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    Down the Yellow Brick Road: How a Louisville High School Student Plans to Produce the Next Oz Film
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    Like many people, 16-year-old Louisvillian Angelo Thomas was introduced to “The Wizard of Oz" as a young child and fell in love with it. What makes Angelo unique is that he decided to get actively involved in the world of Oz and embark on an 11-year journey into the adventurous storyline.  Thomas has written a feature-length animated musical called "Yellow Brick Road" in which Dorothy returns to Oz as an adult, and all Oz fans are invited to get on board and be part of making the vision a reality.

    Thomas received “The Wizard of Oz" at five years old, and watched it so many times that the VHS tape wore out. He's read all of the books and seen all of the sequels, but he just wasn't satisfied being a passive fan. In the eighth grade he began to envision his own addendum to the Oz stories. It's been three years, and Thomas has found himself in an amazing place of realization as he works to raise funds for a film project, complete with a notable director and cast attached. 

    "I've always loved the original movie, and I've dreamed of telling my own stories in that world," said Thomas. "I think my parents thought it was a phase until my collection continued growing and took over. I knew little about the screenwriting process, but I was determined to do it. I studied a lot of other scripts, watched countless tutorials and got a lot of really great guidance from Leigh along the way. It was a long, slow process, but that's mainly because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Not to mention the tremendous amount of love and respect I have for the source material, so I really wanted to get it right. My parents have been wonderfully supportive."

    Thomas credits much of the progress to his co-director and producer Leigh Scott, who has twenty years experience in film production. Thomas became aware of the veteran filmmaker when Scott directed the mini-series "Witches of Oz". Thomas really wanted to be involved, and ended up running the social media for “Witches of Oz.”  That led to Scott taking an interest in Thomas' own project.
     
    "I'm a huge Oz fan, having made the ‘Witches of Oz’ mini series a few years back, and I liked the idea of tackling a different type of filmmaking," said Scott. "Animation has always been one of my favorite genres."
     
    Scott added that he really enjoys working with Thomas, because he isn't jaded like many adults. "He [Thomas] has the project's best interest in mind at all times." 
     
    "I think a big part of it was proving myself," said Thomas. "I've never been good at sports or super gifted at anything in school, so I really wanted to do this. The story is also really important to me, and the more I fleshed it out, the more I was determined to tell it. It's really about second chances, opportunities and discovering what it means to grow up."

    Thomas also said that he really believes the range of talent attached to the film speaks volumes about its potential going forward. According to their online campaign, the impressive lineup includes:
     
    Whitney Kraus Jones as Dorothy Gale: Kraus is a  graduate of both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and Ball State University. She has worked in film, on stage and appeared in an episode of "In an Instant" for ABC. She recently completed two years with the Chicago cast of the Tony Award-winning Million Dollar Quartet.

    Ramony Mallory as Betsy Bobbin: Mallory comes from a Broadway family and has been seen in the Broadway revival of "A Little Night Music," taking on the same role her mother played in 1973. She has worked with Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Caatherine Zetaa Jones, and Santino Fontana. She has also starred in several independent feature and short films. 

    Christy Carlson Romano is General JinJur: Romano is best-known for her role as the titular character in Disney Channel's hit animated series "Kim Possible." Since she earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for her work on "Kim Possible" in 2005 she has lent her vocal talents to various feature films, television shows, and video games, including "Family Guy," "The Penguins of Madagascar," "Kingdom Hearts," and the "Final Fantasy" series. Her Broadway experience includes: "Parade;"" Belle in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway; a starring role in the Broadway production of "Avenue Q;" and she performed alongside Betty Buckley and Tuc Watkins in "White's Lies" at New World Stages in 2010.
     
     
    The rest of the film crew and talent can be seen on their fundraising campaign page. The team is working to raise $75,000 by March 6, 2015, but it is not their only hope for funding the film.

    Scott said, "The crowd funding is just one aspect to the production. Our company has a line of credit to finance the film, so it will happen one way or another. We just think it's a great opportunity to get the fans involved and really include our audience in the process."
     
    Any fans who get involved can look forward to perks in exchange for contributions. Some of the perks include email updates and artwork, a junior novel by Thomas, signed items and more. 

    "I think the fact that it's [the upcoming film] made by Oz fans is unique," said Leigh. "The other two big productions of late, the Disney film and the other animated film, ["Oz: The Great and Powerful" and "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return"] were clearly made by people trying to cash in on the Oz brand. There have been a few other small projects made by Oz fans, but they have been completely amateurish and not very well done. So ours is a unique blend of fan project with the professional experience and talent to really bring it to life."

    Thomas added, "I don't think the books get enough love. I think people who have read the books will really love this film because it takes a lot of the characters and things from those and weaves them into a brand new story."

    Concept art By Tally Todd, Art Director for the project and provided to Louisville.com by Angelo Thomas

    Jessica Lynn's picture

    About Jessica Lynn

    Jessica Lynn has been writing for Louisville.com since fall of 2010 and has also been published in LEO, Velocity, Voice-Tribune and others after serving as Editor in Chief of The JCC student newspaper, The Quadrangle. She has also served as columnist or contributing writer to an array of online publications.

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