When people think of The Wizard of Oz, they think of the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. Yellow brick roads, munchkins, ruby slippers, the wicked witch, all that stuff. Fast forward about 75 years and Disney releases Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel that features iconography very similar to, but not exactly the same, as the famous film. The reason? Warner Bros. owns the rights to the 1939 classic, but not the L. Frank Baum book it’s based on, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sam Raimi and his team were very careful not to use any of Warner Bros.’ intellectual property, going so far as having lawyers present during production to make sure they didn’t cross the line. So there are no ruby slippers, the witch isn’t the same color green, the Emerald City looks different, etc. It’s close, but just different enough to avoid a lawsuit.

On its opening weekend, Disney and Raimi’s gamble paid off, grossing an impressive $80 million and work on a sequel has begun. The cash is rolling in for the Mouse House much to the chagrin of Warner Bros., who rightfully feels a certain ownership to the property.

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article on how the success of Oz will not only help Disney, but set up a major rivalry between them and Warners who has several Oz related projects in the pipeline including multiple movies at various stages of development. Read More »

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In October 2011, I got to visit the wonderful world of Oz and watch director Sam Raimi direct his preboot (prequel/reboot) of the classic L. Frank Baum book series. I learned much on the set of Oz: The Great and Powerful. Most fascinating to me was some of the things Disney had to do satisfy legal concerns over possibly violating copyrighted imagery from the classic 1939 film adaptation, owned by Warner Bros.

And while trailers for the film focus on wholly computer-generated worlds and characters, you might be shocked to learn the lengths that Sam Raimi went through to shoot a lot of the film practically. For example, it was interesting to see Raimi inventing new practical solutions to help the supporting actors create and react to live performances for characters who would eventually be created in CG — and I’m not talking about performance capture.

After the jump you can watch a video blog we recorded talking about the visit, followed by many more things I learned while on the set.

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