No Place Like Oz: Other Adaptations of the Famous Story
We all know the story. Girl from Kansas and her dog get swept up into a tornado. Tornado drops them in Oz. Girl follows yellow brick road, meets Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. Girl meets the Wizard. Girl fights Wicked Witch of the West. Girl wins. Girl goes home.
The original story, The Wizard of Oz, was written in the year 1900. That’s a one hundred and thirteen year old story with a great deal of mileage. It’s also a book that has thirteen sequels, been adapted not only for film but also television, stage, comics, games, and other continuing books.
With Oz: The Great and Powerful coming to theaters soon, I thought it would be appropriate to take a trip down the Yellow Brick Road and see what other adaptations have done to work with the famous story (and before anybody asked, Wicked is not included. It’s a book and a musical. When they finally decide to make it into a film, I will be the first one in line to see it).
Often referred to as the ‘original’ Wizard of Oz, even though a few adaptations of the story had already been released prior, this is the film that was not only the most accurate, but was also the longest adaptation to date. With its use of special effects, Technicolour, music and songs, it quickly found its way into the hearts of millions of viewers. It is closest to the original story, in which Dorothy and her companions must meet the Wizard and defeat the Wicked Witch, all the while breaking in a pair of awesome ruby slippers.
If you want to see Michael Jackson while he was still, you know, Michael Jackson, then give this film a look. It’s “Dorothy meets Disco” in this musical adaptation featuring the talents of Diana Ross as Dorothy, Richard Pryor as the Wizard, and Lena Horne as Glinda. Like any musical film it gets a bit ridiculous at times, and was the last film to be part of the “blaxploitation” movement of the 1970s. Interesting fact about the film? The screenplay was written by Joel Schumacher. Yes, that Joel Schumacher, director of The Lost Boys and Phone Booth, writer of St. Elmo’s Fire and the adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.
I know I said I would contain my adaptations to film, but this one is just too unique to pass by without mentioning. Adapted for the small screen by SyFy, this Wizard of Oz adaptation takes the story to a whole new level. Mixing elements of Steampunk and realism to the original story, it’s the tale of a diner girl named DG who finds out that she was actually a child of Oz and was smuggled out for her own protection. When the bad guys come to find her (who travel between worlds by “twister” storm clouds), she finds herself back in a place she only half remembers. Joining her to find out what has happened to the O.Z. (the Outer Zone) are a “tin man” cop with a dark past, a brain-fried science subject, and a half man-half beast. Together they set out to discover DG’s past and find a way to save their futures. It’s an edgy new take on an old classic, and if you know the story well, you’re in for a treat.
Yes, another television movie adaptation, but still worth a look. This time around, famous singer Ashanti plays the lead as Dorothy. Spoofing the original film rather than trying to reinvent the story themselves, the Muppets are responsible for getting Dorothy through Oz. Like in Tin Man, Dorothy works at a diner and is dreaming of another world. Different takes on the adaptation include Miss Piggy playing all of the witches, Pepe the King Prawn playing Toto, and your classic favourites like Fozzy, Gonzo and Kermit taking the lead as the three main companions. Look for tongue-in-cheek references to theater, your favourite Muppets, and some celebrity cameos (including Queen Latifah as Aunt Em!).
Of course, the Wizard of Oz continuations don’t stop there. Disney released a film in 1985 continuing the story of Dorothy trying to get back to Oz six months after the previous film’s events. An animated sequel Dorothy in Oz is coming to theaters this year staring Glee’s Lea Michele, and also follows the events of the established story. What will make Oz: The Great and Powerful a treat to see is that it will be a prequel, focusing not on the story of Dorothy Gale, but of how the famous Wizard of Oz got there in the first place. For the fans who want more of the classic story, be it film or fiction, don’t worry. I’m sure Hollywood will come up with another adaptation soon enough. Then again, there’s always thirteen other sequels to read.
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