The Wicked Witch of the West already has a bunch of names in various works, why did Disney invent a new one?

I knew already that her name was Elphaba in Wicked. I didn't think her first name was given in original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book or the 1939 movie. Then in Oz the Great and Powerful her name is Theodora. On Wikipedia it lists fully 6 different names (none of them from Frank Baum):

  • Bastinda The Wizard of the Emerald City
  • Elphaba Wicked
  • Evillene The Wiz
  • Momba The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Mombi His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz
  • Theodora Oz the Great and Powerful

Why wasn't there any consistency here? Why wouldn't Disney just use one of the names already in existence?

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    Different works by different authors. Why would one necessarily expect consistency ? – Stan Mar 10 '13 at 16:55
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    @Stan same world... – zipquincy Mar 10 '13 at 17:20
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    Do you happen to know if Disney owns the movie rights to any of the works that you mention? If they don't, then the answer to your question is pretty simple -- they don't use any of those names because they can't. – Mike Scott Mar 10 '13 at 17:43
  • if you put this in as an answer I might saelect it, it seems correct. – zipquincy Mar 10 '13 at 18:34
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    Regardless of legal issues and such, using a name that people had already associated with the wicked witch would have spoiled the surprise of who becomes the witch. You'll notice the posters don't show the witch's face; they wanted audiences to be surprised when Theodora turns green. – RedCaio Nov 17 '15 at 10:40

Disney is a film production company and has to make sure they can protect the rights of any products they create, for their toys, products and other licensing. Disney didn't use any of those previous names because they belong to other writers, other works and they did not want to have to license those names from those respective writers.

Since Baum has never named The Wicked Witch of the West, Disney took creative license and gave her a name and a backstory suitable for their needs. Disney and Warner Bros. are already in a legal battle because of the 1939 film, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Note for example the lack of Ruby Slippers, a trademarked icon for the 1939 Wizard of Oz and as such was not replicated or even noted in Oz, the Great and Powerful.

As recounted in the Hollywood Reporter:

L. Frank Baum first told the story in 1899 in his classic novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Since the book was published more than 110 years ago, one might assume that anyone has the right to make a film featuring public domain characters such as the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.

Why is this newsworthy? Well, Disney's coming reboot of the story, directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, is titled Oz, the Great and Powerful. Warners filed its trademark registration only one week after Disney had filed its own. On Wednesday, an examiner at the United States Trademark Office suspended Warners' trademark attempt because Disney had come first. But that's not the end of the story, if a recent 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decision and lots of activity at the Trademark Office are any indication.

Although Baum's book and accompanying illustrations are in the public domain, judges at the 8th Circuit last year decided to give Warner Bros. "character protection" under its copyright on the 1939 film starring Judy Garland. In the case, which concerned a company that attempted to sell film nostalgia merchandise, the appellate circuit ruled that it would be hard to visualize these characters without watching the movie, even if one had read the book beforehand. -- Disney, Warner Bros. Fighting Over 'Wizard of Oz' Trademarks (Exclusive) -- Eriq Gardner

Since Disney and Warner are both in court over the use of L. Frank Baum's works, it would make sense they did not want to muddy the waters further by interacting with any other previously existing products whose rights might be more easily defended in court.

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    Personally, I'm glad the ruby slippers stayed with the '39 movie, since they weren't in the books in the first place. – Tango Mar 11 '13 at 7:05
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    The oddness is, in reality, that since "Oz, the Great and Powerful" is a Disney movie itself, why did they not use Theodora as the name? – PiousVenom May 28 '14 at 21:17

The reasons are quite simple. In the original book she had no name. Bastinda is the name used in the Russian books which have their own continuity. Elphaba and Evillene are both copyrighted by others. Momba and Mombi were unofficial names used in the silent films and Mombi is a major separate character in the Oz books (and in my opinion more fascinating than either the WWW or the WWE.) If any of the names could have been used it would have been Momba, but that name is so similar to Mombi. Theodora is also a foreshadowing since it's basically supposed to be the name "Dorothy" as a sort of anagram.

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