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I was 6 when I first saw this version of The Wizard of Oz (the full TV series - it has since been split up for video with this one being the 1st part), and I hadn't seen any of the other versions nor even knew it was actually based on a book. Only afterward did I get to find out it was based on a novel (which I still haven't read) and see the Judy Garland version plus the 'Return to Oz' movie released in the 80s.
Needless to say my memory is a bit sketchy, however I can remember enjoying this one immensely (my local TV station ran it twice - restating it as soon as its first run finished). One thing 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' has over some of the other versions is its length - it was able to be spread out over many episodes and not have to be crammed into a 2hr movie or something similar.
From what I can recall the story was split into 3 parts (though a search on IMDB seems to indicate there are 4 parts - see below*). The first part concerned to most memorable part of the Oz saga - Dorothy getting sucked up by the tornado only to land in Oz, where she meets up with Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. They all join together in a variety of adventures as she attempts to get to the Emerald City to meet the famous Wizard who supposedly has the power to return her home. The Wizard instead sends them off to kill the Wicked Witch of the West (which they do) but upon returning it is discovered the Wizard is in fact just a normal man who arrived in Oz via a balloon. When Dorothy misses out on returning home with the Wizard she and her friends end up going to meet Glinda the Good Witch of the South (interestingly every other version has Glinda as being from the North) where Dorothy learns that she only needs to click her magic slippers to return home.
The second part involved characters such as the witch Mombi, the usurper-of-the-throne Queen Ginger (the throne had previously been held by Scarecrow after the leaving of the Wizard) as well as the memorable Jack Pumpkinhead and his master/guardian Tip (who later turned out to be Princess Ozma disguised by magic as a boy by Mombi). This part ended with Ozma being revealed and taking her place on the throne of Oz. I have to admit I'm a little hazy on what happened during this part with the exception of Ginger making herself Queen after Dorothy and co escape on a wooden horse (brought to life by Tip with the same magic powder that created Jack Pumpkinhead) as well as the end where Ozma is revealed and crowned.
The third part struck me as the strangest (and somewhat boring) part involving Dorothy visiting the land of Ed(?) and meeting characters such as Tick Tock and the Gnome King. This part ended with Dorothy ending up back in Oz and the Gnome King launching an (unsuccessful) invasion of the Emerald City. One of the most memorable parts from this one was the ornament room where the correct ornament had to be chosen lest the person themselves be turned into an ornament ('Return to Oz' used this part too). As I mentioned earlier this part of the story struck me as the weirdest as I never really understood how Ed existed alongside Oz (early on we see Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion and Ozma walking to Ed (how far is it?) and towards the end we see the Gnome King and his army tunnelling to Oz - I don't know, maybe the book explains this). I was also bored by it a bit as most of the storyline took place in Ed (which is more or less a desert). Fortunately the later sequences in Oz were more enjoyable, especially with the constant girl-fighting between Dorothy and Ozma (who had turned into a bit of a spoiled brat between this part and the last part when Ozma was Tip).
All up it was an enjoyable series for me and I have plenty of fond memories of it - I'm actually surprised it's been 16 years since I've seen it as I can still clearly remember many parts of it. I don't know how close it resembles the original novel (which I haven't read as mentioned before) but compared to some of the other attempts at bringing the Oz story to the screen (big and small) this one is good for taking the time to develop a nice, long story with characters who flesh out and grow as the series moves along. Definitely recommended.
* On IMDB I have found what appear to be 4 parts of the Oz story which are as follows - 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', 'The Marvelous Land of Oz', 'Ozma of Oz', and 'The Emerald City of Oz'.
All of these were listed as being made in 1987 and appear to have the same crews and cast (voices) for them so I presume these were all the parts that made up the story I remember seeing. I'm not 100% sure of the order however 'Marvelous' has Jack Pumpkinhead on the poster which would suggest its the 2nd part. 'Ozma' and 'Emerald' I'm not too sure about their order but I daresay they made up the later parts.
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