Oz the Great and Powerful is Disney’s prequel to the popular The Wizard of Oz which is a children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900. Since then there have been a couple of film adaptations of the novel and even a Broadway musical based on it!
Now do note that the author never wrote a prequel although he did write a few sequels as thousands of children wrote to him requesting for more ‘Oz’ stories.
Here is the official movie synopsis:
Disney’s fantastical adventure “Oz The Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved wizard character. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.
The movie features James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Keep an eye out for the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ who Dorothy faces off with in ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
Have a look at the trailer. My opinion on the movie is right at the end of this post.
Here are some fun facts about the movie:
• Disney’s “Oz The Great and Powerful” imagines the origins of the beloved wizard, who debuted in author L. Frank Baum’s first book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Baum, who wrote 14 novels between 1900-1920, all set in the fantasyland he so vividly created, never fully portrayed the wizard’s background. “Oz The Great and Powerful” is a cinematic prequel to Baum’s books, offering a unique movie-going experience. Although some of the characters in “Oz The Great and Powerful” are familiar from L. Frank Baum’s books, they have been reimagined, plus there are many never-seen-before characters in the film, such as China Girl and the Quadlings.
• The fantasy world of “Oz The Great and Powerful” was brought to life by Academy Award®–winning production designer Robert Stromberg. In all, Stromberg designed 24 full sets plus several partial sets, bringing the total to around 30. Stromberg created such iconic sets as the famed Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City, all freshly designed and imagined, along with such highly anticipated, new designs as the witch’s Throne Room, the Whimsie Woods (where Oz meets Theodora), the Dark Forest, which introduces Glinda the good witch in the story, and China Town, whose inhabitants are made up entirely of porcelain.
• James Franco, who plays Oscar Diggs (aka Oz), had to learn magic tricks in order to accurately portray his small-time, circus magician character. He came to set two weeks early so he could work with Las Vegas magician Lance Burton. Working every day, Franco learned tricks involving doves and fire as well as how to pull objects out of hats and how to make things levitate.
• Costume designer Gary Jones and his team embarked on an ambitious project to clothe over 1500 actors, from the smallest Munchkin to the tallest Winkie, over a 23-week period. For the principal characters alone—Oz, Theodora, Glinda and Evanora—there were well over 200 pieces.
• James Franco has only one costume in the film—the three-piece suit that Oz is wearing when he is hurled away from Kansas. But veteran costume designer Gary Jones carefully researched the era from 1880-1930 to design the perfect suit. He then met with Franco in New York City to show him vintage photos from the turn-of-the-century that ultimately inspired his final design—a black cutaway suit.
• There are over 3,000 props used in “Oz The Great and Powerful,” with 1400 of them manufactured specifically for the film. These do not include the 5000 coins Prop master Russell Bobbitt had made especially to fill Oz’s treasure chest. One side of the coin is stamped with an image of the Yellow Brick Road and on the other side there is an image of author L. Frank Baum.
• Greensman Dan Gillooly was very resourceful in finding natural elements in the Detroit suburbs that would enhance the sets in “Oz The Great and Powerful.” Scouting the area, he came across an orchard full of dead peach trees and used the limbs to create the spooky Dark Forest. Another find that added to the texture and vibe of the Dark Forest were thistles, which came from a nearby field he found in his countryside ramblings.
• Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams play the three witches in “Oz The Great and Powerful,” respectively: Evanora, Theodora and Glinda. All three have special powers that emanate from natural elements. Evanora has the power to create lightning; Theodora can make fireballs appear; and Glinda commands water.
• The “Oz The Great and Powerful” production was spread out over seven soundstages at the Michigan Motion Pictures Studios’ soundstage facility in Pontiac, Michigan. All the sets for the film were built indoors with every frame shot on the studios’ sound stages.
• In a filmmaking first, a marionette was used to create a reference for a CG character. Marionette artist Philip Huber created the China Girl character as an 18-inch figure. China Girl, voiced by Joey King, is made entirely from porcelain—as is everything and everyone from China Town. The fragile, but resilient, China Girl is befriended by Oz on his journey.
• Special makeup artist Howard Berger (“The Chronicles of Narnia” series), an Academy Award® winner, and his partner Greg Nicotero, created the looks of several of the unique denizens of Oz, including characters such as the Munchkins, the Tinkers and the Winkies. Over the course of the five-month shoot, Berger estimates that he and his staff applied over 2500 character makeups.
• The Land of Oz would not be complete without Munchkins, so the production’s extras casting directors found three-dozen little people, mostly from the Detroit area. Their average 3’6” height contrasted sharply with the four-dozen Winkies, the spear-toting palace guards, none of whom were under 6’6” with some even exceeding seven-feet tall.
Now I have been watching Disney movies since I was a child. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Hercules are some of the titles that I still remember to this day. I thought ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ was a trip back in time when movies tried to impart some moral values to it’s younger audiences and contained less (or none) foul language, sex and violence.
In my opinion, ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ is a children’s movie that can also appeal to adults. Treat is as such. Don’t expect it to be a great epic like Lord of the Rings or something. I don’t like rating movies however my partner-in-crime for the movie premier Conne rates it as 7/10.
I fully suggest that you watch it in IMAX 3D to fully appreciate the stunning visual effects.
BTW the first 10 minutes of the film is in black and white so don’t go running to the cinema operator to complain hahaha!
Oz the Great and Powerful opens in Malaysian cinemas on 7 March 2013.
The movie’s official website: http://disney.go.com/thewizard/
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