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Disney and WB Battle Over Flying Monkeys for New ‘Oz’ Movie

James Franco as The Wizard of Oz
Warner Bros.

Disney’s upcoming movie, ‘Oz, the Great and Powerful’, boasts an A-list cast — Oscar nominees James Franco, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams plus Mila Kunis — and a storyline that will take audiences to the origin of the Wizard himself.  But Warner Bros., who holds the rights to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ film, would like to put a stop to that film.

Though ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, the 1899 novel by L. Frank Baum, is in the public domain and free from copyright restrictions, Warner Bros. is looking to flex their legal muscles in an effort to halt Disney’s upcoming attempt to relaunch the franchise with a big-budget, 3D prequel.  At issue is a 2011 ruling that ruled characters from the film exhibited “consistent, widely identifiable traits” that allowed them protection under copyright rules.

Quick wrap-up for those bored by the legalese: two multi-billion dollar companies are fighting over flying monkeys.

So what does this mean to you, the moviegoer?  Not much. Studios famously like to try and block competing films claiming copyright infringement (for example, the people behind James Bond sued Austin Powers over the name “Goldmember”) but rarely does anything of note happen. Even if the court does find in WB’s favor, expect a quiet “settlement” to be paid by Disney who already has a large financial stake in their ‘Oz’ film.

But the real question is: Who gets the ruby slippers?

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