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Return To Oz


Brett Newton
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Going to put this out there and am very curious to see what kind of reactions I get. Return To Oz was an attempt by Disney Studios to pull their live action films up several notches in the early 80's by appealling to a broader audience yet still trying to maintain the family demographic. With the Oz books at that time in public domain the studio went ahead in production on an ambitious gamble at making a non musical movie based on Baum's creations with the tone of the movie being more closely tied to the authors books. Having been employed at the studio in the animation dept. at the time I had access to a lot of the stories filtering through the studio regarding the productions difficult transition to the screen. By the time the film had its release the press had shredded it for being not enough MGM and being too intense for younger viewers and with audience expectations further confused by a misleading ad campaign with Disney uncertain how to market it, the film had a disastrous opening and soon vanished from theaters. As is the case with films like this, time has softened the negative view and it has actually become quite popular with an appreciation of its visual style and Jim Henson's masterful puppetry, and Faruza Balks endearing film debut. All comparisons to the MGM classic aside, Return to Oz deserves a place of appreciation and perhaps a viewing on TCM if possible. Any thoughts......?

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I saw RETURN TO OZ for first time last year and enjoyed it very much.

I especially liked the talking chicken and Jack Pumpkinhead.

 

The scenes where the doctor in Kansas was trying to use that machine on Dorothy to erase her memories of Oz and/or lobotomize her were pretty scary.

 

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That seemed to be the general feeling by most people at the time of it's release that both the attempted lobotomy sequence and the rising of Mombie without her head was too intense for young audiences. Now of course its pretty tame compared to what's out there now. Still and all the film has generated a sizable following now and considered an underrated gem. Would love to see it get a premiere on TCM and get regular showings.

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I saw it on tv back in the late 80's and liked it. I liked its darkness. Didn't seem like a movie for small kids like my daughter so much, though. As it was on at night, she didn't see it then - it was past her bedtime.

 

Fairuza Balk grew into quite a fetching young woman - loved her in 'The Island of Dr. Moreau'.

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I would agree with darkblue as Return to Oz is a bit dark for very young children. I remember when a group of us from Disney went to the theater the day after it had opened and the audience was half full with parents and their young kids expecting to see a typical Disney type movie. When it got to the part where Dorothy went to Mombie's sanctuary and passed all those cabinets with all the different heads and they all started screaming at her and Mombie's headless body rose up from her bed at the noise the theater was filled with the screams of terrified kids!! It was at that point that a lot of the parents grabbed their kids and ran from the theater. My dark sense of humor got a laugh out of it, but yes the film has its frightening moments. But lets not forget that Margaret Hamilton's wicked witch was considered very extreme for the time. So much so that MGM removed a lot of her more threatening scenes towards Dorothy! Ah, the passage of time!

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I think that it is a very good, underrated film well worth more attention. Fairuza Balk was wonderful, and the whole production is highly imaginative. (I loved Billina, the talking chicken) Actually, three of Disney's 1985 films, Return to Oz, The Black Cauldron, and The Journey of Natty Gann are all underrated and excellent films.

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I think that it is a very good, underrated film well worth more attention. Fairuza Balk was wonderful, and the whole production is highly imaginative. (I loved Billina, the talking chicken) Actually, three of Disney's 1985 films, Return to Oz, The Black Cauldron, and The Journey of Natty Gann are all underrated and excellent films.

 

I saw all three, and totally agree with you.

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