'Oz: The Great and Powerful' Snags China Girl and a Release Date

Oz The Great and Powerful casts Joey King

Walt Disney Pictures hit it big last year with Tim Burton's live-action Alice in Wonderland movie, which was technically a sequel to the classic story written by Lewis Carroll. The studio is hoping to imitate the success of that film by using a similar mixture of elements in Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful - a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum's beloved Wizard of Oz book (and Victor Fleming's 1939 film adaptation).

There's been a fair amount of activity on the casting front for Oz, which is slated to begin production this July in Michigan. Recent additions to the film's acting crew include Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz as the wicked witch Evanora and Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams as the good witch Glinda.

Variety says that adolescent actress Joey King (Ramona and Beezus) is the latest addition to the cast of Raimi's Oz flick, which is told from the perspective of a young Oz (James Franco) and chronicles his journey to that magical land full of munchkins, witches, and the famous Yellow Brick Road. Mila Kunis will also appear in the film as Theodora, a gorgeous sorceress who eventually joins forces with her dastardly sibling, Evanora.

Many of you will recall that King also recently signed on for a role in The Dark Knight Rises (possibly that of either a young Talia al Ghul or Selina Kyle?). She'll be appearing in Oz as the China Girl, which is based on the China Princess character from Baum's original Wizard of Oz novel. In Raimi's film, the titular "wizard" becomes a surrogate father to King's character, who is literally made of porcelain.

Joey King in Ramona and Beezus
King in 'Ramona and Beezus'

While Alice in Wonderland was post-converted to 3D, Oz: The Great and Powerful is going to actually be shot in that format. Other than that, the two titles share most of the same qualities: a former cult director with experience helming expensive blockbusters, numerous acclaimed cast members, universally beloved literary source material, the involvement of producer Joe Roth - and now, an early March theatrical release date.

Disney has penciled in Oz: The Great and Powerful for a March 8th, 2013 release date, which will allow for production on the film to avoid being rushed. Neil Blomkamp's sci-fi pic Elysium is also scheduled to arrive on the scene that day.

There's not quite as much crossover between the demographics for these two films as there has been for other projects that played chicken with their release dates recently (see: Clash of the Titans 2 and The Hunger Games), but there's enough to all but ensure that either Oz or Elysium will change dates in the future.

The Wizard of Oz prequel Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz has solid talent working behind the scenes, an excellent cast overall, and a fairly intriguing story that could incorporate some of the more imaginative (read: bizarre) elements and characters from Baum's original Oz novel(s). Franco seems like the wild card in this scenario; he's an admirable and Oscar-nominated actor whose forte is arguably playing goofy but charismatic types. If his Oz comes off as a clever and suave rogue with depth - like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow in the original Pirates of the Caribbean - then Raimi's film might just end up becoming a decent hit.

We'll find out for sure when Oz: The Great and Powerful hits theaters on March 8th, 2013.

Source: Variety, Walt Disney Pictures

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