I spent a good portion of my early childhood casually dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West.
And while I probably looked a little odd pairing green face paint and a witch hat with a bathing suit in July, I’ve not regretted one moment from my Wizard of Oz-couture phase.
MGM’s 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s work is a movie full of moments. There’s Dorothy tapping her heels together and returning home; Toto tugging back the curtain to reveal the true identity of the great and powerful Oz; the soggy witch dramatically melting to her death. And of course, the moment of all moments: When Dorothy slowly pulls open her front door and her sad sepia-filtered world magically transforms into a technicolor Munchkinland dream.
We all remember what this looked like on screen. Yet, I can’t help but reflect on what it took, behind the camera, to bring these iconic scenes to life.
First, the camera technology itself. The trademarked process used to film “The Wizard of Oz” was the result of decades of tinkering with technology. The Technicolor Corporation was the first to get the tech on the market, and even after that, went through several iterations of the invention before it reached its full glory in the 1930s. The process, which involved a special camera recording the same scene through colored filters on three different strips of film, was a complex undertaking. Making a Technicolor film meant the studio had to lease the company’s unique, modified movie cameras as well as rent a trained team of experts to help operate the complicated machines.
The cutting-edge film technology wasn’t the only boundary pushed during the making of “The Wizard of Oz.” Evidently, directors tried out some new ideas when it came to costume design and special effects, and hard lessons were learned along the way.
The original Tin Man actor almost died from an allergic reaction to his toxic aluminum makeup. The “snow” used during the poppy scene was apparently 100% industrial-grade asbestos. The actress who played the wicked witch suffered serious burns during pyrotechnics gone wrong. Even the winged monkeys weren’t spared, crashing to the ground after their wires failed mid-monkey flap.
The final result? Arguably one of the most beloved, influential fantasy productions of all time.
While I’ve yet to witness the pharma industry break into song, the industry is certainly no stranger to this level of masterpiece. In just the last decade alone, pharma hits include: a cure for Hepatitis C, 3D printed body parts, reprogrammable T-cells to treat leukemia, gene therapies to cure sickle cell disease and blindness, gene editing through CRISPR, fecal transplants to cure C. diff — and of course, life-saving pandemic vaccines.
Each year as we embark on our Pharma Innovation Awards journey, we sort through dozens of new and unique technologies created to help enable these great advances in science. I’m continually impressed by all the behind-the-scenes work done by savvy equipment makers who play starring roles in bringing pharma innovations to the big screen.
So, to all the equipment and technology manufacturers toiling behind the curtains, the camera, the makeup: Thanks for having the brains, heart and nerve to help make patient dreams come true.