A to Z Challenge – Return to Oz

Return to Oz - PosterReturn to Oz


Directed by Walter Murch

Quick synopsis… Dorothy finds that her old friends have been turned to stone and that urban blight has struck the Emerald City. Assisted by new friends, Dorothy battles the wicked Princess Mombi and the evil Nome King to save her friends and restore the beloved Emerald City.

  • Kids, this movie is like someone’s crazy fever dream.
  • That being said, it’s a more faithful adaptation than the beloved 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz.
  • Return to Oz is basically what you would get if you took L. Frank Baum’s second and third Oz books (The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, respectively) and put them into a blender to mix up the characters and plot points.
  • And if you’ve ever read those original novels by Baum, you would completely understand why this movie is as dark in tone as it is.
  • It is the stuff of nightmares, but I loved it as a kid.
  • Not sure what that says about me… but we’re not here to psychoanalyze my childhood likes and dislikes.
  • Return to Oz picks up not long after the events of The Wizard of Oz.
  • Dorothy is back on the farm with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em and they’re still in the process of building a new house to replace the one that was destroyed got carried to Oz in the tornado.
  • Dorothy’s having difficulty sleeping, so her guardians are considering taking her to a special psychiatrist that promises to help her get rid of all those unpleasant memories of her imaginary visit to a make believe place.
  • Before leaving for the psychiatrist, Dorothy discovers a key in the yard that she’s convinced was sent to her from Oz on a shooting star.
  • But she’s not allowed to talk about such things anymore.
  • Aunt Em leaves Dorothy with the psychiatrist and his creepy nurse, where she’s expected to undergo electroshock therapy.
  • A thunderstorm comes up and knocks out the electricity just before they’re able to apply the shock.
  • A mysterious blonde girl helps Dorothy escape, but they’re pursued by the psychiatrist’s creepy nurse.
  • Dorothy loses track of her blonde friend, but manages to make her way to the river, where she’s swept away in a wooden crate.
  • In her sleep, the crate and the current carry Dorothy and, for some reason, her favorite chicken Billina, back to the land of Oz.
  • She finds herself in the Deadly Desert, which was never mentioned in the old movie, but which Dorothy seems very familiar with.
  • Any living thing that touches the sand of the Deadly Desert, which surrounds the entirety of Oz, turns to sand itself.
  • Dorothy and Billina (who can talk in Oz) manage to make it to safety and are spied upon by a rock with a face.
  • This minion of the Nome King reports that she is back… and she has a chicken.
  • Apparently, this is a bad thing.
  • Dorothy makes her way to the wreck of her old house, but there are no singing Munchkins this time.
  • The Yellow Brick Road is broken apart and in shambles.
  • She and Billina follow the broken road to the Emerald City.
  • Funny how that took half a movie last time…
  • Upon reaching the Emerald City, Dorothy discovers that everyone has been turned to stone, including her old friends the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion.
  • The Scarecrow is nowhere to be found…
  • Dorothy then encounters the Wheelers, nightmarish creatures who seem to be the enforcers of one Princess Mombi.
  • Escaping the Wheelers’ pursuit, Dorothy finds a locked hidden door, which she is able to access thanks to the key she found earlier in the movie.
  • The Wheelers figure she has to come out sometime, so they plan to wait her out.
  • But Dorothy finds the Royal Army of Oz inside this hidden room… a robot named Tik-Tok.
  • Tik-Tok has three wind-up keys: thought, speech, and action.
  • When he is fully functioning, he defends Dorothy from the Wheelers and forces one to take them to Mombi.
  • As if the Wheelers weren’t scary enough, Mombi is a real nightmare.
  • This woman has multiple heads.
  • No… not like, all at once.
  • She can remove her head and put on a different one.
  • Which never made much sense to me because it’s as if they share the same brain.
  • Maybe the heads are enchanted to retain each other’s memories.
  • According to Mombi, the Nome King took the Scarecrow and all of the city’s emeralds back to his mountain across the Deadly Desert.
  • Tik-Tok’s action runs down, used up too quickly thanks to his fight with the Wheelers.
  • Mombi locks Dorothy up in a tower that isn’t quite as messy as the Room of Requirement.
  • Here, she encounters Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Jack shares some of his backstory, saying that his “mom” put him together to scare Mombi.
  • Mombi brought him to life with her magical Powder of Life, then locked him up in the tower.
  • As for Jack’s “mom,” she’s been enchanted to haunt the mirrors of the palace for some reason.
  • After hearing about the Powder of Life, Dorothy gets the idea to make a getaway.
  • Jack is able to reach his stick arm through the door to unlock it and get them out of the tower.
  • Dorothy is able to wind up Tik-Tok and send him up to the tower to build their flying creature.
  • Then she sneaks into Mombi’s bedroom to steal her key so she can get into cabinet 31, where Mombi keeps her original head and the Powder of Life.
  • She almost gets away with it, but then she knocks something over in the cabinet, waking the original head.
  • And if the sight of Mombi’s head (who looks remarkably like the creepy nurse from Kansas) trying to bite Dorothy’s hand doesn’t freak you out, then the headless woman storming out of the bedroom sure will.
  • Dorothy gets back upstairs just in time to bring the flying Gump/sofa creature to life so they can fly away.
  • They manage to escape off the balcony just before Mombi catches up to them.
  • Look, I don’t care what kind of magic powder you use, there’s no way that thing is getting airborne with flimsy palm fronds as wings.
  • They fly through the night, straight to the Nome King’s mountain.
  • Mombi sends the Wheelers to chase after Dorothy and the others, but they don’t get far once they hit the edge of the Deadly Desert.
  • Then Mombi reveals to us that the phantom girl in the mirror is the lost princess, Ozma.
  • In the morning, the Gump’s ropes are coming undone and they fall apart.
  • Luckily, they’re at the Nome King’s mountain instead of still over the Deadly Desert.
  • Dorothy is pulled into the Nome King’s underground kingdom through an opening in the ground.
  • The Nome King claims that all the world’s precious stones are made in his kingdom and, therefore, belong to him.
  • By his logic, all the missing emeralds from Emerald City belong to him in the first place.
  • Dorothy briefly sees the Scarecrow, but he quickly vanishes.
  • The Nome King seems to be made of rocks, and has used his magic to transform the Scarecrow into an ornament in his collection.
  • Dorothy is upset after the Scarecrow’s disappearance, so he brings in the rest of her friends and decides to let them play a game.
  • They each get three chances to guess which ornament is the Scarecrow.
  • If they touch the right ornament and say, “Oz,” then the Scarecrow will be restored.
  • But if they are wrong all three times, then they, too, become ornaments.
  • The king sends the Gump first, saying he can use his antlers to touch the ornaments.
  • One by one, our heroes fail to find the Scarecrow, and each are turned into knick knacks.
  • With each transformation, the Nome King becomes more and more human-like in appearance.
  • He sure does resemble the psychiatrist back in Kansas.
  • When Dorothy is all that’s left, he reveals that he is wearing the ruby slippers from Dorothy’s first visit to Oz.
  • They had fallen off her feet when she was making her way back to Kansas last time.
  • This is what gave him the power to conquer the Emerald City.
  • Dorothy receives word that Tik-Tok’s action has wound down, so the king sends her in to wind him up, telling her she can go ahead and make her guesses once the robot is finished.
  • Tik-Tok was faking, though.
  • His thought is that Dorothy can hopefully see what he turns into when he uses up his third guess.
  • It’s a good thought… but it doesn’t really work in Dorothy’s favor.
  • She makes two incorrect guesses… then happens upon something green and manages to free the Scarecrow.
  • From that, she figures that green objects must be people from Oz.
  • But… uh… when she first gets into the room and the camera is panning around, there are tons of green objects in there.
  • Mombi arrives for an audience with the Nome King via an underground tunnel leading from Oz to the mountain.
  • She’s there to experience the king’s anger when Dorothy begins guessing correctly.
  • After the Scarecrow, Dorothy frees Jack and the Gump.
  • Before she has a chance to find Tik-Tok, the Nome King is too pissed off to allow the game to continue.
  • The king decides to just eat everyone, starting with the Gump.
  • Dorothy manages to disconnect the Gump’s head from the sofa.
  • Then the king goes for Jack… but Billina is hiding inside Jack’s pumpkin head.
  • And she just happened to have lain an egg, which drops into the Nome King’s mouth.
  • As we all know, eggs are poison to Nomes.
  • Apparently, killing the Nome King also destroys his minions.
  • Dorothy swipes the ruby slippers and wishes for everything to be restored the way it’s supposed to be.
  • Emerald City is back to normal, its inhabitants are no longer statues, Mombi’s heads are returned to their rightful bodies, and Mombi is in a cage.
  • Oh, and they manage to free Tik-Tok, too… he was a green medal.
  • The people of Oz want Dorothy to be their queen, but then Ozma shows up in the mirror.
  • Ozma takes her place as the rightful Queen of Oz and sends Dorothy home, with an invitation to visit whenever she would like.
  • Back in Kansas, Dorothy is found next to the river and is reunited with Henry and Em.
  • Turns out the psychiatrist died in a fire during the storm when he tried to save his precious machines.
  • And the creepy nurse was arrested, as the psychiatrist would have been, considering all the horrible things they were doing to people as a part of their electroshock experiments.
  • Back at home, Dorothy is able to communicate with Ozma through her mirror, but is warned to keep Oz a secret this time.
  • Wouldn’t want to be sent out for a lobotomy.
  • Do you have any idea how they treated the mentally ill at the turn of the 20th century?
  • It wasn’t good.

A to Z Challenge - RThanks for stopping in while I participate in this year’s A to Z Challenge. I’m gonna keep on hitting these Disney movies each day, except Sunday. You’re welcome to come back for more if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

Monday’s Disney movie begins with an S and is a dramatization that takes us behind the scenes of a beloved live action musical classic. Being a Disney movie, it probably paints Disney in a better light than it should have, but it’s still got an amazing cast taking on the roles of real life individuals.


6 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge – Return to Oz

  1. I remember when this came out and everyone was like “Yay! A sequel to Wizard of Oz!” and then the first reviews came out it was like “Nooooooooooooooooo! It’s nightmare fodder! Stay away!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep… Return to Oz came out (I think) 10 years before Wicked was first published. I’ve only read the first book in Maguire’s series, but I know that most of the characters in his books are adapted from characters that Baum introduced in his original Oz series.


  2. Pingback: A to Z Challenge 2020 – Reflection | The Confusing Middle

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