Sunday, January 10, 2010

Video Review: Lion Of Oz

Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum, created a prequal to the original Wizard Of Oz book titled Lion Of Oz And The Badge Of Courage. In 2000, Sony Wonder did a full-length animated made-for-video movie based on it, Lion Of Oz, which was animated in Canada by Cinescope. The story takes place sometime prior to WOZ where the not so-Cowardly Lion is a circus animal, and his best friend there is Oscar Diggs, the circus' balloonist. Oscar takes Lion up for a ride(seems safe to take a Panthera leo up in balloon!), and gives him one of his obligatory medals that he gives to all of his riders, but they end up going to Oz. Lion falls safely out of the balloon while Oscar flies off uncontrollably. After rescuing a talking tree from being attacked by winged monkeys, he realizes that he himself can talk. But the Wicked Witch of the East(not West)shows up, and tells him that she has Oscar. In exchange for his release, the Witch tells Lion to find the fabled "Flower Of Oz", which apparently only someone who is brave of heart can find. Along the way, Lion helps out the strange cloiled bear Silly, who leads him to a castle where the enigmatic young girl Wimzik lives. She along with her living toys, the ballerina doll Caroline and the toy soldier Capt. Fitzgerald, decide to help Lion with his quest. They encounter Gloom, a living shadow who is working for the Witch, and she shows up to take Fitzgerald hostage in order motivate Lion more. The crew makes their way to a village of mini-Munchkins who are under a spell by the Witch, but Wimzik uses some hidden magic powers to restore them to their natural size(which is still kinda short). Lion and the others finally reach the end of the trail that's supposed to lead to the Flower, but Lion realizes that Wimzik herself is the "Flower" as she has healing powers and the ability to control flowers. The Witch shows up with Fitzgerald who tells them that she never had Oscar in the first place. This angers the Witch to the point that she attacks Lion, and throws away his medal, but Wimzik uses her magic to ward off the Witch. This leaves Lion believing that all his real courage came from his medal, and he leaves his friends to find Oscar on his own. He eventually carries on to where he first meets up with Dorothy and friends. This movie was fairly well animated for an early-2000s OVA, although some of the character designs are strange. Lion seems like he might be in The Lion King, Oscar(aka: the Wizard)is a little off from some of his other incarnations. It's refreshing to see characters like the Witch of the East getting more airtime in a story for once, although there's the big question as to who Wimzik might be in context to the rest of the Oz apocrypha, as if she might be Ozga from Tik-Tok Of Oz who is supposed to be Ozma's cousin from the Rose Kingdom. The film has a great list of voice actors, including Lynn Redgrave as the Witch, Dom DeLuise as Oscar, plus Tim Curry, Kathy Griffin, Bob Goldthwait, and Jane Horrocks. Although I kinda think that Jason Priestley as Lion was not appropriate casting. It's available on VHS and DVD from most sellers like Amazon. Another animated film based on Roger S. Baum's other book, Dorothy Of Oz, is currently in production.

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