As we discussed in our 100th episode, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz delighted generation after generation of children, and MGM’s 1939 musical adaptation became one of the most popular and cherished motion pictures of all time. So it’s only natural that in the 80s, Disney decided to pay tribute to these Oz classics in a family film that puts Dorothy in an insane asylum and turns her beloved trio of friends to stone… right?
With a surprisingly dark storyline and truly frightening special effects, it’s no wonder 1985’s Return To Oz scared the hell out of more children than it charmed. (Surprise! It wasn’t a hit.) Disney’s pseudo-sequel to a film that everybody knows and loves is largely forgotten, but that doesn’t stop When We Were Young’s hosts from checking back in with the many-headed Princess Mombi, the sinister but fabulous Nome King, and the kooky, cackling Wheelers. Fortunately, young Fairuza Balk and a handful of lovable new comrades, including Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and a sassy hen named Billina, are on hand to brighten things up between shudders.
Is Disney’s dystopian vision of Oz worth the return trip? Or do we wish Dorothy had just followed her own advice and stayed home this time around? Return with us to the scary old land of Oz — if you dare!