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How George Lucas Saved ‘Return to Oz’


Return to Oz, Disney’s 1985 darkish tackle Dorothy Gale (performed by a then-9-year-old Fairuza Balk), shares its artistic DNA with Star Wars. Not solely that, George Lucas saved writer-director Walter Murch‘s job after Disney fired Murch from the Oz shoot.

Lucas and Murch have been previous associates and collaborators, having met within the movie division of the College of Southern California within the mid-Nineteen Sixties.

“My first reminiscence of him was a shadowy determine behind me within the {photograph} growing room,” says Murch about Lucas on The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast It Occurred in Hollywood. “I used to be attempting unsuccessfully to develop one of many images that I had taken for an train, and there was this voice behind me that mentioned, ‘You’re doing it fallacious.’ And I circled and I mentioned, ‘Who is that this man?’ In fact, it seems he was proper. I used to be doing it fallacious. However our friendship began off on that foot.”

From there, the 2 males collaborated on a number of of Lucas’ brief movies, with Murch contributing cutting-edge sound design, till they co-wrote Lucas’ first characteristic collectively, 1971’s THX 1138.

They later moved from Los Angeles to California’s Bay Space, the place they established American Zoetrope studio with Francis Ford Coppola, and Murch went on to work on such landmark Coppola movies as 1972’s The Godfather, 1974’s The Dialog and 1979’s Apocalypse Now (for which he received an Oscar for greatest sound and was nominated for an Oscar for greatest modifying).

By the early Nineteen Eighties, Murch was coming off the success of the Coppola-produced The Black Stallion, which he co-wrote. Disney was additionally watching the success of the Star Wars franchise very fastidiously, and they also approached Murch, in search of new concepts.

He proposed making a sequel to The Wizard of Oz — however not a musical, just like the Judy Garland-starring predecessor from 1939, however one which hewed nearer to the unique L. Frank Baum books, which Murch adored as a baby.

Disney greenlit the challenge, and Murch enlisted a number of members of the Star Wars manufacturing design crew to assist convey Oz again to life — amongst them Norman Reynolds, the legendary manufacturing designer on the unique trilogy in addition to 1981’s Raiders of the Misplaced Ark and 1978’s Superman.

Artwork director Fred Gap had labored on 1983’s Return of the Jedi earlier than becoming a member of the Oz crew, and set decorator Michael Ford had labored on Jedi and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Bacok. Oz additionally featured Brian Henson creating and manipulating its puppet creatures, together with Jack Pumpkinhead (which Henson voices) and Bilina the rooster. (Henson’s father, Jim Henson, had been approached to create Yoda for Empire Strikes Again however was busy and handed the provide on to Frank Oz, who voiced and puppeteered the creature, created by make-up artist Stuart Freeborn).

5 weeks into manufacturing, the flowery and technically advanced shoot started to fall behind its schedule, and Disney, disapproving of the footage it had seen, fired Murch from the challenge.

When Lucas caught wind of the event, he flew from Japan to the movie’s London set to induce Disney to place Murch again on the movie. He used himself as collateral, telling executives that if Murch did not ship the movie as promised and on time, he would see to it himself that Return to Oz got here to fruition. The assembly satisfied Disney to rehire Murch.

Be taught extra concerning the making of Return to Oz on It Occurred to Hollywood.




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