Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Heavens to Murgatroyd!"

In the 1960s, Hanna-Barbera were producing records as well as cartoons. One line featured their characters taking part in classic literary stories and fairy tales, and yes, The Wizard of Oz was one of them.

Snagglepuss Tells the Story of the Wizard of Oz was released in 1965. However, my copy (stage left) is a re-release dated 1977, retitled Snagglepuss and the Wizard of Oz. Going from eBay, it was also released in sets with other records, or possibly it was edited down and put on a record with other stories.

Here's the original cover:
Unlike some of the other titles in the series, Snagglepuss does not take part in the story. Instead, he retells the story, so it's an audio dramatization, sort of, with Snagglepuss narrating. If you're familiar with the character, you know how he has a dramatic way of saying things: "The Wicked Witch of the West could see for miles! Inches even!" He also gets to use his trademark line: "Heavens to Murgatroyd!"

The story actually sticks very closely to Baum's story with a few major exceptions. First off, there are no Good Witches, a Wicked Witch of the East, or Silver Shoes. The Wizard's idea to take Dorothy home in a balloon works. So this eliminates the journey south.

There are also no adventures featuring the kalidahs or the poppy field, so no Queen of the Field Mice, either. All the friends go to see the Wizard as the big head at once. Also, the Wicked Witch of the West calls the Winged Monkeys with the whistle, and the bees were removed. The wolves and crows are not killed, but made to flee.

Dorothy makes a point of when the Scarecrow has a good idea, the Tin Woodman is kind, and the Lion is brave, so when the Wizard explains that each of them already had what they wanted, it doesn't feel so much like a cheap cop-out.

The voices work pretty well. I'm not too keen on the Scarecrow sounding like a somewhat mush-mouthed dunce, but since this is a funny adaptation, I'll cut it some slack. The Tin Woodman has a squeaky-sounding voice. The Lion's voice is a deep humorous-sounding voice, sounding more like a clown than anything else. Dorothy's voice is definitely an adult actress attempting a child's voice.

There are also five songs, at least four of them original to this album:
  • "Snagglepuss" A song introducing Snagglepuss. There doesn't seem to be any other records featuring Snagglepuss, but I'd be surprised if this was the only time this song was used.
  • "If I Only Had A Brain" Despite the title, not the song from the MGM film. The Scarecrow sings about his longing for a brain. "I'm not very smart, I'm not very wise, and I've got a low IQ. There's nothing at all between my eyes, what's a poor Scarecrow to do?" Note the singing voice doesn't match the speaking voice of the Scarecrow.
  • "The Wizard of Oz" A charming upbeat song sung by the Wizard about how great he is. However, the song is sung in a tired, elderly voice: "I am the greatest, I am the most! I am the leader because, I don't like to brag and I don't like to boast, but I am the Wizard of Oz!"
  • "The Wicked Witch" A song sung at the death of the Wicked Witch of the West. "The Wicked Witch is down!" Not exactly the best song on the album.
  • "The Land of Oz" A haunting, peaceful tune describing the Land of Oz and some of the inhabitants. It's a pretty good song, actually.
Overall, Snagglepuss Tells the Story of the Wizard of Oz is a fun retelling of the story with some nice additional Oz songs. If you're collecting Oz vinyl records, pick it up.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Fitting, since I've seen Snagglepuss accused of being a rip-off of Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion in the first place.