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ease on down the road

January 20, 2012

That’s a line from the African-American version of “The Wizard of Oz”, a 1978

box office bomb that nonetheless had some great sequences and featured Rich-

ard Pryor as the Wiz and some kid called Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.  I

had so much fun with the last post that I want to spend some more time on the

yellow brick road.


“The Wiz” might best be remembered for ending the movie career of Diana

Ross.  It’s also considered the last film of the blaxploitation genre.  It’s just one

of many screen adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel published in

1900.  Other versions include a Muppets interpretation with Miss Piggy as all

the witches; a hybrid incorporating the plot of “Apocalypse Now”; the famous

1939 musical; and, of course, the Turkish telling,  Aysecik ve Sihirli Cuculer

Ruyalar Ulkesinde.  I hope I’m saying that right.


Baum’s classic has also been well worked on the small screen.  At least two

dozen TV productions have tackled the whole story or aspects of it.  Disney

Studios dabbled with it in 1957 with Mouseketeers Darlene Gillespie and

Annette Funicello.  Tim Burton took his turn in 2000.  “Tin Man” tried a

Steampunk stab at it  in 2007.  Its Oz had mean Munchkins.


There are many animated and anime interpretations.  “Futurama”, “That’s So

Raven”, “Scrubs”, “Raising Hope” and even “SpongeBob Square Pants” have all

sampled it.


Stage adaptations started shortly after the initial success of the book.  Baum

produced the first musical version in 1902, featuring references to President

Theodore Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller.  An extremely successful trans-

lation, Wicked, is still on Broadway after nine years.  Tim Rice and Andrew

Lloyd Webber updated the story in London’s West End last March.  There’s

also been a ballet, an “Oz” on ice and “The Wizard of A.I.D.S.”


There’s actually an entire industry built around the story, including video

games, toys and a slot machine with a Flying Monkey bonus round.  Musically,

it’s been honored by Elton John’s sublime “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album

and this great Blues Traveler video, among many others.


And Oz won’t be going over the rainbow or anywhere else soon.  “Dorothy of

Oz”, a CG film written by Baum’s great-grandson, will be released this year. Drew

Barrymore is set to direct a sequel called “Surrender Dorothy”.  Natalie Portman

will play an adult Dorothy in “Dreams of Oz”.


Sam Raimi, producer/director of the “Spiderman” franchise, is in post-production 

with “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, a prequel that reunites him with James Franco

and Danny Elfman.  It’s funded by Disney, but will feature no Mouseketeers.

  1. Chris permalink
    January 20, 2012 3:58 pm

    Love your last blog comparison of the Republican gang to the Wizard of Oz. I was thinking of the Three Stooges plus a couple, but that would be unfair to Larry, Moe and Curly.

    Remember the 5th Estates’s version of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” from 1967? I always liked that one.

    What a bunch of clowns they have across the border (of course, we do have Steven Harper and Tony Clement at home).


    • January 21, 2012 9:00 am

      Thanks, Chris, and it’s good to learn you survived the storm. I do remember the jazzing up of “Ding Dong”. It looks like the Wizard will win the South Carolina primary today, extending the process and boosting the Democrats. David Brooks, a leading conservative pundit, said yesterday that Gingrich is unelectable.

  2. beth reed permalink
    January 20, 2012 6:49 pm

    WOW I had no idea. I have a girlfriend who collected the entire plate collection of Oz from Franklin Mint or Bradford Exchange one. It is bigger business than I ever thought.
    I am sick again, taking flu meds and sleeping alot. Fever broke a couple of hours ago so maybe I am getting better. Too early to tell. Goodnight.

    • January 21, 2012 9:03 am

      I’ve got two more posts I want to do about “Oz” and its author. I think you’ll like them, too. Please get some more rest and take care.

  3. Gordon permalink
    January 23, 2012 7:56 am

    And as Evilina (from the Wiz) might have said regarding the current primary field — “Don’t send me nothing I can’t use; don’t you send me no bad news.” But send they will.

    • January 24, 2012 7:53 am

      Good point, Gordie. The Beltway must be ROTFL over Gingrich’s ascension. It may have to pay attention to the man behind the curtain again.

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