Return to Philmland

Oh, I see. Legends of Oz was a flop because of a vast Hollywood conspiracy to take it down.

“Here’s to the failure of another movie promoting those Magic Belt thieves!”
You know how I know that isn’t true? Because the only reason I’ve come across any publicity at all about the movie, good OR bad, is because I’m subscribed to several Oz forums. I think I might have seen a television spot or two, but the animation isn’t that great and the Oz name isn’t going to draw in the general public, so who cares? While I thought the film was pretty cute, I pretty much figured it was going to be a box office flop. And that puts me back onto a topic that comes up from time to time in Oz discussions, which is whether we can ever have a successful Oz movie. I think Oz the Great and Powerful made a decent showing, but didn’t do as well as anticipated. I didn’t hate that movie, but when the producer says the project attracted him because it had a male protagonist, it’s obvious he didn’t really get Oz. Not that there’s any one right way to appreciate Oz, mind you, but I would say the fact that it’s dominated by female protagonists is pretty central to the whole thing. What I think is weird is that nobody has even attempted adapting one of the original Oz books in years. Not for theatrical release, anyway.

Great and Powerful contained practically nothing from the books, and Legends used a mediocre book from the late eighties as its source material. They did both use the China Country, but this was likely a coincidence.

Maybe the huge success of the MGM film has made it so that any other Oz movie will be unfavorably compared to it. Get too close to it and it’s a cheap rip-off. Deviate too much and the public will think it isn’t Oz. Still, it seems that they’re not really trying. Return to Oz was a box office flop, but: 1) it’s received a lot more appreciation since then, and 2) that was almost thirty years ago. After all this time, are the actual L. Frank Baum books still considered box office poisoned poppies?

It does seem like, even when a film isn’t a blatant MGM homage like Great and Powerful, it has to contain MGM references. Not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but when you have something like Return using the Ruby Slippers but also having Dorothy remember things from the book that weren’t in the 1939 film, like the Deadly Desert and the Tin Woodman’s origin story, it does get a little confusing. Is it a sequel to the MGM movie, the book, or neither? And Legends didn’t use Ozma, even though she was in the source material. It’s tricky, because I don’t really want to see a rehash of the same old material, yet plot points from the early books are important to developments in later ones. Of course, it would certainly be possible to adapt a later book while leaving out anything that contradicts the MGM version of the story or that people who only know the movie wouldn’t know about, which I guess would include Ozma. For my part, though, I think it might be time to do something a little more faithful to the books. I mean, wasn’t that the direction they went in with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, at least at first? Why not try it with Oz? Maybe the LotR films are a good model in a way, since they started with a retelling of The Hobbit that hit all the plot points relevant to the story being told. If they did something like this with Oz, it could cover things like Ozma’s ascension to the throne, the fact that there are two different Good Witches, and that Oz wasn’t a dream without having to remake Wizard and Land yet again. Then after that they can follow Peter Jackson’s example and do a Wizard remake in three installments that shows what everyone else in Oz is doing at the time of Dorothy’s adventure. I’m kidding about that last part, although in some ways that could be a lot of fun. Was Glinda tracking Dorothy’s deeds in the Great Book of Records before Dorothy actually arrived at her palace? What did the Good Witch of the North do after greeting Dorothy and then disappearing? Did Mombi, who would have been raising Tip at this point, have any thoughts on the deaths of her compatriots? Did Dr. Pipt first perfect the Powder of Life around this time? What about the mysterious King of the Munchkins who appears in Ozma and Road? Could we see how he took power after the Wicked Witch of the East was crushed to death? Nimmie Amee’s friendship with Ku-Klip and her relationship with Captain Fyter could also come into the picture somehow.

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34 Responses to Return to Philmland

  1. I remember hearing rumors a few years ago that since Harry Potter had ended they were planning on adapting the Oz books for film.
    I guess that was just a rumor after all or Disney and Warner Bros. crushed it before it could even start to get going.
    I am a huge fan of the books, of course, but I wouldn’t mind at all to take those books and adapt them to a deeper fantasy world like you described. I think each book could be a self contained film (especially if done Lord of the Rings style/length.) Or some plots could be combined (Dorothy and the Wizard, Road and Emerald City for sure would need some reworking in the early books and Rinkitink is the “Horse and his Boy” of the Oz books, so I think it’s plot could be combined with maybe Tik-Tok of Oz or something.
    I should probably stop now since I’m probably rambling.
    Good night/morning.

    • Nathan says:

      There have been a lot of rumors about proposed Oz movies, and most of them never get off the ground. I guess that’s true of most movies that are pitched, but I’ve heard more about the Oz ones, for obvious reasons.

  2. Matt Keeley says:

    FWIW, Cartoon Network’s been advertising the hell out of it. That said, the trailers for it didn’t look promising.

    • Nathan says:

      Fair enough. Most of the TV I watch these days is On Demand anyway, aside from what I see in the break room at work. And yes, I do recall seeing a few Legends commercials there.

  3. Bryan Babel says:

    I’m afraid the hump that would need to be gotten over is a complete adaptation of “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” which the Left wouldn’t approve of because of the “evil” female army, and the Right wouldn’t approve of because of the transgender theme. Which is a shame because I think that after the original book, “Land” is the best written and plotted of them all, and would probably best succeed as a full cinematic treatment. Halfway measures like “Return” that compromise with the MGM version, while understandable, fall between two stools.

    • jaredofmo says:

      I don’t think the Army of Revolt was “evil” so much as revolting for the wrong reason. They are not righting wrongs or fighting for equal rights, but simply wanting to change the status quo. And in the story, many of the women come to regret their involvement when they have to eat the food prepared by inexperienced men. I think with some clever writing, this could be handled gracefully. Quite the same case with the transgender theme.

      • Nathan says:

        Maybe the problem would be less with people who actually watch the movie, and more with rumors that might circulate among those who haven’t but somehow have strong opinions on it anyway. Still, I think it might be worth a try. It’s not a parody of feminism so much as a parody of misunderstood feminism, which is still a significant problem today.

      • Bryan Babel says:

        I know; that’s why I put “evil” in parentheses.

      • I agree, Jinjur was a portrayal of militant feminism by lazy women but the book balanced all this out by placing women in control at the end. Women who were wise, kind and saw men as their equals and worthy advisers, not as tyrants or as idiots like Jinjur did.

    • Nathan says:

      While I haven’t seen it yet, I believe Shirley Temple’s adaptation of Land also left out the Army of Revolt, instead making Nikidik the villain.

      • It’s not very good, the acting is kind of blah and the sets are awful, but it is a tv special, so I enjoyed it and appreciated it for what it was. Agnes Moorehead and Shirley Temple did well, from what I remember…Miss Moorehead does make a good witch after all.
        I think it’s public domain now, I’m not sure. If not, I ordered mine on Amazon for about $5.

  4. I think the main thing blocking an adaptation of Land is the fact that the story does not contain Dorothy. It’s the only book not to include her, and Baum very likely learned his lesson about that one, making sure she was in every other book, even if it was just a cameo.

    Which leaves something of a conundrum in its wake: Do you adapt Land even though it doesn’t have Dorothy, or do you adapt later stories and backfill all of the continuity that goes back to Land? Shirley Temple did the first, while Return to Oz was much the latter.

    And then there’s the shadow of Wizard that hangs over everything Oz. I think Return had a really hard time of it because it tried to position itself as a sequel to the film (with Ruby Slippers and all), while being a very different sort of film (not only darker, but not a musical and drawing stronger inspiration from the books than MGM did).

    I think the best thing for anyone to do if they really wanted to do Oz would be a new adaptation of Wizard, possibly building into a franchise to adapt the rest of the series, like Peter Jackson did with LOTR. Though the Narnia films may be a counter-example worth looking into.

    • jaredofmo says:

      The Narnia movies really slowed their pace down. 2.5 years between a movie was too much time for audiences to cool their enthusiasm. Also, the third one was a real mess.

    • Nathan says:

      The weird thing about ruby vs. silver when it comes to the magic shoes is that they didn’t appear in any of the original Oz books other than the first one anyway, so their color is more or less irrelevant to later stories. They did feature in some stories by later authors, including Dorothy, but they weren’t mentioned at all in Legends.

      • markrhunter says:

        I’ve wondered about that to. Maybe, to book lovers, they’re just the most obvious example of unwelcome changes when the movie was made.

      • Nathan says:

        Perhaps, although I wonder if the emphasis on the shoes has something to do with the populism interpretation of the book, and how some people still think the Silver Shoes represent the silver standard. It’s not like ruby shoes would be particularly out of place in Oz as it appears in the books. For me, the more significant changes were making it a dream and weakening Dorothy’s character.

    • markrhunter says:

      Yes, that’s likely the problem more than any other factor. Can you imagine Hollywood suits sitting around, trying to figure out how to bring out a “Land of Oz” adaptation that will see the success of the MGM movie? “But … there’s no Dorothy *or* Wizard. It’s like it isn’t Oz at all!”

      • That’s why I think anyone who starts an Oz movie series needs to ignore Warner Bros and anything to do with the MGM movie as far as Ruby Slippers, Horse of a Different Color, etc. and just make a new adaptation of the first book. Don’;t try to play off the MGM movies success, but make it clear this is the true story…kind of how Disney is marketing Maleficent.
        The story has endured for over 100 years, I think it could succeed if done well.
        The main issue in getting it across to an audience today, besides Warner Bros and the MGM musical is probably getting kids to sit through a story without musical sequences every five minutes (not that I hate musical movies.)
        Which leads me to wonder…live action or animated? Which would do best?

  5. markrhunter says:

    I prefer live action. However, I also prefer your idea, about going around the MGM movies; the problem with that is that an awfully lot of people have *no idea* that there was an Oz before Judy Garland appeared onscreen. To most, that specific movie has become the “real” Oz, even though we know better. It’s why I was so surprised with “Once Upon A Time” when they had silver slippers, and why I loved the episode of “Supernatural” when Tik-Tok and Ozma were mentioned–it was so surprising. Sadly, those are exceptions to the rule.

    I’ve been working on an idea for a novel that would poke fun at that a little, including having Dorothy hate the movie for its inconsistencies with what really happened … but whether I’ll get time to get it written, and whether anyone reads it, remains to be seen.

    • I had a long detailed reply for you but my PC decided it needed to restart without warning during the time I was making it.
      The gist of it was that I agreed with you on everything.
      I haven’t watched Supernatural, but I had heard about the Oz episode…though I had no idea Ozma was mentioned. That’s refreshing. I’d ignored it because I’d heard they used Ruby Slippers.

      I love Once Upon a Time. Even though it’s really went downhill for the most part (imo) I have enjoyed it and I was excited for Oz and honestly, I had expected them to butcher it a lot more.
      We at least got Silver Shoes (slippers) and Glinda was the Good Witch of the South.
      I thought it was far too rushed, but i have heard Dorothy is returning in season 4, so hopefully we see more Oz. Dorothy seemed a bit too much like young Snow White to me, and you know I prefer my Dorothy blonde. IO can handle a dark haired Dorothy if she is portrayed well though…this one didn’t have much to work with but at least didn’t seem a total damsel in distress.

      • Nathan says:

        Some media use the Silver Shoes other than the Ruby Slippers because they don’t want to have to pay WB for the latter. The silver ones are public domain, after all. I find it kind of weird how much emphasis people tend to put on the shoes when they don’t even appear in the canonical books after the first one.

    • Nathan says:

      I’ve incorporated the idea of American characters knowing Oz from the movies into my own stories, but never made it the central focus. There is a story in Oziana, “The Real Critics,” about the Ozites watching and commenting on the MGM film.

      • Yeah, the shoes do tend to become a big deal.
        Recently on a Disney Channel show (don’t judge me!) they had the Silver Shoes show up. Here’s what was said:

        Ally: Hold the ketchup! Are those the real silver shoes from The Wizard of Oz?
        Austin: Yeah. What gives? Aren’t they supposed to be ruby?
        Ally: In the movie, but true fans like me know that they’re silver. They were silver in the book and the play. Ooh, I should include that on the next museum tour!
        Dez: Ooh, you’re wearing Dorothy’s slippers and the Wicked Witch’s socks.
        Austin: The socks are mine.
        Dez: Wow, you wear some crazy clothes.

      • Nathan says:

        They could have just been Amanda Palmer’s socks.

      • markrhunter says:

        That’s part of the universe for my planned story, too — that Ozites know of, and sometimes don’t appreciate, other versions of their world.

  6. markrhunter says:

    I hate when that happens with the computer … and the new composition never seems as good as the old one.

    Sadly, in the Supernatural episode Dorothy just briefly mentioned Ozma, and didn’t have a very high opinion of her. Between that and the brown hair, definitely not canon in my book! But I’m impressed just by the idea that one of the episode writers had read the Oz books. And yes, the slippers were ruby — but I’m a Supernatural fan, so for me having Oz show up was just gravy.

    As for the Dorothy from Once Upon A Time, she seemed a bit too movie-ish to me — and yes, too much like Snow White. For a moment, when she first appeared, I thought it was the same girl who played the young Snow White. I’m easy, though: I’ll take my Oz where I can get it, and I really liked their Wicked Witch.

    But you can be assured that when I write her, my Dorothy will be blonde! Although I have a plan for the hair color confusion.

    • Nathan says:

      Sadly, in the Supernatural episode Dorothy just briefly mentioned Ozma, and didn’t have a very high opinion of her.

      Maybe they’d recently had an argument. :P

      But I’m impressed just by the idea that one of the episode writers had read the Oz books.

      Or seen Return to Oz. As for the hair, a lot of people go through a hair-dyeing phase, and maybe several if they’ve lived for over a century. I’m somewhat tempted to attribute Ozma’s hair color change from Land to the later books to Thompson’s short story about the brown-haired princess.

      • markrhunter says:

        This may seem awfully shallow of me, but I’d prefer to think Dorothy and Ozma just don’t have arguments! I’m pretty sure somebody writing for Supernatural definitely read the books, though: They’re even mentioned specifically.

        That’s pretty much the explanation for Dorothy’s hair color that I gave in my fanfiction, “Mary Sue Got Harried”: Dorothy was originally brunette as in the first book, but after the events of “Ozma of Oz”, Ozma wanted to give her new friend a gift — and Dorothy asked for magically colored hair. It doesn’t exactly line up with the book illustrations, but it gives me the blonde Dorothy I prefer!

      • Nathan says:

        Is it possible her hair got lighter from exposure to the prairie sun? I don’t know. I’ve been told I was blond when I was a baby, so maybe that happens in reverse sometimes.

      • markrhunter says:

        That does indeed happen, and it’s as good an explanation as any. And I have some relatives whose hair color changed from when they were little, too.

  7. I know I’m coming to this late but its alway seemed bizarre that there are NO movie studios (or television) who are interested in Ozma as a character or in the Oz-book canon (compare to other franchises where most of the creators give at least lip service to the source material). Most of the films based on Oz are prequels or “dark” versions of Oz, with their Dorothy (IF she appears) based more on Judy Garland than Baum’s post-Land of Oz blond (which was one of the problems with Legends of Oz). Even the movie closest to the book, Return to Oz, made Ozma more of a cipher than an actual characters (as Dorothy’s literal mirror image) and yet in the books Ozma is much more prominent than Dorothy (particularly post-Baum). Back when the Disney film about the Wizard came out I made a whole Tumblr post on the issue [] and it still burns that Disney a company that could have made millions in merchandising out of making Ozma (and Dorothy) the next Disney Princesses instead made a movie out of a self-confessed humbug whose history/actions were so dubious that even Baum had to retcon them within the series.

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