A Long Time Ago, On A Yellow Brick Road Far, Far Away, Part 2: “Some People Without Brains Do An Awful Lot Of Talking, Don’t They?”

As I discussed in my last post, we recently watched Star Wars with the girls and, while they seemed to like it, their reaction was less awesome than I had hoped. So I am pleased to say that when I showed the The Wizard of Oz for the first time last month, it was everything I’d hoped  it would be for them.

Aside from the obvious fact that The Wizard of Oz is a children’s movie and Star Wars isn’t, I think they were more absorbed by it because I’d laid more groundwork for it. RU’s only exposure to Star Wars prior to seeing the film was to ride Star Tours twice at Disney; with The Wizard of Oz, we’d actually read the book first. In fact, we watched Oz because the girls liked the book so much.

You might have picked up on the fact that I have a great many things I am excited, even impatient, to share with my children. Star Wars is just one example; there are books I’m looking forward to just as much and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was one of those. I would have thought RU needed another year or so before she’d be ready for something so long, but she’d been having me read those Frog and Toad books to her, all the way through, one after the other. What really surprised me was how MeToo took to it as well. She would come and sit down when I’d start a chapter with RU. She might not stay for the end, but she was interested enough to keep coming back.

The book (in case you haven’t read it) is quite good and deserves a place on your kid’s bookshelf. It moves quickly (Dorothy goes from Kansas to Oz in about five pages) and most chapters are short. I’m finding it to be a better read (easier, simpler, more engaging) than Milne’s Pooh stories, at least at RU’s age. It goes along well with the film, although naturally there are differences (less singing, for one). The brief bits when Dorothy’s companions converse with one another are nice; I loved the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman discussing the relative merits of brains and hearts.

There are a couple of spots where the book gets a little more intense than the movie. The scene where the heroes are pursued by a couple of bloodthirsty kalidahs* is a real nail-biter, but it’s resolved in just a few paragraphs. In addition to that, the Wicked Witch of the West sends some crows and wolves after them before bringing out the winged monkeys, but the Tin Woodman and his axe make short work of them. It’s glossed over quickly and isn’t terribly frightening, though that scene does give the book a body count that’s about fifty times higher than the movie. Speaking of the winged monkeys, they may be the most frightening thing in the film — they are pretty freakish and they directly assault the heroes, even tear one apart — but the book actually takes some sting out of them by revealing that they are cursed to do the bidding of whoever wears the Golden Cap. Dorothy gets ahold of it after liquidating the witch and they fly her back to the Emerald City (though they can’t take her to Kansas). While watching the movie, RU asked me when they were going to show the king of the flying monkeys (a character in the book), which I’d say testifies to the depth they are given in the book beyond just being evil henchlings.

So when I told the girls that there was a Wizard of Oz movie, they had something to get excited about.

Once the opening credits were through, they were riveted, even in the beginning when it’s all monochromatic. I’m pretty sure my girls have never watched anything that’s in black and white before**. Then that moment when Dorothy walks out of her house into Munchkinland and glorious technicolor… Well, just like that scene in Empire Strikes Back, this is one of those awesome cinematic moments that’s fun to watch a kid see for the first time. When it happened, and Dorothy stepped out into a new, fantastic world, RU’s jaw literally fell open. She turned to me (while somehow keeping her eyes on the TV) and said, “What country is this?”

Yeah, it was pretty perfect.

*Don’t know what a kalidah is? Count yourself lucky.

**Although, again, reading the book first comes in handy here. Surprisingly (to me anyway), Frank L Baum describes everything in Kansas as being grey, even Aunt Em.

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