Dramatic presentations of Oz
[A word here about video formats: All references to home video in this section, unless otherwise noted, refer to what's been released in North America on the NTSC VHS format, and Region 1 (United States and Canada) DVDs and Region A Blu-Ray discs in NTSC. Outside of the United States and Canada, you will probably have to do some looking on your own. I'd love to include anything you find out in future editions of this FAQ, so please write me if you have information.]
Was The Wizard of Oz or any other Oz story ever performed as a play?
Most certainly! In fact, almost as soon as it was published, there was talk of turning it into a play. Under the guidance of stage manager Julian Mitchell, The Wizard of Oz debuted in Chicago in 1902, and a year later it was playing on Broadway, where it racked up one of the longest runs of its day. Touring productions of the play were on the road as late as 1909, and regional theaters were putting it on as late as 1918, possibly even later. Its original stars, Fred Stone and David Montgomery, who played the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, went on to become successes in other shows. Despite bearing little resemblance to the book — Dorothy's pet dog Toto became her pet cow Imogene, for instance, other characters were added, there was no Wicked Witch of the West, the Lion's part was greatly reduced and he couldn't talk, and many musical numbers that had nothing to do with the plot were thrown in — it was a great success which Baum tried to duplicate twice. His first attempt was The Woggle-Bug in 1905, a dramatization of The Marvelous Land of Oz, which "failed to woggle," as one observer put it. The critics said it was too similar to The Wizard of Oz, but not as good, and it failed to draw an audience. It only played a few weeks in Milwaukee and Chicago. In 1913, Baum tried again with a dramatization of the third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, but he made enough changes to make an entirely new story called The Tik-Tok Man of Oz. Although successful in its Los Angeles and Chicago runs, it never made it to Broadway, and so Baum used the story instead as the basis for his next Oz book, where it became Tik-Tok of Oz.
With the exception of the 1928 Jean Gros marionette show The Magical Land of Oz, which was an adaptation of Ozma of Oz written by Ruth Plumly Thompson, and the Junior League adaptations of several Oz books in the 1920s and 1930s, for the most part that was it for Oz stage shows for some time. The success of The Movie, however, changed that, and in the 1940s the St. Louis Light Opera put on a version of The Wizard of Oz, adapted by Frank Gabrielson and with songs from The Movie. It was successful enough that other regional theaters put it on as well, and are continuing to do so to this day.
In 1974, producer Ken Harper put on a new staging of The Wizard of Oz with all new music and an African-American cast. The storyline of The Wiz stayed fairly close to the original book, and after out-of-town tryouts, it opened on Broadway in 1975, where it picked up seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical. It has been revived, performed in community theaters, and loosely adapted into a movie.
Since then, most of the major stage productions have been tied in with The Movie. A lavish arena show toured much of North America in 1989, and in 1995 a one-time show, The Wizard of Oz in Concert, emphasizing the music, was presented in New York City with an all-star cast to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The latter was recorded and broadcast on American cable channel TNT, and has been released on videotape and reshown on PBS stations and VH1. In Great Britain, the Royal Shakespeare Company staged The Wizard of Oz, a closer adaptation of The Movie than the St. Louis Light Opera show, for several Christmas seasons beginning in the 1980s, and this version has now been performed around the world, and is available for companies to put on. The Wizard of Oz on Ice toured a number of North American cities in the 1990s, and there were also Oz productions in many earlier editions of the Ice Follies and Ice Capades. And a major production, produced by Madison Square Garden and featuring Mickey Rooney as the Wizard, toured throughout the United States and Canada.
In 2003, a new show opened on Broadway after a successful tryout that summer in San Francisco. Wicked, based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, is the story of what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in, and focuses on the relationship between Glinda the Good and Elphaba, who became the Wicked Witch of the West. It opened to mixed reviews, but the audiences were enthusiastic, and Wicked went on to become one of the biggest recent success stories on Broadway. It won many awards, including one for Best Actress in a Musical for Idina Menzel, who played Elphaba. Also, the cast album won a Grammy. As of October 2010, there are Wicked companies on Broadway, the West End in London, Tokyo, Oberhausen (Germany), two North American touring companies, and one company touring Australia. New productions are also open or in the works in Denmark and Finland.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber, after the success of his previous talent hunt shows on the BBC, was the guiding force behind Over the Rainbow in 2010. The goal of the show was to find an actress to play Dorothy in a new West End production, which opened in early 2011. The winner was Danielle Hope, and the runner up, Sophie Evans, is Hope's understudy. Michael Crawford plays the Wizard. Sir Andrew and Tim Rice wrote new songs to add to the show, but the show is based on the famous MGM movie version of the story, and includes the original songs as well. You can find out more about this show at http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/.
There have also been several school, community, and children's theater stage productions of not only The Wizard of Oz, but also The Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, The Yellow Knight of Oz, Merry Go Round in Oz, and probably other books as well, over the years, as well as the Oz-themed novel Was and new Oz stories written especially for the stage. Some of Baum's non-Oz books have also been adapted for the stage, including The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and Dot and Tot of Merryland. Volshebnik Izumrudnovo Goroda (see the question What's this I hear about a different Oz series in Russia?) has also been performed on stage in Russia.
Our school/local community theater group wants to put on The Wizard of Oz. Where can we get a script and the rights to do it?
The current source for the amateur stage rights of The Movie is Tams-Witmark. You must go through Tams-Witmark and pay their royalties if you want to use the music from The Movie, even if you don't use their script. They have two different versions, one based on the 1940s St. Louis show (http://www.tamswitmark.com/musicals/wizard.html), one based on the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation (http://www.tamswitmark.com/musicals/wizardrsc.html), and one designed for younger performers (http://tamswitmark.com/musicals/wizardype.html). They can be reached on the WWW at http://www.tamswitmark.com. Music Theatre International also has a musical version of The Wizard of Oz available to theater companies, but the music is not that from The Movie. They are on the WWW at http://www.mtishows.com/default.asp, and they have a web page about their version of The Wizard of Oz at http://www.mtishowspace.com/mod/shows/mtishow.php?showid=000028. Another version is available through Classics on Stage (http://www.classicsonstage.com/scriptswizardofoz.html), and Pioneer Drama Services (http://www.pioneerdrama.com/) has five (!) different versions available. Yet another version (http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/product_info.php/products_id/4326 — this is the non-musical Junior League version from the 1920s — along with The Wiz (http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/product_info.php/products_id/2772) is available through Samuel French (http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/). Still more versions of The Wizard of Oz and other Oz scripts can be found at Dramatic Publishing (http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/). A number of scripts for The Wizard of Oz and other Oz shows are available for sale through (TMOHH) the WWOOW's bookshop, aisle 10 (http://thewizardofoz.info/aisle10.html), and these generally contain performance and royalty information. If you are willing to forego the famous songs from The Movie, the story itself is in public domain, so you can always write your own script, as long as it's not a direct rip-off of The Movie or any other script. Wicked is not yet available for local productions, and likely won't be for some time. And no, there's no readily-available version of the 1902 stage play, either, and I don't know why.
How can we make sets, costumes, and so forth for our production of The Wizard of Oz?
That's a very big, long question, and difficult to answer in a document of this type. Let's just say that it all depends on your performance area, budget, available materials, what crafts people you have available and what they can do, and what the director wants. You'd be better off looking for information on stagecraft rather than trying to get answers here. Some Oz-specific suggestions can be found, however, at http://www.beyondtherainbow2oz.com/stagethewizard.html. Some sketches, plans, and scene designs used by the St. Louis Municipal Light Opera are available at http://www.trinity.edu/sgilliam/sd/oz.html and http://www.angelfire.com/tx/SLGDESIGN/oz.html. Moonstruck Dramatic Books has pages on their site devoted to both The Wizard of Oz (http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm6.htm) and The Wiz (http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm59.html). Information on Oz costumes and costume patterns can be found in the question Where can I find Oz costumes?. Good lu... — er, I mean, break a leg!
Who are Gloria, Lord Growley, and Tibia? I don't remember them from The Movie. What can you tell me about them?
All three are new characters created for the St. Louis Light Opera's script for The Wizard of Oz. Lord Growley is the prime minister of the Emerald City. He serves the same role in that show as the Soldier with the Green Whiskers does in the book, or many of the characters played by Frank Morgan in The Movie. Gloria is his daughter, who shows Dorothy the sights. Gloria, some of her friends, and Dorothy have a song in the show that is not from The Movie. (This Gloria is not the same character as Princess Gloria, from Baum's The Scarecrow of Oz.) Tibia is a live skeleton who acts as the Wicked Witch's butler and henchman. Since none of these characters appear in The Movie or any other version or adaptation of Oz, actors playing these roles are free to interpret them in any way they care to.
What can you tell me about Wicked?
Wicked is a musical show currently playing on Broadway, and in London's West End, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Mexico, as well as two companies touring North America, with new productions in Finland and Denmark. It has also had successful runs in Germany and the Netherlands. It opened on Broadway in 2003, and is still doing well, having now become the eleventh longest running show in Broadway history. It is based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire, which is one of those Oz books that's not really written for children. Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, a young woman with green skin and a strong independent streak, how she becomes friends with Galinda (who later shortens her name to Glinda and becomes a good witch), and how she eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. The novel is very dark, which has surprised some of the younger fans of the play when they seek it out. The play, while following the basic storyline, is lighter and appropriate for most audiences, although it is not recommended for theatergoers under the age of eight (more for the length of the show and the confusing experience of being at a big time professional show rather than content). For more details about the show, take a look at the Wicked pages on the website of the composer, Stephen Schwartz, at http://www.musicalschwartz.com/wicked.htm. There's even a Wicked-specific FAQ there.
Have there been any Oz movies?
Oh, yes! Thanks to television, and now home video, for many people Oz is a movie, shown annually on American television and one of the most famous, beloved, and watched films of all time. Yet from the earliest days of filmmaking there have been Oz movies. In 1911 the Baums moved to a sleepy little suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood, and Frank got caught up in the fledgling movie industry there, going so far as to organize his own film studio. Here is a partial, annotated list of Oz movies that have been made over the years:
- The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays. This was an elaborate multimedia show that toured the midwestern and eastern United States in 1908, and L. Frank Baum himself presented it. Using hand-tinted films, slides, live actors, and a full orchestra, Baum presented dramatizations of The Wizard of Oz, The Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and John Dough and the Cherub, and a preview of his then-forthcoming new book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. No film from this show is known to exist, but the slides and scripts do.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and the Scarecrow of Oz, The Land of Oz, John Dough and the Cherub. When the Fairylogue ran into financial trouble, Baum assigned the film rights to some of his books to the Selig Polyscope Company, which had made the films, and as a result these one-reelers were released in 1910. These are not the Fairylogue films, but new versions. Thought lost for years, the first film turned up at the Kodak Film Archives in Rochester, New York, in the early 1990s. Clips were featured in the made-for-video documentary, Oz: The American Fairyland. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been shown on Turner Classic Movies, and is part of the current DVD releases of The Movie. It was also released as part of the DVD set More Treasures from the American Film Archives. Of course, you can also watch it on YouTube. Nobody has found any sign of the other three films.
- The Patchwork Girl of Oz, The Magic Cloak of Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. These were produced by Baum's own Oz Film Company in 1914, and were not terribly successful. They were based on, respectively, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Queen Zixi of Ix (with its location changed from Ix to Oz), and a number of elements of Baum's other books. The latter was written up a year later as the novel The Scarecrow of Oz. The Magic Cloak of Oz was released as two two-reelers in Great Britain, The Witch Queen and The Magic Cloak, and the only prints currently available just give the title as The Magic Cloak; while His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz was later released as The New Wizard of Oz. The Oz Film Company also made some films based on Baum's non-Oz writings, none of which are now known to exist, although parts of The Last Egyptian were recently found. The complete Oz movies are currently available on home video and DVD in several different packages. The Magic Cloak of Oz and His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz are part of the first 3-DVD collector's set of The Movie, and they were joined by The Patchwork Girl of Oz on its 2009 release.
- The Wizard of Oz. This 1925 release, co-written by Baum's eldest son, had a character named Dorothy living in Kansas and a house transported to Oz via cyclone, but the resemblance to the book ends there. This is a slapstick farce that served mainly as a vehicle for comedian Larry Semon, who played the Scarecrow. This film is most notable today for a set of farmhands who later become Dorothy's three friends in Oz, an idea MGM may have borrowed for The Movie; and the appearance of a young Oliver Hardy, somewhat slimmer than when he teamed up with Stan Laurel two years later. Hardy played the farmhand who disguised himself as a Tin Man. Currently available on home video and DVD, and a cleaned-up and restored version is part of current DVD release of The Movie. (This movie and the three Oz Film Company movies are all available on VHS, individually or in an attractive boxed set, from American Home Entertainment, and in a 3-DVD set from Brentwood Home Video.) There are also a few British DVDs in PAL format; one has it as part of a Laurel and Hardy collection (even though Stan Laurel wasn't in it), paired up with the movie Hustling for Health, which featured Stan Laurel but not Hardy.
- The Wizard of Oz. A 1933 cartoon short directed by Ted Eshbaugh, it was originally made in Technicolor. Unfortunately, before it hit theaters, Walt Disney signed an exclusive agreement with Technicolor, thus holding up release of Eshbaugh's short. Black and white copies eventually made it into the hands of collectors, and in the late 1980s it was finally released on home video. An excerpt was included on the 1998 DVD release of The Movie, and the whole cartoon, in color, is part of the most recent DVD releases of The Movie.
- The Wizard of Oz. This is it, the big one, MGM's 1939 Judy Garland vehicle, the most watched movie in history. For many people, this movie is Oz. There have been so many questions, legends, rumors, half-truths, and speculations surrounding this movie that six (!) sections of this FAQ are devoted to it. Besides its annual television showings, it's been released on home video, laserdisk, and DVD in several versions, and made its Blu-Ray debut in 2009.
- Fantasia...3. A 1966 anthology film from Spain with a segment loosely based on The Wizard of Oz.
- The Wonderful Land of Oz. A 1969 low-budget musical adaptation of Baum's second book, poor acting and poor production values let this one down. It was released on VHS and DVD (the latter paired with Jack and the Beanstalk) by Something Weird in 2002, but it is no longer available in their catalog.
- Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde (Little Ayse and the Magic Dwarfs in the Land of Dreams), a 1971 low-budget Turkish adaptation that has gained a latter-day cult following. Some have called it the worst film ever made.
- Journey Back to Oz. Released in Europe in 1972 and North America in 1974, this was the first full-length animated Oz theatrical release, and boasted a stellar cast of voices, including Liza Minnelli as Dorothy, Mickey Rooney as the Scarecrow, and Ethel Merman as Mombi, the Wicked Witch. Although loosely based on The Land of Oz, it introduced a number of its own elements, including an army of marauding green elephants. To date, probably the most successful animated Oz film, although it still leaves much to be desired. It has been released on home video, and made its DVD debut in 2006.
- Oz (North American title: Twentieth Century Oz). A 1976 Australian film that transplanted the story of The Wizard of Oz to Melbourne and its environs, with the Scarecrow becoming a dim surfer, the Tin Woodman a greasy mechanic, the Lion a braggart biker, and the Wizard a rock star. It was rated "R" in the United States, so this is not a film for kids! Not available on North American home video, but it has been shown on local television in Canada, and is now available on DVD in Australia.
- The Wiz. The 1977 movie version of the Broadway play, although Oz is transplanted to New York City, and much of what made the play a success is lost. It stars Diana Ross as a rather mature Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. It is available on home video and DVD.
- Os Trapalhões e o Mágico de Oroz. This 1984 Brazilian comedy features the slapstick troupe Os Trapalhões as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion in a search for water during a drought. Children's television host Xuxa plays the Cowardly Lion's girlfriend (!).
- Return to Oz. This 1985 film was Disney's attempt to get in on Oz. (An elaborate Oz production number, starring the Mousketeers, was shown on the Disneyland television show in the 1960s as a preview for The Rainbow Road to Oz, which was never made.) Loosely based on The Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, it was too dark and gloomy for many, and critics unfamiliar with the books made unfavorable comparisons to The Movie. It has been released on home video and DVD, and been shown on the Disney Channel, the Family Channel, the Hallmark Channel, and premium movie channels on cable, and independent television stations around America.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, The Emerald City of Oz. These animated films, made by Cinar Films Inc. in Canada in 1987, were released direct to videotape and DVD in North America, but were shown in theaters in several other countries around the world. These were edited compilations of the TV series (see the question Has there ever been an Oz TV show? below), but they've also been shown by themselves on cable.
- Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) a big budget tale of how circus illusionist Oscar Diggs, the future Wizard of Oz (James Franco) arrives in Oz and encounters the attractive witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams) who lead him into intrigue and warfare for the rule of the Emerald City.
Oz and Ozian themes have also been a part of other films, most notably Zardoz, Wild at Heart, and Under the Rainbow, a poor Chevy Chase comedy about Nazi spies infiltrating Hollywood during the filming of The Movie. Oz jokes and references, usually referring to The Movie, often pop up in other films, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Batman (1989), Kentucky Fried Movie, Top Secret, and One True Thing, to name but a few. Costumed Oz characters appear in a department store during the Christmas season in A Christmas Story. And if you look carefully, you can see Oz books in Rambling Rose, You've Got Mail, and perhaps other movies. Clips from The Movie itself appear in Jumanji and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and probably others. One character in Girl, Interrupted is an Oz fan and collector.
With the wide array of video sharing sites, a number of fan made or independent short Oz films are available online, including full length CGI versions of The Tin Woodman of Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz. (Due to the changing nature of these sites, a list may become obsolete.) Some independent studios are even attempting their own Oz feature films.
Why doesn't Hollywood make more Oz movies?
In a nutshell, it's already been done. The Movie is so well known that studio executives are generally reluctant to even consider another movie based on the Oz books. The generally poor reception of The Wiz and Return to Oz only adds to the perception. Plus, Oz just doesn't seem to fit into the current Hollywood movie-making climate, which expects lots of aliens, laser battles, car chases, and the like for a movie — at least one that would cost as much as a live-action Oz film — to be even considered for production. However, with the arrival of Oz the Great and Powerful that may change soon, depending on the box office results. Keep reading...
I've heard about a new Oz movie being made. What can you tell me about it?
It looks as if enough time has passed since The Wiz and Return to Oz for Hollywood to think about Oz movies again and the film Oz the Great and Powerful is the result (see above). Also, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (originally titled Dorothy of Oz) is scheduled to be released in 2014. This 3D computer-animated musical film is based on the 1989 book Dorothy of Oz by Roger Stanton Baum.
Over the past fifteen years, several potential Oz movies have been rumored to be in the works. One was entitled Somewhere, and was to feature Elizabeth Taylor playing Dorothy, now a grandmother, returning to Oz. Another project, overseen by Drew Barrymore, was called Surrender, Dorothy, and would feature Barrymore playing Dorothy's great-granddaughter, who went to Oz and faces the Wicked Witch's granddaughter. And Pamela West has been mentioned, which would make the Witch the heroine and Dorothy the evil interloper. One may note that at least some of these projects appeared to be sequels to The Movie, rather than based on the books or any other version of Oz. John Boorman's CGI animated version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had some test footage done, but ran out of funding. It must be emphasized that, as of this writing (March, 2013), none of these films has actually gone before the cameras, and it appears unlikely that any of them will be made, unless Oz the Great and Powerful leads someone to revive them at the studios. Also in the works are a small independent adaptation, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, for which much of the principal photography has already been completed. and Legend of Oz, a contemporary modern update of the story (its website is at http://valleywind.com/legendofoz/). You'll just have to keep watching your local movie listings to see if any Oz movies get made and come to your local theater. For all the latest rumors and updates on Oz movie productions, keep an eye on http://thewizardofoz.info/oznews.html#rumors.
I want to make my own Oz movie. What do I need to do?
Wow, you are ambitious! Unlike writing a book, making a movie is a collaborative process that, to do right, involves dozens, if not hundreds of people. (Just count the number of names in the closing credits of any current movie and you get the idea.) It also takes money. Even low budget indie movies need producers to supply the funds. And then there's the whole game of Hollywood politics. My advice — as a non-filmmaker, you understand — is to go to film school and get yourself established in the industry. Seriously, that's what it's going to take. There is, at least, some Oz-themed help for you now, in the book Screenwriting in The Land of Oz: The Wizard on Writing, Living, and Making It In Hollywood by Richard Krevolin. And no, you can't just write a screenplay, either, and have it automatically seen by the suits. Again, you have to be established before they'll even see you. (Yes, it's a paradox, but that's how it works.)
Hey, am I missing a scene in the 1914 silent version of The Patchwork Girl of Oz? Where is it? What happens in it?
Yes, you are missing a key scene in The Patchwork Girl of Oz — but so is everyone else, as it's missing from the only known original print. Early film stock was fragile, and could rot or fall apart if not properly cared for, which was the case with the first reel of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. You can see the damage creep in as a white blob on the right hand side of the screen, and it progressively gets worse and worse as the reel keeps going. Finally, the key scene of the Patchwork Girl coming to life, and Unk Nunkie, Margolotte, and Danx turning to stone when the Liquid of Petrifaction falls on them is so badly damaged that I have never seen it intact in any film print or video or DVD release. Oz and silent movie fans around the world would be extremely happy if another, intact copy of the first reel was to ever turn up.
I hear there's a big scene with lots of other Oz characters in Return to Oz. Where is it, and who's in it?
Right at the end of the 1985 Disney movie, once the Emerald City has been restored, there is a joyous celebration that leads up to Ozma's liberation and Dorothy returning home. The makers of Return to Oz paid homage to the Oz stories by slipping in many, many characters from the books into the crowds in these scenes, all based on the original Denslow and Neill illustrations. Sharp-eyed viewers can find the Guardian of the Gates, the Shaggy Man, the Patchwork Girl, Polychrome, the Bumpy Man, the Braided Man, Tommy Kwikstep, the Frogman, Rinkitink, and probably a few others as well. And by the way, those short people with the fur hats? Those are the Munchkins, sporting a new design for this film.
Will there ever be a film version of Wicked?
It's difficult to predict, as Hollywood is fickle. If some executive were to approve a film version of Wicked, there's no guarantee that another executive wouldn't come in, take his place, and cancel it. There are no current firm plans for a film version of Wicked, but one of the producers of the show is Universal Pictures, and musicals are becoming big at the movies again. So it's not only possible, but likely that there will be a film version. When, however, I couldn't even begin to tell you. It will probably be some time still, so that the play can run its course on tour and around the world. If anything concrete comes up, I'll put it up on WWOOW's news page (http://thewizardofoz.info/oznews.html), and update this answer as soon as I can.
Was there ever a movie called The Wizard of Oz 2?
Not by that name, no. But there have been several sequels to The Wizard of Oz made as movies, or released direct to video. The one most people seem to be thinking of, however, when they ask me this question is the 1985 Disney movie Return to Oz. See the question Have there been any Oz movies? for more details on Oz movies.
Was there ever an Oz radio show?
Yes. Back in 1933, Jell-O sponsored a fifteen minute Wizard of Oz radio show on NBC's red network, which was broadcast Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. It ran for six months, but then Jell-O decided to switch their sponsorship to Jack Benny instead, so that was it for Oz. The series pretty much followed the books, getting as far as The Emerald City of Oz, with some allowances made for radio, and lots of songs and advertisements for Jell-O thrown in. No episodes of this series are known to survive, but NBC's archives still hold the scripts.
Also, there exists two episodes of an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz from the same era, broadcast on CBS, but nobody's been able to find out any more about them.
More recently, the BBC produced its own version of The Wizard of Oz for British radio in the 1990s. This is currently available in Great Britain and North America in a two CD set or audio download from the BBC Radio Collection. A second BBC adaptation was played on BBC Radio and the bbc.co.uk website during the 2009 holiday season.
During the holiday season in 2000, many public radio stations in the United States broadcast a new radio adaptation of The Wizard of Oz with an all-star cast, including Michelle Trachtenberg as Dorothy, Harry Anderson as the Wizard, Rene Auberjonois as the Scarecrow, Nestor Serrano as the Tin Woodman, and Robert Guillaume as the Cowardly Lion. This production is available as a four-CD set from LodesTone Audio Theatre, http://www.lodestone-media.com/wizard.html, and other outlets.
Mention should also be made here of the Colonial Radio Theatre's audio adaptations of the first five Oz books. Although they were not initially broadcast on radio, they were originally presented, on ten audio cassettes, as if they were. You can hear some samples at http://www.colonialradio.com/HTML/titles/oz_series.html. They have since been re-edited and broadcast on Sirius XM Radio's now defunct Book Radio. These are also available on CD and audio download at audible.com, and as of 2012, more books will be dramatized.
Two Oz-related episodes of radio shows also need to be mentioned here. An installment of the Maxwell House Good News show broadcast in June of 1939 was devoted to a sneak peek at The Movie, which was due to be released later that summer. It featured Judy Garland, Frank Morgan (a regular Good News cast member), Ray Bolger, and Bert Lahr, and was the public debut of the songs from The Movie. It featured many behind-the-scenes vignettes (mostly made up for the show), a "Baby Snooks" routine where her Daddy reads the story to her, and an appearance by Fred Stone, who played the Scarecrow in the 1902 stage play. (A snippet of this show can even be heard in the opening audio montage of the science fiction movie Contact, as it's one of the few examples of radio from that time period that's been preserved.) The CD version of the Good News episode includes the original commercials, and MGM's Wizard of Oz edition of Leo Is On the Air, an extended radio advertisement. Both shows are also available as audio-only tracks on the current American DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Movie.
On Christmas Day, 1950, Judy Garland recreated her role as Dorothy for an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz on The Lux Radio Theatre. Garland was the only original cast member, but her then-four-year-old daughter, Liza Minnelli, makes a cameo appearance at the end. Both of these radio episodes have been released on record, audio cassette, and CD, the latter available from Radio Spirits at http://www.radiospirits.com/. The Lux Radio Theatre production is also available as part of the current DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Movie.
Have there been talking book versions of any of the Oz books?
Yes, quite a few. Most have been adaptations of the story for very young children of The Wizard of Oz, many of which are still available today. One, from Caedmon, was read by Ray Bolger, who also read adaptations of The Land of Oz, Queen Zixi of Ix, and some of the "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz" comic stories. These are currently available on cassette in a boxed set as The Oz Audio Collection. Another notable version came out from Columbia Records in 1969, with the entire book recorded on seven records, read by George Rose and Mildred Dunnock. More recently, Piglet Press has put out large cast readings of The Wizard of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz on cassette. In the 1960s, Disney put out book-and-record editions of The Wizard of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz (narrated by Ray Bolger), The Tin Woodman of Oz, and a new story called The Cowardly Lion of Oz — not to be confused with the Ruth Plumly Thompson story of the same name, despite the claims of the album notes that it is an adaptation. And there have been many other audio adaptations of The Wizard of Oz on records, cassettes, CDs, and now CD-ROM. Gregory Maguire's novels Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men, and Stuart Kaminsky's Murder on the Yellow Brick Road have been recorded as audiobooks.
A number of free audiobooks are available from Librivox, including a number of Oz and Baum books, recorded by volunteers. Uvula Audio Books also has a number of Baum titles available for free downloading. And in 2010, as part of the American Library Association's 2010 convention in Washington, D. C., Random House Audio set up a recording studio and let famous authors, attendees, and members of the general public each record a few lines of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for a charity release. It's free to download right here, but they do encourage you to donate to First Book while you're there.
Has there ever been an Oz TV show?
Yes, quite a few now. Again, here's an incomplete checklist of what's been shown:
- Tales of the Wizard of Oz. A series of 130 short (less than five minutes each) cartoons about the adventures of Socrates the Straw Man, Rusty the Tin Man, Dandy Lion, and other characters very loosely based on The Wizard of Oz, with many liberties taken. Produced in 1961, these were probably shown between other cartoons on Saturday mornings or on local independent stations. They seem to have been especially widespread in Canada, as many people have written to me having seen them there. I've heard that some episodes have been released on home video, but these aren't generally available any more. Episodes have also been available on some cable system's digital "on demand" systems. You can find out a little more at http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?show_id=3584.
- Off to See the Wizard. This series was MGM's answer to The Wonderful World of Disney, in that it was an anthology of old movies, short subjects, etc., from the studio's archives. The animated Oz segments were used to introduce the show and as bumpers going into commercial breaks. The animation was done by Chuck Jones, and voices included Mel Blanc, June Foray, and Daws Butler. Some samples are included on recent North American releases of The Movie on DVD and Blu-Ray. More information is available at http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?show_id=2673.
- W krainie Czarnoksiężnika Oza. A 1980s Polish series of stop motion animated episodes based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. Information (in Polish) at http://www.filmpolski.pl/fp/index.php/425538.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This 1987 animated series, made by Cinar, Inc. in Canada, was the English-language adaptation of a Japanese anime series, オズの魔法使い, (Ozu no Mahotsukai). It was made up of four stories: The Wizard of Oz, The Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz. In the United States the fifty-two episode series has been shown on HBO and other cable channels, but only the edited movie versions have been released on VHS and DVD. It was released in its entirety, uncut, on DVD in other countries around the world. The English version is available for online viewing in a serial format at Jaroo.com and Hulu.com, and often shown on television on the This TV channel. The entire series, in the original Japanese as well as an additional Chinese soundtrack, is available from Yesasia.com.
- From 1987 to 1990, Jim Henson's company produced Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories, a series of short vignettes that told the story behind several of the classic Mother Goose rhymes. A number of the stories (but not all) were based on stories written by L. Frank Baum in his first published children's book, Mother Goose in Prose. Some of the stories have been released on VHS and DVD.
- The Wizard of Oz. In 1990, to capitalize on the publicity surrounding The Movie's fiftieth anniversary, Turner Entertainment Co. and DIC produced this thirteen episode animated series, based on The Movie. In the Unites States it ran on ABC Saturday mornings during the 1990-91 TV season. Some episodes have been released on VHS. Three DVD collections are currently available, meaning only two episodes have not been released on DVD. More information about the show is available at http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?show_id=3962.
- In 1996, Tokyo Broadcasting Service broadcast twenty four episodes of 少年サンタの大冒険 (Shonen Santa no Daibouken), or The Adventures of Young Santa Claus, an animated adaptation of Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Brief information is available at http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1728 and http://newwwoz.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-adventures-of-young-santa.html.
- La Maga y el Camino Dorado. A 2008 series produced in Argentina for the Latin American Nickelodeon. It is the story of a young woman whose adventures parallel Dorothy's in The Wizard of Oz. You can see it's website (in Spanish) at http://www.lamagatv.com/.
- SPECIALS, MINISERIES, AND ONE-TIME EVENTS:
- The Land of Oz. This adaptation of the second Oz book was an episode of Shirley Temple's weekly 1960 NBC series, and featured Temple as Tip and Ozma, Jonathan Winters as General Nikidik, and Agnes Moorehead as Mombi. (It was this role, incidentally, that convinced the producers of the series Bewitched to cast Moorehead as Endora, Samantha's mother, on that series.) In 2005, it was released on DVD as part of a set of Shirley Temple adaptations. More information can be found at http://store.nexternal.com/shared/StoreFront/product_detail.asp?RowID=25&CS=shirley&All= .
- Return to Oz. The producers of Tales of the Wizard of Oz used many of the same characterizations for this 1964 animated TV special, shown on NBC. It has previously been released on VHS, but isn't currently generally available. It was more recently released on DVD, but this is no longer available new. You can find out more about this special, and Susan Conway, who provided the voice of Dorothy, at http://www.rankinbass.com/schome.html.
- The Making of The Wizard of Oz. Aljean Harmetz, author of the book of the same name, hosted this short 1979 documentary, shown on PBS in the United States, about the making of The Movie. Includes interviews with Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Margaret Hamilton, among others.
- Thanksgiving in Oz (AKA Dorothy in the Land of Oz, Christmas in Oz, Dorothy and the Green Gobbler in Oz, or just plain Oz). Animated holiday special first shown in 1980. Very loosely based on Ozma of Oz. It has previously been released a number of times on VHS, and on DVD in 2007 (coupled with Peter and the Magic Egg with Ray Bolger).
- The Whimsical World of Oz. 1985 documentary about the Oz phenomenon, partly used to publicize Disney's film Return to Oz, and shown on PBS stations.
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985). Another holiday special, this one was made by Rankin-Bass and faithfully adapted from Baum's book of the same name. The animation uses stop-motion puppets, like other famous Rankin-Bass specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It is available on VHS and DVD (the latter coupled with another old Rankin-Bass special, Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey), and shown during the Christmas season on the ABC Family Channel.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic. As part of The Movie's fiftieth anniversary, Angela Lansbury hosted a documentary about the history and making of The Movie, shown after the movie's TV broadcast in 1990 and 1996, and in conjunction with many of The Movie's recent cable airings. It has also been shown on its own on PBS stations, and was released on video as part of The Ultimate Oz collector's set of The Movie, and the 1999, 2005, and 2009 DVD (and Blu-Ray) reissues of The Movie. The home video version is a bit longer, featuring more material.
- The Dreamer of Oz. This 1990 TV movie was a biography of L. Frank Baum, starring John Ritter as Frank and Annette O'Toole as Maud. While some of the details are inaccurate, this was, overall, a faithful telling of Baum's early life and career and how he came to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was never released on VHS in the United States, but it was in Australia. It finally made its home video release in 2009 as part of the new DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Movie that year (see the question Where can I find The Dreamer of Oz on home video? for more details.)
- Geltonu plytu kelias ("Yellow Brick Road") a musical version of The Wizard of Oz was broadcast on Lithuanian television in 1993.
- In Search of Oz. In 1994, the BBC's Arena documentary series produced this examination of Oz, which concentrated more on the books than most others. Shown in the United States, with a few cuts, on A&E.
- The Wizard of Oz in Concert. This 1995 concert, filmed for television, was a benefit for the Children's Defense Fund, and shown on TNT. It is available on home video, and has since been shown on VH1 and some PBS stations. Performers include Jewel as Dorothy, the Harlem Boys Choir, Joel Grey as Professor Marvel and the Wizard (predating his portrayal of the Wizard in Wicked on Broadway), Jackson Browne as the Scarecrow, Roger Daltrey as the Tin Man, Nathan Lane as the Cowardly Lion, Natalie Cole as Glinda, and Deborah Winger as the Wicked Witch of the West.
- The Wizard of Oz on Ice. This 1996 production, shown on CBS, was an abbreviated version of the touring production of the same name, with Oksana Baiul as Dorothy and Viktor Petrenko as the Scarecrow (neither of whom appeared in the touring show), and narrated by Bobby McFarrin, who does the same on tour. McFarrin also played the Wizard in this production, the only non-skater in the cast. It was released on VHS, but is no longer available.
- Lion of Oz. This animated movie was made by Sony in 2000, and is based on the book Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage by Roger S. Baum. It's a prequel about how the Wizard and the Lion came to Oz. It was shown on the Disney Channel and Toon Disney, and released on home video and DVD.
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (2000). This is a different animated version of the Baum story, produced by Sony, released on VHS, and shown on Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel.
- Being Dorothy, a Canadian documentary, shown on the CBC, about life in small-town America. The town they chose was Liberal, Kansas, home of the "Dorothy's House" tourist attraction, hence the Oz theme.
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz was a 2005 TV movie shown on ABC. It featured Ashanti as Dorothy, Pepe the King Prawn as Toto, Kermit the Frog as the Scarecrow, Gonzo as the Tin Thing, Fozzie as the Cowardly Lion, Miss Piggy as all four (!) witches, Jeffrey Tambor as the Wizard, and a cameo by Quentin Tarantino as himself. It was later released on video and DVD with additional footage and extras.
- Tin Man, the 2007 SciFi Channel miniseries, features Zooey Deschanel as DG, a Kansas waitress who turns out to be the lost princess of the O. Z., a land overrun by a wicked witch named Azkadellia. Believe it or not, this show turned out to be both a sequel and a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. It is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The True Story, a British documentary presented on BBC Four in 2011. This was a look at the life and careers of L. Frank Baum, how he came to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Oz books, and also how they translated the work to make the famous film version.
- The Witches of Oz (2011), a four-hour minseries, was first broadcast in Europe (most notably the Syfy channel in the United Kingdom), and made available on DISH Pay-Per-View and On Demand in the United States in September 2011, along with showings at select theaters. Dorothy, having forgotten about Oz, is all grown up and living in New York City, making a living as a children's book writer. But when the wicked witches come looking for her, she is forced to remember Oz and confront them. Fortunately, her old friends from Oz, the good witches, and the Wizard have come to help her. It has been released on DVD in Europe and Australia.
Numerous Oz references have made their way into any number of TV series, movies, and specials, and some shows have even had special Wizard of Oz episodes, such as Superfriends, Fame (which is now available to watch on Hulu.com), Alf Tales, Beetlejuice (the cartoon), The Guiding Light, That 70s Show, Life with Bonnie, a segment of Futurama, That's So Raven, and Phineas and Ferb, to name but a few. A 1970 episode of Death Valley Days entitled "The Wizard of Aberdeen" featured L. Frank Baum as a character, dramatizing an incident that took place while he was editing a newspaper in South Dakota. The soap opera Passions devoted an entire week to a Wizard of Oz-themed storyline in the summer of 2002. The HBO series Boardwalk Empire featured readings from The Road to Oz in an episode of its first season. And in Russia, television versions of Volshebnik Izumrudnogo Goroda have been shown, one live-action (which may have also had a theatrical release), one stop-motion animation, and one (a Baum-Volkov hybrid) cel animation. The last mentioned film was followed by a version of The Marvelous Land of Oz. The Wizard segment has been dubbed by British actors and released in the United Kingdom on DVD as The Haunted Journey to Oz.
I remember an Oz cartoon, can you tell me more about it? It had a catchy theme song that started out, "They're three sad souls, Oh me, oh my..."
"No brains, no heart, He's much too shy..." Yes, I'm familiar with that song. That's the theme song for Tales of the Wizard of Oz (see the question Has there ever been an Oz TV show? for more information). Despite what many people think, it's not a Canadian show, but American, produced by Rankin-Bass in the United States in the early 1960s. It just seems to have been shown in Canada a lot in the 1980s and '90s. The complete theme song lyrics are:
- They're three sad souls
- Oh me, oh my,
- No brains, no heart,
- He's much too shy.
- But never mind you three,
- Here's the Wizard as you can see.
- He'll fix that one, two, three
- In that funny place called the world of Oz.
- Oh the world of Oz is a funny, funny place
- Where everyone has a funny, funny face.
- All the streets are paved with gold,
- And no one ever grows old.
- In that funny land lives the Wizard of Oz.
More information about Tales of the Wizard of Oz can be found on the WWW at http://www.toonarific.com/show.php?show_id=3584. If you'd like to download the theme as a Real Media file, go to http://www.toontracker.com/realaudio/ttra60-1.htm and scroll down about a third of the way. Or you can just listen to it by going to http://www.toontracker.com/waves/waves.htm and finding the show's name on the second page.
Where can I find The Dreamer of Oz on home video?
The Dreamer of Oz was available as a VHS rental in Australia, but was never released in North America. In 2009, it was finally made available as a special feature on certain editions of the 2009 DVD and Blu-Ray release of The Movie (The Ultimate Collector's Edition, the Emerald Edition, and a special 2-disc set made exclusively for Wal-Mart). It should be noted, however, that the video quality is far from pristine, and the Blu-Ray only contains a standard definition version.
Have any Oz productions been released directly to home video?
A few animated versions of The Wizard of Oz, and one of Ozma of Oz, have been released straight to video. These are of varying quality, from so-so to all right, with some being straight adaptations and some a little more irreverent. One of the most notable of these is a Japanese version of The Wizard of Oz, which was released on home video in North America with a dubbed English soundtrack, featuring Aileen Quinn as Dorothy and Lorne Greene as the Wizard. A series, The Oz Kids, was also released straight to VHS, from Paramount, although it has been shown on television in other countries. The main characters are the sons and daughters of the familiar Oz characters (Dorothy's children Dot and Ned, Scarecrow Jr., Tin Boy, and so on), but the stories are based on Baum's books, including some of his non-Oz writings. Characters from later books — or rather, their children — appear, such as Jackie Pumpkinhead, Nome Prince Otto, and the Patchwork Baby. The videos were distributed through Paramount Home Video, and the titles are Toto, Lost in New York, The Nome Prince and the Magic Belt, Virtual Oz, Who Stole Santa? Christmas in Oz, Journey Beneath the Sea, Underground Adventure, The Monkey Prince, and The Return of Mombi. The two Christmas stories were also released on DVD in Great Britain. A play was recorded and released on video, the 1981 Minneapolis Children's Theater production of The Marvelous Land of Oz. Also, two documentaries were released on video in 1997, Oz: The American Fairyland and Charles Santore Illustrates The Wizard of Oz. Both were produced by Leonard A. Swann and released by Sirocco Productions, Inc., which no longer appears to be in business.