Return to Oz deserves a better DVD!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brenton, Jun 26, 2002.

  1. Brenton

    Brenton Screenwriter

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    In this post, I will talk about the 1985 live-action Disney film Return to Oz. For those who have never heard of it or haven't seen it, it's a terrific film based on L. Frank Baum's second and third Oz books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, published in 1904 and 1907, respectively. Made in the dusk of pre-CG effects, it brilliantly utilizes Jim Henson's animatronic technology and Will Vinton's "Claymation". While many people talk about how terrible of a film it is when they compare it to MGM's 1939 release of The Wizard of Oz, the truth is that it wasn't made as a sequel to this film, but rather to the original story, as presented in Baum's 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It really is a terrific film.
    As the Anchor Bay release of the film three years ago was the first DVD I ever owned, I was unfamiliar with what was considered "good". I naturally loved it. But more recently, I've really gotten into DVD and I've found myself more and more disappointed with this release. Here are the specs on that bare-bones release.
    • Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) - non-anamorphic and full of all the original dust and scratches typical of a celluloid copy shown in theaters for several weeks.
    • Pan-and-Scan Presentation (1.33:1) - bleh!
    • An introduction star Fairuza Balk (Dorothy) - this is an annoying clip that represents the first chapter of the film. Balk says "Hi, I'm Fairuza Balk, and my first film, Return to Oz is on next. I hope you enjoy it." Then the film begins with Chapter 2. I always press the Skip Forward button and get right to the movie.
    And when you go to the menu labled "Extras" (note the plural), you find this (and only this).
    • An interview with Balk, called Fairuza Returns to Oz - just over eleven minutes... fairly interesting to watch.
    This film deserves much better treatment. Here's the list of specs I would love to see for a Collector's Edition of this incredible movie.
    • Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) - made from a brand new print of the film (and do away with Pan-and-Scan altogether!)
    • Surround Sound - Dolby Digital and/or DTS
    • Audio Commentary with director/co-writer Walter Murch and star Fairuza Balk (and possibly co-writer Gill Dennis). Murch has such a rich voice, and Balk has sentimental memories of making this film at the tender age of nine.
    • Original Theatrical Trailer(s) - I have no idea how many were made, but I know there was at least one, and I'd love to see it!
    • Deleted Scenes - if they still exist...
    • Documentaries and Featurettes - it would be great to see these cover the following subjects:
      The Oz Books - L. Frank Baum, his books, and the world created therein
      The Animatronic Characters - including Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Gump. These things are really breathtaking
      The Visual Effects - even today, Will Vinton's Claymation amazes me. Especially the Nome King's messenger and the scene where the infuriated Nome King attempts to devour Jack and the Gump
      The Actors - for obvious reasons
      The Premiere around the world - I hear the Japanese went nuts over the film, even though it wasn't so well accepted here in the U.S.
    As a die-hard Oz fan, I can say that there are many, many people like me who would love to see a release of this nature.
     
  2. LukeB

    LukeB Cinematographer

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    I'm sure Disney would be willing to do a Pan & Scan barebones DVD release of their own, similar to what Journey of Natty Gann received. Be thankful that Anchor Bay was able to release Return to Oz.
     
  3. Brenton

    Brenton Screenwriter

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    From what I've heard, Disney is so ashamed at the box office failure of this movie, that they won't have anything to do with it. On the reverse side of the chapter listing insert included with the DVD is an image of the original poster. The phrase "Walt Disney presents" preceeding the title has been clevery Photoshopped out.
     
  4. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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  5. Aaron Reynolds

    Aaron Reynolds Screenwriter

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    Please tell me that Walter Murch was involved in the audio remix...I mean, he's a God of sound, and personally I'd rather have his Dolby stereo mix than someone else's DD 5.1 track.

    Walter Murch has supervised a number of excellent LD transfers, including Criterion's English Patient. Unless he harbors bad memories of Return to Oz, he could probably be convinced to work on a special edition.
     
  6. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    I have a 5-minute 35mm trailer for Disney's star-studded Summer 1985 lineup- featuring the mega-blockbusters Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, Return to Oz, and The Black Cauldron.
     
  7. Rich Romero

    Rich Romero Supporting Actor

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    This is most definitely a great movie. One of my favorites when I was a kid.
     
  8. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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  9. Brenton

    Brenton Screenwriter

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  10. rutger_s

    rutger_s Supporting Actor

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  11. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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  12. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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  13. Esten

    Esten Supporting Actor

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    I really like this movie.I think it's better than "Wizard of Oz".Seriously.
    I'd gladly buy a Special Edition.[​IMG]
     
  14. Richard Stammer

    Richard Stammer Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I remember Siskel and Ebert doing an entire show LAMBASTING this movie and the gaul of the makers in even considering doing another OZ movie. There contempt for this movie literally dripped from the screen. I couldn't believe it. I was particularly appalled at Ebert, who displayed no depth of knowledge about the original Baum books and how much closer this version was to the tone and illustrations of the second and third books.

    I loved this movie as an adult. I thought Balk was terrific as Dorothy. I found it a haunting, beautiful movie. I showed it on video to my young nephew and he fell in love with it, watching it so many times that the tape wore out. I remember other adults so appalled at the witch's headless scenes and how they were too scary for children to see. Yeah, just give them some more Scoopy-doo crap. Absolutley no knowledge of the power of myth and fairy tale and a healthy child's ability to discriminate what is real and what is fantasy. So sad.

    Fortunately, there are still many fans of this movie and we'll make sure that it stays alive even if the bunglers and anti-intellectuals at Disney don't have a clue.
     
  15. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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  16. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    Having read all of the books as a child, I was astounded at how different the 1939 OZ was from the tone of the series. When RETURN TO OZ came out, I was right there on opening night. I loved it then and still do. I mean, WIZARD OF OZ is a great film for its own reasons, but RTO is definitely closer in spirit to the books.

    On a side note, does anyone remember the stage version of THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ that played on HBO in the early 80's? Bizarre children's musical filmed in Minnesota, I believe. I ended up finding it in a bargain bin at Blockbuster some years ago. It's actually quite fun and also very close in tone to the original book. Worth a viewing if you can find it.
     
  17. Aaron Reynolds

    Aaron Reynolds Screenwriter

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  18. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    Way back when this film was being released theatrically, I was quite upset that anyone would make a sequel to the Wizard of Oz many years later. When I finally watched the film, I understood it was not a sequel, and in fact was more closely based on the original books that "The Wizard of Oz" ever was (though that film is a classic in and of itself). I absolutely love Return to Oz. It's unfortunate it didn't do well theatrically, but I think it COULD be embraced today, if people view it from the right perspective.

    I love the DVD I have, as I never expected to get anything as good as it was at the time. Today I'd be perfectly happy to replace it with an anamorphic, cleaned up, special feature-enhanced edition.

    Bring it on.
     
  19. Guy Martin

    Guy Martin Second Unit

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    Aaron-
    That's great news about an Ondaatje book about Murch. Anyone with any interest in editing technique and theory owes it to themselves to check out Murch's own In the Blink of an Eye, a truly wonderful book-length essay (and the more recent editions include a wonderfully well thought-out essay on digital editing and filmmaking).
    - Guy
     
  20. Josh Simpson

    Josh Simpson Supporting Actor

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    I loved this movie. I watched an old VHS copy for years. Then I kind of forgot about it until I saw it on DVD about two years ago. I'd buy an SE of this in a second, though I am happy it's on DVD, unlike some of my favorite movies that arent.
     

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