In an announcement that seems to have come out of nowhere, Arcana Studios is producing a “steampunk re-imagining” of The Wizard of Oz in the form of The Steam Engines of Oz, an animated feature film based on a graphic novel of the same name. The film is directed by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, who co-wrote the graphic novel with Erik W. Hendrix. O’Reilly is also serving as the screenwriter and executive producer of the film and is the CEO of Arcana Studios. The film will be distributed by Cinedigm in North America and is planned for a direct-to-video release in early 2018.
O’Reilly has somehow wrangled together a mildly impressive cast for a film with such a bizarre title — Ron Perlman (Hellboy) will voice Magnus, the son of the Cowardly Lion; William Shatner (Star Trek) is Oscar “Oz” Diggs; and Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars) is Locasta, the Witch of the North. Dan Payne, Scott McNeil, Ashleigh Ball, and Matthew Clark are all involved as well, although their respective roles in the film have not yet been disclosed.
The press release, issued yesterday by Cinedigm, promises that the film “will appeal to young and old alike, and fans of Oz will not be disappointed,” but honestly, this doesn’t sound appealing to me in the slightest — and that’s saying a lot because I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people who are bigger fans of The Wizard of Oz than I am. I’m not someone who’s against the idea of remakes or “reimaginings” in general, but this sounds, for lack of a better word, bad. I haven’t read the Steam Engines of Oz graphic novel myself, but I haven’t heard great things about it from people who have.
The plot is as follows: “Set a century after Dorothy Gale first clicked her heels together, the once utopic Emerald City is now heavily industrialized and ruled by the iron fist of the once-beloved Tin Man, who has seemingly lost all heart. Oz’s only hope rests with a young engineer, Victoria Wright. With her motley team of ill-mannered munchkins, mischievous flying monkeys, and rough-housing lions, Victoria discovers that even the smallest of heroes can change the world.”
Judging by the plot synopsis, The Steam Engines of Oz actually sounds rather derivative of OZ, a comic book series published by Caliber Comics that ran through the 1990’s. I don’t love that take on The Wizard of Oz myself, but I would still rather see that adapted to film. I guess it’s just odd (and disappointing) to me that of the countless books and comic books inspired by The Wizard of Oz, this is the one that is being made into an animated film.
Amazon recently took its own trip down the animated yellow brick road with the series Lost in Oz, which I really enjoyed. There’s also Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, which is fun but geared more towards a preschool audience. The latter is produced by Warner Bros. and is exclusive to the Boomerang streaming service. So, basically, if you’re itching for an animated take on The Wizard of Oz and haven’t checked either of those out yet, you might be better off watching one of them than waiting for The Steam Engines of Oz.
It’s unclear how far along The Steam Engines of Oz is, but I’d imagine it’s at least in production already, if not post-production, if it’s going to be ready for release early next year.