With all the "Star Wars"-related news coming out of the Walt Disney camp these days, many folks (including this writer) probably forgot about director Sam Raimi's shiny, big budget "Wizard of Oz" prequel, "Oz: The Great and Powerful." Well, in case you had forgotten about "Oz," a brand-new trailer for the movie appeared online on Wednesday as a helpful reminder that the "Spider-Man" director has still got it.
Based on the books of children's author L. Frank Baum and set well before Dorothy and her dog's more famous journey to the Land of Oz, the film stars James Franco as small time carnival magician Oscar Driggs -- the man destined to become the ruler of the fantastic country. Upon his stormy arrival in Oz, Driggs meets a trio of witches (two good and one bad, played by Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz, respectively) who are fighting over the future of Yellow Brick wizardom.
Interestingly enough, Franco wasn't Sam Raimi's first choice for the role of the Wizard, despite having previously worked with him on three "Spider-Man" movies. The director had originally pegged cinema "Iron Man" Robert Downey Jr. for the part. After Downey turned down the role, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton reportedly flirted with the project before Disney apparently reconsidered and Raimi locked Franco for the magical role.
Speaking of Burton, if "Oz" gives you a bit of an "Alice in Wonderland" vibe, that's probably not a coincidence. For one, the original Baum children's books were very much influenced by author Lewis Carroll's "Wonderland" tales, but the Disney fantasy adventure is also being produced by Joe Roth, the man behind the curtain of Tim Burton's Carroll adaptation. While the 3D "Alice" was a huge hit at the box office, it didn't fare too well with critics. Here's hoping Raimi's movie has a little more luck in that department.
"Alice in Wonderland" and "Oz: The Great and Powerful" also share some similarities as far as marketing materials go, as one observant Reddit user pointed out. A quick look at the posters for the two films shows some pretty striking similarities.
It's safe to say that Disney knows its audience very well.
"Oz: The Great and Powerful" is due in theatres March 8, 2013.