Journey Back to Oz
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|Journey Back to Oz|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Hal Sutherland|
|Produced by||Preston Blair
|Written by||Fred Ladd
L.Frank Baum (uncredited)
Jack E. Leonard
Bill Cosby (Live segments of TV Version)
|Music by||Walter Scharf (score and song arrangements)
James Van Heusen (songs)
Sammy Cahn (lyrics)
|Cinematography||Sergio Antonio Alcázar|
|Editing by||Joseph Simon|
|Running time||88 minutes|
Journey Back To Oz is a 1971 Filmation Studios animated film (released worldwide between 1972 and 1974) and a sequel to the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz. It is loosely based on L. Frank Baum's second Oz novel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, although Baum received no screen credit. However, the Wizard was nowhere to be found, at least in the theatrical version of the film. A television version shown in 1976 on ABC featured live-action segments starring Bill Cosby as the Wizard.
The movie began production in 1962, but ran out of money and was halted for nearly eight years. It was only after the Filmation studio had made profits on their numerous television series that they were able to finish the project, copyrighted 1971, released in 1972 in the UK and in 1974 in the U.S. It features Liza Minnelli voicing Dorothy (played in the previous 1939 film by her late mother Judy Garland, and in what would have been her first major role had the film been released as originally intended). Other voices were by Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Paul Lynde, Herschel Bernardi, Paul Ford, Danny Thomas, Margaret Hamilton (also from the 1939 film, but now playing Aunt Em rather than the Wicked Witch of the West, who died in the earlier film), and opera singer Risë Stevens as Glinda.
For the film's U.S. release, Filmation partnered with a company called Seymour Borde and distributed it through a process called four wall distribution, whereupon the studio rented venues to show it and kept all of the box office revenue.
After a tornado whips across the prairie in Kansas and causes a loose gate to knock Dorothy unconscious, she finds herself back in the Land of Oz with Toto. The first new character they meet is a talking Signpost (voiced by Jack E. Leonard), which has three signs pointing in three different directions, and each sign says "Emerald City", so they are going to have to find it themselves. They then fall into some spooky woods where they meet Pumpkinhead (voiced by Paul Lynde), the unwilling servant of Mombi, the cousin of both the deceased Wicked Witch of the East (who was killed when a tornado dropped Dorothy's house on her in the first movie) and the Wicked Witch of the West (who melted after Dorothy doused her with water in the first movie). Toto chases a cat to a small cottage where Dorothy has the distinct displeasure of meeting Mombi's pet crow (voiced by Mel Blanc) and Mombi (voiced by Ethel Merman) herself face-to-warty-face. Dorothy is pushed into a chair which comes to life, and it hooks her arms. While Mombi has gone to get some more wood for the fire, Pumpkinhead sneaks into the house. She is brewing something big (and heavy): green elephants, which she is planning to use as her army in her plot to conquer the Emerald City and become Queen of Oz. Pumpkinhead frees Dorothy, and they flee. After finding Dorothy gone and knowing Pumpkinhead is responsible, Mombi flies out on her broom, and says their warning the Scarecrow will not help when her green elephants "come crashing through the gate".
While heading to the Emerald City, Dorothy and Pumpkinhead discover what appears to be a horse, upside-down on a pole. They get him off, and he introduces himself as Woodenhead Stallion III (voiced by Herschel Bernardi), and he explains how he ended up on there: he was a merry-go-round horse who fell from it. He takes them to the Emerald City, where Dorothy warns the Scarecrow (voiced by Mickey Rooney) about Mombi's green elephants. Unfortunately, she happens to arrive moments later, and Toto and the Scarecrow are captured. Dorothy, Pumpkinhead, and Woodenhead flee to Tinland and try to convince the Tin Man (voiced by Danny Thomas) to help them. However, after hearing that Mombi's army consists of green elephants, he declines upon being afraid of the green elephants and suggests that they ask the Cowardly Lion.
The Cowardly Lion (voiced by Milton Berle) puts on his best brave act when he tells Dorothy and the others he will slay the elephants, saying he will "snap off their tusks and use them for toothpicks", but, like the Tin Man, he is too afraid after hearing the elephants are magical, and he suggests they go to find Glinda (voiced by Rise Stevens), the Good Witch of the North. She appears at that very moment with her Glinda Bird on her arm. The bird uses its Tattle Tail to show what is occurring at the palace. She then gives Dorothy a little silver box. She instructs her to open it only in the Emerald City, and then only in case of a dire emergency. She repeats the warning, and then opens a hollow panel under Woodenhead's saddle where she hides it, and they ride off. Glinda tells her bird to keep them tuned in.
Mombi has been watching them through her crystal ball, and knows that their path will take them through the Ferocious Forest. Using her magic, she brings the trees to life. Luckily, Glinda is also keeping a watchful eye on things, and she conjures a golden hatchet, which she zaps to Pumpkinhead. One of the trees snatches it from him, but ends up hitting one of the other trees, turning it to gold and making it bloom. The tree with the axe hits the others, turning them to gold too, and finally, ends up doing the same to himself. Woodenhead continues to carry Dorothy and Pumpkinhead back to the Emerald City.
When they arrive, Mombi's elephants surprise them, but, when Dorothy flips open Glinda's box, a large army of mice emerge from it, scaring off the elephants. Mombi sees them in retreat, but she does not see the mice chasing them. She brews a potion to shrink Toto to mouse-size so she can feed him to her cat. One of the magic mice scares her, who throws the potion all over her pet crow, and a drop drips from its perch, landing on the cat. The magic mice are much larger than normal ones, so the tiny crow and cat flee in fear.
Running outside, Mombi disguises herself as a rose with poisonous thorns. The elephants trample and kill her then disappear, and the Scarecrow explains that when a witch dies, all her magic dies with her. Unfortunately, that also means that Pumpkinhead loses the life she gave him. However, he comes back to life when one of Dorothy's tears falls on his head, and Glinda tells her that there's a magic stronger than her own as well as Mombi's put together, the strongest one in all the world: faith and love.
The Scarecrow makes Woodenhead the head of the Oz cavalry and knights Pumpkinhead. Now, all Dorothy wants is to go home to Aunt Em (voiced by Margaret Hamilton) and Uncle Henry (voiced by Paul Ford) in Kansas. The Scarecrow flips through the Constitution of Oz and reads a section that states that a visitor to there may return the way they came if similar transportation is available. After Dorothy reveals she came by tornado, Glinda asks for some leaves. Pumpkinhead gives her some of the ones from his neck, and she waves her wand. They form a tornado, which takes Dorothy and Toto back home. Before their departure, Dorothy promises that she will return to Oz someday.
- Liza Minnelli as Dorothy
- Paul Lynde as Pumpkinhead
- Herschel Bernardi as Woodenhead
- Ethel Merman as Mombi
- Mickey Rooney as the Scarecrow
- Danny Thomas as the Tin Man
- Milton Berle as the Cowardly Lion
- Rise Stevens as Glinda
- Jack E. Leonard as the Signpost
- Margaret Hamilton as Aunt Em
- Paul Ford as Uncle Henry
- Larry Storch as Amos
- Dallas McKennon as Omby Amby
- Mel Blanc as Mombi's Crow
Songs and score
The film contains twelve original songs by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. The arrangements and some of the film's score was by Walter Scharf. The original songs (which were featured on a soundtrack album released around the time of the film's television release) include:
- A Faraway Land - Dorothy
- Signpost Song - The Signpost
- Keep A Happy Thought - Dorothy
- The Horse on the Carousel - Woodenhead
- B-R-A-N-E - Scarecrow
- An Elephant Never Forgets - Mombi
- H-E-A-R-T - Tin Man
- N-E-R-V-E - Cowardly Lion
- You Have Only You - Glinda
- If You're Gonna be a Witch - Be a Witch - Mombi
- Return to the Land of Oz March - Dorothy
- That Feeling for Home - Dorothy
However, a majority of the film contains library music from other sources. One particular piece of music, heard in the opening titles, is The Awakening, a Johnny Pearson composition, recorded in 1967 (three years after production on this film began). While largely familiar to U.S. audiences for its use in this film, it is otherwise known to British viewers as the theme for ITN's News at Ten. In a twist of irony, another well-known Pearson composition, "Heavy Action" (also known as the theme to Monday Night Football), served as the theme to the syndicated SFM Holiday Network, which ran this film for many years.
While the film was a failure in its theatrical release, it would find its audience in its television showings. Filmation sold the broadcast rights to ABC in 1976. By this time, Bill Cosby was in the midst of his success with Filmation's TV series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, as well as starring in a new, but short-lived TV series for ABC. Filmation decided to expand and reformat the film to a Christmas television special. The film's theatrical running time was extended to include new live-action connecting segments with Cosby as the Wizard, a character otherwise not seen in the original theatrical release. The live-action subplot was to get two lost children home to spend Christmas with Dorothy, while helping to move the plot along. This extended TV version would later air in a successful syndication run via the aforementioned SFM Holiday Network. The last known airing of this version was in 1984, and it has not been available since then.
SFM also made available another television version for airing during the year (when it obviously wasn't Christmas) with cast member Milton Berle filming new linking interstitials in place of the Cosby segments.
A special edition DVD was released on October 24, 2006. This DVD features a feature-length audio commentary, interviews with creators Lou Scheimer, Hal Sutherland and Fred Ladd, behind the scenes photo gallery, image galleries featuring poster art and animation cels, a sing-a-long feature, most of the Bill Cosby interstitials used in the TV version (presented separately from the original theatrical version contained on the disc and sourced from an incomplete PAL transfer of the TV version as a complete version of the latter cut was unavailable), the first draft script and storyboards, and a photo gallery (mostly containing behind-the-scenes photos of the Cosby and Berle live-action interstitials used in syndicated broadcasts).
The theatrical version is known only to exist as a PAL digital transfer (sped up 4% from its original film speed) as the original film elements were apparently discarded by the previous owner of the film, Hallmark Entertainment.
- Journey Back to Oz at the Internet Movie Database
- Dreamworks Animation Current rights holder for the movie in the USA and Canada