Thursday, June 09, 2016

Why Isn't Warner Bros. Doing More with Oz?

The first teaser for Beauty and the Beast,
which doesn't hit theaters until March
of next year, was viewed 91,800,000
in the first 24 hours following
its debut late last month.
Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast remake is one of the most anticipated films, if not the most anticipated film, of next year. Cinderella and The Jungle Book are among the studio's most critically and financially successful films in recent years, and adaptations of Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioDumbo, Peter Pan, One Hundred and One DalmatiansWinnie the Pooh, The Sword in the Stone, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin are all currently being developed. There's even a Mary Poppins sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, slated for 2018. Meanwhile, rival studio Warner Bros., whose sibling company Turner Entertainment owns the exclusive rights to The Wizard of Oz, seems to have no immediate plans for any sort of large-scale adaptation of the beloved MGM film. While some fans ("purists," you might call them) are undoubtedly glad of this, it's definitely strange, at least from a business perspective, that Warner Bros. has not taken better advantage of the very valuable property that is The Wizard of Oz.

Pan, which reportedly cost
Warner Bros. $275 million to
produce and advertise
grossed only $128 million
worldwide in 2015.
The lackluster box office results of Warner Bros. films like Pan and Jack the Giant Slayer (and, more recently, Universal's The Huntsman: Winter's War and Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass) prove that more original, "re-imagined" fairytale adaptations are not guaranteed to be as successful as Disney's and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was six years ago, but it seems to me like a faithful remake of the MGM film, especially with a big-name cast and a high-profile director at the helm, would be a pretty safe bet for success. Such an adaptation was briefly in the cards several years ago (with Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis rumored to have been attached), but nothing ever came of it.

Over the past decade or so, a handful of Oz films have been in development at Warner Bros., many of which you can read about in detail here, but most seem to have lived rather short lives, and it's been years since we've heard of movement on any of them. The same can be said for the handful of Oz television shows that we know to have been in development at Warner Bros. in recent years, such as an animated series for the now-defunct Kids WB network and the Game of Thrones-inspired Red Brick Road for Lifetime.

The only real (but not particuarly exciting or ambitious) extensions of the Warner Bros. Oz property that have come to fruition are the direct-to-video films Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz and Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, the latter serving as a sequel of sorts to the MGM film. As of this writing, I've yet to see Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz, which is now available to own digitally but won't be available on DVD until June 21st, but I've heard surprisingly good things about it from those who have seen it. But if Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz was relatively succesful, which it must have been to warrant a sequel, then why didn't Warner Bros. treat that success as a "go-ahead" to produce strictly-Oz content (in the form of animated films or even a television series) rather than continuing to tie Oz to the Tom and Jerry franchise?

"You mean they're only going to let us be in Tom and Jerry movies?"

If Warner Bros. isn't eager to do anything with Oz on a large scale right now, then fine (I guess), but I think that they could definitely be "milking" the property much more than they are, and I think it would be smart of them to start squeezing their lemons into some lemonade, even if that for now just means something for the small screen rather than for the big one.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Warner Brothers doesn't have room for anything bright, happy, or colorful. Look at the box office returns for Batman Vs Superman (despite horrible reviews) and you'll see why they won't be eager to do anything with Oz. Who knows if they would even know what to do with it anymore? I'd be really sad if they did a "modern interpretation" of it and it was horrible, dark, and depressing.