Western Animation / Tales of the Wizard of Oz


An Animated Adaptation TV series of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz books and the 1939 MGM film, notable as being the first traditionally animated TV series produced by Rankin/Bass Productions (formerly known as Videocraft International). A total of 125 shorts were produced in 1961 and aired in syndication, often with its sister series, the stop-motion New Adventures of Pinocchio.

What else was notable about this adaptation was giving certain characters names and new personalities. The scarecrow was named "Socrates", which was an Ironic Name due to him being The Ditz (since he lacked a brain), the tinman was named "Rusty" and was typically a bully and a jerk to others (due to him not having any heart), and the cowardly lion was named Dandy Lion, but remained his usual cowardly self. Usually, they would try to get what they desire from the Wizard, who could actually perform magic (with his specialty being card tricks), or Dorothy and Toto would help them out of a jam, while trying to avoid (and thwart) the Wicked Witch of the West. The animation production was done in Canada by Crawley Films.

In 1964, a TV special loosely based on the series was produced, "Return to Oz," (no relation to the Disney live-action film of the 1980s), with refined character designs and a few recast voices.

From 2003 to 2005, the series was available on Comcast On Demand. Several episodes can also be found on YouTube.

Tales of the Wizard of Oz provides examples of:

  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Munchkins.
  • Animation Bump: Some episodes have a more "lively" look to their animation and is more detailed, including episodes like "The Fountain of Youth," "The Sound of Munchkins," "The Gusher," "The Hillies and the Billies," "The Rubber Doll," "Monkey Air Lift," "The Raffle," "The Fire Chief" and "The Poet."
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The titular character in "Chowy Mein" speaks like this. It's even spoofed: he keeps saying "clues" as "crues," and he even spells it out correctly although he still pronounces it as "crues."
  • Beatnik: The Giant of Cloud Nine in "The Flying Carpet," and the "Munchniks" in "The Poet."
  • Beautiful All Along: The titular character in "The Green Tomato" is seen as an outcast by the other tomatoes due to her being green instead of red. Rusty tries covering her in red lipstick to make her look like a red tomato, until a freak rainstorm washes it off. But the rain also helped her grow, revealing she is actually a green pepper! Naturally, this attracts the attention of several male peppers, to the "green tomato"'s delight.
  • Big Eater: Dandy Lion is this in "The Pudgy Lion" and "The Dinner Party."
  • Black Bead Eyes: The majority of characters have eyes like this, except for Dorothy, Socrates Strawman (on occasion), the Flying Monkeys, Desmond the Dragon, and some other incidental/one-off characters.
  • Boxing Kangaroo: Boomer Rang, in his self-titled episode, is an example of this, complete with a stereotypical Australian accent and boxing gloves.
  • Cast as a Mask: Initially averted in "Double Trouble," when the Wicked Witch transforms herself into a Rusty Tinman clone to cause trouble with Socrates and Dandy, due to Rusty and the Witch having the same voice actor. Then played straight at the end, when the Wizard dresses up as Rusty for a masquerade party and perfectly imitates his voice.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Socrates Strawman
  • Cowardly Lion: Dandy Lion, obviously.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Return to Oz special was more serious than the shorts, with the Witch returning to threaten Dorothy and the Silver Slippers being able to turn things to stone.
  • Demoted to Extra: Dorothy is more of a secondary character in this show. She still gets several Day in the Limelight moments, but she's absent from a large number of episodes (she doesn't even appear until the end of the second one), and her attempts to get back to Kansas is more a Running Gag than anything else.
  • The Ditz: Again, Socrates Strawman, to the annoyance of others.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first scene in the pilot episode pretty efficiently introduces the characters of the Wizard, Socrates, Rusty and Dandy:
    Narrator: From the far corners of this amazing land, three sad souls have come to the Wizard for help. Rusty the Tin Man came for a heart.
    *Rusty enters, stage right, the Wizard turns to him with his pack of cards.*
    Wizard: Pick a card, any card!
    Rusty: I don't want a card! I want a heart, so I can be nice! I wanna be nice! Y'hear me? NICE!
    Wizard: Yes, well, pick a card, any card —
    Rusty: (screaming in the Wizard's face) NICE AND LOVEABLE! I need a heart so I can be NICE AND LOVEABLE!
    Narrator: Socrates the Strawman came because he wanted a brain.
    *Socrates falls in from the sky, landing on his back with a BOING! sound, scattering straw everywhere*
    Socrates: What I need is a — is a — (picks up some of the straw to stuff himself again as he gets to his feet) Don't help me, I know it, uhhh...
    Wizard: (totally unfazed, turns to Socrates with the cards) Pick a card, any card!
    Socrates: — is a card! That's what I need, a card!
    Rusty: No, ya knuckleheaded ninny! (bonks him on the head) You want a brain!
    Socrates: (dazed) Where did he go, pal, where did he go?
    Narrator: Dandy, the Cowardly Lion, came looking for courage.
    *Dandy peeks timidly out from behind the Wizard's throne, approaching while clutching his tail*
    Dandy: Oh! Heh heh... hello.
    Wizard: Pick a card, any card!
    Dandy: Oh. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. (takes a card)
    Wizard: (gesturing dramatically) Your card is... the Red Queen!
    Dandy: Oh, no, sir, I'm dreadfully sorry, but it's the Black Jack. (cowers as the Wizard frowns) Oh, I do hope you won't be angry! I'll try to do better next time! Really I will!
    Rusty: Enough of this nonsense! (turns to the Wizard) You promised to give me a heart! And my friends here a brain and courage! So c'mon with it!
    Wizard: ...Are you sure you don't want to try and pick a card, any card?
    Rusty: NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I want a heart! A cuddly, loveable, SWEET KIND HEART!
  • Feuding Families: Seen in "The Hillies and the Billies".
  • Gravity Screw: This is the main gimmick of Topsy-Turvy Town and its inhabitants.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: In "The Rubber Doll," the Wicked Witch of the West makes a Voodoo Doll of Robby the Rubber Man, and pricks it with pins. This results in the real Robbie deflating badly, and coming to the Wizard for help. So the Wizard creates his own voodoo doll of the Witch, thus giving her a taste of her own medicine.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rusty, the trope name a little ironic twist since he actually lacks a heart. But he perfecty fits the charater type — while bad-tempered, quarrelsome and bossy, he really isn't a bad person; he tries to do right by his friends even if he spends a lot of time shouting at and insulting them.
  • Lethal Chef: Dorothy is seen to be this in "The Dinner Party." Only Dandy Lion initially likes her burnt Crepe Suzettes, until they eventually make him sick to his stomach.
  • Limited Animation: A lot of it, such as shots where only a character's mouth moves, heavy use of Stock Footage, etc.
  • Motor Mouth: The Munchkins, who all speak via high-pitched babbling (achieved by speeding up their voices to an extremely high speed.)
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Wizard's voice is clearly based off W.C. Fields; most likely a reference to when the real Fields turned down the role of the Wizard for the MGM film.
    • The Oz Motors salesman in "The Wizard's Tail Fins" has a voice that's clearly an imitation of Frank Nelson.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Seen in "Get Out the Vote", when Socrates enters politics to run for head of Public Works. One politician stereotype he attempts to follow is to smoke a cigar; he initially says, "I can't let them know I've never smoked before," before taking a drag and violently hacking.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Desmond Dragon falls into this trope; he doesn't enjoy doing anything bad, and usually will reluctantly follow the Wicked Witch's commands, but ends up not carrying them out.
  • Pick a Card: This is the Wizard's favorite magic trick to perform.
  • Plucky Girl: Dorothy, who borders on Fearless Fool at times.
  • Pop the Tires: The Wicked Witch does this in "The Count" by laying tacks on the Yellow Brick Road.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: Done with Robby the Rubber Man on occasion, who has a terrible stuttering Speech Impediment.
  • Shapeshifting: Both the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West are capable of this.
  • Spot the Impostor: Played straight in "Double Trouble", when the Wicked Witch transformers herself into a clone of Rusty to cause trouble. The fake Rusty can be told by a small wart on top of "his" nose.
  • Stock Footage: The show features a lot of it, such as reusing the same walk cycles for characters frequently, the same animation of the Wicked Witch of the West cackling, and quite a few other bits of animation get reused as well.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Gabe the Gobbler".
  • That Syncing Feeling: In "Roar, Lion, Roar," a famous movie producer comes to Oz and holds a lion-roaring contest to find a new lion star for Hollywood. Dandy Lion can't roar very well, so Socrates recommends they have Dandy enter the contest but have Socrates play an animal sound effects record behind the bushes when it comes Dandy's turn to roar, to which Dandy will pantomime along with the lion roaring effect. But with Socrates involved, it doesn't go well (he ends up putting on different animal sounds.)
  • Thick-Line Animation
  • The Unintelligible: The Munchkins, in many cases. Though some characters are able to understand them, depending on the plot, and if said Munchkin's voice is slowed down in an audio editor, the audience can then understand him.
  • Vocal Evolution: The Wicked Witch of the West had a higher-pitched voice in the earlier episodes. Beginning with "The Movie Maid", her voice was lower and breathy, but her high-pitched laugh is still used.
  • Voices Are Mental: An interesting version occurs in "Free Trade." Rusty Tinman decides to trade his brain to Socrates in exchange for his heart. Once Socrates has Rusty's brain, he speaks in Rusty's voice (as expected), but when Rusty has Socrates's heart, he has Socrates's voice. They eventually find they do not like acting like each other (i.e Socrates being a bully and Rusty being a gullible cloudcuckoolander), so they trade back, and their voices return to normal.
  • Work Off the Debt: Seen in "The Poet", when Rusty and Socrates don't have any money to pay for their drinks at a beatnik coffee shop, the Munchkin waitress forces them to wash dishes to pay off the debt. (When her babbling at this part is slowed down, she is saying "What do you mean you don't have any money, you're gonna wash dishes!")