Oz News

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(I will update this page when there is news to tell. Any news older than a year is dropped at the next update. If you have news to report, please e-mail me.)

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(For more Oz news, check out The Daily Ozmopolitan. For the latest Oz not-quite-news, see the Rumor Control section of this page.)

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June 6, 2018: Jerry Maren 1920-2018

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Veteran character actor Jerry Maren died today at his home in San Diego. He was 98 years old. Born Gerard Marenghi in Boston, Jerry took to show business early, taking dance lessons and getting noticed. (Contrary to popular belief, Maren did not appear in the all-little people Western musical, The Terror of Tiny Town.) He was finally beckoned to Hollywood to appear as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz after graduating high school, thus beginning his acting career. He garnered worldwide fame as the middle member of the Lollipop Guild, dressed in green, who handed the lollipop to Dorothy. While The Wizard of Oz may have been his most famous role, his career was just warming up. His next part was opposite the Marx Brothers in At the Circus, and he also worked with Our Gang and Hope and Crosby (as a chimpanzee) in Road to Morocco. He was also a walking "body double" for both Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, and other stunts and doubles through the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was also one of the titular aliens in the Superman serial, Superman and the Mole-Men, with George Reeves. When television took off, Jerry was all over the place, as a regular on The Andy Williams Show and a guest star on such shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, Star Trek, Bewitched, The Wild, Wild West, Julia, Get Smart, The Odd Couple, and Here's Lucy. He also played a child ape in the original Planet of the Apes and many characters on Sid & Marty Krofft shows. In advertising, he played Buster Brown, Little Oscar the chef for Oscar Meyer, and many denizens of McDonaldland. He never quite got away from Oz, often guest-starring in stage productions, and appearing as Munchkins in both Under the Rainbow and a The Dreamer of Oz, as well as appearing at Oz festivals and conventions around the country. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Elizabeth. He was the last surviving little person who portrayed a Munchkin.


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May 13, 2018: Margot Kidder 1948-2018

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Margot Kidder, the actress best known for her iconic portrayal of Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeves as Superman in four movies in the 1970s and '80s, passed away today at the age of 69. Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, a trip to New York City set her on her career path when she saw a performance of Bye Bye Birdie. She worked extensively in both Canada and the United States, but her big break was playing Lois Lane in the first Superman movie, released in 1978. Her career stalled in the '90s, however, as she struggled with personal problems and mental illness, but she managed to turn herself around and kept working, even after becoming an American citizen in 2005 and moving to Montana. Among her many credits, Oz fans remember her as the narrator of the movie compilation versions of the Cinar animated series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


April 23, 2018: The Baum Bugle Winter 2017 issue

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The latest issue of The Baum Bugle, and the final issue for the 2017 membership year, has been sent out to members of the International Wizard of Oz Club. The final issue of John Fricke's placeholder year as editor, he goes out with a bang with this 76-page bumper issue that includes a look back at fifteen years of Wicked on Broadway; the discovery of a serialization of The Lost Princess of Oz through the Wonderland of Oz newspaper strip of the 1930's; the sixtieth anniversary of the International Wizard of Oz Club; a headstone for Jack Snow's previously unmarked grave; and the new book edition of Bibliographia Baumiana. More details will be added here in the coming days.



March 8, 2018: Dorothy Barrett 1917-2018

Dorothy Barrett, a long-time contract player during the Golden Age of Hollywood, died today in Studio City, California. She was 101 years old. In 1939, while working at MGM, she appeared in Gone with the Wind, The Women, and as a manicurist in the Wash and Brush Up Co. in the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. She was performing on vaudeville circuits at the age of seven, and appeared in many shows on Broadway before Hollywood beckoned. Later in life, she became a dance and performance teacher, and worked with many students. As late as 2016, she was active in the Studio City performing arts community. She will be interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

(Information courtesy The Telegraph and Legacy.com.)



December 4, 2017: Lost in Oz Nominated For Annie Award

Nominations for the Annie Awards, the highest honor given in the animation industry, were announced today. Lost in Oz, the Amazon Prime series that has already won three Emmy awards, was nominated as Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production For Children. It's competition is Buddy Thunderstruck, Niko and the Sword of Light, Tangled: The Series, and We Bare Bears. You can see the entire list of nominees at http://www.annieawards.org/nominees. The forty-fifth Annie Awards will be presented February 3, 2018 in Los Angeles.

(UPDATE: February 3, 2018: The Annie for Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children went to We Bare Bears.)


November 7, 2017: The Baum Bugle, Autumn 2017 and Oziana 2017

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The latest issue of The Baum Bugle, the International Wizard of Oz Club's journal, is making its way to members now. This issue looks back at The Lost Princess of Oz, celebrating its centennial this year; and the recent television series Emerald City and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, among other topics.


In this issue:


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Also available today is the 2017 edition of Oziana, the International Wizard of Oz Club's literary magazine. In this issue:
  • David Bishop provides the front cover illustration, entitled On the Shores of Skeezer Lake".
  • Jack Pumpkinhead is having a bad day in "Angry Jack" by Sara Philips, illustrated by Emilee Philips.
  • A stream-of-consciousness recollection of Scraps entitled "Patchworked Memory", written and illustrated by Grace Willey.
  • Dorothy learns more about her first trip to Oz in "The Road Not Taken" by E. J. Hagadorn, with illustrations by Dennis Anfuso.
  • Red Reera the Yookoohoo doesn't want another visit from Ervic in "Unsociable" by S. A. Samuelson, illustrated by David Bishop.
  • Grace Willey's back cover is entitled "Button Bright Finds a Peach Pit".

Unlike The Baum Bugle, which is sent only to Club members, anyone can buy Oziana just by going right here.


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August 5, 2017: The L. Frank Baum Memorial Award

This evening, the International Wizard of Oz Club presented it's highest award, the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award, to Scott Cummings. Cummings served as editor of the Club's journal, The Baum Bugle, for many years, producing some of its most memorable issues. He is also a tireless researcher who keeps finding out new things about Oz, and frequent con chair (including this year's National Oz Convention in the Chicago area). Congratulations, Scott!

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July 26, 2017: June Foray, 1917-2017

Perhaps the greatest and most prolific of voice actors, June Foray passed away today at the age of 99 (only 54 days short of her 100th birthday). Although still working well into her nineties, Foray had been in declining health the last two years, particularly after a 2015 auto accident. Anyone who has ever watch cartoons probably has heard her voice. Among her many, many roles were Lucifer the Cat in Cinderella (her first voiceover job) and Grandmother Fa in Mulan for Disney; Granny, Witch Hazel, and Miss Prissy for Warner Bros.; Splinter and Knothead in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons; Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas; and stints in shows ranging from Mr. Magoo to The Simpsons. She was even the voice of Betty Rubble in the original pilot for The Flintstones, and Talky Tina in the "Living Doll" episode of The Twilight Zone (a take-off on her earlier work as the voice of the original Chatty Cathy doll). She will probably be best known, however, for her work with Jay Ward, where she voiced Nell in Dudley Do-Right, Ursula in George of the Jungle, Marigold in Tom Slick, and Rocky the Squirrel and Natasha Fatale in The Bullwinkle Show. Among her credits was the 1967-68 MGM anthology series Off to See the Wizard, in which June was the voice of Dorothy (as seen in the clip below) and the Wicked Witch of the West, alongside fellow voiceover icons Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, and Don Messick.

Among her other achievements, she started the Hollywood chapter of the Association Internationale du Film d'Animation (which later made her the recipient of its first June Foray Award); helped create the Annie Awards, which she later won two of; lobbied the Oscars to include a category for animated features; and has won the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, the Inkpot Award, and both an Emmy and the Governor's Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

She was often compared to the equally prolific Mel Blanc, but the legendary cartoon producer Chuck Jones (who was in charge of the animated segments of Off to See the Wizard) said, "June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray."

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July 1, 2017: The 2017 Winkie Award

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OzCon International gave its highest award tonight, for contributions to the convention and Oz in general, to John Fricke. The award-winning author and Oz and Judy Garland expert has contributed to many programs and events at the convention for over thirty years, despite being an infrequent visitor to the west coast. Congratulations to John!

(Photo courtesy Sam Milazzo.)

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Rumor Control

(Because of the many questions I am asked about possible forthcoming Oz projects or other bits of pseudo-news, I have added this section to answer some of these inquiries.)


There is now a release date for the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical version of Wicked: December 20, 2019. This is still subject to change, but an announced date is a good sign. Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book of the play, is working on the script, and the composer, Stephan Schwartz, is arranging the music (and probably writing a new song or two). No casting announcements have been made yet.


Reports of Jerry Maren's death on February 29, 2016, are false. The last little person to play a Munchkin in The Movie, he is still alive and kicking and, unlike the reports saying it, does not have cancer.


Okay, yes, word has leaked out that Warner Bros. tried to talk Robert Zemeckis into directing a remake of The Wizard of Oz, using the same screenplay as the famous 1939 Judy Garland version. Zemeckis already rejected the idea. This probably puts the idea on the back burner for a while, and based on the extreme negative reaction the idea got, I suspect it will stay there. Rumors of this have surfaced again, but appear to be the result of someone finding the old story and running it again.


It's getting harder and harder to keep up with all of the currently planned Oz movie and television projects. Bear in mind that at this stage, most of it is speculation and/or not even in pre-production, or possibly even a game of "Telephone". But here are some of the current Oz movies that could be coming to your local theater in the next few years:

  • The Road to Oz, a movie biopic about the life of L. Frank Baum and how he created Oz, starring Eddie Redmayne as Frank. (See reports here and here.)
  • Dark Oz 3-D, based on the old Caliber comic book.
  • A non-musical, faithful adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from New Line and Temple Hill.
  • The Oz Wars, which would have the witches fighting for control of the Emerald City while the Wizard leads the resistance.
  • John Boorman's animated adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz seems to be on track for release — in France. Once it's released, an English-language release will likely come out soon afterwards. (However, in a recent interview, Boorman admitted that the project has stalled due to lack of funding.)
  • Oz: Return to the Emerald City was one of two possible competing projects at Warner Bros. This original sequel may now be shopped around to other studios, or turned into a novel.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a low-budget independent production from Barnyard Studios and Used Productions. This is very much a shoestring production, which is looking for money and actors. But its Kickstarter campaign to raise the last money it needed was a success, so it may be finished soon.
  • Legend of Oz, a modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz from Valley Wind Productions in Ottawa.
  • Oz, a new telling of The Wizard of Oz.
  • A still unnamed horror movie set in the 1920s with Dorothy meeting Alice in Bedlam Asylum.
  • Young Santa., based on L. Frank Baum's book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and directed by Sean McNamara.
  • How the Wizard Came to Oz, based on two books by Donald Abbott.
  • Not entirely Oz, strictly speaking, but the Judy Garland biography Get Happy may be made into a movie, featuring Anne Hathaway as Garland.

And it's not limited to movies any more. In development for television:

  • Red Brick Road, a television series continuation of The Wizard of Oz in the style of Game of Thrones. The latest word is that this is being developed for the Lifetime channel.
  • Dorothy, an Oz-themed medical drama in development at CBS
  • Dorothy Must Die, in which Dorothy has returned to Oz and become a dictator, in development at the CW. This would be based on the book series of the same name.
  • Warriors of Oz, a post-apocalyptic version in development at Syfy.
  • A Wicked television miniseries, based on the original book (not the stage musical). Salma Hayak was attached to this as a producer. When last heard of, it was under development at ABC.

No, Peter Jackson is not producing or directing a billion-dollar all-CGI remake of The Wizard of Oz for Warner Bros. How do stories like this get started? Oh, maybe in stories like this...


In recent years, there have been proposals for other Oz or related projects, none of which now appear that they will get off the ground. Among them:

  • Lost in Oz, a series that was to feature Melissa George as a Kansas university student who is whisked to Oz sixty years after the events of The Wizard of Oz (The Movie) and helping to spearhead a rebellion against the new Wicked Witch of the West. Although developed for the WB and a pilot film produced, it was never picked up, nor the pilot shown. (But keep an eye out on auction sites, as a bootleg DVD sometimes shows up…)
  • A telelvision miniseries based on Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked, with Demi Moore in the title role. (There are stories that the people developing this version later pushed their involvement into the musical version now playing on Broadway and elsewhere.)
  • The O. Z., a hip-hop flavored re-telling of The Wizard of Oz for Fox. Among the rumored Dorothy's at one point were Brandy, Mya, and the late Aaliyah. Justin Timberlake, John Leuizamo, and Little Richard were mentioned for other parts.
  • Surrender Dorothy. Drew Barrymore as Dorothy's great-granddaughter coming to Oz, and battling the Wicked Witch of the West's granddaughter. (Rumors of this recently resurfaced, but were quickly squelched. This project is dead.)
  • Somewhere starring Elizabeth Taylor as Dorothy, now a grandmother, returning to Oz. The deaths of both Taylor and developer Rod Steiger means this is unlikely to ever happen.
  • Pamela West, where the Wicked Witch is the innocent victim and Dorothy (with Toto as a pit bull) is the evil interloper.
  • The Land of Oz (not based on the book of the same name), produced by Hallmark for NBC. This eventually became the basis for the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Tin Man.
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from Circa Pictures. It's no longer listed on their website.
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from Hyde Park Entertainment and Toonz Entertainment.
  • A Bollywood adaptation of The Wizard of Oz in India.
  • A movie version of American McGee's (later cancelled) Oz video game.
  • Geoff Ryman's Was.

If progress is made on any of these projects, such as actually going into production or a release date announced, the news will be posted as quickly as possible on this page. But at this stage, any of these going into production is very unlikely. (However, Tin Man was part of this list for some time before its eventual completion and broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel.)

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