‘Oz The Great and Powerful’ Trailer Features Flying Monkeys, Epic Battles

"Oz the Great and Powerful" stars James Franco, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams

"Oz the Great and Powerful" will feature flying monkeys, epic battles, fantastical castles and James Franco on break from his Ph.D program.

A new trailer for the Disney release is overstuffed with eye-popping visuals and a cotton candy color palate that brings to mind the studio's recent hit "Alice in Wonderland."

The story is a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," with Franco taking on the role of the flimflam magician and Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis playing a trio of witches. Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man") directs. After his hot-air balloon gets sucked into a tornado, he finds himself in a fantastical world — and the rest is history.

Also read: James Franco: Don't Blame Me for the Oscars — I Didn't Even Want to Do It

A lot is riding on the picture for Franco. It's his first big-budget starring role after a string of critically acclaimed performances in films like "127 Hours" and one horrific stint as the emcee of the Oscars.

 “Oz The Great and Powerful” opens in U.S. theaters on March 8, 2013.