We’re Off To See the Wizard

The Wizard of Oz
The original Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved movies ever made. First released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is ranked as AFI’s sixth best movie of all-time and it’s a mainstay on many top 100 films of all-time lists. The movie starred 16 year old Judy Garland, who gave an unforgettable performance as Dorothy, singing and dancing her way into the hearts of generation after generation of movie lovers.

Now 74 years later, Hollywood is about to embark on an ambitious journey to reboot The Wizard Of Oz story. First up is Disney Studios with the release of Oz The Great and Powerful on March 8, 2013. Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), the film will premiere in 3D. The advance word is excellent and the previews look simply amazing.

Raimi is exploring the back-story of the great and powerful wizard. Film goers will finally learn who he is, why he left Kansas, and how he ended up in Oz. The new film will introduce audiences to the man behind the curtain and reveal all the trials and tribulations he went through to become the wizard.

The second new Oz project is under development at Warner Horizon Television. Originally, Warner Bros was in talks with Robert Zemeckis to direct a remake of The Wizard Of Oz. However, that didn’t pan out and the project has seemingly been cancelled. Instead, Warner is now working on a television series called The Red Brick Road.

The show is the brainchild of Rob Prior, a concept artist on several major movies, and it is being produced by Hollywood heavyweights Mark Wolper, Roy Lee, and Adrian Askarieh. The Red Brick Road will take place after the original film and continue the story where the Baum novels end. The studio plans to give the show a Game Of Thrones feel, loaded with politics, intrigue and violence.

Why then is Hollywood so anxious to remake one of the most popular movies of all time? Movie lovers have been subjected to some truly awful sequels in recent years and audiences are skeptical when Hollywood decides to remake a successful and much loved film. There has to be a better reason to reboot The Wizard of Oz than profit or lack of good original subject matter.

Fortunately, this is one of the rare cases in which a new film and a new television series may actually do the original source material justice. The 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz is a musical and it only skirts around the edges of Oz. There is so much more to the world that author L. Frank Baum created in his 14 Oz novels and the original movie just scratches the surface. A well made drama or adventure movie, with top production values will be a welcome addition to the Oz Legacy and an intelligent television series would be a delight to watch from the comfort of home.

Sam Raimi is a top flight director who knows and respects the material. He spoke about the pressure of directing Oz The Great And Powerful and why he decided to make a new Oz Film:

“Well, we all love The Wizard of Oz movie and we were very careful not to tread on it. We were careful to respect it. But ours is really a different story. It’s a story that leads up to The Wizard of Oz. It’s a story of how the wizard came from Kansas to the Land of Oz, and how a slightly selfish man became a slightly more selfless man, and it’s the story of how he became the wizard. It’s a fantastic story that answers that question, in case any of you had that question. But, it’s not re-making The Wizard of Oz, so it wasn’t a problem that we had to deal with. We just nodded lovingly toward it, and went ahead with telling our own story.”

Red Brick Road will be under the microscope from day one. Creating a continuation of much loved and extremely well known property is tricky and difficult, but Warner Bros is putting some of their best producers on the project. At this point, the studio is saying very little about Red Brick Road and Oz fans will be watching and waiting for the results. A great series based on The Wizard Of Oz would certainly make network or cable television a much more interesting and enjoyable place.

Hopefully these new projects will do the subject matter and the original movie justice. Disney and Warner are investing a great deal of time and money on Oz The Great and Powerful and Red Brick Road. A new generation of film lovers will be able to make the journey to the Land of Oz and older Oz traditionalists will have an opportunity to experience a 21st century version of L. Frank Baum’s amazing world. We are all anxious to resume our adventures with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion as they go off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.



Guest Post from Jennifer Granger

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