Available on Blu-ray and VOD today is the family-friendly animated movie The Steam Engines of Oz. Writer-director Sean Patrick O’Reilly delivers a new take on the Oz mythology in an adaptation of his own graphic novel of the same name. Ron Perlman, William Shatner and Julianne Hough lend their voice talents to this fantastical journey to Oz one hundred years after Dorothy clicked her ruby-red slippers. A young engineer named Victoria joins forces with the Scarecrow, a not-so-cowardly lion and some industrious Munchkins to find the Tin Man’s heart before he destroys their world by industry and mechanization. Along their inspiring journey, they learn a powerful lesson about friendship and how love can overcome any obstacle. Check out the trailer here!
To celebrate the release of The Steam Engines of Oz on home video, I had a chance to chat with the movie’s star, William Shatner. The Star Trek icon plays the famed Wizard of Oz, though he’s known simply as Oscar Diggs in this go-round. Shatner talked about his life-long fascination with animation, his earliest memories and experiences related to it, and just how the art style has influenced his career. Plus, he gave us an update on two of his upcoming, in-development projects Quest for Tomorrow and Mutasia, which may have animation studio Titmouse on board to produce. See what else he had to say below!
What’s your first memory of seeing animation on the big screen?
William Shatner: Probably, one of the first movies, I have a vivid recollection of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, being very, very young, not wanting to leave the theater after seeing it for the third time in a row, hanging onto the guide ropes of the theater as my father dragged me out kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to leave the movie theater. That was Snow White.
How important is animation in your life and career?
Shatner: I had an animation house in Canada called C.O.R.E.—I never did find out what that stood for—and one among many things that we did, a crowning achievement and the seeds to our destruction, were in the animated film for Disney, The Wild, and I voiced something there as well.
To give you a bit of a scoop, I sat down with Titmouse. We’re going to partner up for a series of books I wrote called “Quest for Tomorrow” and a series that we’re hopeful of selling called “Mutasia”, like mutants, so all the little people in the village of Mutasia are combinations of other animals. Those are the two properties we brought to Titmouse and we’re on our way to try and sell them.
Will you be voicing characters in that?
Shatner: Absolutely, and I’ll have a commanding tone to my voice.
How did the opportunity to star in The Steam Engines of Oz come about?
Shatner: They called me to see if I was interested, and I said, “Send me a script.” It seemed like fun so I said that I would do it. Then we went to a studio nearby and I played Oscar Diggs.
What was it about this version of your character Oz that interested you?
Shatner: The character is great fun. And taking a cue from Frank Morgan, the wonderful actor who played the Wizard of Oz, he was intriguing. That charm was there.
Did you get to act opposite your co-stars for this movie or was it a solo recording session?
Shatner: No, as I’m sure you know, that’s not the way it’s done. And I don’t know why it isn’t done that way. Maybe it’s the convenience of getting a group of people who are busy together all at once, but invariably, the voices to animation are done singly in a studio and you have no idea of what the other guy is going to do, which is really weird.
I’ve got two albums coming out this year: A Christmas album we’re calling “Shatner Claus”, but it’s going to be really good, an interesting bend on the Christmas songs, and also a Western country music album called “Why Not Me?” with Jeff Cook of “Alabama.” I laid down my tracks for, especially, the Christmas album, then we send my tracks to people we invite to be part of that number, then they do their tracks, and then I listen to what they’ve done and have varied my performance to be appropriate to the magnificence of their artistry and what they’ve done.
I, as an actor, am totally sensitive to what somebody else is doing in the scene, which you could use that term in one of these song, and I adjust my performance there, too. Why can’t I do that with voicing a character? I don’t know. I’ve never had a decent explanation in all the voice animations that I’ve done, in the same way I’ve never had a scientist fully explain spacetime.
Maybe you’ll get to do an animated series explaining spacetime to kids.
Shatner: They have all kinds of animation for gravity and bending light, and I still don’t understand it, but the people who explain it don’t seem to understand it either.
Do you think you’ll get the opportunity to sing in an animated role?
Shatner: I don’t want to wish that on anybody. These two albums, there’s a lot of music there, but I’m not singing as we know singing. My line is, “I think sustaining a note is highly overrated.”
Are there any current animated shows or movies you’d like to be a part of? Any guest roles coming up?
Shatner: I did the last Batman movie; I played Two-Face. I had fun with that in that they animated it first, which is rare, and allowed me to do the voice to the animation. I was able to do some fun stuff. At least it was fun for me and the guys in the booth.
Would you be up for another opportunity to revisit that character?
Shatner: Oh I love that stuff. Are you kidding me? It’s fun because you don’t have lines to learn, you can read them, and you color it. You can go out there because it’s animation and they want that kind of energy and not the throw-away that’s so prevalent in drama today.
What do you hope kids and audiences out there get out of Steam Engines of Oz?
Shatner: It’s a charming film and they will have the best time looking at it. It’s great fun. This is a great, fun movie and all ages will enjoy it.
Anything else coming up for you in the near future?
Shatner: I have a book coming out! “Live Long and …” And then all kinds of other things that are on the lip of reality.