Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Ozvious" Differences

Happy Easter all! I hope everyone is having a good day painting eggs, gaining a few pounds eating calorie coated chocolate rabbits and picking red jellybeans out of Easter baskets. Here where I live, it was a lovely, lively day until the rain came down like small daggers. Other than that, I'm having a pleasant Easter and I hope that many more pleasant Easters are to come.

Anyway, I still have Oz on the mind. After all, a new Oz film has hit theaters and we are once again skipping down the yellow brick road, fighting winged monkeys and floating in bubbles (although this time, the bubbles don't look like giant gum balls). I saw Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful a few weeks ago and I thought it was the best interpretation of Oz since the 39 masterpiece (although Return to Oz comes pretty darn close). Some critics didn't like it, but as a massive Oz/Baum fan, I thought the film was simply fantastic. You can check out my review here:

Anyway, in my previous "Ozsome" post, I mentioned that there were many significant differences between the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the 1939 classic we all know and love. Sure the 39 film has the book's basic gist as well as it's well known moral, but the 39 film strays far from the original novel in many ways. To showcase these ways, I've decided to have a Top Ten List in which I point out the book and the movie's most obvious differences. If you're an Oz explorer looking for new and exciting facts, I hope this article can hit the spot and maybe inspire you to read L. Frank Baum's original fairy tale. Like the 39 film, it's filled with some of the most magical stuff you will ever see in your life.

10. Summoning Winged Monkeys With A Golden Cap 

Anyone who has seen the original Wizard of Oz knows that the Wicked Witch of the West's castle is inhabited by countless blue faced monkeys and grungy, big nosed Winkie soldiers. It's quite obvious that the flying monkeys are just lumbering minions to the Wicked Witch that serve as her pets and ghastly mission carriers. But in the original book, the winged monkeys were nowhere to be seen throughout the witch's palace and the only way she could get them to carry out her missions was through a golden cap. Every time she put it on and chanted the spell "Ep-pe, Pep-pe, Kak-ke, Hil-lo, Hol-lo, Hel-lo, Ziz-zy, Zuz-zy, zip" (let that all sink in for a bit), the monkeys would come to her aid, and they not only capture Dorothy and bring her to the witch's castle, they also bring along the Cowardly Lion. The Scarecrow and Tin Man are unfortunately torn apart and left to die. After the witch's death, Dorothy uses the cap's power, ordering the monkeys to help her and her friends get to the Emerald City as well as fly over the hill of Hammerheads. At the end of the story, Dorothy gives the cap to Glinda, who gives the cap to the monkeys and tells them they are free.

Quite a huge contrast from the original movie, isn't it? It may intrigue you though to learn that the golden cap does in fact appear in the famous film. After the scene where Dorothy and her friends escape the sleeping spell of the poppies, the Wicked Witch looks into her crystal ball in horror and disgust. Her head monkey Nikko hands her the cap and the witch proceeds to tossing it across the room out of anger. It's a very brief nod to the classic book and it is said that a scene involving the golden cap was planned, but never filmed. Either way you put it, the golden cap does appear in the film, and you have to watch the film with eyes of a hawk, otherwise you will miss it.

9. Mice In The Field of Poppies

In order to get the ruby slippers, the Wicked Witch of the West uses a spell to make the poppies outside of the Emerald City put Dorothy and her friends to sleep. Of course, the Scarecrow and Tin Man don't fall asleep because they are not flesh and blood, and Glinda uses her magic to conjure a snowfall, awaking Dorothy, the Lion and little Toto. This is one of the most iconic scenes out of the entire film, but it was completely different in the book. The poppies are cursed to begin with and although Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep, the Scarecrow and Tin Man don't shout for help and Glinda doesn't sprinkle snow upon them to wake them up. The Scarecrow and Tin Man team up with thousands of field mice, who pull a wooden tractor carrying the Lion out of the poppy field because the Scarecrow and Tin Man aren't strong enough to lift him. In Baum's Oz sequel The Marvelous Land of Oz, the mice assist the Scarecrow in defeating the evil General Jinjur. Yeh, it's very odd to think that talking mice helped our favorite straw friend and man made out of tin in the original book, but you have to wonder. Where did MGM get the idea for Glinda to sprinkle snow upon the sleeping Dorothy?

It all goes back to the original 1902 stage play. In the play, Dorothy and the Lion fall asleep in the poppy field, only to have a Good Witch cause an instant snowstorm, reviving them. This was the prime inspiration for the scene in the 39 film, and although the field mice are absent, we still have the Tin Man crying like a little school girl. For some reason, that always makes me laugh.

8. Half tiger, half bear. OH MY! 

One of the most famous quotes out of the 39 film is "Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my". Of course, we get ourselves a Lion, but there are no tigers or bears seen in the film. In the book, Dorothy and her friends encounter vicious kalidahs, half bear and half tiger hybrids with sharp claws. As they make their way across a log, the kalidahs follow them, only to have the Tin Man chop at the log with his axe, sending the kalidahs down to the ravine below. Of course this scene would have been very costly and time consuming had it been in the film, but it's interesting to note that the kalidahs appear in the Muppets' take of The Wizard of Oz, portrayed by Statler and Waldorf. I can't help but feel that if the kalidahs were in the 39 film, they would have been stop motion, kinda like King Kong. How "wizard" would that have been!

7. China People And Broken Clowns 

I remember when I was little, the area junior high had a Wizard of Oz play. As a little lad, I was expecting the play to be identical to the 39 film I was a SUPER fan of at the time. But there were many noticeable differences. For one thing, the flying monkeys captured Dorothy AND the Cowardly Lion (as I mentioned before) and one of the characters the group encounters on their way to the Emerald City was a China doll who chanted "Don't chip me, don't chap me, just leave me quite alone". For many years, this element of the play intrigued me, until I read Baum's original novel and then, it all came clear to me. The character was based upon the Dainty China Country from the book.

Dorothy and her allies wonder into the China village on their way to Glinda, the ruler of Quadling Country. There, they meet many inhabitants made of porcelain, including a cow with a broken leg and a clown with several hundred cracks in him. Apparently, he tried to stand on his head, but fell and broke himself several times. Imagine how much glue was needed to put him back together! Anyway, the Dainty China Country is entirely absent from the 39 film, but the village has made an appearance in the most recent Oz The Great and Powerful film. In it, the character of Oscar Diggs (James Franco) and the monkey Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) wonder into China Country, which has been ransacked and shattered by the Wicked Witch's minions. They also meet a little girl made of China whose legs have been broken off, but the kind "wizard to be" repairs them with glue. What a nice guy!

6. Scary Hammerheads

What are some of the scariest elements from The Wizard of Oz. Blue monkeys with awkward faces? The Wicked Witch with her horrid cackling? Peed off trees who don't like apples being picked off of them? Scarecrow wielding a pistol for no apparent reason (seriously, look closely in the haunted forest scene)? Crazy, long necked, wide eyed hammerheads? Yeh, I got you there. Like the China Country, the Hammerheads are not seen in the 39 film, although any fan of the broadway show Wicked will get a glimpse of them in the Emerald City number.

These frightening, smiling creatures wouldn't let Dorothy and her friends pass while on their way to the home of the Quadlings, and to escape their reign, they used the golden cap to summon the Flying Monkeys, who fly them over the Hammerheads' hill and into Quadling village. The hammerheads are very threatening and intimidating, similar to Kaa the Snake from the Jungle Book or Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Just look at their long, snake like necks and huge, bulging eyes!

5. Glinda, The Not So Witch of the North

Who descends from a giant pink gum ball and waves a starry wand around? Glinda, the Good Witch of the North of course. Yes, there's no question about it. Glinda, the Witch of the North is one of the film's most memorable and cherished characters. And to think Billy Burke was 53 years old when taking on the role of the glamorous fairy. Some will argue that she's over the top and that her accent makes them want to pull every piece of hair out of their heads, but there's no denying that Glinda is one of the film's most iconic characters. Glinda in the book however is far diverse from her well known movie counterpart.

It may shock you to know that Glinda was NOT the Witch of the North in the book, but instead the Witch of the South who rules over the Quadling village. After the Wizard of Oz unexpectedly departs without Dorothy, she and her friends must travel to Glinda, who, like her movie counterpart, tells Dorothy that her shoes will take her home. Instead of wearing a big puffy pink dress and a plastic crown, she wears a small crown and a standard white gown. And don't expect Glinda to travel via bubble, for she spends her time in the story seated upon a throne, a dignified woman and powerful ruler of the Quadlings. There's a massive difference between this Glinda and movie Glinda, and although she doesn't wave her wand around like a "goodie good" and speak in a high pitched voice, she is still beautiful and triumphant within the pages of the book.

4. A Shape Shifting Wizard

Getting back to scary elements in The Wizard of Oz, the first appearance of the Wizard is pretty darn intense. We've got fire and a big green head that looks like a Ferengi from Star Trek. Either way you put it, the Wizard had us hiding under our beds whenever he was on screen, but maybe if he was like his novel counterpart, we wouldn't have crapped our pants so much.

The Wizard was a shapeshifter in the book, taking on the form of not only a big head, but a beautiful woman, a ball of fire and a many eyed rhinoceros as well. Sure, he is revealed to be a man behind a curtain in the very end, but he proved himself to be the master of illusion, taking on a form most suitable for each character. Of course, the big head was the only form to make it into the film version, but it's still interesting to see the illustrations of the Wizard's many forms in the original novel. And like the kalidahs, it was one of the many things from the book that made it into Muppets' Wizard of Oz. 

3. Wanna Go To The Emerald City, Better Put On Some Glasses!

The Emerald City is one of the most famous settings in all of film. From color changing horses to guards who cry from their foreheads, this city is one I would love to stay in from time to time. But the Emerald City in Baum's original tale has very little green in it. In fact, it's not even green at all. In order to make the city green, the inhabitants must wear green tinted spectacles which simulate green buildings and scenery . Without them, the city is pretty much dull and colorless, and it just wouldn't catch on if it was known as "Dull City".

I think this is one of the many elements that would have been great to see in the film version, but it's no biggy that they didn't have it. It probably would have been ridiculous in some people's eyes to have all the characters wear green shades in the Emerald City and it's much simpler to have the city colored green to begin with. I'm glad though that they included this element in other Oz adaptations including Wicked and, you guessed it, Muppets' Wizard of Oz. It's odd that the most fateful version of Baum's story is done with talking frogs and pigs. Fascinating.

2. Old Witches With Eye Patches

Margaret Hamilton's green Wicked Witch of the West rivals adversaries like Darth Vader and Hannibal Lector as the greatest movie foe of all time. With her crackly voice, her jagged teeth, her black clothes and hat and her sharp fingernails, the Wicked Witch of the West is what we think of when "witch" comes to mind and she has come to symbolize pure wickedness in all it's glory. If I were to show you a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West from the original book, you probably wouldn't guess it was her, because she looks nothing like the green witch we have come to love to hate.

The book witch, in my eyes, is even more hideous than her motion picture interpretation. She's an old crone with an eyepatch and she wields an umbrella (by any chance are you related to Oswald Cobblepot?). She also appears to be yellow skinned and instead of black cloaks, she wears gypsy like clothing and collars. I have seen many Oz illustrations throughout the years where both looks were mashed together. Sometimes, the witch was green skinned but included the eyepatch. Sometimes, she was plain skinned, but still retained the black clothing. Some interpretations, including Oz The Great and Powerful have given the book witch's haggard appearance to the Wicked Witch of the East, who isn't even the Wicked Witch of the West's sister in the book, but is revealed to have been in league with her in later Oz books. Out of all the Oz differences, this is very significant, but not nearly significant as the next one.

1. Silver Shoes Instead of Ruby

The Ruby Slippers, worn by Judy Garland in the film, are probably the most famous shoes ever. With their shiny red glimmer, they are sparkling to the eyes and really stick out when Dorothy frolics down the road paved in yellow brick. In the book, there are no ruby slippers, but instead silver shoes, very slick in appearance, yet still glamorous. This is one of the many elements that was to be included in the film version, but to show off the new Technicolor technology that had just come out, the filmmakers changed the shoes from silver to ruby red. It was all an act to make them stick out more on film, and when it comes to the great history of the iconic footwear, things tend to get convoluted. One of the many pairs worn by Judy Garland in the film is currently held in the hands of famous actress Debbie Reynolds and there was even a time when a set of the shoes were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Still, the silver shoes are still legendary in their own right and are still included in many Oz depictions. In the musical Wicked, the shoes transform from silver to red as the Wicked Witch Elphaba tries to make her sister Nessarose walk on her own.

Whether they are minor differences or great noticeable ones, there are certainly many to behold when reading the book and the watching movie version of L. Frank Baum's classic story. Like many movies based on books, The Wizard of Oz departs greatly from the source material, yet still captures the story's overall heart and meanings. I think Baum would be quite proud of the 1939 film based on his legendary story, for it brought to life the brilliance he thought up in his head and made his world even more grandiose. Forever live the world of Oz. Keep taking us on wild adventures!

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