DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Origins of Oz (2010/2013)

An interesting little documentary on L. Frank Baum and the story behind The Wizard of Oz.

Published on February 18, 2013

The Origins of Oz (2010/2013)

Documentary from Smithsonian Channel [2/12/13]
Director: Anne MacGregor
Video: 4:3 color & B&W
Audio: English PCM stereo
Length: 46 minutes
Rating: ****

An interesting little documentary which makes the case for the first American fairy tale, and how L. Frank Baum’s beloved classic was the Harry Potter of its day.  The documentary was filmed at various locations that inspired Baum’s Land of Oz, and it describes the many ups and downs of Baum and his family. Interviews with many different authors, artists, fans, historians and descendants of Baum round out the story, which is also illustrated with the many children’s books Baum had written—usually illustrated by various leading artists such as Maxwell Parish. He wrote 14 Oz books total.

In a way Baum saw himself as the wizard in the Land of Oz, and was fascinated by technical advances of the time such as photography and the motion picture. This film offers a sort of “peek behind the curtain” of the fairytale to learn details such as what Hollywood added to Baum’s Oz story to make it even better—such as the rainbow. (Composer Harburg of “Over the Rainbow” thought about what Dorothy might see in her drab Kansas surroundings that had some color, and thought of a rainbow.) Dorothy is considered the first feminist character in American literature. The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian brings out the pair of Dorothy’s red shoes annually to display, and visitors from all over the world so nuts over them. The challenges of filming the Oz portion in Technicolor are also explained. Next month Disney is scheduled to release a new 3D film: Oz – The Great and Powerful.

—John Sunier




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