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Disney's 3-D prequel to the classic L. Frank Baum tale "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" debuted in first place and earned $80.3 million at the weekend box office in the U.S. and Canada and $69.9 million overseas, according to studio estimates Sunday.

I saw this Saturday night and the theater was about 90% full. The audience murmured and ah'd throughout every time they recognized an element that set up the original classic. And at the end, there was applause. Love hearing applause at the end of a movie rather than seeing guests rush out of the theater.

The movie was interesting in that certain elements, such as the ruby slippers, were creative inventions and not drawn from the original story. As Warner Brothers still owns the rights to the original story, lawyers had to make sure that nothing that did not come frame pages of Baum's book found their way into Sam Raimi's interpretation.

Never-the-less, there was a tip of the hat to Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the possible inventor of the Tin Man, and best (or for some, worst) of all, there were Flying Monkeys. Horribly wonderfully grotesque flying monkeys. But it was the transformation to the Wicked Witch of the West by one of the lead characters that raised the hairs on my neck.

All in all, it was a fun story of a man who dreams of being great, and who would be good if life just let him. Very respectful of the original movie which this story precedes and sets up beautifully. Visually stunning, full of humor, even more full of stars.

Who notes that while the Oz books never mention Dorothy's parents or if her birth name was Gale (it was the 3rd book in the series that finally gave her and and uncle surnames), Disney's prequel hints at a tie-in to Oswald, the unlucky magician if you are quick enough to catch it...
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