16 March 2013 4:45 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

How Disney mounted a stealthy raid on the Wizard of Oz story, unbeknown to Warner Bros, who own rights to MGM original

The race to re-imagine and spin off the most watched and possibly most beloved film in Hollywood history began in secrecy and with a codeword: Brick.

The Walt Disney Company did not own rights to the original 1939 The Wizard of Oz movie but moved stealthily to mount an audacious raid on the story and leave a rival studio flat-footed.

The result, Oz the Great and Powerful, has dominated the box office since its release last week, garnering over $80m domestically and $70m abroad, the third-biggest March opening ever, and prompting buzz about a sequel, a theme park ride and merchandising.

Warner Bros, which owns the rights to the MGM-made original, had mulled three big screen spin-offs but dozed while Disney tip-toed into production with director Sam Raimi and actor James Franco, »

- Rory Carroll

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