Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Feelings On The Olson/McFarlane Oz Movie

Some time ago, we heard that Warner Brothers and Village Roadshow (the studios of The Dukes of Hazzard and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) had greenlit an Oz film that would be produced by Todd McFarlane and would be written by Josh Olson.

Todd McFarlane has not earned any Oz fan's trust at all. Yes, his company, McFarlane Toys, did make an Oz line, but it was called "Twisted Land of Oz." The Tin Woodman was pictured as a disgusting cyborg, the Scarecrow as a rotting, straw-stuffed corpse being attacked by crows, and Dorothy as a torture queen, being tormented by two demonic-looking Munchkins.

So, when some of us heard of the movie, we were afraid that it would be based on the same vision that made those toys.

Josh Olson somehow heard of the fuss and confusion that went on, and quickly released a statement saying, in his words, "I think even Todd would be happy to tell you, this movie has no connection whatsoever to those action figures." He further sparked our interested in his story by dropping enough hints: "The story I pitched... (is) faithful to the spirit and tone of those amazing books. You’ll be seeing many of your favorite characters return from the classic film, as well as meeting loads of Baum’s other great characters. While I’ve created my own distinct plot, it’s all built around Baum’s characters, Baum’s world, and Baum’s vision. I think Oz fans will recognize my love for the source material, and will be very happy with the finished result."

That won me over, until I heard word from Todd McFarlane:
"The bondage Dorothy, in my pitch, is literally an eight second scene. Just one scene of her in that."
Uh, how about none of that at all? In fact, in said interview, he mentions nothing of Olson. In fact, his story actually conflicts what Olson said:
The toys came first, and they sold really well for us. Someone in Hollywood saw them. They phoned and said, "Hey Todd, you have a pitch that you could come out here with?" And of course I went, "… Yyyesss… Yes I do…" So they said, "Oh good! Could you come in next week?" So you know sometimes you come up with your best stuff with a gun to your head. I had a week and pitched some ideas back and forth with some of the people in the office, and came up with this huge, massive Lord of the Rings epic. It actually got fairly tight and succinct.

We actually went in there and for a while had Michael Bay going around with me pitching it. We had props, visuals, toys, storyboards, posters… I made little models of the city. I think it overwhelmed them. They said that they needed 20 minutes for a pitch and I was like, "I need at least an hour and fifteen. I'm going to act out this whole movie and show you the whole thing because this movie is going to cost at least $140 million to make. I don't want you to not know what you're buying." Anyway, it took a little longer than I would have liked, but eventually someone at Warner Bros finally went, "It's crazy. It's crazy enough that it might be worth starting the process." So you're just beginning to push the boulder up the hill, but you have to get by that one where someone says they're buying it. Maybe it'll come out in a year and a half, maybe it'll go into development hell. I've seen both versions.

It sounds to me like we have two opposing creative visions. We have Olson, who wants to make an original sequel to the MGM movie using Baum's later characters, and we have McFarlane, who wants to do a new, startling "Wizard of Oz," where he says:

"So mom and grandma love Wizard of Oz? Just wait until they see this stuff. And if we ever make a movie close to that, it's going to give them a heart attack."

In my opinion, TAKE MCFARLANE OFF THE MOVIE! I don't get why Warner Brothers would hire Olson to write the script if he had something different in mind altogether? Apparently they liked what he said. If they really did like McFarlane's pitch that much, why isn't he the writer or director?

But anyways, I think we have nothing to worry about. Warner Brothers isn't going to let their Oz connection, owning one of the most classic films ever produced, be tainted by letting McFarlane give us Dorothy the Torture Queen. Just because they signed him on, movie making is very fickle. You can be in one day and out the next.

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