We’ve been down this yellow brick road before. In 1985, Disney put out a film called Return to Oz, based on the second and third Oz books by L. Frank Baum. (The first book, of course, was out of the question, having been used for the 1939 MGM Oz film.) There was only one intellectual-property skirmish, and ultimately Disney paid MGM for the right to give Dorothy a pair of ruby slippers.
Now Disney’s about to reboot the Oz series, and Warner Bros., which controls the MGM original, is wary, says The Hollywood Reporter:
In October, Warner Bros. very quietly filed a trademark registration on “The Great and Powerful Oz.”
Why is this newsworthy? Well, Disney’s coming reboot of the story, directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, is titled Oz, the Great and Powerful. Warners filed its trademark registration only one week after Disney had filed its own.
Warners lost that battle, having been a week late, but they might ultimately win the war. Said the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year:
We agree with the district court’s conclusion that Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, and Tom and Jerry each exhibit “consistent, widely identifiable traits” in the films that are sufficiently distinctive to merit character protection under the respective film copyrights…
I do believe in law, I do, I do, I do, I do…