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March 8, 2013

Disney bets audiences are ready to return

(Continued)

“It’s amazing that young people see Oz differently than people in their 40s and 50s, who understand it as something more pure,” said the curator, Taylor White.

Baum’s work has that malleability. “Oz Reimagined” co-editor Douglas Cohen believes that Oz has endured because it contains something resonant for each era: an Emerald City that spoke to the immigration-heavy early 1900s, a Technicolor world that appealed to a 1930s America looking to leave the Depression behind and perhaps in the failed acquisitiveness of Dorothy and her friends, even a message about the illusions of modern consumerism. “In a way it’s less that Oz changes with the times as it is us changing with Oz,” he said.

Or as “Wicked” author Gregory Maguire writes, “Oz is nonsense; Oz is musical; Oz is satire; Oz is fantasy ... Oz is obvious; Oz is secret.”

All of that leads to some people wanting a piece of Oz — also literally. Victor Fleming’s Bel-Air estate is currently up for sale with a tag of $29.5 million. In November, an unidentified buyer paid nearly half a million dollars at auction for the blue gingham dress Garland wore.

It’s a telling fact, if one Disney would prefer to ignore, that most Oz movies don’t find their audience right away; there’s something to the property that makes the coming back enjoyable.

And if a return yields new insight, all the better, say those behind this film. “We want you to learn something about a classic we didn’t understand before,” Raimi said. “This is a character we know and a story we don’t know.” It’s a complexity befitting “The Wizard of Oz.”

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