Return to Oz

From Academic Kids

The 1985 film Return to Oz is the unofficial sequel to The Wizard of Oz. It was made by Walt Disney Pictures and has no approval by MGM, the company that made the original film. The film was directed by Walter Murch.


The movie's plot is a combination of L. Frank Baum's novels Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, written as sequels to the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy (played by Fairuza Balk) cannot stop thinking about the Land of Oz and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. Her worried aunt takes her to a doctor who wishes to "cure" Dorothy of her dreams and dellusions with something like electro-shock therapy, but Dorothy escapes during a storm with a hen called Billina. She returns to Oz only to find it in a post-apocalyptic state: the yellow brick road is desecrated, the Emerald City is a collapsing ruin, all its inhabitants, including the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion have been turned to stone, and the Scarecrow has been kidnapped by the Nome King. She is soon imprisoned by the wicked Princess Mombi (a composite of two characters from the books, Princess Langwidere and the witch Mombi).

After meeting a mechanical man named Tik-Tok and a talking dummy named Jack Pumpkinhead, Dorothy discovers that her friends have been turned to stone by the evil Nome King (sic), who is planning to conquer all of Oz. They build a flying Gump to escape Mombi's castle, and fly to the country of the Nome King to find the Scarecrow, who is the king of the Emerald City. The Nome King reveals that he has transformed the Scarecrow into an ornament and has placed him in his huge room of ornaments, and allows each of them to go in and have three guesses as to which one is the Scarecrow. All they had to do was to place their hand on an ornament and say the word 'Oz'. However, failure to find the Scarecrow resulted in the Gump, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead and Billina becoming ornaments. Luckily Dorothy found the Scarecrow, discovering that the Nome King had enchanted them all with the colour green. Dorothy and the Scarecrow manage to rescue their friends and take the ruby slippers off the Nome King, who wants to now destroy them. The Nome King is destroyed when he tries to eat Billina, and she lays an egg which he swallows (in Oz, eggs are poisonous to nomes). Using these, Dorothy wishes the Emerald City to be back to how it was, and wishes to go there. She discovers the girl Ozma who is the rightful ruler to the Emerald City, trapped in a mirror by Princess Mombi. After a joyous celebration, Dorothy is returned home.


The film is considerably darker than the 1939 MGM musical. Dorothy is much younger, and there are scenes of violence. Some ties to the original were purposely kept, however. For example, though in the books Dorothy was blonde, she remains dark-haired in this movie. The silver slippers in the Baum story remain ruby in Return to Oz as they had been in the MGM film, as well.

The movie was overbudget, and extremely expensive to make, yet did poorly in theaters. The PG rating likely caused considerable problems in this regard, and many critics denounced the film as containing scenes that were too disturbing or scary for young children. For example, Princess Mombi is a headless creature with a collection of the severed heads of the most beautiful women of Oz, and at one point the movie shows her swapping these heads to and from her severed neck stub. Those not familiar with the Oz books also found the characters and scenes to be quite bizarre and unfamiliar, as other than Dorothy, few characters from the first film appear.

The books | The authors (Baum | Thompson | McGraw | Volkov) | The illustrators (Denslow | Neill)
The film adaptations (The Wizard of Oz | The Wiz | Return to Oz)

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