Friends, I hope you had a safe and Happy Holiday and have had a chance to recoup from the festivities (In time at least to get ready for New Year’s Eve). Because you might think you’ve had a little too much eggnog when I inform you that it is indeed a fact that Walt Disney, not only bought the rights to 11 of L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books in 1954. But Disney also had intended to produce a feature film entitled The Rainbow Road to Oz – which would have been based in part on the fifth book Baum’s series The Road to Oz. It’s been said that while an attempt was made including production art and even some musical numbers and costume preparation – The Rainbow Road to Oz was finally cancelled and some Disney fans believe that it was 1961’s Babes in Toyland that took it’s place in being made.
Interestingly enough it’s been said that as far back as 1937, when the animators of Walt Disney Productions were working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Disney began looking for a property that could be his next full-length animated feature. When the legendary showman came across Baum’s book series he felt it was the perfect fit – the problem however is that the rights were already sold. It’s been said that Samuel Goldwyn owned said rights first and had paid a staggering $60,000 for the honor of attempting to make them into a film series – which was accomplished in 1939 with MGM’s The Wizard of Oz.
Now I have read from a couple of sources that say that when the rights to the books came up for grabs again in 1954 – that Walt Disney bought 11 to 13 of the books to attempt to make into a two-part special for his popular Walt Disney’s Disneyland television series. This TV special would have naturally starred the major Mouseketeers. And then nearly a month later, plans were altered to produce a feature film for The Rainbow Road to Oz.
One of the most important reasons we do know about all of this is thanks to the September 11th, 1957 episode of Walt Disney’s Disneyland show – The Fourth Anniversary Show. In the show there is a moment where the Mouseketeers are able to pitch an idea to Uncle Walt for The Rainbow Road to Oz featuring a few musical numbers and some of the production art.