Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A new film version of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?"

I've been thinking that perhaps the time has come to make a new film version of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Of course, the biggest problem is that there is a very popular version starring Judy Garland and produced by MGM. What made that version go over so well, and how could we learn from what they did to that film to make a new one successful? In this blog I hope to find out and figure it out.

CHAPTER ONE: The Cyclone.

This chapter introduces Dorothy and her family, then Uncle Henry notices signs that a cyclone is coming. Aunt Em runs to the cellar, Uncle Henry goes to look after the stock, while Dorothy goes to get Toto out from under the bed. The cyclone forms around the house and picks it up with Dorothy and Toto still inside. Toto falls through the open trap door that once led to the cellar, but the pressure of the wind keeps him up, and Dorothy pulls him back in. They then go to her bed, then later fall asleep.

In the MGM film, they introduce Dorothy and her family and friends (the farmhands) and nemesis (Miss Gulch), with a new story saying that Toto bit Miss Gulch on the leg, and she goes to get the sheriff so she can Toto "destroyed." Toto is captured by Gulch, but he escapes and returns to Dorothy, and the two run away from home. They meet a phony fortune teller named Professor Marvel who makes up a story that Aunt Em is sick because Dorothy ran away from home. Dorothy hurries back home. The cyclone is on it's way, and Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the farmhands are in the cyclone cellar, Aunt Em noting Dorothy is missing. Dorothy arrives back home. The cellar is locked shut, and she runs inside, hoping to find Aunt Em. The cyclone knocks a window out and it hits Dorothy on the head. She has a delirium in which she dreams that the house has been lifted by the cyclone. She can see things flying by in the window, including Miss Gulch, who is transformed into a witch on a broomstick. Dorothy turns away and falls on her bed, and soon the house crashes to the ground.

So why did the MGM film work? I think it's because they effectively established Dorothy's love for Aunt Em, so when she gets to Oz, she will want to go home to her no matter what. So, how could this be translated to a new film, without copying the MGM movie?

The MGM movie established Dorothy's love with a new subplot for the Kansas scenes with character not from the book (all of whom are suggestions of character in Dorothy's dream of Oz). However, now people want DRAMA. So, using dramatic writing, perhaps the same feeling could be established with only Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Dorothy, and Toto, too. Instating the family dynamic of these four would probably be the best way, stating that THEY ARE IMPORTANT TO EACH OTHER, and they depend on each other, because they are a family, and all family members complete each other. Dorothy feels incomplete without Uncle Henry and Aunt Em, just as they'd feel incomplete without her.

Just a musing.

Care to comment?


BiblioMike said...

I think one way to establish, via drama, that these people are important to each other would be to borrow from "Emerald City of Oz," and have the bank threatening to foreclose on the farm. Don't Henry and Em discuss having to send Dorothy to live elsewhere when that happens? She could be hiding behind the door overhearing them talk to "the Man from the Big City" . . . thus we set up an anxiety in Dorothy that she will be homeless even before the twister takes her to Oz (where she will make her speech to Scarecrow about there being no place like home -- adds another level of meaning to it).

Then, when she returns to Kansas at the end of the movie, and she knows that Oz is *not* a dream (shame forever on MGM!!!), she can have a hope that the family can "relocate," thus setting the stage for a sequel...

Which raises the question: Would a new Oz film "franchise" treat "Land of Oz" and "Ozma" as two separate films? I don't know about you, but I really liked Disney's "Return to Oz," even if it made some changes to the texts.

Just some thoughts on making that first chapter more dramatic --

Mike Poteet

Jared said...

That is a good idea, Mike, but the problem is is that Uncle Henry did not take loans from the bank until the cyclone carried away the first house. His health broke down later and he needed a trip for his health (and also had to hire some help for the farm). Then the crop that was going to get them out of debt failed. Aunt Em tells Dorothy that she may go to live in Oz, if it's real, and Ozma allows Aunt Em & Uncle Henry to come to Oz as well.