The Wonderful World of the Wizard of Oz

“I’m melting! I’m melting!”wizard-of-oz
“We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
“Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!”
“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
And of course, “There’s no place like home.”

These quotes have become a part of American culture over the past 75 years since the world was introduced to the musical The Wizard of Oz. The most expensive production for MGM at the time, the movie is noted for its use of Technicolor, as well as its musical score, elaborate make up, and special effects. Surprising to most, the movie was not a box office success, leaving the studio with an initial loss. It was still nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two: Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

We did a little research and found that the production of the movie and its lasting legacy are almost as fun as watching the movie itself. For example, did you know that 20th Century Fox wanted to make the movie with Shirley Temple as Dorothy? The role was eventually taken by Judy Garland, who was only 16 at the time, made $500 per month, and had to attend school on set everyday.

One of the original proposals for the movie’s production was to have Toto played by a human actor when the story moved to Oz! Terry, the dog who (happily) ended up playing Toto, earned 2.5 times more money per week than each Munchkin.

The Tin Man’s oil was actually chocolate syrup, because it showed up on the Technicolor film better than actual oil! Similarly, gelatin powder was used to color the horses, which they enjoyed licking off. The snow in the poppy field was made from industrial grade asbestos. On the other hand, the cowardly lion’s costume was made from real lion skin, and wasn’t an imitation. We can’t imagine either of those last two production decisions being employed by a contemporary Hollywood film!

Some of the Wicked Witch of the West’s scenes were cut after the producers deemed them too scary for children. She’s actually in only twelve minutes of the movie! Margaret Hamilton reprised the role of the Wicked Witch in personal appearances and cameos for the rest of her career. Proving that the decades did nothing to blunt the Witch’s impact, her 1976 appearance on Sesame Street has only aired once, after parents complained to PBS and the producers that she’d frightened their children.

L. Frank Baum published seventeen sequels to his original novel. The movie suggests that Dorothy’s experiences were all a dream, but Baum created Oz as a real place that Dorothy and other characters would revisit in the sequels.

The most amazing thing that we learned, however, was that “Over the Rainbow” was very nearly cut from the film due to time constraints. Can you imagine a Wizard of Oz without this iconic song?

Are your children familiar with the movie? Gather your family, make some popcorn, and watch it together! Because your children will be obsessed afterwards, check out familycrafts.about.com for some super fun Wizard of Oz craft and activity ideas! Make your own character puppets, learn about the science behind tornadoes, and check out a map of Kansas to find Dorothy’s home. Hop over to www.care.com for some DIY costume instructions, because your little ones will love to act out the movie or just go everywhere dressed as their favorite character.

This Saturday, January 24 the Museum will be celebrating The Wizard of Oz with a full day of fun! Click here for more info!

Many thanks to Awesome Ariel Capellupo for all her help with research into the movie!

Sources: parade.com | www.moviemistakes.com | muppet.wikia.com

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