The Wizard of Oz prequel film will be getting a follow-up.
Oz: The Great and Powerful dropped into theaters this weekend, and while it’s long-term earning potential cannot yet be known, Disney clearly has a lot of confidence in its staying power as a franchise, as they’re already working on a second film with this retooled version of the setting and characters from the classic books.
The question to wonder about is just where the next film will go in the Oz universe. The new film plays like a prequel to the classic musical, but there are many elements of that musical which were invented for that production, and are still under copyright due to the US’s exorbitant film copyright laws – though they are now owned by Warner Bros. Many of the Oz books, however, are in the public domain, and Disney can do whatever they want with those. Disney has a long history of adapting public domain works effectively, so it seems likely that this is what they’re shooting for.
So, what are we sure not to see? The Ruby Slippers. These slippers were an invention of the 1939 filmmakers, used to show-off their Technicolor capabilities. In the book, the slippers are neither red, nor are they so important to the plot. Also all of the characters in Kansas, other than Aunt Em and Uncle Henry were similarly invented.
In seems, however from this first film that the new franchise is intended to be a closer adaptation to the books, and the sequel will likely draw only tangential influence from the classic film. A lot of fans of that film may be disappointed to see the differences, but I think it’s time to a fresh look at the story which tries to adapt it directly, rather than one which tries to put a sharp spin on it, like most Oz adaptations that we’ve seen in the last 50 years.
Of course, they could go somewhere completely different with further films. If the series continues to follow Oscar Diggs, the wizard, rather than Dorothy, it could be a fun look at many parts of the Oz story which we never got to see in Baum’s books. They could even skip over Dorothy’s visits entirely, and move on to later events.
The script for the next film is already underway, being worked on by Mitchell Kapner, one of the co-writers of Oz: The Great and Powerful. With this kind of speed, one can only assume that Disney has planned this as a possibility from the start, so I would be very surprised if James Franco and the other stars of the new film are not signed up for a multi-picture deal.
The sequel to Oz: The Great and Powerful is currently in development, and no production or release dates have been announced.