZ: Dorothy’s Return. I have seen the film’s trailer and believe that you have created a blockbuster that will be seen by millions of moviegoers. For all the students who follow our publication, please tell us how you first got started and what you did to prepare yourself for your career.

RC- I watched A LOT of movies and bought an espresso machine! I also did everything in theatre from Lighting and Sound to Stage Managing and Set Building even some Acting.

TAEM- Tell us about your educational background and what influenced you to take up this career.

RC-   I was very lucky to start training under Byrne Piven, Jeremy Piven’s father, at the “Piven Theatre Workshop” with such actors as Aiden Quinn, Joan and John Cusack and guest teachers like William H. Macy. Byrne wrote my letter of recommendation to the “Goodman School of Drama” in Chicago, now called “The Theatre School/DePaul”. It was an incredibly great and intensive program which gave me a wonderful “bag of tools” to use in the creative process of storytelling.

Ryan CarrollTAEM- How did you form your company and what goals did you set forth for it from the outset?

RC- My brother, Roland Carroll went to USC for film & television. With our mutual passion of storytelling it was inevitable for us to work together and produce our own projects. Our primary goal has always been to impact an audience’s imagination, and to help broaden an appreciation of the world around us.

As we grew our company, two of our best moves were to bring aboard Sheldon Rabinowitz and Bonne Radford. Sheldon provides financial and business planning services to a wide range of clients within the entertainment, media, communications and technology industries. Bonne has helmed multiple animated feature films as the head of Feature Animation for DreamWorks, and as Steven Spielberg’s VP of Animation at Amblin. She has been a cornerstone to the animation industry as we know it today, and helped steer its massive evolution from 2D to CG and now 3D stereoscopic.

TAEM- We understand that you have been involved in the creation of a number of films before Legends. Please tell us about some of these and the successes that they achieved.

RC- The first film Roland and I were involved in was titled “Witchboard”. It was a love story with an edge. The film was written by my brother’s roommate at USC, and Roland put the project together. I was lucky enough to be involved. It did phenomenally well in theatres, and especially in the home video market. The film I’m most proud of aside from “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” is “Love is the Drug” now titled “Addicted to Her Love”. It has a great cast and a compelling story written by Wesley Strick who penned “Cape Fear” & “Arachnophobia.”

Summertime LogoTAEM- We learned that you have a passion for the OZ series and have purchased the rights to it. Please tell us about this aspect and how you built the franchise for your creation.

RC- Oz has struck a chord for me since I was kid living in Chicago and my mom gave me the series of books. That’s where the Baum family lived when he wrote “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. Every day on my way to school I would walk through “Oz Park” which has statues of Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman and I had visions of being a cartoonist and doing an animated film with the Oz stories. I’m a huge fan of Disney and this seemed to be the only natural fit for me. Many years later I learned of Roger Stanton Baums’ books and their availability, I knew this was my opportunity to make my vision a reality. I immediately wrote a personal letter to Roger expressing my appreciation of the stories and my ambition to produce an ongoing franchise from his source materials. I also shared with him how important of a role model I felt Dorothy is, and should be going forward. Roger was kind enough to option the books to me and we went to work from there!

TAEM- For the up and coming young filmmakers who follow our publication as a learning tool, please tell us what other aspects of the franchise did you work on to create a success for it.

RC- From the very beginning we wanted to make it a completely immersive experience. I did a stage show in Chicago for several years titled, “Dungeon Master”. It was a spinoff of Dungeons & Dragons created by a uniquely talented, fun and brilliant actor, Bruce A. Young. We would start the show off with a live action fight, then some incident would occur: A relic was stolen, a princess was kidnapped or some other initiative to begin a quest. We would then take audience members through an interactive adventure of Dungeons & Dragons. They could “throw spells” on the actors by rhyming and do things like fight in slow motion with sponge “weapons”. It was a huge success and so much fun. I loved improvising on the audience’s reactions and it resonated with me on creating environments where the audience can continue their experience. With all the new technologies today we are able to do that by building a very robust Virtual World of Oz and applications for your iPad or mobile device and we will continue to add to the digital elements of the Oz Franchise. We will also be going the traditional routes of licensing and merchandising with board games, toys, even a stage play. I interface with all departments, contractors and consultants to drive it all forward making sure they benefit each separate leg and they are uniformed & consistent.

Patrick StewartTAEM- Please tell our readers about the famous personalities that will be playing roles in your film and the characters that they will be portraying.

RC- We have the most talented cast recognized from Broadway, Television and Film. Lea Michele, who started on Broadway and is well known for her role in televisions’ “Glee” plays Dorothy. We have Martin Short voicing our villain, the Jester. The infamous trio of Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman are respectively portrayed by veteran actors, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Kelsey Grammer. The new characters introduced are Marshall Mallow played by Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), China Princess played by Megan Hilty (Smash) and Wiser played by the incomparable Oliver Platt. Rounding out our cast of characters is Tugg with the familiar voice of Patrick Stewart, and of course Glinda voiced by the talented Bernadette Peters. We even have Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants!

TAEM- How did you decide what actors would play these roles, and how were you able to obtain them ?

RC- I wanted to get a hometown, Chicago-feel for the project and began looking at The Second City influence. That’s how we cast the first actor, Jim Belushi. Then we hired casting director Matthew Jon Beck and we met with a number of agents and shared our enthusiasm and plans for the franchise, some responded to our appeal… some did not. An agent in particular that got behind the project was Tim Curtis, he’s the one that brought Lea to our attention and a number of other talents from WME.

Dorothy of Oz group picTAEM- Tell us the theme behind this production and how it fits into the overall story of OZ.

RC- Well, we’ve all heard “There’s no place like home”, but when Dorothy comes home and it’s destroyed from the tornado, how does she respond to that? How do kids today absorb the challenges they face from similar circumstances? The answer is with a community, a group, a team. And that’s what the core of the story is about. “Work with me” the title of one of our original songs by Brian Adams, resonates the essence of our story. It’s important for America now to work together and this being the original American Fairytale portrays that both in Kansas and Oz.

TAEM- We understand that you just came back from Cannes where you displayed the project. Tell us about the reactions to it and how it fared,

RC- Cannes was amazing! The audience reactions and the great interest from all of the international distribution companies was exhilarating. It was thrilling to officially show the film and to receive such a vigorous response.

TAEM- When will the film be released for the public’s viewing and what other companies will you be working on it for this to happen ?

RC- There will be a large theatrical release in May 2014. Our domestic distribution partner is Clarius Entertainment , which is led by a fantastic and very experienced team of industry veterans. On the foreign side is Hyde Park International headed by Ashok Amritraj, who has produced over 100 films with such talents as Bruce Willis, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and many more. We couldn’t ask for better partners. The soundtrack is being released through Sony Records and the home entertainment distribution is being handled by FOX.

Legend of OZ Cannes LogoTAEM- I am sure that this film will be on everyone’s list to see in 2014, and it should generate a lot of money from the film, merchandising, and more. Do you plan to make a sequel to it, as I am sure that other segments of the story of OZ will need telling ?

RC- We are currently the number #1 most anticipated film of 2014 on movieinsider.com. We have been working on the second film for some time, as well as the arc of the entire franchise through numerous story lines. Since we have the rights to 10 of Roger Stanton Baum’s books we have a wealth of material to draw from that are all unique intellectual properties. Thus, we will continue to expand the world of Oz for a long time.

TAEM- As a further thought, could there be a television series for network or cable that can be made from this production somewhere down the line ?

RC- Yes, we always anticipated an ongoing TV series as well as online webisodes. We have prepared our television “bible” and plan to begin an outreach to network/cable partners. Later this summer. It will be exciting to see who responds, especially with the traction we are now gaining.

TAEM- Ryan, I see many good things in the cards for you and your company with the development and airing of this project next year. Toy companies like Mattel, and fast food franchise like McDonalds, should already be waiting in the wings for you. I believe that your film will be kicking doors open for years to come.

   I want to thank you for your time with our interview and wish you much luck in all your future endeavors.

   TAEM

RC – Thank you.