Wizard of Oz is public domain


Public domain means there’s a powerful property up for grabs…

So I was recently reading an article Hollywood Reporter about the new Oz the Great and Powerful, and learned that the source material is in the public domain.

Now, I should have known this… if I was a responsible screenwriter, I’d be doing that kind of research to find more sources of inspiration with cultural cache. Not that I’m lacking in concepts… but again – “cultural cache”.

But that’s another story… the important thing is, now I know this.

So that gets the brain working. I’ve got a personal attachment to this series… I learned how to read by sharing the Oz books with my mother… she’d read a paragraph, then I’d take a turn. Now, that was nearly 50 years ago, so I don’t rightly remember all the books and characters well, but perhaps it’s time to revisit them.

And of course, back in the days of 3 channels and no DVRs, we looked forward to the once annual airing of The Wizard of Oz on TV… my parents behind TV trays, and me with my face buried in the couch cushions whenever the witch was onscreen.

So what kind of re-imagining of the Oz universe could I do? Should it be a big-budget screenplay? Or an indie micro-budget interpretation? A fantasy setting, or a contemporary revisit like Romeo and Juliet? I don’t know yet, but I’m sure intrigued by the possibilities. (I do know that I’ll strive to avoid anything like SyFy’s Tin Man… that about ruined Zooey Deschanel for me.)

What public domain works strike your fancy? How would you approach them?

Where to find public domain source material:

Public Domain Reprints


Wikipedia: Public Domain Books

A Mashable listing from 2007

Project Gutenberg

University of Pennsylvania library resource

Got a favorite source for public domain research? Let us know!

4 thoughts on “Wizard of Oz is public domain

  1. I’m sure you’ve considered the risks here. For one, every single amateur screenwriter in the Universe is going to start submitting OZ scripts if they haven’t already…because they can. You certainly run the risk of being too similar to something in production. And you can only use elements from the actual books and not what most people think of as OZ canon – the MGM movie.

    Similarly there is a flood of PETER PAN projects that have either misfired or are about to assault us. Hard to bring something fresh to that and still remain true to the original. Or you end up with something absurd like NEVERLAND.

    That said, I myself am using a public domain novel, and a quite famous one, as the basis for my next project. I have to keep it somewhat hush hush since it isn’t one that is being overused right now and as it is public domain I have no way to stop anyone else from creating a competing project (another downside of this approach). My angle? A TV series “sequel” set in present day, more than a hundred years after the events of the original. I am carrying through the core idea but am creating an entirely new world and characters all my own to set events in.

    Good luck with your project. If this is your true passion, may no one stop you.

    1. Well, sure, but I also run the risk of spending years writing Deep Impact and finding out someone else wrote Armageddon at the same time. Anyway, it’s mostly just a ‘food for thought’ thing. Not sure I’m truly interested in pursuing the Oz universe… though if I did, I’d try a route like yours, with a whole new rethinking. Good luck with it!

      1. If you write Deep Impact you deserve whatever happens to you…

        I like the idea of keeping old stories alive with fresh retellings. That’s an idea as old as Homer. But OZ does seem to be getting crowded, and we haven’t even seen movie versions of the more successful/famous retellings like WICKED yet.

        All that mental real estate is going to quickly turn into a slum.

  2. Hi again, Chip. I recently reposted an article about just this over at http://www.anywherebuthollywood.com.

    It talks all about how to find public domain material, and cites Wizard of Oz in particular. I actually originally wrote that article about a year ago, and at the time there were 8 new Oz movies/TV shows in development (not counting other media – like comics, etc.).

    Personally, I love using public domain material – but only when I’m confident I can either put a truly unique and valuable spin on the material, or I can truly honor the spirit of the source material in a way that hasn’t yet been done (or both).

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