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An American McGee in Hollywood

Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Walt Disney Pictures develop Oz movie rights.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Fairytale loving game designer American McGee expects to see his dark reworking on L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz take a big screen bow in the next two or three years, as the Hollywood Reporter this week revealed Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' intention to develop unfinished PC and Xbox title American McGee's Oz into a film trilogy.

Last July, McGee revealed that Jerry Bruckheimer had optioned the film rights to Oz, and reports this week suggest that while no production target has been set, first-time screenwriters Kevin and Dan Hageman are attached to the project. Speaking to GameSpot yesterday, McGee said that given the average length of script development and production, "we could be looking at a film in as little as two years," before adding "But I think three is more realistic. Just keep thinking, 'When it's done...'"

McGee also stated his intention to dabble even further in the "cross-media experience", updated us on Oz - the game - and reflected on the current state of game development. His thoughts on the latter were disheartening but will ring true for a lot of gamers. "Truth is that game publishers aren't buying original game ideas these days. They want either a sequel to an existing successful game or a piece of Hollywood IP with someone else's marketing dollars behind it. 'Pre-sold awareness' as they call it. Personally, I think that's a nice euphemism for 'We're publicly traded and only go after the safe bets.'"

Interestingly, his efforts to extend the franchise beyond the bounding boxes of the game he's developing are all tied into that pessimistic outlook. "Our goal has been to skirt around that issue by getting our ideas made into films, toys, books, and other products and then going back to game publishers to get the game made," he told GameSpot. "From what I can tell, it's the only way to get them to do an original idea these days." Speaking of the toys, the second and third sets are due out this year (presumably) in the States, and you might be able to buy the book in time for Christmas.

Describing the question of when the game itself is due as "a little more complicated," McGee went on to talk about its progress. "We have a completed design, a running Xbox demo, and a lot of material to show but are still working on finding a publisher. For a while we put the publisher search on hold while we worked on getting the film set up. Now we're receiving interest from game publishers again and are working to get game development restarted."

But as if all that weren't enough, it seems we can expect more from American McGee in 2004. Apart from managing Oz and consulting for a number of publishers, he's working on the next "twisted tale" and is "in the process of designing a new game idea that's going to be financed, developed, and published by an overseas publisher. News on that will be released at E3." A busy man, then. We'll let you know next time he pops up.

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