Something wicked and wonderful this way comes as Walt Disney Pictures dishes out the interesting trivia about the making of its highly anticipated 3D fantasy adventure, “Oz the Great and Powerful” starring James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis. Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” trilogy) directs.
In the film, when Oscar Diggs (Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Kunis), Evanora (Weisz) and Glinda (Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.
Re-imagining. “Oz The Great and Powerful” imagines the origins of the beloved wizard, who debuted in author L. Frank Baum’s first book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Baum, who wrote 14 novels between 1900-1920, all set in the fantasyland he so vividly created, never fully portrayed the wizard’s background. “Oz The Great and Powerful” is a cinematic prequel to Baum’s books, offering a unique movie-going experience. Although some of the characters in “Oz The Great and Powerful” are familiar from L. Frank Baum’s books, they have been reimagined, plus there are many never-seen-before characters in the film, such as China Girl and the Quadlings.
Yellow Brick Road. The fantasy world of “Oz The Great and Powerful” was brought to life by Academy Award®–winning production designer Robert Stromberg. In all, Stromberg designed 24 full sets plus several partial sets, bringing the total to around 30. Stromberg created such iconic sets as the famed Yellow Brick Road and Emerald City, all freshly designed and imagined, along with such highly anticipated, new designs as the witch’s Throne Room, the Whimsie Woods (where Oz meets Theodora), the Dark Forest, which introduces Glinda the good witch in the story, and China Town, whose inhabitants are made up entirely of porcelain.
Magic tricks. James Franco had to learn magic tricks in order to accurately portray his small-time, circus magician character. He came to set two weeks early so he could work with Las Vegas magician Lance Burton. Working every day, Franco learned tricks involving doves and fire as well as how to pull objects out of hats and how to make things levitate.
Costumes. The production hired German artist and illustrator Michael Kutsche to bring the witches’ looks and worlds, as envisioned by production designer Robert Stromberg, to reality. Kutsche conceptualized the witches’ costumes as well and serves as a costume designer on the film along with Gary Jones. The latter and his team embarked on an ambitious project to clothe over 1500 actors, from the smallest Munchkin to the tallest Winkie, over a 23-week period. For the principal characters alone—Oz, Theodora, Glinda and Evanora—there were well over 200 pieces.
Sole suit. James Franco has only one costume in the film—the three-piece suit that Oz is wearing when he is hurled away from Kansas. But veteran costume designer Gary Jones carefully researched the era from 1880-1930 to design the perfect suit. He then met with Franco in New York City to show him vintage photos from the turn-of-the-century that ultimately inspired his final design—a black cutaway suit.
Gold coins. There are over 3,000 props used in “Oz The Great and Powerful,” with 1400 of them manufactured specifically for the film. These do not include the 5000 coins Prop master Russell Bobbitt had made especially to fill Oz’s treasure chest. One side of the coin is stamped with an image of the Yellow Brick Road and on the other side there is an image of author L. Frank Baum.
Dark forest. Greensman Dan Gillooly was very resourceful in finding natural elements in the Detroit suburbs that would enhance the sets in “Oz The Great and Powerful.” Scouting the area, he came across an orchard full of dead peach trees and used the limbs to create the spooky Dark Forest. Another find that added to the texture and vibe of the Dark Forest were thistles, which came from a nearby field he found in his countryside ramblings.
Opening across the Philippines on March 7, 2013, “Oz The Great and Powerful” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.