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The Wizard of Oz (1933)

A storybook opens to depict little Dorothy on the grey Kansas prairies, when suddenly a cyclone comes up, turns her world to color, and she lands on a Scarecrow, who promptly gets up and ... See full summary »

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(as Col. Frank Baum), (novel)
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Storyline

A storybook opens to depict little Dorothy on the grey Kansas prairies, when suddenly a cyclone comes up, turns her world to color, and she lands on a Scarecrow, who promptly gets up and walks with her. Her dog Toto finds a woodcutter made of tin, so the Scarecrow oils him up and he accompanies them. They watch some animals reproduce before being ushered into the Emerald City by singing suits of armor and a lavish parade of overweight cops before meeting the Wizard, a devious little man who transforms eggs into uncontrollable forms, much to Billina's dismay. Written by Scott Hutchins <scottandrewh@home.com>

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1933 (USA)  »

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(R.C.A. Photophone)

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(Technicolor)|
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first film, cartoon or otherwise, to show the Kansas scenes in black and white and the land of Oz in color. Legal difficulties prevented its release in 1933. See more »

Connections

Version of The Marvelous Land of Oz (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

The Swan
Music by Camille Saint-Saëns (uncredited)
From "The Carnival of the Animals"
Played by orchestra in scene with swans
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User Reviews

 
The Cowardly Lion skipped this version, but he didn't miss much
4 June 2006 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Among the special features included with the recent 3-disc DVD release of MGM's 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is this obscure 9-minute cartoon, produced in Canada and directed by Ted Eshbaugh, whose best- known work is that old time TV perennial The Sunshine Makers. Needless to say, with such a brief running time we can't expect much more than a highlights version of the famous story, but even viewers who approach this short with modest expectations are likely to be disappointed: like so many color cartoons of the '30s this one is a pseudo-Silly Symphony that falls far short of the Disney standard.

At first the cartoon looks fairly promising. A petite Dorothy who resembles a Kewpie doll lounges on the porch of her Kansas farm, sighing with boredom, for only a moment or two before the twister arrives and carries her away -- and her little dog, too. Interestingly, after the "storybook" opening credits the animators chose to utilize black & white for the Kansas sequence and then switch to color as Dorothy plummets to the ground in Oz, thus prefiguring the 1939 feature film. Dorothy lands on the Scarecrow (forget about the Munchkins, there isn't time), and they quickly discover the Tin Woodsman frozen in position and free him from his paralysis. The trio then proceed to the Emerald City.

Here's where we start to notice the cartoon's flaws. For starters, there's no dialog. Aside from Dorothy's yelp of fright during the twister she never makes a sound, and neither do her companions. They team up and head for the Wizard's palace on some sort of unspoken signal, apparently because that's what they've been programmed to do, but their eerie silence doesn't encourage much viewer sympathy. The filmmakers obviously assumed we were already familiar with the story, but if that's the case then where's the Cowardly Lion? He makes no appearance in this cartoon and his absence is distracting: we keep waiting for him to arrive. And although the filmmakers mysteriously chose to delete a major character, they nevertheless found the time to include two brief, gratuitous musical sequences: a courtship interlude involving woodland animals and then a parade of welcome when Dorothy and her sadly reduced entourage arrive at the palace. The only sign of a witch, incidentally, is a quick shot of a witch-like character seen in silhouette, welcoming Dorothy and her friends to Oz with a big grin! Perhaps the strangest aspect of this version is the characterization of the Wizard of Oz himself: he is presented as a scrawny little man with evil eyes and a sinister chuckle. When Dorothy and her friends come before him he proceeds to intimidate them with what appears to be Black Magic: he summons up some Raggedy Ann-like dancing dolls (for yet another pointless musical interlude), and then causes a few monstrous animals to hatch from eggs. At this juncture we meet a hen who resembles Billina, a character from L. Frank Baum's later series of Oz books. The last portion of the cartoon involves this hen and an egg she has laid which grows to enormous size; meanwhile, Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are reduced to forgotten onlookers. The film ends on a resoundingly anti-climactic note.

The animation technique on display here is not at all bad for the period; I was reminded of the cartoons produced in the mid-'30s by Ub Iwerks, the former Disney animator who broke away from Uncle Walt and went into independent production. Like Iwerks' products this one has decent color and good technical effects, but also like Iwerks' products this one is deficient in story, pacing, dialog (as there isn't any) and, most of all, characterization. Only readers of the Oz books and fans of the later film will care at all about the creatures who populate this curious cartoon, and yet they're the viewers most likely to conclude that it's a misfire.


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