How to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz

oz
The Wizard of Oz, video screen capture

If you love The Wizard of Oz as much as I do, the next eleven months are for you. Warner Bros. is ramping up for the August 2014 75th anniversary of this beloved movie, with a DVD release and tons of tie-ins.

I came home from my trip to World Maker Faire two weeks ago to find a tiny Dorothy on the counter: the first sign in my house of the Year of Oz. Through October 10, The Wizard of Oz is the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy theme, including said Dorothy, as well as the Scarecrow, Wicked Witch of the West, Tin Man, Glinda the Good Witch, and Cowardly Lion, each with its own yellow brick road base, which connect together to make the full party.

mcdtoys
Source: McDonalds.com

Oz is always welcome in my house. I rented the VHS so many times as a kid (renting videos!) that one day the clerk snidely remarked, “you know you’ve seen this before, right?” I even played the Scarecrow in an Oz production in high school. I apologize if you’ve ever had to hear me singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to myself. I have all of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. In short, my name is Ruth, and I’m an Oz geek.

I hoped seeing Dorothy on the counter would be the sign that my daughter is finally ready to share my Oz love. Two summers ago, we went to Florida for the final space shuttle launch and visited Hollywood Studios on the way. The life-like Wicked Witch animatronic character on The Great Movie Ride scared her so much, I knew it wasn’t time for the movie yet. I couldn’t risk her hating it.

But with a couple of years and greater movie sophistication in there, the 75th anniversary is a great reason to share Oz with the kids—mine and yours. Truth be told, we don’t buy a lot of movies in our house any more. Between Netflix and Hulu, we’ve got about all the entertainment we need. But some things are worth owning, and The Wizard of Oz is firmly on that list. I’m hoping that having it always there will make it as much a favorite for my kids as it was for me.

This new Blu-ray release, packaged in a beautiful lenticular slipcase, includes the film both in regular Blu-ray format as well as Blu-ray 3D for those with 3D HDTVs. It also comes with the Digital HD Ultraviolet digital download codes so that you can take it with you. Creating the 3D edition took quite a while—the NY Post has an interview about the process.

The DVD set’s special features (only in 2D) include:

    • The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a new 69-minute documentary (similarly named to an older one) narrated by Martin Sheen that goes from the film’s production days through 75 years of movie love, covering costumes and makeup, the Technicolor work on the film, and stories and myths surrounding it.
    • Commentary by John Fricke along with cast and crew. Fricke is an Oz and Judy Garland historian who has written quite a few books on both topics.
    • A sing-along. Oh, yes.

The 75th anniversary DVD release is available on Blu-ray (one-disc version, fewer special features), the Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/UltraViolet combination described here, and standard DVD (two discs). For those who need even more, there’s a 75th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition, which includes five discs with even more special features, a photo book, set of pins, ruby slippers globe, map of Oz, and flash drive that makes it look like your laptop fell on the Wicked Witch of the East.

And, of course, since the anniversary is still almost a year away, the DVD release is just the start of the Oz fun. You’ve likely already run into one or two Oz events, such as the Oz-themes Cupcake Wars episode last week or the events around the country at Simon Malls. But there’s more to come.

Unless your family lived near or summered in western North Carolina, you may not even know that in the early 1970s, there was a Land of Oz theme park. It opened in 1970 as a way to keep the Beech Mountain ski resort area employees in work during the off season. After a fire (that destroyed Dorothy’s original dress) and dwindling attendance, the park closed in 1980. For a few years, the employees from those days have come back to welcome Oz lovers again one weekend a year. This weekend, October 5th, is the 20th anniversary of that gathering. (I’d actually planned to go myself before realizing I’d committed to a geek parenting panel at The Escapist Expo. Come to think of it, you should come see that!)

If you live more towards the middle of the U.S., I recommend visiting the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas, which I was lucky enough to see earlier this year. They have nearly 2,000 items of Oz memorabilia, ending with a chance to sit on the throne. I couldn’t resist spraying a pair of slippers with red glitter for the occasion!

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CC-BY-SA Ruth Suehle

My entertainment loves as a child also included the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I was pretty sure I was going to be a Rockette when I grew up). This year’s will include a hot-air balloon and balloonheads of The Wizard of Oz characters.

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And it goes on. You’ll be seeing more Oz products this year, from candy to collectibles. I’m not usually a QVC shopper, but there are some tempting products in their Oz line running for the anniversary. Oz lovers really have a year to look forward to.

By day, Ruth works to make open source software communities better. The rest of the time, she makes things, which means her husband and kids know to watch out for stray sewing pins and to ask before eating anything made of fondant.