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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain
May 20, 2014 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return set a record for the all-time worst opening weekend for an animated film. Executive Producer Greg Centineo attributed the failure to a "conspiracy" of Hollywood's powers-that-be against independent production company Alpine Pictures. In light of Oz's glacially-delayed release schedule and shabby production values, it would appear that the heads of Alpine are completely incompetent…or are they?

Much of the animation was produced in India at Prana Studios, a popular outsourcee for major studios like Disney. At $70m, Oz was "the most expensive CGI film ever produced at [Prana]." (For comparison: the second-tier Disney sequel Planes was co-produced at Prana on a budget of $50m.)

Alpine Pictures, aka Summertime Entertainment, aka Box Office Productions, aka Dorothy of Oz LLC, began selling shares in the film in 2006, at a projected budget of $20m. By 2009, having sold close to $18m in shares, the offering was expanded to $24m. The offering would be expanded again later, with reference to future Oz sequels, merchandising, and an Oz-themed MMORPG. The film's release was repeatedly pushed back.

Complaints appeared online as early as 2008 about a Burbank, California-based telemarketing firm, First National Information Network, that appeared to exist only to aggressively solicit strangers for investments in Oz. Others report seeing the film promoted on the Global Information Network, a listing of spurious investment opportunities hawked by jailed con man Kevin Trudeau. Potential investors were told they could use retirement accounts if cash wasn't available.

Cease-and-desist orders have been issued against Alpine by the states of Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, Alabama, Washington and California for alleged violations of SEC rules against general solicitation. Alpine allegedly targeted naive, unaccredited investors with cold calls; painted unrealistic pictures of the film's potential; and collected 40% "consulting fees" on the money raised.

For Oz and future (perhaps one day profitable?) projects, Alpine has raised an additional $75m from Chinese investors through Serenity Media Group, its $150 million partnership for US-Chinese film coproduction and distribution.
posted by overeducated_alligator (115 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This weekend, the Alamo Drafthouse, or at least the one near me, did a special showing of the 1939 Wizard Of Oz. Not as a double feature with Legends or anything, just "hey, see this instead." Harsh.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:48 AM on May 20 [11 favorites]


Does anyone remember the version of Oz that had really weird 3D animated characters... old school 3D animation (stop motion? claymation? puppets?) with wires for the Tin Man and such? I saw it once in the 80s and then blinked and it was gone. It always creeped me out.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:53 AM on May 20


David Zucker also blamed a "conspiracy" for the poor showing of his film "American Carol".

In that case, as in this, they refused to accept that the more likely explanation was that "the film you made sucks".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 AM on May 20 [15 favorites]


The problem with this story seems to me to be the fact that it's about a guy who wanted, more than anything, to raise a lot of money first and to make a movie maybe second or third or fourth.

Indie movies are praised by critics all the time. If this were an independent labor of love that happened to get funding through a group of investors, that would be one thing, but this looks like the most crass grab at cash from a model based on Disney (without any of the quality to back it up) that I can think of.

Also, the ads for the film made it look worse than a straight-to-DVD special at Wal*Mart.
posted by xingcat at 7:54 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Good god, Rio 2 is going to make half a billion? Numbers just don't mean anything anymore.
posted by Etrigan at 7:54 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Follow the bitcoin brick road.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:57 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


I must be one of the few people who can say (and are willing to admit!) they've seen Legends of Oz --- what the heck, I'm an overindulgent auntie.

As far as a possibile "conspiracy" of Hollywood's powers-that-be goes, after watching the movie I'd say that the only conspiracy involved is the conspiracy of silence among Legends of Oz's crew: a conspiracy to hide how awful this was, and to suck in the unsuspecting moviegoer.
posted by easily confused at 7:58 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


The main takeaway from this disaster is that Hugh Dancy has a lovely singing voice thus making my desire for an all-singing Hannibal episode more tantalizingly real.
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 AM on May 20 [9 favorites]


xingcat: "Also, the ads for the film made it look worse than a straight-to-DVD special at Wal*Mart."

My ten year old son turned to me after seeing the trailer and said, "Wow, that looks terrible."
posted by Chrysostom at 8:13 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


The Producers was not supposed to be an instruction manual.
posted by SansPoint at 8:14 AM on May 20 [34 favorites]


I can't be the only one here with a soft spot for the 80s anime version of the Oz stories?
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:15 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


God damn it, don't bring up "American Carol" again! Just let it sink into the abyss of time and be forgotten!

And more on point, as someone who's spent a bit of time around the very crumbling edge of the film industry, I'd point out to Mr. Centineo that when you've "stepped into a deep, deep ocean" - as he indeed did - the most likely outcome is that you just sink and drown. Sharks would be completely superfluous in this scenario.
posted by Naberius at 8:16 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I had heard through somebody who met somebody at Alpine that they were more concerned with building the marketing franchise than producing quality animation.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:17 AM on May 20


Maybe they need to reboot the franchise. Make the Tin Man into a Transformer, something like that.
posted by thelonius at 8:20 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


I'm part of a movie fantasy league, so I've been paying much more attention to box office returns on movies I don't give a fig about. Rio 2 is going to make half a billion dollars largely in the foreign market because it's the sort of thing that does well there (colorful, bright, doesn't require a lot of translation to enjoy it). I'm actually sort of disappointed in Rio 2's domestic (which is the only gross we're factoring). It was the only kids' movie out for almost a month and it still pulled mediocre numbers. Definitely a waste of my #2 pick. Luckily Neighbors and The Other Woman pulled much better than I anticipated. I'm hoping that How to Train Your Dragon 2 just fucking owns up (very possible given its marketing push and its lack of competition).

Anyway, I actually had this movie sort of high on my pick-list in February when we drafted. The last Oz movie pulled $240, and if you make half of that then you've easily recouped your budget and then some. The cynical part of me that was picking movies for a league was also enticed by the kids movie aspect, with the idea that kids will watch any dumb crap you can sell a toy for. Averaging all that out meant a possible 100 million domestic, which was my goal for each of my picks.

Basically I'm glad I never had the chance to pick this trash (it went in the 4th round, somehow), but I can definitely understand the thought process that made this seem like a good bet if you don't care about anything but the numbers the movie makes.
posted by codacorolla at 8:20 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Here's a trailer for the film in question. With a cast of fresh young comedy talents like Martin Short, Dan Akroyd, and Jim Belushi what could possibly have gone wrong? 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, 25 on Metacritic. "most filmgoers will be forced to conclude that there's no place like home."
posted by Nelson at 8:20 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I saw the trailer for this thing attached to some other film I went to with my kids - Frozen, probably - and had a hard time believing it was real. It looks (literally LOOKS) like the worst animation ever put together for an ostensibly mainstream release. I thought it was maybe some wrinkle in a contract a distributor made the theater - throw this junky made for DVD trailer in with the picture we were watching, because there was no way it was going to be a "real" movie, but then I saw the few legitimate (legitimate enough, anyway) people associated with it. Baffling.

My older son watches a bunch of Netflix, and I give him free-er range than I should - as long as it is in the kids section he can give it a try. But regularly I make him shut off stuff that looks and feels like this. I can handle stupid, I can handle (some) adult themes, but please, PLEASE don't waste your time and brain on things that are this indifferently made.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:21 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


I'm part of a movie fantasy league

Stop right there, how do I get in on this
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:22 AM on May 20 [45 favorites]


I'm hoping that How to Train Your Dragon 2 just fucking owns up (very possible given its marketing push and its lack of competition).

And because the first HTTYD was awesome.

(The marketing on HTTYD2 has actually been disappointing to me... besides the giant spoiler in both trailers, the 2nd trailer is one of those "let's recap 80% of the plot" trailers.)
posted by kmz at 8:26 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Does anyone remember the version of Oz that had really weird 3D animated characters... old school 3D animation (stop motion? claymation? puppets?) with wires for the Tin Man and such? I saw it once in the 80s and then blinked and it was gone. It always creeped me out.

That would be Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk (launched her, admittedly somewhat limited, career). Arguably, the darkness of the movie was far more faithful to Baum than the previous Technicolour-soaked gem from 1939.

And yes, most of the effects were oldschool stop-motion, and the Gnome King (who is terribly allergic to eggs) was claymation done in a really incredible way.

One of my favourite movies as a kid, and if I happen to see it's showing on TV, I'll be watching.

Bonus trivia: the woman who played Princess Mombi was a guest on Fawlty Towers, the Waldorf Salad episode. The one who put sugar all over her plate.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:28 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


I'm hoping that How to Train Your Dragon 2 just fucking owns up (very possible given its marketing push and its lack of competition).

And because the first HTTYD was awesome.


And the TV show was pretty damn good too.
posted by Etrigan at 8:29 AM on May 20


When I first saw the trailer, I thought they had saved the best joke for last with the "I. Can't. Take. This. Off. Ever." sight gag. And by "best joke", I mean to say the only thing that made me crack a smile.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:30 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


14% critics
86% audience
posted by destro at 8:31 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I watched it with my kids (and keeping up my annual tradition of taking the kids to a movie on Mother's Day without Mrs. Plinth).

My main take-away was that no broken woman is complete without white goo from a man.
posted by plinth at 8:31 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


That would be Return to Oz, starring Fairuza Balk (launched her, admittedly somewhat limited, career). Arguably, the darkness of the movie was far more faithful to Baum than the previous Technicolour-soaked gem from 1939.

Walter Murch with the assistance of Brian Henson, arguably one of the best cinematic Oz adaptations we've seen.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:36 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


David Zucker also blamed a "conspiracy" for the poor showing of his film "American Carol".

The Atlas Shrugged movie people claimed a liberal Hollywood conspiracy too.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:40 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Stop right there, how do I get in on this

I put it together myself using a Google spreadsheet. We drafted from February to the end of August using domestic gross as the determining factor. If we do it for Fall / Winter we might also put awards won in as a metric. With a six team league we were able to assemble a 10 movie roster (although the last 2 or 3 are sort of the dregs). I use Box Office Mojo for returns and to send out commissioner reports every other week or so.

The downside is that early picks are a huge advantage. I'm sort of worried about how we're going to handle Star Wars, since that's going to make at least half a billion domestic.
posted by codacorolla at 8:42 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


This is really unfortunate, because it always seemed to me like someone could make a lot of money off of really well-made movies of the Oz-books (Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, etc.) They were great books, and I remain very fond of them. I would absolutely shell out good money to go see them--at least Ozma, which is so, so good--if they were well-made. That being said, this doesn't seem to be it.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:44 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


The downside is that early picks are a huge advantage. I'm sort of worried about how we're going to handle Star Wars, since that's going to make at least half a billion domestic.

Either use an auction draft or agree on some sort of "earnings vs. expectation" metric.
posted by Etrigan at 8:48 AM on May 20


Wow, I can't believe Patrick Stewart lent his voice to this tripe.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:53 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Movie fantasy league is about the only kind of fantasy league I could see myself getting into (except book fantasy league would be amazing, but that would require access to the sales stats which I don't have anymore, and which was always pretty inaccurate anyway).

codacorolla, would you have any interest in starting a MeFi league for the next season? (Or showing someone your setup, so they can do it?)
posted by ocherdraco at 8:54 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Either use an auction draft or agree on some sort of "earnings vs. expectation" metric.

I want to use an auction draft, but nobody else in the league does. How would earnings vs. expectation work out?

The most I've been able to amend the rules so far is that we're going to seed the next draft by reverse position at the end of this season.

First pick is also somewhat mitigated by our use of a snake draft, which gives last place an advantage, but just ends up shifting the worst position to second-to-last instead of last.
posted by codacorolla at 8:54 AM on May 20


codacorolla, would you have any interest in starting a MeFi league for the next season?

Sure, I would love to. The major problem is that space is severely limited due to there being only so many movies that come out each season with any expectation of profitability. I think that six teams per league is pretty much the upper limit, unless you wanted to reduce roster size... even then, there's only so many obvious first picks and reducing roster sizes also means there being less interesting stuff happening throughout the season.

I was thinking that one work-around would be running 2 or 3 concurrent leagues, each with their own draft, and then having the winners of each of those facing off against each other. But this also has its own problems.
posted by codacorolla at 8:57 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


My ten year old son turned to me after seeing the trailer and said, "Wow, that looks terrible."

That was my reaction the first time I saw the trailer. I saw it several more times, and the reaction didn't change.

Nope, sorry guys. No conspiracy, you just made a film that sucked.
posted by MissySedai at 8:58 AM on May 20


Movie Fantasy League - count me in! I'm uniquely qualified because, uhhh, ... well, please count me in!
posted by newdaddy at 9:06 AM on May 20


14% critics
86% audience

If by "audience" you mean a small group of "astroturfers" with multiple accounts and profile pictures taken from stock photos of "happy families". This whole enterprise smells of the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in Hollywood - and that's saying a LOT.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:08 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


They should have pulled a JJ Abrams and spent a year before the movie came out repeating over and over again that anyone who didn't like the new movie was just a closed-minded, old-fashioned stick in the mud who couldn't let go of the past, and this movie wasn't for them anyway, it was only for the hip, cool, young, forward-thinking people, so go back to your mother's basement, Grandpa.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:09 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Really the only sane argument for this movie's existence is the favor that Hugh Dancy singing will have done to the Hannibal crackvid community.
posted by sparkletone at 9:12 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Fantasy movie profiteering is what HSX.com is for.
posted by Megafly at 9:13 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


This whole enterprise smells of the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in Hollywood - and that's saying a LOT.

That's what I took from it, and I think the badness of the movie is almost a deliberate diversion from what really happened.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 9:16 AM on May 20


Previously: the wonder of Foodfight!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:22 AM on May 20 [6 favorites]


Some of the scenes look a little too much like FOOD FIGHT.

(Really, using candy to attack flying things... terrible, predictable dialog... dusty actors... a breathy-voiced heroine....)
posted by mochapickle at 9:24 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Should have previewed!

Also a lot of fraud and shenanigans during development of that film.
posted by mochapickle at 9:25 AM on May 20


I've had a positively epic post on the wide and varied history of film & tv Oz sequels, reboots, and spinoffs percolating in my head for quite some time. I've seen damned near everything, such is my kid's obsession, and all of that knowledge needs to go somewhere.

Even were the cast and trailer not abysmal, it was a safe bet Legends of Oz was going to be terrible. It's based on one of Roger S. Baum's books, which are awful, low grade junk, distinguished only by the author's family and name.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:33 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


This is really unfortunate, because it always seemed to me like someone could make a lot of money off of really well-made movies of the Oz-books (Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, etc.) They were great books...

This isn't based on those books. It's based on Roger Baum's stuff, which ignores the post-Wizard books by L Frank Baum and creates its own continuity.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:40 AM on May 20


I've had a positively epic post on the wide and varied history of film & tv Oz sequels, reboots, and spinoffs percolating in my head for quite some time.

I guarantee you a shiny favourite if you do this thing
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:43 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


Launching in 2,575 theaters, the film eked out $3.7 million, which is the worst opening ever for an animated feature in saturated release (over 2,500 theaters).

Worst ever... for its scale. And yet, after a month in U.S. theaters Locke has still not even grossed a million dollars. Grumble grumble grumble.
posted by psoas at 9:45 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure you can dismiss the 86% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes as astroturfing. If I understand the ratings right, that means roughly 10,000 of 12,000 reviewers gave it 3.5 stars are more. That'd be an awful lot of astroturf accounts, surely Rotten Tomatoes isn't that broken?

A simpler explanation is that people's expectations for kids movies are low. OTOH, to pick a couple of examples of other crappy kids movie, Rio 2 was 64% audience score and Smurfs 2 was 58%. They both had 60,000+ ratings. So maybe there the Oz score is suspicious afterall.
posted by Nelson at 9:47 AM on May 20


It looks (literally LOOKS) like the worst animation ever put together for an ostensibly mainstream release.

Spoken like somebody who's never seen Food Fight.
posted by neckro23 at 9:49 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Anyone remember the Filmation Oz sequel starring Liza Minnelli as Dorothy? I haven't seen it in forty years but I remember it being pretty bad.
posted by octothorpe at 9:57 AM on May 20


If I understand the ratings right, that means roughly 10,000 of 12,000 reviewers gave it 3.5 stars are more. That'd be an awful lot of astroturf accounts, surely Rotten Tomatoes isn't that broken?

I clicked on a dozen or so of the 5-star reviews on the first few pages, and every one of them had exactly one rating and very generic pictures of smiling photogenic families. That seems odd.

For Rio 2, on the other hand, there are only a few 5-star reviews on the first few pages (most are 4-ish), and all of those profiles are Set to Private, with more... let's say more honest-looking pictures that look like actual people.
posted by Etrigan at 10:00 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


Peter David makes a case that the Fairuza Balk Return to Oz was a better movie than the classic Wizard.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:00 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


I just watched the trailer and while it doesn't look like my kind of thing, the animation does not look terrible to me. Uninspired maybe, but I have seen worse. However, in general that trailer was just awfully edited, not focusing on any particular character or plot and giving far too much time to the guest "stars" and lame one-liners. Even the best film in the world would be sunk with a trailer that wretched.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:03 AM on May 20


Peter David makes a case that the Fairuza Balk Return to Oz was a better movie than the classic Wizard.


Return to Oz is wildly underrated. It's a terrific synthesis of the first two Oz sequels that corrects the major flaws in each (Marvelous Land of Oz doesn't have Dorothy in it; Ozma of Oz isn't set in oz at all) and comes out with a rollicking story made out of the best parts.

The problem, the thing that is hard to get past is this: Return to Oz literally starts with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry committing Dorothy to an insane asylum for shock therapy. People will cite a bunch of other scary moments in the film, but most of those are fun and exciting in their way, certainly not worse than flying monkeys or flame-throwing witches were in 1939.

But sending Dorothy to the booby hatch to have her brain electrified? As much as I adore the rest of the movie, I'm not going to judge anyone for not being able to look past that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:14 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


It's a terrific synthesis of the first two Oz sequels that corrects the major flaws in each (Marvelous Land of Oz doesn't have Dorothy in it; Ozma of Oz isn't set in oz at all)

Those aren't bugs, those are features.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:15 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Man, so not long ago I was cleaning my apartment and found a box of assorted free convention detritus from Comic-Con 2010, including a little piece of cardstock advertising "Dorothy of Oz", featuring a weird pencil-style sketch of badly-done CGI (one of these. IIRC, I got "The Lion", which might be the worst-looking of the lot.) I thought well, that movie evaporated, and threw it away. But apparently not! 4 years between handing out promotional materials at goddamn Comic-Con and releasing the movie, seemingly mostly spent shadily encouraging people to "invest". Weird.
posted by kagredon at 10:18 AM on May 20


Oh my god, it's full of astroturfed stars!
posted by drlith at 10:19 AM on May 20 [7 favorites]


There are multiple problems with adapting L Frank Baum's Oz books. The first and most obvious is that you have to choose between: a) picking up where Wizard left off and hearing everyone complain about any steps you take away from the Judy Garland musical; or b) remaking The Wizard of Oz, which only an insane person would do. Even after you get past that hump, you have to deal with the fact that Baum's books are full of wonderful ideas, terrific scenes, and memorable characters, even as they're also meandering, oddly paced, repetitive, and riddled with nonsensical plot holes.

So you know... good luck with that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:20 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Y'know, the 1939 Dorothy Garland Wizard of Oz wasn't the first time there was an Oz movie; it was at least second, if not third. There was a 1925 silent version starring comedian Larry Semon (very famous back in his day!) and a skinny young fella named Oliver N. Hardy (who hadn't yet met or teamed up with a Shakespearian actor named Stanley Laurel)..... it's very strange, totally unlike the books. And I've heard of, but never seen, a 1912 version.

The Fairuza Balk version (what was that, 1989 I think?) has its merits; you've just got to avoid taking it as a remake of the 1939 version, and yeah: probably not take little kids, either.
posted by easily confused at 10:24 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Do you want to build a front man?
posted by fullerine at 10:25 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


The 1925 Wizard of Oz is godawful and is almost unrecognizable. It's a bunch of gibberish about Prime Minister Kruel and Prince Kynd. The story isn't the same at all. oz isn't even the same. It's Frank Joslyn Baum cashing in on his late dad's work with some sloppy garbage.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:28 AM on May 20


That's funny because if it was 89 )I think it was earlier, 87 maybe) I would have been between 8-10 and wow. Loved it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:28 AM on May 20


My five year old thinks Return to Oz is the best movie ever made.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:30 AM on May 20


The 1914 The Patchwork Girl of Oz , produced by Baum, also shows how hard it is to adapt his work to film - and he adapted that one himself.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:31 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Return to Oz was released June 21, 1985.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:32 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Here's one that will blow your mind: Oz (aka 20th Century Oz, 1976), the 1970s Australian rock musical remake of Wizard of Oz.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:34 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


it was at least second, if not third

It was the fourth, if you'll believe that. There's also a 1933 animated short that I have never seen but which I am assured is very strange.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:34 AM on May 20


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "it was at least second, if not third

It was the fourth, if you'll believe that. There's also a 1933 animated short that I have never seen but which I am assured is very strange.
"

Here's that one, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:36 AM on May 20 [3 favorites]


How about The Marvelous Land of Oz, as adapted by The Shirley Temple Show, starring an adult Shirley as Tip/Ozma?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:38 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


I can do this all day.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:38 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]


MeFi Movie Fantasy League discussion over on MeTa.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on May 20


I was reading the Wikipedia article List of Oz Characters, and it struck me: all the weird stuff in Oz reminds me a lot of Adventure Time. Seriously, take a look at that page and tell me how many of those characters would be out of place in the Land of Ooo. An animated adaptation of the Oz books in the sense of Hannibal with the sensibility of Adventure Time could be really well done.

That said, why would you ever buy the rights to an Oz book if there's so much good stuff in public domain books?
posted by Small Dollar at 10:47 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


DoT, the 1914 The New Wizard of Oz was based on the Scarecrow of Oz.
posted by brujita at 11:27 AM on May 20


Yeah, I know that one too, brujita. It's on YT as His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz.

And actually, the weird thing is: that film isn't based on the book. The book is based on the film.

The one we were mocking with a King Krewl wasn't that one, though, it was the 1925 Wizard oz Oz, which, outside of the one character's name, is nothing at all like Scarecrow of Oz, let alone The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:34 AM on May 20


I'm just disappointed that Philip Jose Farmer didn't write a novel about what was REALLY going on in The Wizard of Oz.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:52 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Good lord. He kind of did, actually. Honestly, I was just suggesting it as the sort of thing he would have done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:58 AM on May 20


Ha, I was just coming in to give you the link.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:59 AM on May 20


Oh, man, if you know who PJF is and haven't read Barnstormer, then you must fucking buy it immediately. It is exactly what you think it is, and so much more.
posted by Etrigan at 12:04 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Thanks. I would have worried that it'd be as tough going as The Laborious Slog Other Log of Phineas Fogg, which I diligently plowed through once upon a time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:14 PM on May 20


I've never been able to enjoy the 1939 movie because I read the book obsessively when I was a kid, and was too bothered by the liberties the movie took. Sure, as an adult I know that movies always take liberties with the source material, but that particular movie just reminds me of my disappointment at the first time I found that out.

I guess it must be what other kids feel like when they find out Santa Claus isn't real, only it happened at an earlier age.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19 PM on May 20


I...have never seen an Oz movie, or read the books.
(I have read Otherland, though, which made it sound unappetizingly creepy.)

Now it feels like I'm too old and I wouldn't know where to start, anyway!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:42 PM on May 20


Not too old! The books are super weird, kinda like Alice in Wonderland but with more actual plot.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on May 20


There was also a musical production of The Wizard of Oz staged in Chicago in 1902, when the book was still a brand-new hit. The script has no relation whatsoever to the 1939 film. My first cousin (twice removed) was in it, as was his wife, an actress named June van Buskirk. Later he would divorce her, keeping custody of their three-year-old child. She requested to see the child before the divorce went through, absconded with him from Chicago to New York, thence to Liverpool, London, Brighton, Mainz, St. Gallen, Aix-les-Bains, and London again, the entire time followed by her ex-husband, who was always just a few hours behind. My cousin eventually confronted a Frenchman who had been protecting her and challenged him to a duel, which he declined. Some years later on there was a related courtroom drama that involved W. S. Gilbert and deathbed confessions of perjury.
posted by theodolite at 12:45 PM on May 20 [23 favorites]


Start by reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first book. It *is* a children's book, but it's charming.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:45 PM on May 20


Now it feels like I'm too old and I wouldn't know where to start, anyway!

start with the 1939 classic film, of course - it's unavoidable
posted by pyramid termite at 12:46 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Personally, I find the first four books are the best, after that they drop off in quality.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:46 PM on May 20


Books 1-7 are available for free in a really nice ebook edition from Studio Tendra.
posted by epersonae at 12:47 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]


Guys I didn't remember that American Carol existed and I was mixing it up in my head with American Mary and well they are very different films
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:47 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


The Underpants Monster, I thought I was the only person like that! It was probably my most hipster-child moment, being disdainful of the movie because of course the books were SO MUCH BETTER.
posted by epersonae at 12:48 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


"It's springtime for the Wizard and Germany…"
posted by klangklangston at 1:00 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


There was also a musical production of The Wizard of Oz staged in Chicago in 1902, when the book was still a brand-new hit. The script has no relation whatsoever to the 1939 film. My first cousin (twice removed) was in it, as was his wife, an actress named June van Buskirk. Later he would divorce her, keeping custody of their three-year-old child. She requested to see the child before the divorce went through, absconded with him from Chicago to New York, thence to Liverpool, London, Brighton, Mainz, St. Gallen, Aix-les-Bains, and London again, the entire time followed by her ex-husband, who was always just a few hours behind. My cousin eventually confronted a Frenchman who had been protecting her and challenged him to a duel, which he declined. Some years later on there was a related courtroom drama that involved W. S. Gilbert and deathbed confessions of perjury.

Theodolite, tell me that this has been developed into a screenplay. Because it desperately needs to be.

*Edit: Is this part of the story here? http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC19090619.2.3
posted by Pliskie at 1:34 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


That's it, Pliskie. If you're interested, here's a more contemporaneous article in the New York Herald (continued here) with photos of the dramatis personae and an illustrated map of the chase route.
posted by theodolite at 1:53 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]


Any other former Soviets here remember the Alexander Volkov Wizard of Oz rip-off and the many subsequent (pretty good, according to my 8 year-old self) sequels? Anyone? The Yellow Fog? Come on.

This was the way I first encountered this story, and to my mind the real thing always seemed a little cutesy and tame, though I'm sure my being older had a lot to do with it. The villains seemed more... villainous somehow, in the Russian version.
posted by eugenen at 1:57 PM on May 20


easily confused : There was a 1925 silent version starring comedian Larry Semon (very famous back in his day!) and a skinny young fella named Oliver N. Hardy (who hadn't yet met or teamed up with a Shakespearian actor named Stanley Laurel)..... it's very strange, totally unlike the books.

Have that one! They spent a lot of time doing things that ... had nothing to do with the WoO at all. Almost as if Ed Woods had been hired as director.

There's a "special effect" where Oliver Hardy accidentally finds himself locked into a cave (dungeon?) with a full-grown, savage lion (which is there for no reason at all). We see the cave in cross section, with a stalagtite column separating the two... not to mention the plate glass behind it. The layout of this glass-fronted cage is so comically bad, it's actually funny to watch.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:16 PM on May 20


> My five year old thinks Return to Oz is the best movie ever made.

Your five year old is a critic of taste and discrimination. The Dorothy in Return is much more like book-Dorothy than Judy Garland was. IMHO among well known fantasy-book characters brought to the screen Fairuza Balk nailed Dorothy the way Robbie Coltrane nailed Hagrid, the way Ian McKellen nailed Gandalf, the way Connery nailed Bond.
posted by jfuller at 2:20 PM on May 20 [8 favorites]


Return to Oz. I saw it in the theater when it came out and had nightmares for a week: the wheelers, the cabinets full of heads (and being chased by a headless queen), the wheelers, the wheelers, being turned into a trinket.

There's no way they could make that movie now.
posted by mochapickle at 2:54 PM on May 20


For a week? I sometimes still do.
posted by mochapickle at 2:54 PM on May 20


If Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return somehow leads to an unintended resurgence of interest in Return to Oz, it will all have been worth it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:02 PM on May 20


(says the guy who didn't lose his investment)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:02 PM on May 20


I just re-watched the Wheelers scene on youtube. I think it's where my love of absurdism-turned-horror came from. That could be right out of anything Lynch has done.
posted by Brainy at 3:12 PM on May 20


> Return to Oz. I saw it in the theater when it came out and had nightmares for a week: the
> wheelers, the cabinets full of heads (and being chased by a headless queen), the wheelers,
> the wheelers, being turned into a trinket. There's no way they could make that
> movie now.

Every bit of that comes straight from the books. Dorothy (age 8 in the first book, 11 in the last) deals with all of it, and worse, and more. Much much more. And she doesn't get to carry any BFG either. Her superpowers are courage, imagination, and nice manners. She was the first example I ever knew of someone possessing, what the fellow said, grace under pressure. She remains a touchstone of grace under pressure to me right now today.
posted by jfuller at 4:27 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]


jfuller: "And she doesn't get to carry any BFG either. "

Well, of course not. He would carry her!

I kid, I kid.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:09 PM on May 20


I watched Return to Oz with my gf last year. We were on mushrooms and molly and she had never seen it...

Which is not the beginning of a good story or any story at all. The drugs didn't help or hurt the movie. The movie didn't help or hurt the drug trip. It's a great movie (one that terrified me as a child, and that I was obsessed with because it terrified me) and we enjoyed it thoroughly.
posted by elr at 5:26 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Of course I haven't seen the movie, but judging by the trailer the animation looks quite good. Maybe not Pixar or Dreamworks good, but certainly competent enough for wide release. And certainly for younger kids who won't automatically compare the animation to other works.

The script, though, may very well be a mess. As is usually the case with Hollywood films these days.
posted by zardoz at 5:36 PM on May 20


As the fine articles linked in the original post say, it is not a Hollywood film.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 PM on May 20


I saw Return to Oz at about 10 and loved it.

I tried to see it when I was 7, in the theatre, and was scared out of my mind and left early. (Though, as I recall, near the end, in the choose the right green object scene.)

One of the more satisfying things I learned from the internet is how many kids were scared of that movie, because I had always felt sort of weird about it.
posted by jeather at 8:40 PM on May 20


I'm just disappointed that Philip Jose Farmer didn't write a novel about what was REALLY going on in The Wizard of Oz.

Ryk E Spoor recently completed a kickstarter for a novel somewhat on that theme.
posted by happyroach at 9:42 PM on May 20


No mention of The Wiz?!

Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Kena Horne, Richard Pryor, Quincey Jones, Mabel King, Nipsey Russell, Luther Vandross...
posted by Dreidl at 10:24 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


(I have read Otherland, though, which made it sound unappetizingly creepy.)

I loved the creepy oz stuff in Otherland, but I think it was MUCH creepier than the source. The idea, as I recall, is that things were seriously going to shit in the Otherland, and that was reflected in the extra-creepy.
posted by flaterik at 11:49 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Of course I haven't seen the movie, but judging by the trailer the animation looks quite good.

No, it really doesn't. The facial expressions are kack, most of the characters look incredibly dull and simple, there's no real detail to any of it and the movements are ...not good.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:29 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]


Thanks, guys!
posted by Omnomnom at 2:45 PM on May 21


oh my god the wheelers

and all of Mombi's heads in that mirrored hall

and I cannot believe my parents let me see it in the theatre when I was six. Whoa.

I loved the creepy oz stuff in Otherland, but I think it was MUCH creepier than the source. The idea, as I recall, is that things were seriously going to shit in the Otherland, and that was reflected in the extra-creepy.

I dunno, I think the people involved in that particular Otherland world were just seriously fucked up and wanted to play WoZ as a super-creepy RPG that, presumably, they'd reset from time to time. I say this because I don't recall the same sense of decay/everything falling apart in any of the other worlds; they all seemed to be functioning within their established parameters. But it's been a few years so maybe I just missed that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:18 PM on May 21


The film stars Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, Kelsey Grammer, Jim Belushi, Megan Hilty, Hugh Dancy, Oliver Platt, Patrick Stewart, Bernadette Peters, and Martin Short

In theory this should work.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 10:36 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Dune stars Jürgen Prochnow, Patrick Stewart, Linda Hunt, Max von Sydow, Kyle Maclachlan, José Ferrer, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, and Richard Jordan.

In theory, this should have worked.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:13 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


For all its faults, though, the 1984 Dune did give us the sight of Patrick Stewart going into battle armed with a pug.

And actually, that shot of Sting in the flying metal underwear is what may have kickstarted my puberty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:58 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


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