Since Disney dropped the bombshell that it purchased Lucasfilm, there's been much speculation about the ways The Mouse might incorporate the Star Wars empire into its theme parks. It's inevitable that we'll be seeing more of Boba Fett, Chewbaca, and the gang. Amid all the chatter about Star Wars (as well as Avatar, Transformers, and Harry Potter for that matter), I'd like to raise the possibility of another, somewhat under the radar, intellectual property that may be transformed into E-ticket attractions and overpriced drinks in souvenir mugs: The Wizard of Oz.
Have you seen the trailer for Oz The Great and Powerful, the prequel to The Wizard of Oz that Disney will be releasing in March? It looks positively stunning. With talent such as director Sam Raimi and James Franco playing the Wizard, along with what appears to be a gazillion dollar budget, it's no wonder the trailer looks stunning. Of course, mind-boggling previews don't necessarily translate into mind-blowing films. But, I'm willing to bet that Oz will be one mind-blower of a movie. If it is as successful as I believe it will be, it's all but inevitable that flying monkeys will be coming to a Disney theme park near you.
This isn't the first time that Disney tried to mine the classic film. 1985's Return to Oz was a bloated, joyless movie that went nowhere. And should The Mouse develop Oz-related attractions, it wouldn't be the first time that a theme park tried to build a yellow brick road. There have been Oz projects proposed for parks in Kansas (naturally) and Niagara Falls, to name just two.
It is one of the most beloved and popular movies and would seem to be a natural for a theme park. I'm not sure, however, that today's kids and teens are as enraptured by the Judy Garland musical as previous generations. That's why the new film, if it is truly great and powerful, could serve as a great launching pad to ignite 21st-century Oz mania (and rekindle classic Oz nostalgia) and spark demand for attractions, lands, or an entire park.
I've never been entirely sold on the prudence of developing an Avatar land at Disney's Animal Kingdom. More Star Wars? Sure. But I wouldn't be surprised -- and in fact, would look forward with great anticipation -- if Disney sends us over the rainbow to Oz. Then we can all celebrate with overpriced mugs of witch's brew.
Photo: There is a Wizard of Oz scene in The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Disney. Used with permission.