I remember watching a lot of weird movies growing up. Before the internet a lot of what you knew came from your family, and mine was pretty weird. But I always had one film stick out in my head, but I could never figure out what it was.
It was live action with some really awesome puppetry going on, but it was so strange that for years I thought it was just my imagination. Then, thanks to the internet, I finally figured out what film was nagging at me since my childhood.
That film was Return to Oz.
A spiritual sequel to MGM's classic film, this one was more in tone with the books (which I have become obsessed with). The more I researched it the more I wondered why it wasn't popular. It was produced by Disney, featured Jim Henson puppets and Will Vinton claymation sequences, and starred Fairuza Balk (The Waterboy, The Craft) in her first theatrical performance!
To me, this film stands alongside the other great 80's fantasy movies like Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, and The Dark Crystal.
But I'm rambling (I do so love this movie!) so I'll get to the point: This film, as well as the MGM classic and the books, solidified my yearning to visit Oz as my favourite fantasy world.
"But why?" you may ask.
For starters the people of this land are, for the most part, very friendly and especially interesting. From animated Scarecrows to Tin lumberjacks to Pumpkinheaded monsters and giant educated insects, Oz has a wide variety of people to get to know, all of which have a story to tell. And, if the MGM film is any indication, people happily break out into song at a moments notice!
There's also a huge amount of land to explore! Oz is separated into 4 countries, each with their own special cultures, cities, and even favourite colors! I mean, take a look at this map and you can see how you could never be bored exploring:
One of the best things about Oz is that you can pretty much do anything you think you could do! I mean, the Scarecrow was simply the first scarecrow to think, "You know, I'd like to be sentient right about now..."! The Tin Man simply thought he could replace any body part if it needed replacing. Anything you legitimately think is possible is!
Heck you can't even die unless you want to!
But don't think that with all this Oz would get boring. There are still plenty of dangers to keep things interesting. Witches, mad Nome Kings, Kalidahs (half bear, half tiger monsters), mischievous flying monkeys, deserts which turn you into sand, Hammerheads (creatures with extending necks they use to knock people off mountains!), and more! There are many things to keep you on your toes!
Depending on your source material Oz can either be a happy, musical land with sparse dangers or an epic and exciting wilderness to explore. I like to think it's more in the middle somewhere, but until I can visit there for real I can only imagine the amazing adventures that are in store for me!
Be sure to check out these pieces to get a great understanding of how wonderful Oz is!
- MGM's classic 1939 "Wizard of Oz"
- Disney's 1985 "Return to Oz"
- The original 40 (you read that right) books, the first 10 by L. Frank Baum and the rest official sequels
- "The Wizard of Oz", a great animated adaptation of the first book made in 1982 by Fumihiko Takayama
- Marvel Comic's beautiful adaptations into comic book form and illustrated by Scottie Young