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All the wizards that came before: A century of Oz-inspired entertainment By Richard Crouse Metro Canada In Focus March 6, 2013

oz-balloonWhen New Girl star Zooey Deschanel was two years old she watched The Wizard of Oz every day. “I had a hard time understanding that I couldn’t go into the film,” she said, “because it felt so real to me.”

She’s not alone. It is one of the most watched and universally adored Hollywood films ever and the L. Frank Baum book it’s based on has been called “America’s greatest and best-loved home grown fairytale.”

“We always say the age range for The Wizard of Oz is from fetal to fatal,” jokes Oz expert John Fricke.

This weekend Disney hopes to add to the legacy of the original film with Oz the Great and Powerful, a Sam Raimi directed prequel starring James Franco and Mila Kunis. Ever wondered why the wicked witch was so wicked? Or how the wizard became the wizard? With a click of its ruby slippers this movie fills in the blanks.

It’s not the first movie to try and woo an audience based on the goodwill of Oz and its citizens.

According to the Wonderful Wiki of Oz there are dozens of movies featuring Dorothy, Toto and friends, dating back to almost the turn of the last century.

1910’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the first Baum book to hit the screen. The film was made after the author’s stage show, Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, had failed, leaving him in the hole. To settle his debt with the Selig Polyscope Company he gave them the rights to his best-known work. The result is a thirteen-minute short that sees Dorothy and Toto (played by a child in a dog suit) ride a haystack to the magical world of Oz.

Almost seven decades later two very different musicals were inspired by the Oz folks.

20th Century Oz is a 1976 Australian rock musical that reimagines the classic story set in 1970s Australia.

Two years later director Sidney Lumet adapted the Broadway hit The Wiz for the screen, casting Motown superstars Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow. Although it was, at the time, the most expensive film musical ever made, it wasn’t a hit in theatres.

Oz may be the most American of stories, but that hasn’t prevented foreign adaptations. Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde is a Turkish retelling of the tale, starring a girl named Ayşa who has adventures with Korkuluk the Scarecrow.

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