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Return-to-oz

Return to Oz 1985.

 Mysterious Girl: Why did they bring you here, Dorothy?

Dorothy: Because I can't sleep, and I talk about a place that I've been to, but nobody believes that it exists.

Return to Oz is a Walt Disney film (yes, that Disney) made in 1985, which was supposed to be both a semi-sequel to the MGM The Wizard of Oz and a more accurate adaptation of the more obscure original printed-page L. Frank Baum books. For the most part, those who never watched any trailers or commercials for the movie expected a cheerful musical with bright sets and visuals and dancing, with friendly little Munchkins.

Boy, were they wrong.

The story takes place in October 1899, apparently six months after the tornado picked up Dorothy's farmhouse and transported her to the Land of Oz. Now back home in Kansas, Dorothy is unable to sleep because she can't forget about her adventures in Oz. Her Aunt Em takes her to Dr. Worley, the head of a psychiatric clinic who specializes in electro-shock therapy. Before she can receive the "treatment", Dorothy escapes with one of the patients, who is lost when she and Dorothy fall into the river. Or is she? When Dorothy wakes up, she is in the land of Oz, mysteriously joined by her chicken Billina.

However, Oz has significantly changed: The Yellow Brick Road lies shattered, the Emerald City is in ruins, now ruled by the head-switching witch "Princess Mombi". Dorothy's friend Scarecrow, the rightful ruler of the City since the Wizard's departure, has been kidnapped, the citizens of Oz including the Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion have been turned into stone, and the once green streets are patrolled by shit-your-pants-scary Wheelers. Now Dorothy, along with Billina and their new friends Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Gump, must go to the Nome King's Mountain to confront the Nome King and his minions, rescue the Scarecrow, and restore Oz to its former glory.

Though the film was decried by critics for being too intense and scary for children and did poorly at the box office, Return to Oz has gained a large cult following. It also tends to be popular with fans of the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum; much of the plot is loosely adapted from his first two sequels to The Wizard of Oz, and the visual look and tone of the film is modeled closely on the original in-book illustrations. It is important to note that the original OZ series really could get this strange, and the famous MGM film is much Lighter and Softer.

Not to be confused with the 1964 Rankin/Bass Productions animated TV movie of the same name, nor with Filmation's rather dreary 1974 Animated Films, Journey Back to Oz.


Return to Oz has examples of the following:

  • Adaptation Distillation
  • Affably Evil: The Nome King is quite courteous, even giving Dorothy and co. limestone pie and melted silver to eat.
  • And Starring: Fairuza Balk (!) as Dorothy
  • And You Were There
  • Batman Gambit: The Nome King challenges Dorothy and her friends to find the Scarecrow. if they fail, they become ornaments, and the Nome King becomes human.
    • While attempting the challenge Tik Tok pretends to "wind down" in order to get Dorothy in the room with him; his plan is to make a random guess, that way Dorothy can see what he turns into, hoping it would give her a clue as to what the others were transformed into.
  • Battle Butler: Tik-Tok.
    • He even calls himself Oz's "army". This looks patently ridiculous at first glance, with him appearing to be a clumsy copper boiler with a head, two spindly arms and thick legs that make him slower than a glacier... and then you see him single-handedly wipe the floor with a LARGE pack of wheelers who are pure terror until this point in the story. Then as the rest of the wheelers flee, he grabs one in a chokehold and mercilessly interrogates him.
  • Bedlam House: At first, it looks like the mental hospital where Dorothy goes will subvert this, as it looks nice, clean, and respectable, and the Dr. Worley seems awfully friendly and helpful. And then you hear the wailing, which is later revealed to be patients who have been "damaged" and locked in the cellar.
  • Beneath the Earth
  • Chekhov's Gun: A Wheeler yells at Dorothy "that chickens are not allowed anywhere in Oz," and never explains why. Later, when Dorothy and the others reach the Nome Kingdom, Billina is inside Jack's head and unintentionally stays in there, leaving the Nome King to think the chicken vanished. After Dorothy solves the King's game, he goes berserk and attempts to eat Dorothy and her friends one by one. When he is about to eat Jack, Jack's pumpkin lid falls off and ...
  • Chekhov's Gunman: ... Billina sticks her head out. She lays an egg out of fright, rolls out of Jack's head and right into the King's open mouth. It turns out that eggs are poisonous to nomes, and the King dies, crumbling into rocks.
  • Claymation
  • Clock Punk: Tik-Tok.
  • Composite Character: Specifically, Princess Mombi combines Old Mombi from the second Oz book with the multiple head wearing Princess Langwidere of Ev in book three.
  • Continuity Nod: At least four occur for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz:
    • Jack asks Dorothy how Tik-Tok can talk when his brain stopped functioning, to which she answers "It happens to people all the time, Jack." In the 1939 film, the Scarecrow points out that "some people without brains do an awful lot of talking".
    • The magic shoes are originally called Silver Shoes in the novels. In Return To Oz, they remained Ruby Slippers.
    • In the 1939 film, minus her aunt and uncle, most characters Dorothy meets in Oz are counterparts of people she knows in Kansas. Here, Mombi and the Nome King are Ozian counterparts of Nurse Wilson and Dr. Worley. Further, the mysterious girl resembles Ozma, the tiny jack-o'-lantern the girl gives Dorothy (obviously) resembles Jack Pumpkinhead, and the shock-machine could stand for Tik-Tok.
      • Also the orderlies are all Wheelers.
    • The Nome King quotes "There's no place like home", tempting Dorothy into letting him send her home, abandoning her friends, instead of playing his guessing game.
  • Covers Always Lie: The poster seen above shows Dorothy's old companions (the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man) along with her and her and the other main characters. The Lion and the Tin Man spend most of the film as statues and the Scarecrow is the only one of the three to have any lines.
  • Cuckoo Nest
  • Darker and Edgier: Much, much more than the 1939 movie. To be fair, this is a bad case of Adaptation Displacement: more people are familiar with the musical film, and are unaware that it is actually Lighter and Softer than the original book series; Return is actually much closer to the books in tone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Billina and the Gump.
  • Disney Death: Tik-Tok.
  • Distressed Damsel: Princess Ozma.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole
  • The Dragon: Princess Mombi.
    • Also, Nurse Wilson in the real world.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Played straight with Ozma, averted with Mombi.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: When the Nome King goes Juggernaut on us, his voice gets considerably deeper.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair
  • Expy: Some people believe Dorothy's companions are stand-ins for her original group of friends - Billina is like Toto, Tik-Tok is similar to the Tin Man, Jack is like the Scarecrow, and the Gump is like the Cowardly Lion.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Nome King eats the Gump's couch body and also tries to eat Jack PumpkinHead. Too bad for him that Billina was in Jack's head[1] . . .
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The death of the Nome King.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence
  • Fate Worse Than Death: What Mombi did to this beautiful princesses; they are still alive and conscious and are kept by her. Mombi's final fate is also arguably this. As Ozma stated:

 "I forgive Mombi. Dorothy has punished her by removing her magical powers, and a witch without magic is a miserable creature indeed."[2]

 Dorothy: My ruby slippers--

The Nome King: No, no, no... My ruby slippers. They just fell out of the sky one day -- you were so anxious to get home! They're very powerful: they made it possible for me to conquer the Emerald City... thank you.

    • Again, this is an inversion. She didn't know any of this until she came back and met the Nome King.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: "Shall we have some... refreshment while we wait?"
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Four of them, actually.
  • The Nth Doctor: Princess Mombi, whenever she switches heads.
  • Oh Crap
  • One-Man Army: Tik-Tok, literally
  • Or Was It a Dream?: During the coda, back in Kansas Dorothy touches her bedroom mirror and is surprised to see a vision of Ozma and Billina. Refreshingly, this is done in a way so that book purists who prefer Oz to be real and movie fans who prefer Oz to be a dream reflection can both interpret it how they wish.
  • Pardon My Klingon: The Nome King fumes "Hippikaloric!" when he realizes that the ornament puzzle has been solved.
    • It must be a dreadful word because we don't know what it means.
  • Parental Substitute: Inverted Trope, as Jack calls Dorothy "Mom" though she is a child herself.
  • Pet the Dog: The Nome King actually comforts a crying Dorothy, and offers her a way to rescue the Scarecrow. That way is a Death Trap, though.
    • Further, he even offers to send her back to Kansas! Granted, this would mean leaving her friends to be ornaments forever, and the Nome King did mention he wants to make everyone forget about Oz, but still, offering her an escape when she's on the cusp of walking into his death trap is surprisingly decent.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Princess Ozma, And Mombi.
  • Rightful Princess Returns
  • Pragmatic Adaptation
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
  • Robot Buddy: General Tik-Tok.
  • Shout-Out: Princess Mombi gets one as a Castlevania boss.
  • Sore Loser: The Nome King after Dorothy solves his puzzle.
  • Swiss Army Appendage: Princess Mombi and her heads.
  • Taken for Granite: The citizens of the Emerald City.
  • Talking Animal: Billina and the Gump, sort of.
  • Tears From a Stone
  • Vain Sorceress: Princess Mombi.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Nome King, upon realizing that Dorothy has just beaten him at his own game.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Nome King says that eggs are NOT part of a nutritious breakfast!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the mysterious girl who rescues Dorothy? They never say if they found her after the rainstorm. Unless you assume she's Ozma for real.
    • Or that she was a figment (either of imagination or magic) only Dorothy could see in the real world. The head nurse only said "So!" when she found her/them after all.
      • She untied Dorothy from the stretcher (that eerily resembles the Wheelers), so even if only Dorothy could see her she can at least physically act in the real world.
      • Auntie Em did say everyone but the doctor was rescued...
      • The novelization by Joan D. Vinge has Aunt Em sadly telling Dorothy the mysterious girl remains missing. Interpret that how you will.
      • Either she was real, but drowned in the river during the escape, and Dorothy imagined her as Ozma to delude herself that she survived, or she was a construct for Ozma's soul while being trapped in the mirror (a window to our world, like in the finale), so when Dorothy freed her, the body simply disappeared.
      • "It's you. I was afraid you had drowned." This more or less confirms that Ozma was in fact the girl in question.
    • Also the Munchkins from the destroyed Munchkin village could count as well. Seriously, what happened to them?
      • The climactic parade features people dressed as characters from all 14 of Baum's Oz books, including some Munchkin characters. One can assume the others are somewhere there in the crowd.
    • Alongside this - why was the Head Nurse being carted off to jail at the end? Although the implication earlier was that the Electroshock Therapy wasn't always successful, it's never actually stated why she was arrested.
      • Remember those patients the mysterious girl mentioned? The ones that were locked in the cellar because they were "damaged". It's entirely possible that the authorities found them during the fire. Since the doctor is no longer around to persecute, they arrested Nurse Wilson and possibly the other staff members, who were probably in on it too.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Mombi asks the Nome King why he doesn't turn our heroes into ornaments. The Nome King's response? "It's more fun this way!"
    • Which later reveals him as a Bad Boss once Dorothy starts winning the game by freeing four of five of her missing friends-as-ornaments. The Nome King starts yelling at Mombi for being the one responsible for this debacle because she "let her escape!"

Notes

  1. Eggs are poisonous to Nomes
  2. Mombi: "And that's a fact."
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