Wizard of Oz Dolls
Well, I have to admit, I was caught up in the cyclone juggernaut that is “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” My family caught a Sunday matinee (in 3D) and we were transported to a land of enchantment, excitement, good humor, and incredible special effects. It’s interesting that the critics have gotten out their pointy sticks and are jabbing at this Disney vehicle. If the Wizard were truly departing Kansas courtesy of a hot-air balloon, the newspaper, television, and Internet scribes would have deflated his escape plan. They really hate this eye-popping, eye-candy two-hour confection.
I went with my children and husband for the opening weekend show, and was rather taken aback by how empty the theater was. I heard on the radio that the flick’s three-day revenue was an astonishing $80 million, but at my local New Jersey Cineplex it was a couple of hundred bucks. There were only about 25 of us gathered in the theater, wearing our 3D glasses and waiting to be wowed. And wowed we were!
I urge anyone with kids to catch this movie while it’s playing on the big screen. Normally, I view all my films at home, on my TV screen. Here is one of those big, splashy, large-scale motion pictures that does need the full-fledged wide-screen treatment. Hop on a broom, hitch a ride on a tornado, or follow the Yellow Brick Road and go!
One of my friends said to me, “Why bother redoing the ‘Wizard of Oz’? You can’t improve upon perfection.”
I agree. The 1939 original is very nearly perfect, and that’s why this Disney movie is a prequel. It doesn’t try to trace Dorothy’s trek into the Emerald City and the Land of Oz. Dorothy isn’t a character—though a young blond woman named Annie is poised to marry into the Gale family in the movie’s black-and-white prologue scenes. (Hmmm, could she be Dorothy’s mother-to-be? I wonder.)
Working in the doll world, I know that classics can be created, re-created, imagined, and re-imagined. The Wizard of Oz is a source that continually sparks new versions and unexpected variations. Last week, I showed off some of the brand-new dolls that are emerging from “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” This time around, I’m happy to present some of the characters that are tied into the classic version of Oz and a few unorthodox representations of the beloved heroes and heroines.
Wizard of Oz Dolls Through the Years
A cinematic salute wouldn’t be complete without a Robert Tonner interpretation (http://www.tonnerdoll.com/shop-collections.) Over the years, Tonner has concocted a host of different Oz dolls. As one would expect, the dolls are very fashion forward and wholly spectacular. I love the Tonner version of Dorothy as a Tornado Traveler—she has a Steampunk allure to her. It gives a completely different mind-set to Dorothy and her journey: she’s more of a sci-fi heroine who gets caught up in an uncontrollable series of events, but she’s brave and bold enough to tackle all of the obstacles and villains who stand in her way. This doll conjures up a notion of Dorothy as one-half Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and one-half Zooey Deschanel in the miniseries “Tin Man.” (Catch this 2007 original screenplay if you can on Netflix or Amazon Prime or on DVD.)
The Tonner dolls showcase the characters in gorgeous, gender-appropriate garb, as well as in sex-switching outfits. (Lovely female dolls as the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man . . . er, Tin Woman.)
Some other fantastic versions of Oz inhabitants have been furnished by Mattel (http://www.barbiecollector.com/collection/wizard-oz-collection). For 2013, they are unveiling a depiction of Glinda the Good as portrayed by screen legend Billie Burke, who embodied the good witch in the 1939 Judy Garland songfest. Mattel has had a long, winding association with the Oz inhabitants and have rendered them as movie star portraits, as Barbie and Ken duplicates, and as bawdy, sexy updates. (Check out Miss Dorothy Gale with her knee-high stockings and long-legged pose.)
Not to be left out in the wizard sweepstakes, Charisma Brands—with Adora dolls and Marie Osmond (http://www.charismabrands.com/)—has undertaken several different depictions of the Frank L. Baum gang. Marie Osmond’s Adora Belle line imagines the Wizard of Oz favorites as wide-eyed, cleverly costumed, adorable playmates. Limited to 1,500 pieces each, and priced at around $150, the Adora Belle treatment of Oz is delightful and pretty as a porcelain picture.
The Adora dolls have taken the notion of a “prequel” to all new lengths with their toddler treatment of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. Just like the Muppet Babies, which showed Miss Piggy and Kermit in their nursery, diaper phase, the Adora fashioning imagines the main protagonists as healthy, smiling, giggling babies. With their chubby legs and cheeks, they give new meaning to the notion of “babes in the woods.” These young’uns left to fend for themselves in the Dark Enchanted Forest would be harrowing, indeed!
There is something on hand for every Oz aficionado, and certainly there will be more to come skipping down the Yellow Brick Road. The big money that “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is netting worldwide will ensure more merchandise and perhaps even a sequel. I love everything Oz-centric and revel in the way these characters have continued to inspire filmmakers, authors, artists, illustrators, and doll makers.
There’s no place like home, and there’s no place like your own home to showcase some of these exquisite and engaging Wizard of Oz dolls and collectibles.