Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and Powerful

A swirling storm is the proper framing device for Oz: The Great and Powerful’s first poster, which heralds its film by tossing trademark elements into a kind of artful rinse cycle.

Poster Lab: Oz: The Great and PowerfulA swirling storm is the proper framing device for Oz: The Great and Powerful’s first poster, which heralds its film by tossing trademark elements into a kind of artful rinse cycle. Set for a 2013 release, this Sam-Raimi-helmed Wizard of Oz prequel appears devoid of Dorothy, yet packed with evidence of L. Frank Baum’s brand.

Seeming both introductory and contradictory to its immortal predecessor, the movie tells of its titular wizard’s rise as a magician and a man, promising an arc of self-discovery that doesn’t quite jell with the arc of Frank Morgan’s fraud behind the curtain. But, don’t fret, kids: there’ll still be a poppy field’s worth of faithful stuff to keep you comfy, and it’s presented here in a yin-yang approach that matches dark drama with glittering fantasy. The Yellow Brick Road, the Emerald City, a swarm of tornadoes, and one integral hot air balloon fill this well-executed design, teasing a new adventure with unmistakable imagery. In another poster, the title almost certainly would have been made more centrally visible, but in this case, it’s hardly necessary. If the main man’s mode of transportation doesn’t wrangle fans, the gleam of all that Oz-ian architecture will, suggesting classic whimsy amid a tumultuous scene that also features some Avatar-esque landforms. The image invites viewers to return to a place they know while still being strangers in a strange land.

It is also inviting by design, becoming at least the third illustrated film poster of 2012 to lead the eye through its fore-, middle- and backgrounds with an actual path. The Gandalf one-sheet for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is startlingly similar, its winding road also traversing rolling hills beneath a sun-pierced sky of gray. And then there’s the beautiful ad for Moonrise Kingdom, which treats you to a cache of wooded wonders before the action trails off to a vanishing point. This is the ideal scheme for a movie that boasts adventure, as it simultaneously allows for the drawing-in of audiences and the conveyance of stakes and scale. The path of the Yellow Brick Road, specifically, looks exaggerated to a theme-park extent, its golden arches sweeping over the landscape like the peaks and valleys of a rollercoaster. In keeping with the overall design’s mood of trouble in paradise, it seems both gleeful and volatile, a spirited ride with an uncertain end.


The Oz poster ultimately reflects the many benefits of the production at hand—a resurrection of a timeless property in a genre highly amenable to illustration. Principal photography has only just begun on the movie, and unless we are to believe that the man in the balloon is in fact lead star James Franco via green screen, odds are this thing was made before a single frame was shot. Additional posters will surely arise, dressed up by the presence of witches played by Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz, but to kick things off, Disney already had all the tools it needed, using a cyclonic concept to do a little deft recycling.

R. Kurt Osenlund

R. Kurt Osenlund is a creative director and account supervisor at Mark Allen & Co. He is the former editor of Out magazine.

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