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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was originally published in 1900 by George M. Hill Company in Chicago, with illustrations by W.W. Denslow. Since its publication, the book has seen innumerable adaptations on stage, screen, and page—the 1939 MGM film being the most iconic. Judy Garland’s Dorothy poignantly conveyed the ache of leaving childhood behind, as she garnered lessons about perseverance and constancy from three loveable friends. Inevitably, those familiar with the 1939 film will approach the newest adaptation with certain associations and expectations. While the new movie may not strike the same emotional chord of that magical, silent moment when Dorothy slowly opens the door to Oz, screen-popping visual effects and the star-studded cast will likely draw eager young viewers reared on big-screen technological wizardry.
Where will this sparkling new, 3-D journey over the rainbow take viewers? Well, for starters, the film is a prequel of sorts to the events in Baum’s original. Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a Kansas magician with questionable morals who is whisked away to Oz when his hot air balloon is sucked into a cyclone. There, the charismatic swindler discovers a land of potentially exploitable wealth. But after meeting three rather sultry witches – Theodora (Kunis), Evanora (Weisz), and Glinda (Williams) – he quits his nefarious ways in pursuit of becoming a “great man.”
As in the 1939 film, Raimi’s adaptation opens in a depression-era Kansas, filmed in black-and-white. Like Dorothy, when Diggs is transported to Oz, the world unfurls into brilliant color—an effect that is no doubt amplified by 3-D and CGI wizardry. Robert Stromberg serves as production designer for the film; he also worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and comparisons have already been made between the two movie adaptations of children’s books, with MTV even pointing out the similarities between two of the films’ posters.
If an advertisement for the film during the Superbowl is any indication, marketing efforts are targeting an adult audience, though tie-in and promotional materials also have a younger audience in mind.
Young readers can take a sneak peek down the yellow brick road with several movie tie-ins from Disney. The books include: Oz the Great and Powerful: The Movie Storybook; The Witches of Oz Storybook; Oz the Great and Powerful: A Magical Sticker Set, with stickers featuring scenes from the movie; an Oz the Great and Powerful junior novel adaptation; and The Land of Oz reader. And for older Oz fans, The Art of Oz the Great and Powerful, a collector’s volume offering photos and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the film, releases on March 5.