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February 23, 2013

113 years in the land of Oz: A look at the wizard’s world

Posted in: Fans,Movies

1900: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Original book art from 1900.

1900: An illustration by W. W. Denslow from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." a 1900 children's novel by L. Frank Baum. (Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library)

1919: "The Magic of Oz" by L. Frank Baum was published after his death. (www.rareozbooks.com)

1925: In this silent film, "The Wizard of Oz" scarecrow-director Larry Semon, shushes a cowardly lion played by Spencer Bell. (Silent Movie Theatre)

1939: A scene from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." (Distributed by Warner Bros.Photo/Art)

1939: A scene from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." (Distributed by Warner Bros.Photo/Art)

1939: A scene from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz." (Distributed by Warner Bros.Photo/Art)

1978: Diana Ross, center, as Dorothy, Michael Jackson, right, as Scarecrow, and Nipsey Russell as Tinman perform during filming of the musical "The Wiz." Ted Ross, portraying the Lion, is partly hidden behind Russell. (Associated Press)

2003: Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel in a scene from the original Broadway musical production of "Wicked.'' (Joan Marcus/Associated Press)

2005: A publicity still from the 2005 television movie "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," starring Ashanti as Dorothy. (ABC)

2005: A scene from the 2005 television movie "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," starring Ashanti as Dorothy. (ABC)

2005: A scene from the 2005 television movie "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," starring Ashanti as Dorothy. (ABC)

2013: A scene from "Oz: The Great and Powerful." (Disney Enterprises)

2013: A scene from "Oz: The Great and Powerful." The film follows a magician from Kansas who accidentally lands in Oz and encounters all manner of creatures. (Disney Enterprises)

2013: Mila Kunis and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful." (Merie Weismiller Wallace / Disney Enterprises)

“Oz:  The Great and Powerful” opens in theaters on March 8 — more than 100 years after the beloved children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” first introduced the world to the magical land of Oz and its “humbug” wizard.

Directed by Sam Raimi, “Oz: The Great and Powerful”  tells the story of how the wizard of Oz, (James Franco) arrived in this marvelous land  in the first place. It is just the latest in a long series of movies, television shows, novels and even ballets to play off the world created by L. Frank Baum — a place where monkeys fly, trees talk and witches are both good and bad.

Baum was actually the first person to adapt his popular children’s novel for a different medium. He published “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900 and by 1903, he had co-written a musical based on the book. The show, billed as a “musical extravaganza” where the poppies were played by showgirls, was aimed primarily at adults and was a huge success,  touring the country for about a  decade.

After the success of his first Oz book, and the show, Baum went on to write 13 more novels set in the land of Oz, plus a book of short stories, to satiate his young fans who kept begging him for more tales from Oz.

A century later, fans young and old are still clamoring for more Oz stories. So what is it about the world that Baum created that has endured for so long?

Angelica Carpenter, a former president of the International Wizard of Oz Club said that for her, it comes down to Baum’s creativity.

“The basic story is the basic fantasy adventure that you hear repeated across many cultures,” she said. “An orphan sets off walking in a rural landscape, having adventures, meeting danger, finding helpful friends, and eventually returning to where she came from changed and enriched by her experience. But Baum was so creative, and made such wonderful characters with the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow.”

She added: “It was the quintessential American tale when he first wrote it, and I think that is still true.”

Above, we’ve put together a look at some of the ways Baum’s iconic characters, and the land of Oz itself,  have been interpreted over the years including a look at the 1925 silent movie version of the story and a 2008 look at the Muppets’ interpretation.

ALSO:

‘Wizard of Oz,’ still magical after 70 years

‘Oz’: Teaser, character posters hint at Sam Raimi’s lavish vision

Composing wizard Danny Elfman talks sweeping, gigantic ‘Oz’ score


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