Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Anime Series

All right, several of my blog readers will hate that I got this fortunate chance, but I have in my collection, as part of a swap from another Oz fan and collector who asked that I not redistribute or upload it to YouTube, the complete series of the animated "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" series in English!

Oz fans have been frustrated that the series has not been commercially available, just four shortened-down movies: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz.

These four 90-minute movies start promisingly in the first one: the story stays fairly close to Baum's story, but as the series progresses, adhesion to the original stories begins to drift: Glinda, who in Baum's books refuses Tip's request to be a boy again if he doesn't like being Ozma saying that "transformations... are not honest," turns into a hawk-like bird to chase Mombi who has turned into a Madam Mim-like dragon. A desert, not a rocky wasteland, is the route to the Nome Kingdom. The Nome King's fear of eggs is not grounded in fact: he erroneously thought they were harmful when a hard-boiled egg hit him in the head. Ozma only sends a few of her friends to rescue the Prince of Ev (instead of a whole family, an almost logical change) and returns to Oz. Tip hardly steps forward to lead the party, overshadowed by Dorothy, making his unveiling as Ozma feel odd. Princess Lulu (not Langwidere) changes attitudes with hats instead of heads. The Nomes tunnel to Oz with a giant worm, joined by an never-sated monster called "Growleywog." The Nomes manage to capture the Emerald City by night, despite the heroic efforts of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

Cut in shortened form, these changes feel grating to fans who love the original Baum tales. But played out in the full fifty-two 21 minute episodes, the changes feel more natural as a whole. In the English series, we do get some odd, uninspired renamings (the Sawhorse becomes "Horse" or "Horsey," and the Gump is now "The Flying Bed", neither of whom speak). In about 18 and a half hours, over three times the length of the shortened movies, plenty of time is allowed for character development, and some surprising returns to Baum's stories. There is even an episode in between the "Wizard" and "Land" story arcs in which Dorothy goes to town, happening upon a circus, where she is reunited with none other than the Wizard of Oz himself. Even the more head-scratching changes now make more sense when properly played out.

The series has these two English versions, but it is in fact an anime production, and when the series was originally released, it was released to many countries and languages. Due to odd copyright laws, in Germany, the series is widely available from unlicensed vendors. It seems that a Hebrew version was even made available for downloading (which I chanced upon). The editing of the Japanese and Chinese versions are identical, they share the same DVD release with alternate language tracks. The series is even available in Spanish and French, leaving the English version unavailable as the complete, richer series, offering only the insulting shorter version to Baum's original audience.

As I mentioned above, I came across the Hebrew version, and noted that the first episode seemed to be edited differently, introducing a dream sequence for Dorothy in the English version, while the Hebrew version showed farm life much more, and oddly, the Hebrew version has Aunt Em and Dorothy humming a tune that sounds surprisingly like "Over The Rainbow."

In the various international versions, the opening title sequence differed, sometimes with different songs. The Hebrew and Japanese versions offered different jazzy themes. The English versions offers a song that goes from slow to pretty upbeat (and deliciously 80's).

In the non-English versions, there is no narration, just the dialogue. In the English version, Margot Kidder (Christopher Reeves' Superman's Lois Lane) narrates, driving story points home, setting the scene, but, except in the shortened version, it feels unnecessary. (In one point, she says something, then the Tin Woodman says almost the exact same thing!) It also seems some dialogue was re-recorded in the shorter versions.

Honestly, I really think now that they should give the entire series a decent DVD release. It'd probably fit on six or seven DVDs.

(Thanks to Tim Hocking, Sam Milazzo, and all the other collectors that have shared their opinions and observations over the years.)

Here are several different openings for the series from all over the world:

1. English
2. Japanese
3. Japanese Version #2
4. German
5. French
6. Dutch
7. Hebrew
8. Spanish

Matt Bloom was able to translate most of the Hebrew version for me:
Come along, run run!
He doesn't have a brain,
He doesn't have courage,
And there's a girl and her dog stuck in this other world
And they need to go on the road to there
Hatizufa (Don't remember what that word means.)
And they go and they go and the beautiful way.
The yellow way
(Then it goes through the things they need, "badly," and their names.)
And the beautiful little girl
Come along on the yellow way/road,
She's here, where did she go?
And Toto, too!

Sam Milazzo was able to get a translation of the French version:

Bring me in your dreams
I want to fly with you
in the sky.

That big wind(s) *remove* us
to guide as where the life
is nice
so much beautiful (beauty?)

Every night when I sleep in my big bed
In my head there is / are a lot of beautiful stories
I'm the only one to believe that
But doesn't matter

(repeat 1st part)

Bring me in your dreams
I want to fly with you
in the sky


Anonymous said...

So, any word on when or if there will be an complete unedited English DVD release?

Jared said...

No, not yet...

Chris said...

I never understood collectors who wanted such rarities to stay private. You'd think they would feel it their perogative to share something and take heart in the notion that if it weren't for them these rarities might be lost to the world forever. But no. Break the cycle Jared. Upload them anonymously to a bittorrent site somewhere. If you don't then who will? It would be tragic to not have these preserved via circulation on the internet. Maybe Cinar would realize that they should release the whole thing when they see how much it gets downloaded.

Joshua said...

I called Lightyear Entertainment yesterday because I binged the movies the other day and wanted to find out the possibility of the WWoO series being released in full and the man I spoke with told me there would most likely not be a chance of it happening since their wouldn't be a big enough market for it. He mentioned the slow pacing of the episodes being a factor in it too. Very disappointed as this was one of my favorite shows growing up.

Anonymous said...

The series is available on Google Play right now, broken up into two seasons, and it's the uncut US release. Definitely worth the purchase.