By Steven Zeitchik
1:44 PM CST, January 28, 2013
Sunday night’s SAG Awards broadcast featured a sneak peek of Disney’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” showing the black-and-white world of James Franco’s Kansas huckster morphing into color when the soon-to-be-wizard lands in Oz.
It’s one of several previews — or previews to previews — that will air for the big-budget prequel in the coming days. This Sunday, Disney will air a spot during the Super Bowl and has seen fit to tease that teaser with its own online video.
The short spot, which you can watch in the adjacent video, shows little more than the wizard’s arrival in Oz after a stormy ride in a hot-air balloon. But the weather-related incident may well be enough to tickle Emerald City-philes with its evocation of Dorothy’s own tornado-themed arrival in the magical land.
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Based on L. Frank Baum’s turn-of-the-20th-century novels, Sam Raimi’s new movie features Franco as the small-time circus type who remakes himself as a wizard, along with Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams as witches and more than 70 minutes of new music from noted composer and sometime-Raimi collaborator Danny Elfman.
They’re part of one of the more unusual pedigrees for a Hollywood tent pole in recent memory — see under: Zach Braff costarring as the wizard’s assistant or Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsey-Abaire coming in to tackle the original script from “The Whole Nine Yards” writer Mitchell Kapner.
Disney’s March 8 release is meant to follow in the footsteps of another fairy-tale story with a young female protagonist, Tim Burton’s massively successful “Alice in Wonderland,” in the same month three years ago. (A-list producer Joe Roth is behind both; he got this movie going shortly after “Alice” became a mega-blockbuster.)
That film was derided by some critics for an over-reliance on computer-generated imagery, but from the material released so far, there’s a more subtle palette here, both modern and harking back to the Victor Fleming-directed musical many fans would know.
It’s a moment when modern spins on classic characters have become huge hits (see under: "Skyfall," and nearly every Marvel character known to man).
Still, there’s a desire by Disney to put some distance between its film and the 1939 MGM musical, which is under copyright and thus not the basis for this film — and, given its classic, status, not a film that principals would be well-served aligning themselves with. As Braff told The Times of "The Wizard of Oz," "It's one of the most treasured movies of all time, but Sam has the luxury of not trying to remake that movie."
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