8. Computer animated characters were performed with live puppets and live voice recording.

Sam Raimi didn’t want to use performance capture to create the computer animated characters in this film. His alternative lets the voice actors be part of the performance process and gives the live action actors something to play off of.

For any scenes featuring these characters, Zach and Joey first perform the scene on camera with the live action characters to get a sense of the placement. Zach and Joey then preform the voices live in a soundproof booth in a trailer off to the side of the sound stage. The footage they record in the booth will be used by the animators for reference. Zach Braff compares the booth to being in a cockpit, acting to no one.

On stage, a pole is held out where the characters eye-line should exist. At the end of the pole is a monitor showing Zach or Joey’s performance from the booth, along with a camera which captures POV footage which allows Zach and Joey to react to the live action actors in real time.

They also have a marionette on stage for reference for China Girl. While the marionette puppet won’t ever be seen in the final film, it will give the animators something to base China Girl’s movements on, and provides the live action actors something, perspective wise, to play off of.

Phillip Huber is the puppeteer that operates the 18 inch tall China Girl marionette. He is a famous puppeteer in the stage world, but known in the film industry for his extensive work on Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. Huber Builds all of his own marionettes, and built the China Girl puppet used in the produce based on the designs created by KNB. The puppet has 21 strings, has full head movement and animated eyes. It takes on average 300 man hours to build a puppet. At 10 hours a day, working five days a week, that is almost two months to create a single marionette. He produced two China Girl puppets for the film. Huber wears a blue leotard while operating China Girl on set, and has an ear piece which a feed of Joey’s performance and a direct line to Sam for direction.

The day we were on set, Zach Braff was called to come in on his day off because Sam wanted his computer animated character to be in one of the shots doing something in the background. And since Sam is so very collaborative, he asked Zach to come in to discuss where in the frame is character should be and what he would be doing.

9. Many of the actors play duel roles.

The Wizard of Oz featured some of the key actors in duel roles, playing counterparts in Kansas and in the land of Oz. This prequel also features actors playing multiple roles.

* Zach Braff who voices a flying monkey named Finley in Oz also plays Frank, Oz’s magician’s assistant at the circus who is treated very poorly.

* King plays a girl in a wheel chair at Oz’s magic show who asks Oz “for something he can not give her.” In Oz, King voices China Girl.

* Michelle Williams not only plays Glinda the good witch of Oz, but also Oz’s childhood sweetheart in the real world. In the story she is getting married and she gives Oz the opportunity to stop it, which he doesn’t take. Oz has never been able to commit to her, believing he is in for bigger and better things. Glinda is a reflection of this character/relationship.

* One of the concept renderings we saw featured a shot of them floating in bubbles through an epic landscape of Oz featuring an Elephant spaced mountain and plants that look like giraffes, references to the animals from Oz’s life in the traveling circus.

10. Legalities prevent some of the elements from the 1939 film from being used in this prequel story.

While the information, characters and descriptions in the original source material (L. Frank Baum’s books) is free for adaptation, judges have ruled that Warner Bros owns the rights to the characters and depictions from the original Wizard of Oz film.

Disney was not able to use the ruby slippers, as they are owned by Warner Bros. The slippers were originally silver in the books but were given a bright color to play with the technicolor innovation for the 1939 film adaptation.

They almost didn’t get to make the Wicked Witch a green color due to legalities, but fx makeup designer Berger was finally able to come up with a shade of green which satisfied Disney’s legal team. It was far enough away from the green shade of the Witch from the original Wizard of Oz film to somehow qualify as an original take. The green is called theostein, because the color is close to the color of the original Frankenstein monster. One thing they were not able to get around was the signature mole on the chin, an iconic piece of the first Wizard of Oz film adaptation.

Sam Raimi didnt want to reimagine Certain elements like the yellow brick road and Emerald City. Raimi says that he wanted to tell a different story on the yellow brick road and in Emerald City, using the comparison that he didnt want to tell a new story set in a reimagined New York City, he wanted to tell a new story set in NYC. However the legal issues required them to make changes to even those elements. In the end, they should feel tonally the same.

11. The film features a few winks and nods to the Wizard of Oz.

It is harder to pay too much respect/homage to the original film, as in many cases, they aren’t legally allowed to. But there are Hidden references to the original Oz in the story.

While the scarecrow, lion or tin man do not appear in the movie, Stromberg has tried to include those characters in various aspects of the design. For example Oz builds a fake army made up of scarecrows for the final battle in the film. Lions are part of the motif, and featured on the throne and flags in Emerald City (they appear in he style of the illustrations from the book.)

There is a callback to the red sand in the hour glass from the original film. Weisz character uses the magic red sand to produce a music box out of thin air.

13. The movie was shot in 3D

The movie was shot natively in 3D on the Red Epic. Almost everyone pushed to shoot it in stereo rather than to post convert the footage afterwards. They will take the time to step back and show expansive shots of the whole world which will open the depth of the world. Sam monitors the filming on regular 2D monitors as he found trouble focusing while switching his view from the 2d Zach/Joey booth cam and the 3d camera monitor. They do have a 3d monitor on set to view the footage in 3d.

They also have a monitor where they are able to render what the 3d rendered backgrounds and set extensions will look like composited into the shot. They use this rough rendering to frame shots and also during editing of the film, until the design can be fully rendered and composited into the final edit.

14. This is not a musical.

While the classic Wizard of Oz film was a musical, this prequel features only one musical aspect — something that features the Munchkins, but different from what we’ve seen prior.

15. As with any Sam Raimi production, the movie features a number of cameos from the usual Raimi players.

The original three witches from the Evil Dead movies were given cameos, as was Bruce Campbell (who you will meet somewhere in Oz), Sam’s brother Ted Raimi (who appears in the Kansas opening sequence), John Paxton (who played the butler in the Spider-man movies), and more.

16. Robert Downey Jr almost played The Wizard.

Robert Downey Jr was originally set to play Oz, and when he dropped out Johnny Depp considered the role for a brief time before James Franco came on board. During our interview, Franco relayed a story that Sam had told him about how Raimi gave Downey Jr. a small little plant during their first meeting. When Sam returned to Downey’s house for a second meeting weeks later, he noticed the plant was already dead in the corner — a metaphors for the actor’s involvement in the project.

Continue Reading the Final Page of 35 Things We Learned On the Set of Sam Raimi’s ‘Oz The Great And Powerful’ >>

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