Journey Back To Oz (1974 Animated Feature)
C Sound: C Extras: B- Film: B-
the most embarrassing things to happen particularly since the 1980s has been
the tired, lame, soulless, shameless references all over the place (to the
point of psychosis) has been references to the 1939 MGM classic The Wizard Of Oz. It paints a new kind of unnecessary
childishness over a truly important film.
Then there are the attempts to remake or revisit the territory so often
since. Sidney Lumet’s The Wiz (1978) was a mixed attempt to
capture the R&B take of the book that at least was ambitious, while Walter
Murch’s Return To Oz (1985) was an
attempt to do a darker variant that was more technically proficient than
As is the
case with any attempts to go back, time is of the essence and in many cases,
you just cannot recapture a classic.
However, there was one attempt that came close and it is the 1974
animated sequel Journey Back To Oz,
an attempt by the Filmation Studios to do a successful feature film and it gets
more right in the heart and soul department.
starters, Liza Minnelli voices Dorothy, the role her mother played (when Fox
would not loan Shirley Temple to MGM) 35 years before. Judy Garland was sadly gone by then, so there
is a sad sense the film has for those in the know. The only returning voice from the original
film was the then very active Margaret Hamilton, voicing Auntie Em. The former Wicked Witch was washed away in
the 1939 film and her work is brief.
However, the material was irresistible to some of the biggest and most
talented names in the business at the time and they are here in full force.
Berle voiced the Cowardly Lion, Mickey Rooney voices the Scarecrow, Danny
Thomas voices the Tin Man, Rise Stevens voices “Good Witch” Glinda and Paul
Ford voices Uncle Henry. On board to
cover the new characters include Paul Lynde as Pumpkinhead, Herschel Bernardi
as Woodenhead Pinto Stallion III (from a carousel), Jack E. Leonard as the
Signpost, Mel Blanc as the Crow, Dallas McKeon as Omby Amby, Larry Storch as
Amos and Ethel Merman as Mombi – The Bad Witch who wants revenge on Dorothy for
killing her cousin. With the sad
development in animation of stars replacing devoted voice actors for such work,
this cast annihilates those many attempts to pump-up newer features with star
Ladd/Norm Prescott/Bernard Evslin screenplay is based on L. Frank Baum’s The
Marvelous Land Of Oz if somewhat loosely since that book had a male
protagonist, replaced by Dorothy here.
Though not in the most vibrant color (and who can compete with that old
dye-transfer Technicolor form the ’39 film?) Filmation ever made, it is some of
the better color they used and went for a storybook look. That was not bad, though the other styles
(theirs, some of Disney’s) may not have meshed for most and then there are
those who only want to see the ’39 film and no others. That is understandable, but not fair to this
film, which deserves a fresh look 30+ years later.
1939 film had only a few songs, The Wiz
and this film are more outright musicals, Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen wrote
the songs while Walter Scharf (veteran of Mr. Magoo cartoon shorts who also
wrote the title song for Ben) did
the music and orchestration. Songs like A Faraway Land, If You’re Gonna Be A Witch – Be A Witch, That Feeling For Home and An Elephant Never Forgets are more
memorable and interesting than expected, if not classics. Between them and some very good, enthusiastic
voice work, the film is very watchable and material so good that it could work
today if remade as a live action feature.
It may be rough in spots, but no follow-up to the ’39 Oz ever has worked as well and pretty
much never will.
X 1 image is a little softer than usual and was either shot soft matte (meaning
this would be the full frame that you could letterbox any way you wished to
1.85 X 1) or is a tunnel vision print.
From a 16 X 9 zoom-in, it fortunately looks like the former. Colors can be good and are consistent enough,
but the style of animation has aged a bit.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is not as full as expected either, though I
wondered if the vinyl record soundtrack was both stereo and the same recordings
as those in the film? If stereo, they
should have been added in an upgrade. If
alternate recordings, why not an isolated track with them?
include DVD-ROM access to music sheets and the first draft of the screenplay,
stills, The Bill Cosby segments taped for TV where he plays The Wizard Of Oz in a hot
air balloon, two trailers for this film, 14 for other Filmation releases on or
coming to DVD, sing-a-long on four songs, on-cameras interview pieces with Lou
Scheimer, Hal Sutherland & Fred Ladd and a feature-length audio commentary
with the makers hosted by Andy Mangles with Irving Kaplan, Scheimer, Sutherland
another well-rounded Filmation DVD from BCI!
Be sure to catch it.
- Nicholas Sheffo