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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Hello Wizard Of Oz

Many years ago, when The Wizard of Oz aired on TV, it was a special event. These days, you can probably watch The Wizard of Oz on your phone while you are driving and eating an Egg McMuffin. I'm guessing that's what some people are doing in their cars when they nearly crash into me.

The classic Oz story by L. Frank Baum was turned into a famous MGM film in 1939.

The Wizard of Oz was not a popular movie when it debuted, but it gradually found an audience.

In 1986, the rights to The Wizard of Oz and many other films in the MGM library were purchased by Ted Turner.

Not long after that, all sorts of Wizard of Oz collectibles were available.

If you got The Disney Channel Magazine in the mail, you could see ads for Oz-some items.

Display a tiny, scary, apple-throwing tree figure with a tiny Auntie Em and a tiny Flying Monkey and a tiny "Oh-Wee-Oh" Guard on a custom shelf in your living room.

Ted Turner enjoyed airing The Wizard of Oz on his numerous channels over the years.

Note the Flying Monkey TCM logo. I think the Flying Monkeys are among the best movie henchmen ever. I was terrified and fascinated by monkeys as a kid, and it was no doubt due to these horrific, fun characters.

To quote that goofy little kid wearing goggles in the 1983 MGM movie "A Christmas Story" (which airs 24 hours on Turner's TBS station on Christmas Eve): "I like the Wizard of Oz!"

"A Christmas Story" was an MGM movie that featured Wizard of Oz characters and a special guest appearance by Mickey Mouse. This movie kind of predicts the future, since Mickey and the Oz characters would team up again in 1989 (in sunny Florida).

Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her little dog, too (Toto) get swept up in a Tornado and discover they aren't in Kansas anymore.

As a kid, I did not ever think that Dorothy's trip to Oz was all a dream, like season nine of the TV show "Dallas."

Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and is told to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard of Oz so she can get home. She meets some characters along the way that remind her of people she knows back in Kansas.

On her bump-induced trip to Oz, Dorothy is joined by the Scarecrow (Dorothy's favorite), the Tin Man (not her favorite) and the Cowardly Lion (also not her favorite).

The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin Man (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) all need something from the Wizard, and they each have a song about what they want prepared for Dorothy.

Look, it's a King Kong watch! You know, the Wicked Witch of the West could have easily taken down Oz with a flying gorilla.

As Dorothy and her crew follow the Yellow Brick Road, they listen to Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" album on their Smart Phones because it seems to be in sync with everything they are doing.

The Pink Floyd connection is apparently just a coincidence, and the joke from the band is that they were not inspired by The Wizard of Oz in any way, but they were inspired by the Julie Andrews movie "The Sound of Music."

On the Journey to Oz, Dorothy must deal with the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton).

Dorothy accidentally feeds the Witch after Midnight, shines bright light on the Witch, and then gets water on the Witch (causing the Witch to melt). Then an old Asian man grabs Gizmo the Mogwai and tells Dorothy that she is ready to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard is an imposing figure with a large, disembodied head.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! Yep, the Wizard is all smoke and mirrors.

When it is time for Dorothy to return to Kansas, it is also time for some awkward moments. For starters, Dorothy tells the Scarecrow that she'll miss him the most. Yes, right in front of the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion. That's cold, Dorothy.

The Good Witch tells Dorothy that all she needs to do to get back home is to click her heels together and say "There's No Place Like Home." Say what?!?

Dorothy's response, "That would have been nice to know when I crash landed in Oz, b**ch!" was cut from the film.

The 1996 merger between Warner Brothers and Turner Entertainment resulted in characters like Superman and Batman rubbing elbows with characters from The Wizard of Oz at Warner Brothers Studio Stores across the world.

The arrival of the Wizard of Oz characters at the Warner Brothers Stores was like a breath of fresh air. Or a gust of wind. Or a tornado.

By the time the Warner Brothers Studios Stores were shut down in 2001, they were selling a mix of items that also included characters like Scooby Doo (a Hanna Barbera character that Warner Brothers also inherited in the Turner merger), Pokemon and (somehow) Sesame Street characters.

Many other studios have used Oz characters for movies and theme parks. There was also a TV show set in a prison.

In 2013, Disney releases Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" starring James Franco. Disney also made a live action movie released in 1985 called "Return to Oz" (I saw this scary movie by myself as a kid in a movie theater and remember wishing that I had joined my dad and brother who were watching "The Goonies" next door).

Before Disney's "Return to Oz" there was Filmation's "Journey Back to Oz" in 1974.

"Journey Back to Oz" stars Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, and Danny Thomas. I've never seen the movie, but I played the record countless times.

This movie was made by Filmation, the same studio that created TV shows like "He-Man" and "She-Ra." I have to admit that I really like the Journey Back To Oz character designs, especially the Green Elephant.

As a kid in Birmingham, Alabama, I would often get to visit our local Oz record store (closed down long ago) which included a terrifying mechanical flying monkey.

For many years, Disney sold Book and Record (or Cassette Tape) sets, and one standard title was a Disney version of "The Story of The Wizard of Oz". In 1994, Disneyland Paris opened the Storybook Land Canal Boats (Le Pays des Contes de Fees) which featured the Disney Oz characters in the Emerald City.

In 1991, The Disney Channel aired a Wizard of Oz animated series, which was produced by the same studio that created shows like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff.

In 1989, The Wizard of Oz came to life in The Great Movie Ride at the Disney MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The Wicked Witch Audio Animatronics figure seen in The Great Movie Ride is one of the most lifelike robotic characters Disney has done.

A Wizard of Oz theme park was rumored for many years for a location in Kansas, but was never built. There was also a short-lived Land of Oz section at Universal Studios Japan (unrelated to the MGM movie).

The simple 1939 movie made without flashy special effects is still the one most people think of when you talk about the Wizard of Oz.

Conquer your childhood fears and cuddle up with an evil Flying Monkey.

Have you ever asked yourself, "What Would the Wizard Drive?" Well, wonder no more!

Dorothy is ready to stop walking and do some Off-Yellow-Brick-Roading.


  1. Another funny post, Dan! Yeah, even as a kid I thought it was odd that Dorothy tells the Scarecrow she will miss him the most. Even if it's the truth, it wasn't very polite to blurt that out in front of the other two!

    It will be interesting to see how this new Oz movie does. I believe "Return To Oz" in 1985 was a "flop" for them. Doesn't Disney now own all of Frank Baum's Oz books with the exception of "The Wizard of Oz"?

    1. Odd as it may seem, the original draft of the film script involved one of the three farmers who may've been related to Auntie Em, was going away to an architectural college after the end of the movie. The creator's of the movie deleted this concept, so the only clue the movie leaves us is Dorothy's line. Plus she already said her goodbyes to the rest of her friends at that point. Also, Scarecrow was the first person Dorothy had met.

      Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_(1939_film)

  2. Thanks, TokyoMagic! "Family Guy" did a bit about Dorothy's Goodbye Snub some time ago. "Return To Oz" was not a hit for Disney, but it looks like the James Franco movie could do really well. I'm not really clear on who owns the rights to the various Oz properties, especially since Universal had their own Oz characters in Universal Studios Japan (and a "Wicked" stage show).

  3. A mini-van on the Yellow Brick Road! That's almost sacrilegious! ;) It's interesting that many a Snow White fan is also an Oz fan. The movies have a similar kind of magic about them. I remember as a kid what an event it was when the Wiz was on TV...way before VHS players even.

    Excellent post Dan. I think I've had run-ins with that same guy who watches TV on his phone while driving and eating an Egg McMuffin.

  4. Thanks, Snow White Archive! Remember that Disney's Snow White was also a prominent figure in the toy store window display in "A Christmas Story", so there's an Oz connection right there.