Monday, November 4, 2013

STEPPING INTO OZ


The Wizard of OZ: The 75th Anniversary in 3D
Reviewed by Jared Kenwood
On September 20th Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX theatres joined together to present for one week only, in honor of its 75th anniversary “The Wizard of OZ,” re-mastered and for the first time transferred to 3D. The celebration of the films anniversary includes a 25 million dollar promotional campaign including: McDonalds Happy Meals, Simon Mall events, QVC specials, character appearances in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade and a brand new 3D blu release for home entertainment.

Nearly 75 years ago Judy Garland skipped down the Yellow Brick Road as the Kansas farm girl, Dorothy Gale. Could anyone have ever predicted that after all those years millions of people all over the world would still adore the film today? On June 4th when Warner announced in a press release that they planned to release the film in 3D, there were initially a lot of mixed opinions from many moviegoers. The Wizard of OZ in one of the most beloved films in cinema history, and well protected. The concern with converting OZ to 3D was whether or not it would be damaging to the films legacy? Would the film be altered or ruined?  Would its everlasting value that has made it withstand the test of time diminish?  
Despite these original concerns, The Wizard of OZ: An IMAX 3D Experience has been released and played in select IMAX theaters across the country proving to be quite successful. Many have praised the fine 3D work. You literally feel as though you are in the house that lands on the Wicked Witch, as though you are standing in front of the great and powerful OZ himself, or actually being attacked by flying monkeys. Joe Shipbaugh, age 26 who has been a lifelong OZ fan and regularly attends OZ festivals all over the country shares with readers, “I grew up watching The Wizard of OZ. Sometimes two or three times a day. With every rerelease of the film, I was convinced they couldn’t make it any better. The 75th anniversary restoration of the film does just that. While watching the movie on the big screen and in 3D, it was as if I were there in OZ. This American Icon should easily last another 75 years and beyond.”


The process of turning OZ into a 3D film took a team of a thousand people from Warner Bros. In a new documentary, The Wizard of OZ: IMAX Behind The Frame, many of those responsible for bringing OZ to 3D discuss this long and careful process. “The original film elements had to be scanned so that they were sharp,” says Janet Wilson, Digital Colorist at Warner Bros. “ and then all the dirt and scratches and to be cleaned off, all the imperfections that had built up over the years from the handling of these elements had to be taken out digitally.”
 Then a lot of layering had to be done to the film to create the 3D effect. Chris Del Conte from Prime Focus discusses later in the documentary, “ A lot of layering was done from when it was shot in 1939. We had to isolate a lot of different objects, and in 3D when we layer them, make sure that things that were closest to the camera have a lot more volume and as they fell away they were a lot less. That way to the eye it seemed natural, as if you were standing on the set. Being on such a large screen and being in 3D is literally going to put you into OZ.”  
The Wizard of OZ was filmed by MGM in 1939 and directed by Victor Fleming. Based on the book by L. Frank Baum, the story continues to touch the lives of many people. In the new issue of Life magazine, dedicated completely to the OZ anniversary and on stands now, there is a quote from film critic, Roger Ebert on why we continue to watch The Wizard of OZ. “It’s underlying story penetrates straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood, stirs them and then reassures them.” 
Although the Imax showing of OZ lasted for one week only, on October 1st Warner released a new 3D version in stores along with a new standard Blu ray and DVD.


For anyone interested in reading more about OZ, a new book titled: The Wonderful World of OZ by author John Fricke will be released on November 7th.  This new book will not only detail the making of the MGM film but will also chronicle the history of OZ from it’s original 1900 publication to the Broadway success of the musical Wicked. John Fricke is a two time Emmy Award winning producer and historian on the subject of OZ and the career of Judy Garland.


This article has been written in memory of Margaret Pellegrini, who played the Munchkin with a flowerpot on her head in the movie and often attended Wizard of OZ festivals. She passed away at age 89 on August 7th.

Jared Kenwood is a longtime member of The Judy Garland Experience Yahoo group and our Facebook outlets, this is his second article for TJGE blog. His first was an exclusive interview with Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft!

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