'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' Film in the Works at New Line While Warner Bros. Greenlights Animated 'Toto' Musical

Welcome to the wonderful world of public domain, where we’ll get not one, but two different Wizard of Oz projects from two different companies, based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel. New Line will tackle the source material itself with a feature adaptation of Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, while Warner Bros. will re-team with animation studio Animal Logic for an animated musical adaptation of Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz.

New Line’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz

New Line has tapped Watchmen director Nicole Kassell to helm the feature film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, following the studio’s extensive search to find a “visionary” filmmaker to “reimagine” Baum’s classic novel, according to Deadline. The outlet reports that New Line liked Kassell’s meticulous world-building in overseeing Watchmen‘s production, and her “ability to adapt challenging material.” While this material isn’t necessarily challenging, it will be a challenge to rise above the classic 1939 musical film starring Judy Garland, the legacy of which has yet to be beaten by any other adaptation.

“I am incredibly honored to join Temple Hill and New Line in bringing this beloved classic to the screen,” Kassell said in a statement. “While the 1939 musical is part of my DNA, I am exhilarated and humbled by the responsibility of re-imagining such a legendary tale. The opportunity to examine the original themes — the quest for courage, love, wisdom and home — feels more timely and urgent than ever. These are profoundly iconic shoes to fill, and I am eager to dance alongside these heroes of my childhood as we pave a newly minted yellow brick road.”

Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing with Marc Platt, and Isaac Klausner will executive produce.

Warner Bros. Toto Musical

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is just one of many film adaptations to take advantage of the story’s place in the public domain, but the classic 1939 film remains in the Warner Bros. library, which means only projects from that studio can draw on iconic imagery like the ruby slippers. Which is why it’s no surprise that Warner Bros. already has a competing Wizard of Oz project in the works, in the form of Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz, an animated musical from visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Animal Logic confirmed that the next project out of its Vancouver-based studio will be the Toto animated musical film, based on the children’s book by author Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Emma Chichester Clark. The book, published in 2017, tells the story of The Wizard of Oz from the point of view of Dorothy’s beloved dog Toto. Alex Timbers (Mozart in the Jungle) is attached to direct a screenplay by John August (Disney’s live-action Aladdin). Previous screenplay drafts of Toto were written by Darren Lemke and the writing duo of Neil Widener and Gavin James.

Animal Logic says that Toto, which will be produced by Derek Frey, is currently in pre-production.

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