Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz vs The Wizard of Oz

I was a slightly odd kid (I think) in that I didn't really like The Wizard of Oz growing up.  They used to show it on TV once a year, and my grandmother would make it a point to call our house and let us know, because she wanted us to watch it.  I remember shrugging at why this seemed so important to her.  I think I was largely bothered by the falseness of the Wizard and the way Glinda could have just told Dorothy from the beginning how to get home.  Apparently I was a bit of a critic even as a child.

But somewhere in my adulthood, things changed.  Since the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was no longer under copyright, I found it for free online.  As a kid I had read at least one of the sequel books, assuming I didn't need to read the original since I had seen the movie.  I remember being confused by the characters that appeared and therefore never went further.  But as an adult, reading the story, I was delighted to find new material where I assumed I had already been before.  And not long after reading it, I went to watch the film again, and really, really enjoyed it.  Yes, it's pretty stupid that Glinda just doesn't tell her.  But the journey is still totally worth it regardless.

I think both versions are enjoyable in their own ways, and both versions have problems.  So I thought it might be fun to list what I like so much about both of them.

Things that make The Wonderful Wizard of Oz better than The Wizard of Oz
1. It's not just a dream, and Dorothy really does get to go to a magical world.
2. There's more to the plot than just "find the wizard then kill the witch."  I particularly love the other areas we get to see, such as the town made entirely of china.
3. All three of Dorothy's companions become rulers of a separate area of Oz.  Given that the gifts they are given by the Wizard are bogus, they deserve these better rewards.
4. The Wizard appears as something different to everyone, and we get great descriptions of what he appears as, and a good explanation of how he did it later.
5. The field mice and their queen.  I can understand why they didn't appear in the film given when it was made, but they're just so adorable.
6. The story of Gayelette and the Golden Cap, and the fact that the winged monkeys aren't inherently evil.
7. The Emerald City isn't emerald at all, but just looks that way when you wear the green glasses.  Though I guess that means the walls surrounding the city were higher than any of the buildings and had to have been painted green?  My point is there's a slight lapse in logic here, but given that the Wizard is a fake, I think this makes perfect sense.

Things that make The Wizard of Oz better than The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
1. While we're shown examples of the Scarecrow being smart, the Tin Man having sympathy, and the Cowardly Lion being brave long before they receive their gifts from the Wizard, it's not drilled into us repeatedly with all of them doing something than saying "I sure wish I had a ____." 
2. Ruby slippers are just plain prettier than silver shoes.
3. The songs.  How can you not love them?
4. "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"
5. "I'll get you, my pretty, and you're little dog too!"  Margaret Hamilton's performance in general is just fantastic.
6. The sequence with the witch's guards, and the characters stealing their uniforms.
7. Judy Garland.  Do I have to say anything else?
8. The change from sepia to color.  Even now when color films are the rule, this still looks fantastic.

As you might imagine, I'm pretty excited about Oz The Great and Powerful.  That one brief glimpse of the girl made of china in the trailer certainly suggests to me that they're pulling from the books as well as the movie for ideas.  It's not going to be perfect, but if nothing else it should be gorgeous to look at.  Oz is much like Alice in Wonderland for me, as it's a mythology in which I welcome all adaptations and versions, no matter how far off the rails. 

What's your favorite Oz book or film?

5 comments:

  1. I'm trying to remember, was the Muppets' Wizard of Oz a part of the Muppets re-watch you did a little while ago? If not, you might want to check it out as it has many elements (the Wizard's multiple appearances) from the book that weren't in the classic film.

    I've always had a mixed relationship with the old film. I personally prefer the book and find the film's narrative kinda sloppy and superficial (to be fair, it went through around 20 different screenwriters), but I can't deny just how much of a magical delight it is to watch.

    Return to Oz, though. That's the one I really love.

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    1. I did not include it in my marathon because it was a made for television film. I don't recall liking it very much when I saw it (which is on par with how I felt about Treasure Island and Christmas Carol) but I think that was before I read the book. My opinion may change a little bit on a more recent viewing, but mostly I just find that era of Muppet movies really uninspired.

      The development of the film is definitely fascinating in and of itself. It goes to show you that the development hell we see so often with films these days isn't anything new.

      I watched Return to Oz sometime in the last few years. While I wouldn't say I fell in love, it was an enjoyable odd little 80s film.

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  2. +JMJ+

    This is one classic--book or movie--that just never did it for me. I have only the vaguest memories of the book, and one of those memories from when I decided to read it for the "first" time several years ago, only to realise halfway in that I had read it in its entirety several years earlier! I'm also kind of sure that I've seen the movie from start to finish as well . . . but there are so many scenes that are memorable to everyone else in the world (and the culture in general) that I draw a blank on.

    But now that you mention Return to Oz . . . Are you surprised that that is the movie I love? LOL! I've never read the book, though.

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    1. Given how many years went by before either version of the story took any kind of hold of me, I can understand why it didn't make much of an impression on you. Admittedly, if I hadn't been listening to the adorable Anne Hathaway on my second time through the book, I don't know if I would have made it. Mostly because of the "I sure wish I had a brain..." moments that I mentioned in the post. They do get tedious.

      And no, it doesn't surprise me that you love Return to Oz. :) I think it is technically based on two different books, so I don't know if that means you would enjoy reading the two different stories or still prefer the melded version the movie created but I'm betting on the latter!

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    2. +JMJ+

      I hadn't known it was based on two books! I'll probably get into them someday, if I ever do an Oz reading project, but given my impressions of the first book, that's highly unlikely. ;-)

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