Many Times readers are familiar with Roger Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz."
For years, Roger, now 75, remained a favorite celebrity guest each year at the annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton.
While his great-grandfather wrote 14 books in the "Oz" series before his death at age 62 in May 1919, Roger has 16 books to his credit since he began writing his own "Oz" series starting in 1989.
His very first book "Dorothy of Oz" from HarperCollins in 1989 is the inspiration for next month's new 3D animated film "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return" produced by Summertime Entertainment.
It features an all-star vocal cast, including Lea Michele providing the voice of Dorothy, Bernadette Peters voicing Glinda the Good Witch, Kelsey Grammer as Tin Man, Dan Aykroyd as Scarecrow, Jim Belushi as Cowardly Lion, Patrick Stewart voices a character named Tugg, Martin Short is The Jester, Oliver Platt is Wiser the Owl, Hugh Dancy is Marshal Mallow and Megan Hilty voices China Doll. The new film carries a $60 million price tag and opens in theaters nationwide May 9.
Today, neither Baum nor Disney (which produced last year's $200 million "Oz" film in 3D starring James Franco) own the rights to any of the original characters from the books, since the published works fell into public domain years ago. (MGM and Ted Turner have long held the rights to the likenesses of the characters as depicted in the 1939 film classic, which celebrates a 75th anniversary this year.)
To help promote the new film, the public is invited to join Dorothy, Toto, and their new friend, Wiser the Owl, from the upcoming 3D animated feature, as they bring the magical world of Oz to kids across the U.S. on the "Legends of Oz Express" with an event in the Chicago burbs from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4 at Kohl Children's Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd, in Glenview, Ill. as part of a nine-city tour.
Families will follow their hearts at the Tin Man's Friendship Club by making friendship pins, test their brains in the Scarecrow's Workshop with arts and crafts, and show their courage by performing on the Lion's "Mane" stage. They will also hang out in cozy "Candy County" and hear the story that inspired the film. To help even more children experience the magic of books, imagination, and the wonder of Oz, guests are encouraged to bring a new book to be donated to Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. FYI: legendsofozworld.com.
The film picks up after Dorothy has just returned home from her first incredible journey to Oz. When she returns and is reunited with her friends, she discovers time in Oz has passed much faster than back in Kansas. This time, it's The Jester, the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West, who's trying to take over the magical land.
This isn't Roger's first film adaptation of his book series. His 1995 book "Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage" (Yellow Book Road Press) was made into a direct-to-DVD animated film in 2000 starring the voices of Jason Priestley as the Lion and the late and great Lynn Redgrave as the Wicked Witch of the East, along with the vocal talents of Kathy Griffin, Dom DeLuise, Tim Curry and Bobcat Goldthwait.