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The Impending Wizard of Oz Renaissance

When it comes to American pop culture, few things rival the collective love for L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. So for most people, news that all 14 of Baum’s Oz stories are now in the public domain is a time to rejoice. Why you ask? Because we’re about to experience a Wizard of Oz renaissance that will crush the brief Alice in Wonderland re-emergence that we just experienced.

While there has always been a cultural preoccupation with The Wizard of Oz, film adaptations of the original story, like The Wiz and Return to Oz, were commercial failures. But since the early 2000s, things seem to have changed.

Wicked, the book turned Broadway musical, has broken box office records and is rumored to become a film starring the original Broadway cast, and SyFy’s Tin Man, a television mini-series that infused Oz with (what else?) sci-fi and fantasy elements was commercially well-received and nominated for nine Emmys despite tepid critical reviews. Even The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz performed well, gaining a television audience of over 7 million when it debuted on ABC. If that doesn’t signal a readiness for all things Oz, we don’t know what does.

So what’s up next for Dorothy and the gang?

The splashiest news is that Sam Mendes is interested in directing Oz the Great and Powerful, the prequel that focuses on the man who became the Wizard. Robert Downey Jr. is being eyed for the title role.

Then there’s the two CGI animated versions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Dorothy of Oz, the Pearry Teo directed Dark Oz based on Caliber Comics‘ grim rendition of the story, as well as two Warner Bros. films — one entitled Oz and an unnamed project that focuses on Dorothy’s granddaughter returning to Oz to fight evil. We think Joss Whedon should direct that one.

But we don’t have to wait a couple years for a new Dorothy story. This summer, The Witches of Oz 3D, a kooky sounding re-imagination in which an adult Dorothy is a children’s writer who realizes that her fantastical stories are actually repressed childhood memories, will be released. Christopher Lloyd plays the Wizard, so we’ll probably see it.

What do you think about the renewed interest in the Oz franchise? Let us know in comments.

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