Ashanti, Latifah Off To Muppets' 'Oz'

Ashanti will star in an original ABC television movie tentatively titled "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz."

Ashanti will star in an original ABC television movie tentatively titled "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz." In addition, Queen Latifah is in final negotiations to appear in the Muppet take on the classic L. Frank Baum novel, which will also find director Quentin Tarantino playing himself.

The Muppets' "Oz" will feature several music numbers but will not be a musical. The story will center on aspiring performer Dorothy Gale, to be played by Ashanti, who works at the diner of her Auntie Em (Latifah) in a small Kansas town while dreaming of hitting the big time.

One day, a tornado sweeps up the trailer where Dorothy lives, and she finds herself in a Muppet version of Oz. There, she meets the Munchkins (played by the Muppet rats), the Scarecrow (Kermit the Frog), the Tin Man (Gonzo) and the Lion (Fozzie).

The group's quest to get the Wicked Witch (Miss Piggy) culminates with a fight scene between Dorothy and the witch. As the action is about to begin, the film cuts to Tarantino pitching to Kermit how the scene should be done -- a cameo written specifically for the "Kill Bill" director.

The production will be directed by Kirk R. Thatcher, who directed NBC's successful "Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" in 2002. It will air as part of the Wonderful World of Disney franchise.

"We think it combines the elements that have made the Muppets such a success over the years, including combining the Muppets with some of the best-known celebrities around today and putting them in stories and situations that are very unidentifiable," says Chris Curtin, VP/GM of the Muppet Holding Co.

As previously reported, Ashanti is among the artists appearing on Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds' all-star cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody," the centerpiece of a pro-voting disc due next month. She also appears on rapper Shyne's sophomore album, "Godfather ... Buried Alive" (Gangland/Def Jam) where she's featured on the track "Jimmy Choo."

As reported yesterday, rapper-turned-actress Queen Latifah will release her debut vocal set, "The Dana Owens Album," Sept. 28 via Vector/Flavor Unit/Interscope.