Oz remakes planned.

I was an Oz buff as a kid — I read every book by every author, and I name all of my computers with an Oz nomenclature. (I’m typing this on Spezzle. The iBook that I just sold was Kiki Aru. My G4 was Kabumpo. My PowerBook was Woot. My WiFi network is Gillkin Country. And so on.)

Though I liked the original “Wizard of Oz” movie, “Return to Oz” was awesome because it was dark and scary and magic. For the last year I’ve been enamored with the idea of a Lord of the Rings sort of a series of a few Oz books (remake the two existing movies [the second of which being a combination between “Ozma of Oz” and “The Marvelous Land of Oz”] and then, say, “The Scarecrow of Oz”), made to feel as dark and adventuresome and generally kick-ass as the Rings trilogy. I keep pitching this idea to people, but what with not living in Hollywood, the suggestion is met only with puzzled, polite nods.

As you can imagine, I’m totally geeked to read that Warner Brothers has bought the rights to the first 15 Oz books to turn them into a movie, hewing roughly to producer Todd McFarlane’s vision of a “dark, edgy and muscular” Oz. McFarlane specifically cites the “Rings” trilogy as an influence, saying that he wants Dorothy to be “much closer to Ripley from ‘Alien’ than a helpless singing girl.”

So today I’m coming out of the closet as an Oz geek. I figure it’s safe now. Quick, somebody start a blog to track every bit of news about the progress of this series. I’m ready for it.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

17 replies on “Oz remakes planned.”

  1. I read also all of L. Frank Baum’s books as a kid. I think there was a made for TV movie with John Ritter as L. Frank Baum a few years ago that I watched. I think these books would make a great movie-better that most of the films out today.

  2. “Warner Brothers has bought the rights to the first 15 Oz books”. No, they haven’t. The author died in 1919, the books are out of copyright. They may have bought some rights involved withe the movies, not the books.

  3. I loved L. Frank Baum’s books as a kid. The whole series–they were my mom’s originally-are still at my Dad’s house and I covet them. I have mixed feelings about a movie. If it’s well done, I’ll be pleased, but these books provoke such strong reactions on the people who read them, especially as children, that some people are bound to be disappointed. I think my favorite of all is “The Emerald City of Oz” or else “Ozma of Oz.”

  4. I wonder if this means American McGee’s Dark Wonderland will be dragged out. It was going to be Wes Craven’s big comeback horror fantasy film. Among other things I think the fact that Wes finally realized he doesn’t want to do Horror anymore (consider how much better Red Eye was than his recent horror outings) has helped keep that in the grave. Though a little Tom Waits music and Alice running around with a butcher knife could be fun.

    Right, topic at hand.

    Return To Oz was a great movie. Dorthy getting shock treatment for being insane… THAT never ceases to blow my mind. You have this big classic of Technicolor with singing and dancing and flying monkeys, and you follow it up with shock treatment and talking chickens a woman with a collection of heads.

    I’m all for a Dark Oz series right now though I have trouble seeing a Lord of the Rings take happening. That said, I hope we don’t actually get McFarlane’s vision.


    Leave that stuff for a remake of Silent Hill that doesn’t suck.

  5. Interesting, re: copyright status. If the books are public domain, then so are all rights related to derivatives (i.e., movie rights). That means you could have various competing movies (and it sounds like there may be, reading the SliceOfSciFi link). Strikes me as a great situation, but not one I can see WB operating in. Hmmm.

    (As to the subject matter, when I read the title I thought – huh, Showtime’s picking it up again, eh? I wonder what Adebesi thinks of that . . .)

  6. You DO know who Todd McFarlane is, right? The man partially responsible for encouraging the comics market bubble with holographic variant covers? The guy who pioneered the concept of action figures for adults? Owner of Image comics, the third-party comics publisher whose publishing ethics turned out to be even worse than the studios it was created as an alternative to? The guy who created 1Spawn and Venom?
    At best he’s an egotistical hack with dreams of grandeur. Few, if any, of his projects have ever panned out to the degree that he hyped them beforehand (does anyone remember the “Spawn” movie?) He is the absolute wrong person for this project, and my only comfort comes from the fact that McFarlane is such a poor producer / aesthetic idiot that the project might not even happen at all.

    Furthermore, good idea or not — I seriously doubt the movie-going public will be excited about ANY significant revision of “Wizard of Oz” — it’s one of the most beloved films of all time, and unless it’s being promoted as a Oz-inspired project like “The Wiz,” few people are going to get excited about something that purports to bring us the “true” Wizard of Oz stories.

    I predict failure. Nobody wants to be told: “You know your favorite film? It’s all wrong! We’re going to show you the REAL “Wizard of Oz” stories… brought to you by the creator of Venom!

  7. If you thought the flying monkey’s were creepy when you were younger could you imagine how really creepy they can be today. Can you see the product tie-in. (Oreo sponsors the Witches guard) The Tin man will be certainly be cooler (Apple or PC?). Where will all the little people come from, although the cast will most certainly be much more diverse. (Under the Rainbow II?).
    Can you improve the “Lollipop Guild”? Will PETA be on the set for the cowardly lion as well as Toto.

    But THE unanswered question will be if the movie will still have synchronicity with Dark Side of the Moon?

  8. You DO know who Todd McFarlane is, right?

    I know enough, I guess. :) I’m just pleased that he seems to have the same vision of a dark Oz that I have — or, rather, that Baum had. The linked blog entry explains that there’s a tension between him and the script writer, and I have to suspect that the studio is promoting that tension in order to make clear that the movies aren’t going to get all McFarlened up.

  9. Waldo… Please follow the link I listed above. The tension is over the Oz from the books (what the writer wants) and Bondage Dorthy (what McFarlane wants). I’m really having trouble buying that the latter is your vision of dark Oz.

  10. Given a choice between McFarlane’s vision and and Olson’s vision, I’ll take McFarlane’s. But it’s not really a choice, of course, since Olson is working on it. No doubt he’ll act as an anchor preventing Bondage Dorothy from coming to big-screen fruition, leaving the result somewhere happily in the middle.

  11. Generally speaking, I think setting out to make the most faithful possible adaptation of a source material is a big mistake, artistically speaking. Films like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy are a fun night at the movies, but at best they’re merely an illustration of a pre-existing thing, and they’re not given the opportunity to become films which succeed or fail on their own terms.

    Don’t get me wrong, many of the best films of all time were adapted from novels. The thing is, most of them were altered drastically to make better movies (like “The Third Man” or “2001” or “Lolita”), and in many cases the source material wasn’t that great to begin with (see: Godard’s “Bande a Parte” or anything Hitchcock adapted).

    I would argue that 1939 “Wizard of Oz” (which was, by the way, the fourth film version of that story when it was made) is a wonderful film, perhaps not only in spite of, but because of the fact that it has little to do with Frank L. Baum’s novel. It’s not about remaining as faithful to the novel, it’s about the amazing hand-made sepia tornado and that crazy-ass transition to color and song-and-dance numbers and amazing performances by over-the-top vaudeville actors. It is what it is, because it understands what makes a good movie — ruby slippers look better in color than silver ones.

    Conversely, when I saw “Sin City” in the theatre, my response was: “Oh, I’ve already read this movie.” Better to alter it as much as possible, I think, and make “West Side Story” or “Throne of Blood” rather than to spend a huge amount of money and effort to re-create a thing which already exists.

    The strong desire to see something made into a movie, I think, has to do with our (false) perception of films as somehow more “real” than books or comics or what-have-you… We want to see it actualized, made “real”-er than it was on a page. Often when it’s announced that a particular property is being made into a film, the response from fans is, “they’d better not screw it up,” as if a poor film adaptation will somehow ruin their favorite book. Well, the book’s still there — you can still read it. The tremendous stupidity of the film “V for Vandetta” does not lessen my appreciation for the comic.

    The real problem in these cases, as I see it, is when a film becomes more well-known and more of a household name than the obscure work it appropriates… It took me YEARS of forgetting Terry Gilliam’s idiotic “12 Monkeys” before I could properly appreciate Chris Marker’s brilliant “La Jetee.”

    When Todd McFarlane defecates all over the Wizard of Oz franchise — and make no mistake, this is exactly what he’s about to do — it won’t have ruined the original “Oz” books. You’ll still be able to read them. All the things you like about them will still be there. It will just be really annoying to spend 8 months looking at idiotic bondage-Dorothy and zombie-Scarecrow on subway posters and TV ads.

  12. Often when it’s announced that a particular property is being made into a film, the response from fans is, “they’d better not screw it up,” as if a poor film adaptation will somehow ruin their favorite book. Well, the book’s still there — you can still read it.

    I think that’s pretty much what John Updike had to say when he was asked about what he thought about the (horrible) film adaptation of his novel, “The Witches of Eastwick”. I share your thoughts on the subject, James. I wonder if the excitement attached to anticipating a favorite novel being made into a film has to do with wanting to see our pleasure of appreciation for a relatively unknown work being shared with a larger audience. The irony is that either the film is a failure and it tends to (unfairly) bring disrepute to the source material or it’s a success and it overshadows the original work.

    I’m a big fan of novelist W.P. Kinsella and was excited when I heard that his “Shoeless Joe” was being made into a film. Well, I enjoyed “Field of Dreams” as much as the next guy, but it was a whole ‘nother experience than Kinsella’s novel. The good news is that, as you say, “the book’s still there” and I can (and do) still read it.

  13. @James

    Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings is far from “the most faithful adaptation.” He set out to make most of the world as close to the book and the image of Middle Earth that had been developed over the last 30+ years. He took lots of elements from lots of places and made many drastic changes to the characters and some plot elements.

    2001 is also a complicated example because the book was practically written alongside the screenplay and the film actually was finished first (or rather released first). Although nearly every other Kubrick project works, like A Clockwork Orange, or as you point out, Lolita.

    The Graduate and First Blood were both pulp which met vast revision before becoming cinema classics. I’m all for taking old art and making something new around it’s basis. Lets take another example of a good remake though. Last night I was watching The Thing From Another World (1951). It really is a great film. You see the roots of many films that followed it, like the use of a detector for suspense (Alien, Aliens) the atmospheric power isolated regions and… Ok, basically everything else the Alien trilogy stole (but did a good job at!). All and all the original The Thing is a Classic worthy of its praise. It was also a thin adaptation of the story “Who Goes There?” which left out many of its best elements.

    John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was not a perfect adaptation either (it left out the destroying of the ship and other small elements) but was a far closer adaptation overall, returning the ability for the thing to assume the identity of any life form it consumes. With improvements in visual effects aside (and in this particular case, that’s a BIG aside for even my b-movie loving butt to make) The Thing is in many ways the better film. Darker, better paced, it’s only shortcoming is the lack of really great characters that Hawks’ version had. Though if there is one thing you can count on from Hawks, its fun characters.

    My point being is that though carbon copy adaptations may be dull a drastic retake that loses touch with the best bits is often little more than an adaptation in name only. I threw the idea of a dark Oz at my girlfriend last night and she told me how she found the original books to be pretty disturbing, even scary when she was little. Oz, to her was a place with an unease under it glossy colorful surface beyond wicked witches, like a lavish masque awaiting its red death. I got a similar vibe from Return to Oz which showed a world that was very far from being safe. I’d like to see more of that kind of Oz on screen. I love the classic film, but in many ways the things that make it great are not actually the story of Oz, its the colors and music. They could have almost taken any fantasy and tacked on the elements that they did.

  14. James-
    “…in many cases the source material wasn’t that great to begin with (see: Godard’s “Bande a Parte” or anything Hitchcock adapted).”

    I believe you mean MOST anything… DeMaurier’s “Rebecca” nadnily outdoes the rather ham-fisted Hitchcock adaptation.

  15. Hey, I just watched Bande a Parte earlier this week! Great film. Considering the way Godard handled it, playing with and even mocking the romantic caper genre, the fact that it was based on a so so novel must have been a real slap in the face to the writer. Or were those elements in the book? I’ve never read it obviously, but that narration had Godard’s fingerprints all over it.

  16. Just getting to read this and wondering if anyone has read “Wicked.” As a fan of the Oz books (I got many of them as gifts as a kid and completed my set as an adult through eBay), I thought “Wicked” was an interesting take on the Oz mythology. Where Baum’s original was a story related through a child’s perspective, ‘Wicked” told it from an adult’s view, and adults pick up on things a child can’t conceive. There’s even a map inside the cover like the one in the Oz books, but with a lot more villages named.

    Personally, I’d like to see the original Wizard of Oz series retold without referring to the 1939 musical, which I love for its own merits but can’t really lead into a sequel, since the screenwriters made it all Dorothy’s dream. The solution in “Return to Oz” — therapy for a mental disorder — seemed out of place in what otherwise tried to be true to Baum’s vision. I think it’s possible to disassociate the book and musical if the promotion is clear that this is the “original” story. Otherwise, there’ll be comments like the friend I dragged along to “Return” made, who was only familiar with the movie: “I thought the house came back.” “Is that supposed to be the Scarecrow?” And “Why is Dorothy younger?”

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