We all know about Spawn creator Todd McFarlane‘s hopes to bring a dark and twisted new vision of the classic L. Frank Baum story, The Wizard of Oz, to the big screen, but so far, as he talked to MTV recently about, no one has been able to construct a script that has gained the approval of McFarlane’s vision. The latest to attempt the project was by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson, but even his finished product was what McFarlane referred to as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — meaning far too light for his dark vision. The purpose in all of this is to aim at young people, mainly in their 20s, and McFarlane’s pitch to executives clearly stated “Number one: you have to turn off the switch to the  MGM movie. If you don’t turn off that switch, almost everything I’m about to say will not make sense to you.”
This isn’t to say that he wants nothing to do with the classic film; he ensures people that there will be plenty of recognizable elements to his movie, even though it will be so incredibly different and unique. As the source story best put it, McFarlane is not out to turn the story into a movie — that’s been done before — but to be inspired by it. Keep in mind, the 1939 Judy Garland film was nowhere near the first telling of the story. The near 110-year-old book was printed in 1900, and much like The Maltese Falcon, there were multiple movies made before the classic was born. There were films made in 1910, 1914, 1925, and 1932, including another in 1921 that was never completed.
Click over for a brief story description from McFarlane himself AND to actually watch the near 100-year-old first silent film and others, just in case you’ve never had the joy.
Here’s a brief description of what this twisted new Oz would look like:
In mine, [Dorothy is] up in the Antarctic, and there’s bad weather. The point is that when you’re in bad weather in a shitty place up north, it is completely gray. That would be our ‘black & white [sequence].’ Then she falls into her Shangri-La, called Oz, where suddenly everything’s in color.
There’s still a thing called Toto, except its the biggest thing in the movie and not the smallest thing. [The beast called Toto] basically ate the first dog, and it’s this big thing that [the inhabitants of Oz] ride. They’ve given this generic word… so instead of horses, [people] ride Totos.
Even though McFarlane has not got the dark and likely scary draft of a script that’s he’s hoping for, he’s also not completely closed to compromise. He knows that he’s going to have to bend and break in certain places in order to see this movie finally get made, but he doesn’t plan on sacrificing the crucial stuff.
My understanding is that [the studio] thought we went a little too conservative, so somebody else is taking a crack at [the script] now. We’re never going to get as crazy as I wanted, so I have to accept that. My pitch is fairly radical, if you will. If you’re 22 years old, it’s not radical. If you’re an executive, it’s radical.
I just found it odd that they bought that cool, creepy [‘Twisted Land of Oz’ pitch] and now they’re taking a step back.
I think the first script was just a little soft for them. I’ve always been a believer that the reason remakes don’t work is that they stay too true to the source material. Hopefully we’ll have a new script in the next month or two, and then we’ll be a lot closer to seeing whether it will grab some true momentum or whether we’re heading into development hell here.
I can appreciate the importance of the 1939 film in cinematic history, but that story and that world is just prime for countless numbers of reinventions, especially with today’s technologies. The obvious name you think of is Tim Burton, and if I had the call, it’d be his vision that I would want to see be made. But I will certainly embrace the chance to see a unique take like McFarlane’s if it ever gets produced.
Here is the short 1910 film entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; it is the first movie made from Baum’s story. You can also see videos from the 1914 version, and the 1925 version, if you wish it so.