A Russian spin-off of “The Wizard of Oz,” titled “Urfin Jus and the Wooden Soliders,” will have a new CGI animated film with a 2017 release.

How Dorothy Gale became Ellie Smith in Russia

Alexander Melentyevich Volkov, a Russian mathematician and novelist, published a loose translation of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” in 1939, titled, “The Wizard of Emerald City.” While more or less presented as his own story, Volkov wrote a dedication in most early prints of the book that admitted his story was inspired by an earlier American book series, even mentioning Baum by name.

While the American book was still under copyright at the time of publication of the Russian variation, Volkov did not break the law as the Soviet Union had not been part of international copyright laws until 1973.

Volkov had made a few changes to the characters in his translations. Although still a farm-girl from Kansas, the heroine’s name was changed from Dorothy Gale to Ellie Smith, and while her American counterpart was an orphan, later publications have Ellie living with her parents. Oz was usually referred to as simply the “Magic Land,” or “Goodwinia,” as the Wizard’s name had been changed to “Professor Goodwin.”

One interesting change Volkov employed was increasing the role of the Wicked Witch of the East, whom he gave the name Gingema.

In his version of the story, she creates the cyclone that originally takes Ellie to the Magic Land, in what she had hoped would have destroyed mankind, only for it to backfire when Ellie’s farmhouse falls on her. Volkov also usually implied that the later villains in the books were her former minions, such as changing the Wicked Witch of the West, whom he gave the name Bastinda, to be her sister, a change coincidentally employed by many American adaptations of the Baum story.

While Baum had already written sequels featuring his Oz characters, Volkov instead wrote his own sequels to the story, starting in 1963, with the publication of “Urfin Jus and the Wooden Soldiers.” As mentioned, the titular villain, Urfin Jus, was said to be a former Munchkin servant of the deceased Gingema, and he tries to take over the Magic Land with the aid of wooden soldiers after finding a magic powder that can bring things to life.

Unlike the witches, however, Urfin Jus survives the story and becomes a recurring figure in later books, with five sequel books in total.

What do we know about this upcoming film?

Vladimir Toropchin, Fedor Dmitriev, and Darina Schmidt will serve as directors on the project. The film is being produced by CTB Film Company and Melnitsa Animation Studio, best known for their work on the “Three Heroes” series, which retells Russian mythology, and the feature film, “Little Longnose,” based on the Wilhelm Hauff story.

The film will employ computer-generated, three-dimensional animation. As Melnitsa Animation Studio is mostly known for employing traditional animation, this has caused some viewers to mistakenly believe the film will come from the Russian Wizart Animation, best known for producing the 3-D Snow Queen films.

In a press release, the film appears to portray Urfin Jus as something of an ant-hero, mentioning that Ellie and her friends (which include incarnations on the familiar Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion), “must find out who he really is… before they can defeat him.”

The film will be released in Russia on April 20, 2017. It is unknown at this time if the film will have an international release.