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March 8, 2013

Disney bets audiences are ready to return

(Continued)

The success of Roth and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” in 2010 further convinced Disney that there was room for an effects-era version of a classic. “Oz” — fittingly — was greenlit.

The finished film has Diggs on the run from the wicked witches — Weisz evils things up using her native British accent, noting in an interview she thought about slipping in an American one to show her character was posing — and meeting his own band of misfits along the way. (They include a Zach Braff-voiced monkey who becomes his sidekick and a miniature porcelain character named China Girl, fleshed out from a Baum allusion.)

Ultimately, Diggs must call upon his skills as a magician to create a sleight of hand to defeat the witches. In a clever inversion, the wizard is now the one who must muster courage, find a heart and locate his brains, with Glinda helping him along the way.

“Like the Wizard, we wanted the Glinda character to struggle,” said Williams, who read most of Baum’s books before shooting, transcribing notes and thoughts in a “Glinda notebook.” “There’s no discovery if there’s no struggle,” she added of her character, a heroine to the misfits of Oz.

Filmgoers will be quick to note “Oz’s” look. Production designer Robert Stromberg, no stranger to big effects from movies like “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” wanted to go a different route than he did on those movies and avoid green screens when possible. He and Raimi had seven soundstages, some the size of football fields, built across metro-area Detroit, the un-Oz-like place where the movie was shot, for tax-incentive purposes. The results can be seen in the film — especially in its piece de resistance opening, which uses a black-and-white palette and a smaller aspect ratio to heighten the old-timey vibe.

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