Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz

I don't talk about the MGM movie much here. Do I enjoy the film? Yes. But it's not my favorite version of Oz. Still, it cannot be denied that the film is the most popular version of Oz, and while its sugar-coated portrait of Oz doesn't quite match Baum's elegantly American fairyland, it still presents a joyous yet dangerous land.

The rights for many of MGM's properties are now owned by Turner Entertainment, who are part of Time Warner now. So it took no legal difficulty to create an animated version of MGM's The Wizard of Oz with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry taking part in the film.

And that is how to sum up Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz in brevity. However, this animated Wizard of Oz does not completely recreate the classic film. Tom and Jerry are a cat and mouse (respectively) who live on the Gale's Kansas farm, Tom being a barncat, while Jerry manages to make use of his diminutive size to help out on the farm. (An early scene shows him using an adding machine to help Uncle Henry.)

Aunt Em tasks Tom and Jerry to keep an eye on Dorothy and Toto to help keep them out of trouble. And now we have parts that tell us what was going on just offscreen. During "Over the Rainbow," Tom and Jerry prevent a haystack falling over on Dorothy. They create a bike to chase Miss Gulch as she rides off with Toto, leading to his escape from the basket. As Dorothy hurries back home, they manage to keep some debris from hitting her.

Tom and Jerry are similarly knocked out during the cyclone and go to Oz with Dorothy, but by the time they leave the farmhouse, it's been a few hours since Dorothy left Munchkinland. A little mouse named Tuffy joins them, offering little more than a voice to their team, as Tom and Jerry are both silent.

Tom and Jerry wind up taking a different route from the one Dorothy took, and wind up getting on the Wicked Witch of the West's bad side. Eventually they catch up with Dorothy and her friends, but in the Winkie Country, they manage to escape the Flying Monkeys and get to play a role in setting up the events crucial to the end of the film.

To me, the cartoon violence of Tom and Jerry felt out of place in the setting of Kansas, while it happens rarely in Oz (in one Kansas scene, Tom falls to pieces after an encounter with a saw, but is obviously able to pull himself together for his next scene). In Oz, they get into comic antics defying the Wicked Witch, who has a magic wand they manage to take from her and eventually destroy. For me, it degrades the Witch as a villain for her to be bothered so much by a cat and mouse. Also, while the MGM film already made Dorothy less of a strong heroine than she was in the book, Tom and Jerry helping her along degrades her status as heroine even further. Of course, you can say that this is their dream, and not Dorothy's.

The animation is very good, though I did think some of the MGM Oz characters looked too cartoony. (Dorothy sadly has a bulbous forehead.) The music sounds very much like the music from the classic MGM film, though the songs are obviously by a new cast, the most notable one being "Over The Rainbow."

This really seems to be a love it or don't for Oz fans. Fans who love mainly the MGM film seem to have enjoyed it and find Tom and Jerry's antics cute and adorable. I, on the other hand, felt that trying to imagine it as a side piece to the MGM movie might be degrading to the characters in that film. In fact, after watching it on Cartoon Network today (a little over a week before it is released to DVD and Blu-Ray, it's already been available On Demand and digital rental services), I decided to feed my urge to watch the MGM film, to enjoy that on its own again.

Order Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz on DVD or Blu-Ray.


James C. Wallace II said...

I would point out that there is (IMHO) an homage to Baum's original vision when Tom, Jerry and Tuffy take the wrong way and wind up crossing a Great Chasm, which Baum wrote of in the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In addition, while on the yellow brick road crossing that chasm, Tom encounters a statue of what I believe to be a Kalidah, another one of Baum's creations.
My one disappointment was during the Wizards speech in the balloon, when they left out "Per Ardua Ad Alta." I groaned a bit at that exclusion. Otherwise, I enjoyed the film. I guess it's because I grew up with Tom & Jerry as well as the Wizard of Oz and blending the two didn't bother me a bit.

Chris Dulabone said...

Rinny and I tried to watch it, but we had to turn it off shortly after the first commercial. That mouse/Lion wannabe was just plain annoying, and the humor was entirely unfunny. And, yes, adding the T&J stuff DID take away from the characters of the original (both Baum's and MGM's originals, actually).
Even as a child, I would not have been able to watch this. I did enjoy some of the old T&J cartoons, but they are the kind of cartoons that have to be taken in very SMALL doses. Even giving them a half-hour TV show was overkill.
This movie was not fit for human consumption, particularly anyone who loves either Oz or cartoons. Even the animation, which was dreadfully modern-day computerized NON-art, failed in its attempts to look vintage.