Emmy, Tony and Oscar winning production, set and costume designer Tony Walton (All That Jazz, Mary Poppins and Broadway’s Pippin just to name a few) shared his Oscar nominated set and costume work for the 1978 film The Wiz.
The film was the adaptation of the hit Broadway musical of the seventies and the Black version of the L. Frank Baum classic The Wizard of Oz. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it featured Diana Ross as Dorothy, Nipsey Russell as the Tinman, Richard Pryor as The Wiz and a young Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow. Lena Horne played Glinda the Good Witch.
Universal spent a record $24 million on the production, making the movie the must expensive musical made up until that time. Studio execs were worried Ross was too old to effectively play Dorothy and rumor had it she won the coveted role by promising to deliver the pop sensation as The Scarecrow. Sadly Jackson’s dance skills were never fully utilized in the film. And even sadder for his fans, he had only one solo number, “You Can’t Win” which was at the film’s end.
The multi-talented Walton designed the sets along with Philip Rosenberg, creating a yellow brick road out of Congoleum at the Astoria studios in Queens. Apparently the flooring company came out with a style called Yellow Brick Road in their collection shortly after the film premiered. Many of the film’s special effects were created with matte paintings, as evidenced by the Manhattan skyline scenes below, by the Hollywood master Albert Whitlock.
Source: Cinema Style, Wikipedia, IMBD