Disney started developing the Oz the Great and Powerful sequel before director Sam Raimi's film even opened at the global box office, prompting confusion among people who were under the (mistaken) impression that Raimi had created a prequel that directly leads into the story for The Wizard of Oz (as opposed to, a spiritual predecessor to the 1939 movie).
Raimi and his Oz production designer Robert Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland) had to be careful, when it came to paying tribute to the 1939 classic's representation of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. That's because WB/MGM owns the rights to certain Wizard of Oz iconography that did not originate in L. Frank Baum's source novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" - such as the Ruby Slippers - and those items cannot be reused in any Oz movies produced by Disney.
The LA Times says that WB and Disney are preparing to go head-to-head, when it comes to selling tie-in merchandise for its respective Oz films. Hence, WB is taking advantage of the franchise's reinvigorated status and developing new properties based on Baum's source material (specifically, a television show); meanwhile, the Mouse House will continue staying away from Wizard of Oz territory in forthcoming installments.
Oz the Great and Powerful story and co-screenwriter Mitchell Kapner is currently working on a followup, but producer Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman) has gone ahead and revealed who won't be showing up in the sequel: the other famous Kansas resident, Dorothy Gale. Roth informed the Times that Dorothy "would absolutely not" be involved in the story, with Kapner adding:
"['Oz the Great and Powerful' takes place] 20 years before Dorothy arrives. A lot can happen in that time."
As mentioned before, Roth and Kapner have the possibility of lawsuits to motivate them to avoid revisiting Wizard of Oz story material at this juncture. That's to say, the news that Dorothy won't be appearing in an Oz the Great and Powerful followup makes sense (bearing that significant obstacle in mind).
Moreover, Baum left behind more than a dozen Oz novels for Disney to plunder, so there is no reason that future cinematic Oz adventures have to follow a strict path. Instead, they can focus on different stories involving the Glinda, both Wicked Witches and the Wizard - in addition to the Oz inhabitants who have never been properly explored onscreen before.
In the meantime, WB is considering an Oz television series titled Red Brick Road and has begun shopping it around to cable networks. The Times says it's being sold as "'Game of Thrones' in the Oz world," as it takes place in an alternate version of the mystical land - one where an evil queen has seized power and (presumably) rebellion stirs among her disgruntled subjects:
The pitch package poses the premise: "Dorothy went down the yellow brick road. So where did the red brick road go?" — alluding to the path not taken in the 1939 film.
There has been similar television re-imaginings of Oz aimed at older audiences in the past (like Tin Man), but the property appeal might be enough to convince a network to ignore the mixed track record of success for Oz television spinoffs and take a chance on Red Brick Road. It certainly should have little trouble standing apart from Disney's family-friendly, effects-heavy, interpretation of Baum's work.
Oz the Great and Powerful is playing in theaters. For a more in-depth look at the film, check out the SR Underground Podcast discussion.
Source: LA Times
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