There's a race to see who is going to get the first new film based on the work of Frank L. Baum made, and today, it appears that Disney is pulling out in front of the race.

They've got a script, after all, originally called "Brick," and now known as "Oz: The Great and Powerful".  Written by Mitchell Kapner, the story follows a circus worker who ends up in Oz and then goes on a trip similiar to Dorothy's before eventually ending up in the job as The Wizard, according to the LA Times.  It's an interesting way to end up back in the land of Oz and build something out of the various books in Baum's series, all of which are public domain now.  Joe Roth, former head of Revolution Studios, is set to produce the film, and the one thing that makes me nervous is that the success of the godawful "Alice In Wonderland" is what got this movie onto the fast track.  I hope and pray that this film doesn't share anything in common with Burton's monstrosity.

The news that broke today came via the Twitter feed of Production Weekly, where they say Sam Mendes is attached now to direct the film and Robert Downey Jr. is close to coming onboard to play the Wizard.  Mendes was developing the latest James Bond film until MGM's financial woes put that film on indefinite hold, and he also recently walked away from Sony's proposed "Preacher" adaptation.  This gives Mendes a possible franchise, since there's a ton of source material they could use.  Baum's books are so much fun, and so rich and inventive, that they could possibly build a dozen films without ever once touching on the same material we've seen brought to the bigscreen before.

The other Oz films were at Warner Bros., where they were developing two different possible projects, while Universal was hard at work trying to bring the musical phenomenon "Wicked" to the bigscreen.  That's a whole ton of "Oz" in development, and I'm sure not all of those films are going to make it into production.  RIght now, I'm guessing this Mendes version has the edge, and we'll see what happens in the weeks ahead, assuming Production Weekly's information is correct.

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