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Oz on Film, Part Nineteen: Animated Oz

Ted Eshbaugh at work.
Ted Eshbaugh at work.
Photographer unknown

Now, given that the article just before this one finished up with me talking about Judy Garland, you’d think that would provide a perfect segue into the subject of the Oz-related movie which made her an overnight sensation, wouldn’t you?

Best-laid schemes…

There is, in fact, one more screen trip to Oz until we get to the one that over a billion people have taken. In 1933, the year Ojo of Oz was published, the Canadian animator Ted Eshbaugh, with producer J.R. Booth, released a roughly eight-minute cartoon entitled The Wizard of Oz which was very loosely based on the Baum novel. The script was by Frank Joslyn Baum, then a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and so credited as “Col. Frank Baum.”

As the second Oz sound feature, this “talkie” had very little talking, but plenty of music, supplied by Carl W. Stalling, famous now for his compositions as well as arrangements of other composers’ music in Warner Brothers’ “Merrie Melodies” and “Looney Tunes” shorts.

Much was, of course, removed from the story; Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, the Cowardly Lion, the Good Witch of the North, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda are all absent, although there is an appearance by a creature which resembles the A-B-Sea Serpent from Thompson’s The Royal Book of Oz.

The film opens with a bored-looking Dorothy, with dark hair and a solid blue dress, lazily playing with Toto when an inky black cyclone whips up. Girl and dog dash into the house, which is of course swept up in the storm and carried to Oz. Then they fall out of the house!

Happily, there is something on the ground to break their fall: the Scarecrow. In landing on him, they also free him from his pole and the taunting crows. The three start walking along and soon meet a very rusty Tin Woodman whom the Scarecrow oils and then buffs up with a whisk broom he just happens to have in his pocket.

They are at this point in sight of the Emerald City! Short trip, wasn’t it?

Pausing only to watch swans, butterflies, birds, and bees at play, the quartet enter the city, where they are royally welcomed with a bizarre parade in which Dorothy rides in a coach drawn by wooden horses (a nod to the Sawhorse?).

The bulbous-eyed, red-nosed, white-bearded Wizard welcomes them into his sanctum and treats them to a demonstration of what appears to be real magic (including changing a row of rabbits into little girls, similar to a feat performed by the Good Witch of the North in The Road to Oz), culminating in a hen’s egg growing to enormous proportions. Toto, having nabbed the Wizard’s wand, hands it to the Tin Woodman, who shatters the egg with it.

A tiny chick sits in the remains of the shell, and the hen (Billina?) rocks it in her wings as she clucks, and the others sing, “Rockabye Baby."