I always think it’s a pretty cool experience to watch a movie that you loved as a kid as an adult after not seeing it in the meantime. It’s a great bonus if you’re able to do this in a theater, and by seeing a free screening of Return to Oz, I was able to do this.
I don’t know how many times I saw Return to Oz as a kid; maybe it was just once and it really stuck with me, or maybe it was a few times. There were a few things about it I remembered pretty distinctly (the lunch pail tree, jumping across stones to not touch the desert), things I remembered vaguely (being scared), and then things I didn’t remember at all (most of it). So it was sort of surreal seeing it again, especially seeing scenes that I know were in my memory somewhere.
The most interesting thing to me about Return of Oz is the special effects. There’s the occasional shitty green screen, but it’s mostly a mix of claymation, puppetry, and just real people dressed in costumes. With so much gloopy CGI roaming around, it’s refreshing to see non-computer effects, especially in a character like Tik-Tok, a robot soldier that Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) interacts with seamlessly because he’s not computer-generated.
It’s also interesting to me that they chose an actress much younger play Dorothy six months after The WIzard of Oz is supposed to take place; during the filming of their respective movies, Judy Garland was 17 and Fairuza Balk was 11. That and the fact that they went in a totally different direction of the character designs of such memorable characters as Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion, and The Tin Man. I don’t know if it was a good or bad choice, but it was interesting.
This movie is still as badass as it was when I was a kid. Yes, seeing it now it’s a bit childish, but as a whole it’s still creepy, interesting, and the effects are far above average. It’s very sad seeing this and then seeing the trailer for the new Oz film – nowhere near as much loved these days.
Elizabeth and I were lucky enough to see this at the Alamo Ritz for free as a part of their kids’ screenings which happen once a month. I have only been to one other of these in San Antonio for Willy Wonka and this was definitely a better experience because there weren’t as many kids as parents at this one. The Alamo Drafthouse is definitely overrated but it’s excellent for special showings like this.
Return to Oz is one of those kids’ movies that I remember watching quite often when I was little and it’s nice that it still holds up as an adult. Of course, that’s from a guy that still watches cartoons on a daily basis. A big reason I love this film so much is actually the animation. The main villain in this is the Gnome King, an evil wizard who lives in a mountain but both he and his henchmen are shown as these faces in stone. It really looks fantastic and during the climax of the film with the Gnome King they do some clever and interesting effects with his appearance. Starting as a face in the wall to eventually being a guy to look like stone.