There is news today that a major movie studio is planning a new interpretation of the original classic The Wizard of Oz, which could be a re-imagining of the original 1939 motion picture classic. Here’s the link to the story.
Now I wouldn’t completely consider myself an Ozphile, but I totally understand the dedication and devotion to the original story of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion as part of American literature and pop culture. And what I’m seeing here is an opportunity to mine that story again and again.
But … how many times can we continue returning to this story?
Here’s the thing.
The original 1900 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has long since entered the public domain. That means anyone who wants to can re-interpret the story, so long as they use the materials – and only the materials – from the original L. Frank Baum texts. But even before that book’s public domain entrance, The Wizard of Oz has been re-interpreted SEVERAL times.
It was once a long-running Broadway show from the 1900’s. It’s also responsible for two of the most beloved Broadway shows of all time, The Wiz and Wicked.
And although you know of the 1939 film, how about a glimpse of the earliest surviving Wizard of Oz film adaptation, as a 1910 silent picture?
Heck, here’s a 1925 film interpretation, with a pre-Laurel & Hardy appearance by Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodsman.
Even before the 1939 MGM classic, there was a little-seen 1933 animated short, as created by legendary artist Ted Eshbaugh. Wow, check out this incredible use of Technicolor.
As for other Oz film interpretations, you’ve got the 1985 pseudo-sequel Return to Oz that, well, was a complete stinker.
And don’t even get me started on the James Franco 2013 film Oz, the Great and Powerful, which looked like it was TRYING to tell the story of the Wizard, while mentioning and NOT mentioning the 1939 MGM musical.
And I could recount every single animated Saturday morning TV version of the Wizard of Oz, from the 1961 Rankin-Bass series to the 1967 Hanna-Barbera anthology Off to See the Wizard, to the various Japanese anime versions of the series.
But as far as I’m concerned, the best re-interpretation of the Wizard of Oz came a few years ago, when NBC aired the limited series Emerald City. It essentially mined the entire history of the Oz books, bringing in characters that were only in the books and introducing them in a kind of Game of Thrones mashup. Heck, there was even an episode where they gave a sly nod to the Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Wizard” phenomenon.
I mean … how many more times can the story be told? How many more interpretations of the classic 120-year-old book can there be?
Well, I guess when the original book lands in the public domain, then as many as one can imagine. Heck, someone took the old Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice book and turned it into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so there’s that.
But unless they’re going to do a full-blown movie series that brings in Princess Ozma and King Pastoria and all the side characters, such a new project will be tough to sell. Are you going to cater to the fans who want a re-take of the MGM musical? Do you pitch to those who love Wicked? How about fans of The Wiz?
There are a lot of questions to answer here. I get it, though. Announce the project and see what kind of buzz it generates. And if it doesn’t work out, then ditch the project and hope that everyone forgets it existed.
So, yeah, let’s see where this goes. Does it follow a yellow brick road …
Or does it travel down that red-brick road that goes to another adventure?
We shall see.
1967’s “Off to See The Wizard” was not a Hanna-Barbera production. That was Chuck Jones & MGM. It was a Disney-esque anthology series which split feature films from the MGM library into two parts with animated bumpers featuring the Oz cast.
Those movies would later be restored to original lengths and reused for the SFM Family/Holiday Theatre in the 70’s & 80’s.
There was a Saturday morning Wizard of Oz series, produced by DIC for ABC in 1990. Lasted one season.
If ya don’t believe me, check Saturday Morning Archives, punch up Wizard of Oz in the search box, and you’ll see what I’m referring to. You’ll be glad you did.
It seems like remakes is all Hollywood does these days. Saves having to pay writers, I guess. Or gambling on original stories (all stories are derivative anyway, its what makes common culture). The closest they come to “new” now is some “sequel” abomination made up to milk the franchise or prostitute the original.
Story telling is dead. The audience is brain-dead. No wonder zombies are so popular.
So, first, stay tuned for “Pride & Premeditation” (a new mystery series based on the Austen books).
Second, I’d love a real series that uses the original Baum books. I’ve never seen one that includes the China Country, Santa Claus, Bunbury and Bunnybury, etc.. Oh well.
Also, you forgot Zardoz!!
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