Monday, December 14, 2009

Video Review: Journey Back To Oz

Beating out Disney's Return To Oz by over a decade, this fully-animated "sequal" to the original 1939 Wizard Of Oz movie was headed up by Filmation, the same studio that did dozens of Saturday morning cartoons from the 60s-80s. Their main claims to fame were the original DC Super Heroes cartoons, the Star Trek animated series, Fat Albert, and He-Man. The film was headed up by Fredd Ladd, who pioneered alot of the original anime TV shows that were first shown in America, including Astro Boy. During the 60s when he was producing an original movie called Pinocchio In Outer Space, Ladd tried to get an animated followup to WOZ, however it wasn't until 1974 that it was finally released in theatres.

The story is set sometime after the original movie with Dorothy and Toto being taken to Oz via tornado(again?!), and then head out to the Emerald City. Along the way, she meets Pumpkinhead(not Jack)who is a slave of the evil witch Mombi that "claims" to be the cousin of both the deceased Wicked Witches. Mombi plots to kick Scarecrow off the throne with an army of conjured-up green elephants. Dorothy and Pumpkinhead go to warn Scarecrow, and run into an abandonned merry-go-round horse named Woodenhead who is this movie's version of the Sawhorse. They ride their new friend to the Emerald City and alert Scarecrow of the threat. But Mombi and her elephants show up and take over, imprisioning Scarecrow and Toto. Dorothy and the others try to get help from Tin Man and then Lion, both of whom uncharacteristically chicken out. Glinda finally arrives, but says she can't assist Dorothy directly(how convenient!)but gives her a magic box filled with an infinite number of mice to scare the elephants away. Facing defeat, Mombi disguises herself as a flower, only to get trampled on by the panicked packyderms. So Scarecrow is made king of Oz again, Pumpkinhead and Woodenhead get swanky new jobs, and Dorothy and Toto get sent back home thanks to Glinda's magic(so much for magic slippers).

This film was basically yet another take on the second book, Land Of Oz, although once again Dorothy is added to it when she was never even in the original story at all. There were alot of famous actors who provided voices for it, including Liza Minnelli(Judy Garland's daughter)as Dorothy, Mickey Rooney as Scarecrow, Paul Lynde as Pumpkinhead, Danny Thomas as Tin Man, Milton Berle as Lion, and Ethel Merman as Mombi. The animation was signifigantly better than most Filmation productions, mainly because they hired some additional outside animators from studios like Disney, including Don Bluth. It makes for a pretty enjoyable kids movie, although there's a whole load of mostly unnecessary music numbers thrown in, which if they were left out would've made the movie about thirty minutes shorter. Fans of the Land Of Oz might not like the primary characters of Trot, Jinjur, or Wogglebug being left out, but will probably appreciate the effort made to homage the original book. It was as of recently put on DVD by the now defucnt Ink & Paint, but is still available from most retailers.

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