Dorothy of Oz goes 3D in new film

by Max Parker Dahl

BluePrint contributor

Image: Movie Poster (detail)

Every decade the Wizard of Oz gets a facelift. Originally published in 1900, the book by author L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, adapted to plays, books and movies—including three movies that were made before the iconic 1939 MGM version with Judy Garland. The resurgence is due again, now that Wicked is being eclipsed by singing, dancing Mormons.

The newest culture shaping Oz is the biggest project you’ve never heard of. Yet. With an easily recognizable cast like Leah Michele from Fox’s “Glee,” Wicked’s ‘Glinda’ Megan Hilty, Hugh Dancy, Martin Short, Patrick Stuart, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Akroyd, Oliver Platt, James Blushi and on and on and on…you’ll hear about it.

This time, in the most appropriate way, Oz is undergoing 3-D computer animation and walking into different realms.

This isn’t a parlor trick or horse-and-buggy show; this will be a sweeping epic to continue the Oz saga. Double-check the names involved.

“Whether you’re 95, 110, or 65 years old, you have been waiting your whole life to figure out what happens when Dorothy returns home to Kansas,” said Executive Producer Greg Centineo, who has raised over $100 million for the film and successive paraphernalia in the “Oz Continuum.”  One-hundred-million U.S. dollars, completely independent of any Hollywood studio funds for production, licensing, and distribution, etc.

“This is unprecedented in Hollywood history, to have outright autonomy and control of the entire process,” Centineo said. “People came to the aid in the worst economy in recent history. Everyone wanted their name associated with the Oz name, because there is a high percentage that has seen it globally, and we don’t have any demographical barriers due to the notoriety associated with Oz.”

The story picks up when Dorothy returns, with Toto en-tow, to Kansas. The tornado has done a number on the community that must pick up the splinters of their lives and cope with the devastation. As Dorothy settles in to a new life, she is transported BACK to Oz to deal with the disaster unfolding there. The Jester (voiced by Martin Short) has taken control of Oz and all is Bedlam.

New characters and realms are introduced including China and Candy Country (included in the 13 sequels demanded by children .

Speaking to Greg Centineo, I asked how the vision for future Oz pursuits would be kept true to the original, not spinning out of control like SOME franchises.

“We have a commitment to excellent,” he said. “It is an honor to pay homage without trying to duplicate it. There is a strong sense of obligation for me, and the whole cast feels the same way, to create a sequel– but one that relates to today.”

“There is a power in Oz that resonates with every living soul,” Centineo said. “It’s about each other. Dorothy is displaced in a strange land that could be anywhere but here. She has to figure out what’s true and what’s not. On her journey she meets people that have problems and realizes that she is not alone in this world. We are all looking for solutions. It’s about coming to each other’s aid.”

When we realize that the mystical Oz has more problems than the rest of us, has been hiding from its problems, and doesn’t live up to its reputation…we can buy that the solution to our problem is inside of us—but it takes someone else to bring out the best in ourselves. Centineo said the story of Oz is more relevant today than ever due to natural disasters and life changing events that happen more frequently in our lives.

The film is a child of a live-action studio that believes, “If Walt could do this 70 years ago, I can do it,” Centineo said, and former Disney animation purists.

The MGM version of the Wizard of Oz is the #1 musical ever to be written. The musical score and original songs for Dorothy are being headed up by Brian Adams. Hopefully his strained, smoky voice isn’t on the track, but I’d appreciate his catchy songwriting.

The momentum from this movie is projected to start another Oz craze, with a children’s cable series, online and mobile app games (Adventures in Oz beta started in Aug. ’11 and had 500 testers in two days, capping out at 5,000 shortly thereafter), additional animated films, action figures, etc.

But not if this film delays its opening any longer. Although two screening in LA were met with overwhelmingly positive response, a trailer hasn’t been released, and a holiday ’12 release date tentatively set gives little time for large-scale promotion. Transitioning from a 2- to a 3-D format took extra time and money, but has paid off. The photos online have potent visual impression. I am interested to see how everything turns out.

“News reports are typically bad,” Centineo said. “If it were to report all the good news, the bad would be nothing in comparison to what that people are doing for each other. There is a battle between good and evil, even within ourselves; we are here to inspire people to see what’s already there.”


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