Sept. 15 was family day at the 75th anniversary unveiling of “The Wizard of Oz” in IMAX 3D at the newly converted TCL Chinese Theatre, formerly Grauman’s, in Hollywood, now the largest IMAX theater in the world and where the film premiered in 1939.
At the premiere’s pre-party, industryites and their kids sampled the cupcakes and candies, scribbled 3D drawings at coloring stations, and were introduced to Madame Tussaud’s newest creation, Judy Garland as Dorothy.
Rico Rodriguez of “Modern Family” proceeded to interview the wax figure, not unlike Clint Eastwood‘s one-way dialogue with a chair at the 2012 Republican Convention. Also spotted in the room: William Shatner, who worked with Garland on the 1961 film “Judgement at Nuremberg. When asked what he expected to see from the 3D conversion, Shatner responded: “The delight in my grandchildren’s eyes.” Marcia Gay Harden, there with her daughters, recalled seeing the film at age six or seven. “I saw it first in my aunt and uncle’s living room and I remember being terrified of the monkeys but in love with Dorothy and those red slippers and the reality or the possibility or the hope that there’s no place like home.” When asked what she anticipated with the revamped “Wizard,” she said: “I’m so excited about the witch flying. I hope she flies right into me.”
Ned Price, VP of mastering for Warner Bros. Technical Operations, which worked with 3D conversion house Prime Focus for three years on the project that was started as a Blu-Ray package fashioned from the original Technicolor negatives, also expressed a preference for the witch’s scenes. “Because she’s wearing this dark dark black outfit her startling green features go forward at you,” he told Variety. “She has this elongated nose and on her chin this mole with a horse hair sticking out of it. It didn’t register that much in 2D but in 3D…”
Of course, most people expected the flying monkeys to be the new version’s coup de grace. But no. “Everybody thought this would be great for the flying monkeys!” explained Price. “Unfortunately the flying monkeys go horizontal and you need vertical information with 3D.”
But to these eyes, the experience was akin to visiting Disneyland as an adult. Whatever seemed magical from a visual standpoint on the tube, on which the film would be presented annually as a TV event, appeared all too transparent in its magnified incarnation. Those flowers in Munchkin Land look like cellophane, and those sets really do look painted more than wondrous. But the performances, especially Garland’s and her three compatriots — the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion — are just as splendid and heartbreaking as the first time.