I was a slightly odd kid (I think) in that I didn't really like The Wizard of Oz growing up. They used to show it on TV once a year, and my grandmother would make it a point to call our house and let us know, because she wanted us to watch it. I remember shrugging at why this seemed so important to her. I think I was largely bothered by the falseness of the Wizard and the way Glinda could have just told Dorothy from the beginning how to get home. Apparently I was a bit of a critic even as a child.
But somewhere in my adulthood, things changed. Since the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was no longer under copyright, I found it for free online. As a kid I had read at least one of the sequel books, assuming I didn't need to read the original since I had seen the movie. I remember being confused by the characters that appeared and therefore never went further. But as an adult, reading the story, I was delighted to find new material where I assumed I had already been before. And not long after reading it, I went to watch the film again, and really, really enjoyed it. Yes, it's pretty stupid that Glinda just doesn't tell her. But the journey is still totally worth it regardless.
I think both versions are enjoyable in their own ways, and both versions have problems. So I thought it might be fun to list what I like so much about both of them.
Things that make The Wonderful Wizard of Oz better than The Wizard of Oz
1. It's not just a dream, and Dorothy really does get to go to a magical world.
2. There's more to the plot than just "find the wizard then kill the witch." I particularly love the other areas we get to see, such as the town made entirely of china.
3. All three of Dorothy's companions become rulers of a separate area of Oz. Given that the gifts they are given by the Wizard are bogus, they deserve these better rewards.
4. The Wizard appears as something different to everyone, and we get great descriptions of what he appears as, and a good explanation of how he did it later.
5. The field mice and their queen. I can understand why they didn't appear in the film given when it was made, but they're just so adorable.
6. The story of Gayelette and the Golden Cap, and the fact that the winged monkeys aren't inherently evil.
7. The Emerald City isn't emerald at all, but just looks that way when you wear the green glasses. Though I guess that means the walls surrounding the city were higher than any of the buildings and had to have been painted green? My point is there's a slight lapse in logic here, but given that the Wizard is a fake, I think this makes perfect sense.
Things that make The Wizard of Oz better than The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
1. While we're shown examples of the Scarecrow being smart, the Tin Man having sympathy, and the Cowardly Lion being brave long before they receive their gifts from the Wizard, it's not drilled into us repeatedly with all of them doing something than saying "I sure wish I had a ____."
2. Ruby slippers are just plain prettier than silver shoes.
3. The songs. How can you not love them?
4. "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"
5. "I'll get you, my pretty, and you're little dog too!" Margaret Hamilton's performance in general is just fantastic.
6. The sequence with the witch's guards, and the characters stealing their uniforms.
7. Judy Garland. Do I have to say anything else?
8. The change from sepia to color. Even now when color films are the rule, this still looks fantastic.
As you might imagine, I'm pretty excited about Oz The Great and Powerful. That one brief glimpse of the girl made of china in the trailer certainly suggests to me that they're pulling from the books as well as the movie for ideas. It's not going to be perfect, but if nothing else it should be gorgeous to look at. Oz is much like Alice in Wonderland for me, as it's a mythology in which I welcome all adaptations and versions, no matter how far off the rails.
What's your favorite Oz book or film?