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Film / Return to Oz

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Nomes, Shock Therapy, and Wheelers, oh my!

Mysterious Girl: Why did they bring you here, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Because I can't sleep, and I talk about a place that I've been to, but nobody believes that it exists.

Return to Oz is a 1985 Disney live-action directed by Walter Murch, which was intended to be both a semi-sequel to the MGM musical The Wizard of Oz and a more accurate adaptation of the more obscure original L. Frank Baum books (primarily The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, the first two sequels).

The story starts six months after the tornado, with Dorothy (Fairuza Balk, in her film debut) unable to sleep because of her adventures in Oz. Her Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) and Uncle Henry (Matt Clark) take her to see Dr. Worley (Nicol Williamson), the head of a psychiatric clinic who specializes in electro-shock therapy. But before she can receive the "treatment", Dorothy escapes with one of the patients, who is lost when they fall into the river. When Dorothy wakes up, she is back in the land of Oz, somehow joined by her chicken Billina.

However, Oz has changed: The Emerald City is in ruins, and now ruled over by the head-switching witch Princess Mombi (Jean Marsh). Dorothy's friend Scarecrow (Justin Case), the rightful ruler of the City, has been kidnapped, all the citizens have been turned into stone, and the streets are patrolled by Wheelers. Now Dorothy, along with Billina and their new friends Tik-Tok (Sean Barrett), Jack Pumpkinhead (Brian Henson), and the Gump (Lyle Conway), must go to the Nome King's Mountain to confront the Nome King (Williamson) and his minions, rescue the Scarecrow, and restore Oz.

Though the film was decried by critics for being too scary for children and did poorly at the box office, Return to Oz has gained a cult following. It also tends to be popular with fans of the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum; as noted much of the plot is loosely adapted from his first two sequels to The Wizard of Oz, and the visual look and tone of the film is modeled closely on the original in-book illustrations. It is important to note that the original Oz series really could get this strange, and the famous MGM film is much Lighter and Softer.

Not to be confused with the 1964 Rankin/Bass Productions animated TV movie of the same name, nor with Filmation's rather dreary 1974 Animated Film, Journey Back to Oz, nor with Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, or the animated movie also named "Back to Oz"

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Amalgamation: Of The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job:
    • In the novel Ozma of Oz, the ornament transformation spell's color-changing power reflects whatever nation the player comes from—the members of the Royal Family of Ev become purple knickknacks, for example. The film limits the spell to only changing living beings into green objects, because all the characters were from Oz.
    • Most illustrations for the books depict Ozma as having black hair, but in this movie she's blonde in order to maintain the contrast with Dorothy (who was established as brunette in the 1939 movie). Downplayed as this calls back to Ozma's debut where she was depicted as a blonde prior to her iconic brunette hair..
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In Ozma of Oz, the Wheelers are neither good nor bad, and little more than troublemakers. Return to Oz sees them reimagined as Mombi's henchmen, and attempting to capture the protagonists. note 
    • Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz, while not particularly heroic, doesn't pose much harm to anyone and agrees to help the heroes save the Royal Family of Ev and her swapping heads are natural creations of her. Her counterpart in this film, Princess Mombi, is The Dragon to the Nome King who conquered the Emerald City by force and stole its denizens' heads for herself and fully intended on taking Dorothy's own head when she was older to add to her collection.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Due to changes to the plot, the movie skips Ozma being Raised as the Opposite Gender as Tip.
    • Glinda the Good is nowhere to be seen, but she is mentioned at least once in the novelization.
    • Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke, the Kansas counterparts of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion, are gone as well, even though they weren’t in the books to begin with. However, a deleted line from Aunt Em about laying off the hired hands implies that they existed.
  • Advertised Extra: The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion all prominently appear on the poster, but are actually Demoted to Extra in the actual film. The latter two don't even get any lines.
  • Age Lift: While Judy Garland was 16 when she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Fairuza Balk turned 10 while filming this sequel. A deleted scene also reveals that Dorothy is 8 in this film. The is actually undoing the Age Lift of the initial film, returning Dorothy closer to her book age.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization by Joan D. Vinge gives out a few details that were deleted or not revealed in the movie, including Ozma’s backstory and how she was sold to Mombi by her father Pastoria in exchange for a potion which granted him eternal life. But when he realized what he had done, he killed himself.
    • A deleted line from Auntie Em mentions that she had to lay off the hired hands. This explains why Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke are absent.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version of the movie has "Keep On Dreamin'", performed by Godiego's Yukihide Takekawa, which was later re-recorded for one of his albums.
  • And Starring: Fairuza Balk as Dorothy.
  • And You Were There:
    • The Nome King and princess Mombi respectively resemble Dr. Worley and Nurse Wilson from the hospital scenes, while Princess Ozma resembles the mysterious girl who helps Dorothy to escape. Lampshaded in the Nome King's case, in the novelization; his face is described as being “frighteningly familiar in spite of its alienness” to Dorothy, reminding her of the mental hospital in Kansas.
    • The orderlies at the hospital are all played by the same actors who play the Wheelers, and even push squeaky-wheeled gurneys.
    • Played with regarding the girl who helps Dorothy escape as it's implied she is indeed Ozma. That's also not getting into the implication that Ozma is Dorothy's counterpart in Oz.
  • Bait-and-Switch: At the end, Dorothy is shocked that Aunt Em can apparently see Ozma when she tells “Both of you” to go outside and play in the sunshine, but then realizes she actually meant Dorothy and Toto.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The Nome King challenges Dorothy and her friends to find the Scarecrow. If they fail, they'll all become ornaments, and the Nome King will become human.
    • While attempting the challenge, Tik Tok pretends to "wind down" in order to get Dorothy in the room with him; his plan is to make a random guess. That way, Dorothy can see what he turns into, hoping it would give her a clue as to what the others were transformed into. The first part works.
  • Battle Butler: Tik-Tok. He even calls himself Oz's "army". This looks patently ridiculous at first glance, with him appearing to be a clumsy copper boiler with a head, two spindly arms, and thick legs that make him slower than a glacier... and then you see him single-handedly wipe the floor with a LARGE pack of Wheelers who are pure terror until this point in the story. Then, as the rest of the Wheelers flee, he grabs one in a chokehold and mercilessly interrogates him.
  • Become a Real Boy: As each member of Dorothy's party is turned into a ornament, the Nome King becomes more and more human-like note . If Dorothy (the last person who remembers Oz as it was) had been turned into an ornament, he would've become completely human; why he didn't just use the magic of the Ruby Slippers to turn himself human is anybody's guess.
  • Bedlam House: At first, it looks like the mental hospital where Dorothy goes will avert this, as it looks nice, clean, and respectable, and Dr. Worley seems awfully friendly and helpful. And then you hear the wailing, which is later revealed to be patients who have been "damaged" and locked in the cellar.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Nome King's lair.
  • Big Bad: The Nome King with Princess Mombi as The Dragon.
  • Birdcaged: Mombi is put in a cage by the Nome King, and is later paraded in one in the Emerald City.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: As noted under Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? below, the Nome King had the power to transform Dorothy and her companions into ornaments right away, which would have made him instantly succeed and let him and Mombi rule Oz forever. But the evil monarch can't resist letting the group play a game to win their freedom instead, saying "It's more fun this way." And as is par for the course with this trope, that decision ends up doing him in.
  • Canine Companion: Toto misses the overall adventure but is the one who faithfully searches for and finds Dorothy after she wakes up in the real world.
  • Can't Use Stairs: Dorothy takes refuge from the Wheelers by running up a flight of stairs.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Nome King reacts with rage on being informed that Dorothy has a chicken with her, and a Wheeler yells at Dorothy "that chickens are not allowed anywhere in Oz," and never explains why. Later, when Dorothy and the others reach the Nome Kingdom, Billina is inside Jack's head and unintentionally stays in there, leaving the Nome King to think the chicken vanished. After Dorothy solves the King's game, he goes berserk and attempts to eat Dorothy and her friends one by one. When he is about to eat Jack, Jack's pumpkin lid falls off and ...
    • It's mentioned during the consultation with Dr. Worley that the Ruby Slippers fell off Dorothy's feet during her trip home. Nothing comes of this until the Third Act when it's revealed the Slippers landed, of all places, on the Nome King's Mountain. He claimed them and used their power to conquer the Emerald City.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Billina sticks her head out. She lays an egg out of fright, which rolls out of Jack's head and right into the King's open mouth. It turns out that eggs are poisonous to nomes, and the King dies, crumbling into rocks.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: A rare villainous version. The Nome King gradually becomes more humanlike and powerful as people forget the truth about Oz. Dorothy's happy memories of the place, and her ability to share them with her companions, are the only thing keeping him from losing all of his Nome weaknesses and becoming unstoppable.
  • Claymation: The rock nomes are animated using genuine Claymation effects.
  • Clock Punk: Tik-Tok, the mechanical man. He even has wind-ups that activate his thoughts, action and speech separately.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: When Dorothy finds Tik-Tok, he is covered in cobwebs, indicating that he has been there for some time.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Nome King's ornament spell turns people into various pieces of bric-a-brac...but anyone from Oz who's affected always turns into an emerald-green one. Dorothy realizing this is the key to winning his game.
  • Cool Key: Mombi's ruby key to unlock the cabinets containing her various heads. Mombi keeps the key tied to her wrist, and Dorothy has to steal it in order to steal the Powder of Life.
  • Composite Character:
    • Princess Mombi combines Old Mombi from The Marvelous Land of Oz with the multiple-head-wearing Princess Langwidere of Ev in Ozma of Oz.
    • The Ruby Slippers are a mix of the Slippers from the original movie and the Nome King's Magic Belt from Ozma of Oz, which gives whoever wears it control of the Nomes.
    • Information given in the novelization makes King Pastoria of Oz one with King Evoldo of Ev from Ozma of Oz. Pastoria was the father of Ozma who had his daughter stolen and taken into Mombi's custody, while Evoldo sold his wife and ten children to the Nome King in return for a long life, then committed suicide out of shame over his actions. In this setting, King Pastoria sold his only daughter Ozma to Mombi for a potion that granted eternal life, but then committed suicide out of shame over his actions.
  • Continuity Nod: At least four occur for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz:
    • Jack asks Dorothy how Tik-Tok can talk when his brain stopped functioning, to which she answers "It happens to people all the time, Jack." In the 1939 film, the Scarecrow points out that "some people without brains do an awful lot of talking."
    • The magic shoes are originally called Silver Shoes in the novels. In Return To Oz, they remained Ruby Slippersnote .
    • In the 1939 film, minus her aunt and uncle, most of the characters Dorothy meets in Oz are counterparts of people she knows in Kansas. Here, Mombi and the Nome King are Ozian counterparts of Nurse Wilson and Dr. Worley. Further, the mysterious girl resembles Princess Ozma, the tiny jack-o'-lantern the girl gives Dorothy (obviously) resembles Jack Pumpkinhead, the shock-machine could stand for Tik-Tok, and the orderlies are all Wheelers.
    • The Nome King quotes "There's no place like home", tempting Dorothy into letting him send her home (but abandoning her friends and Oz in the bargain), instead of playing his guessing game.
    • The novelization mentions the Wicked Witches of the East and West as sisters, something the 1939 film made up.
    • The deleted line from Aunt Em in the script mentions laying off the “hired hands”, implying the existence of Hunk, Hickory, and Zeke, the Kansas counterparts of the Lion, Tin Woodsman, and Scarecrow.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • The poster seen above shows Dorothy's old companions (the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man) along with her and the other main characters. The Lion and the Tin Man spend most of the film as statues and the Scarecrow is the only one of the three to have any lines. Some of the earlier drafts of the story had more involvement from the other two; the Lion was even going to turn up as an ornament in the climax. But it was not to be.
    • The 2004 DVD case shows Dorothy, Billina, Tik-Tok, Jack, the Gump, and the Tin Man traveling down a neatly paved yellow brick road surrounded by lush green trees and grass. Tin Man, as noted, barely appears in the actual film, and the yellow brick road has been ruined.
    • The 30th Anniversary Blu-Ray cover again overstates the involvement of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion, with Floating Head Syndrome to boot. It also has a rainbow over Dorothy and her friends, for no apparent reason other than to reference the song "Over the Rainbow".
    • An old Japanese VHS cover is more accurate to the actual film overall, showing Dorothy, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead and the Gump, with the Nome King, Mombi and a Wheeler as Evil Overlookers. However, it also shows the Nome King's larger form slightly behind the actual character, implying they're separate characters, when they aren't in the actual movie - plus it implies the Wheelers as major antagonists, when they're actually just minor henchmen.
  • Curtain Camouflage: In the clinic, Dorothy and Ozma hide behind curtains.
  • Damsel in Distress: Princess Ozma.
  • Darker and Edgier: Much, much more than the 1939 movie. This is due to a bad case of Adaptation Displacement: More people are familiar with the musical film, and are unaware that it is actually Lighter and Softer than the original book series; Return is much closer to the books in tone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Billina and the Gump. Dorothy has one moment:
    Dorothy: Whatever happens, I'm awfully sleepy right now. I'm just glad I have my own head to be sleepy with.
  • Death of a Child: Dorothy spends a lot of the film believing the girl who helped her escape the hospital (but was really the Princess Ozma) drowned in the river. We also see the statue of a little girl in the Emerald City, showing Mombi wasn't above using her powers on children. She also tells the young Dorothy that she plans to wait a few years until she grows a bit older before cutting off her head for her collection.
    • Of course, the girl who helped Dorothy escape is implied to be Princess Ozma.
  • Demoted to Extra: Dorothy's friends from the original movie (Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion). The Scarecrow doesn't appear until Dorothy reaches the Nome King's Mountain (which is about eighty minutes in) and the latter two only appear (moving) during the crowd scene at the end.
  • Did I Mention It's Halloween?: The adults discuss the fact that it's late October and the children decorate in anticipation of Halloween, even though the holiday has no more bearing on the plot than to justify a prop foreshadowing Jack Pumpkinhead's existence.
  • Disney Death: Tik-Tok.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Doctor Worley, and later the Nome King (played by the same actor), when he has become human enough to use a pipe. Just before his Villainous Breakdown, he hurls his pipe to the ground, creating a small explosion.
  • The Ditz: Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are among those turned to stone, but we see the Tin Man has his axe raised and the Lion in the process of roaring. It would appear they were going down fighting rather than succumbing to despair.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Or in this case, down the river to Oz.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Happens whenever somebody gets turned into an ornament — as part of the Nome King's transformation into something more humanlike.
  • The Dragon: Princess Mombi, as well as her counterpart Nurse Wilson in the real world.
  • Driven to Suicide: According to the novelization and earlier drafts of the script, Ozma’s father Pastoria was so ashamed of giving up his daughter to Mombi that he killed himself out of guilt.
  • Driving Question: What happened to Oz in the 6 months since Dorothy left? Why and how did the Nome King conquer the Emerald City (and likewise if he has such power, why didn't he attack Oz before now)? Where is the Scarecrow?
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Dorothy and friends suffer and struggle at every turn before the Nome King is defeated.
  • Eating the Enemy: After Dorothy solves the Nome King's riddle and frees four of her five friends from their emerald imprisonment, the Nome King decides to go back on his deal with Dorothy and eat her and her friends by becoming a One-Winged Angel rock monster.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy Is Torture: The 1899/1900-era Bedlam House try to shock Dorothy because she keeps talking about a magical land called "Oz", but she escapes before they can. There are also "damaged" patients shown locked in the building's cellar following the failed attempts at ECT.
  • Elemental Embodiment: The Nomes are rock spirits who normally exist intangibly inside the earth itself. For most of the film, they manifest as faces formed from spontaneous cracks and ridges in rock faces, but as the Nome King reveals, they can physically extrude themselves to become more human-like if they want.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Nurse Wilson might be a bit of a sadist, but she's hardly going to let two little girls drown in a river. Then again, being a counterpart to Mombi, she might just be afraid of the consequences for her.
  • Evil Old Folks: More middle-aged, but Dr. Worley and Nurse Wilson, and their Oz counterparts.
  • The Evil Princess: Princess Mombi.
  • Evil Sounds Deep:
    • When the Nome King goes Juggernaut on us, his voice gets considerably deeper.
    • The evil Mombi is deep-voiced, especially when she drawls "Dorothy Gale!!!!!", and cackles just as the heroes make their rapid descent from the castle window. It is also noticeable when she says her line during her Humiliation Conga (see below).
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: Dorothy and Billina do this to the Wheeler-haunted ruins of Oz, and then alongside Tik-Tok do this to Mombi's lair.
  • Expy: Dorothy's new companions are not quite so different from her first companions from her first visit in Oz. Billina = Toto, Tik-Tok = the Tin Man, Jack = the Scarecrow, and the Gump = the Cowardly Lion. It verges into Suspiciously Similar Substitute territory, since these characters were also in The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, which the movie was largely based on.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The Nome King eats the Gump's couch body and also tries to eat Jack PumpkinHead. Too bad for him that Billina was in Jack's headnote .
  • Failure Induced Transformation: In the climax, the Nome King challenges Dorthy and her companions to a game to decide the fate of Oz: if they can guess which object in his extensive ornament collection is the Scarecrow, he'll be restored to normal. However, if they fail all three allotted guesses, they'll be transformed into knickknacks themselves - and the Nome King doesn't tell them this until the Gump has lost the game. For good measure, the Nome King also grows progressively more human for every defeat that Dorothy suffers. Once Dorothy figures out the hidden key and begins winning, the Nome King is progressively reverted to his monstrous earth elemental form for every friend she restores.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • The desert that turns you into sand. Which we see three Wheelers fall into and be destroyed by.
    • The Nome King, after swallowing an egg, which is poison to nomes, slowly falls apart, eventually becoming a skeleton-like stone before collapsing entirely. And his human-like eye turns into a rock, giving him a creepy blank stare as he's dying... It's no wonder they cut this scene down when it was on TV!
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Much more than what one would typically expect when viewing a film based on the Oz books.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Nome King is quite courteous, even giving Dorothy and co. limestone pie and melted silver to eat. When Mombi arrives, however, he reveals his sadistic nature, admitting to her he only gave her a chance because it's more fun to watch. He soon blatantly proves he never had any intention of actually going through with the bargain if she won. The Novelisation also insinuates most of his sympathetic act was just to toy with Dorothy while she was down.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • The Film of the Book: Combines elements from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, the first two sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
  • Fisher King: Inverted with the Nome King—as Oz is gradually brought to ruin, he becomes more and more humanoid. His dialogue about this indicates that it's the memories of Oz that power his transformation—once everyone has forgotten the way things used to be, he'll be permanently mortal.
  • Fisher Kingdom: The Nome King now rules Oz, and the entire happy kingdom is absolutely devastated by his reign. While the ruined Emerald City can be explained by an all-out attack by his Nome and Wheeler armies, the collapsed Yellow Brick Road and general misery of the place indicate that Oz itself is dying because of his evil. A World-Healing Wave from Dorothy at the film's end puts everything back to its proper place.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: In the ruins of the Emerald City, Dorothy comes upon five female "statues" without heads. She meets Princess Mombi and learns about her gimmick soon afterwards.
  • The Fool: Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Forced Transformation: The Nome King transforms anyone who crosses his territory into a household knickknack. The Scarecrow is the main victim of this fate, but Jack, the Gump, Billina, and Tik Tok all suffer it as well.
  • From Bad to Worse: Dorothy's trek through Oz is one increasingly depressing sight after another, culminating with her seeing what became of the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.
  • Full Moon Silhouette: The Gump is silhouetted against the moon just after Dorothy and her friends escape from Mombi's tower.
  • Giant Flyer: The Gump.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Both Dr. Worley and the Nome King are seen smoking a pipe while interacting with Dorothy, hinting at their insidious characters.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: All the ornaments that the Scarecrow, the Gump, Jack, Billina, and Tik-Tok have been turned into.
  • Happy Ending Override: Hoo-boy. Remember how happy everyone was in Oz and back on the farm after the original adventure was over? Cut to six months later, where we learn the Gales suffered greatly because of the tornado, Dorothy can't sleep because of her experiences, and she's now being sent to a questionable asylum for shock treatment. Meanwhile, Oz has been completely ravaged by the Nome King and his lackeys, with the residents turned to stone and many familiar structures destroyed.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • "BEWARE THE WHEELERS." The Wheelers communicate almost exclusively in deranged evil laughter or the sharp, harsh noise of squeaking wheels. Any time they're nearby, the horrible noise of the wheels will be the first giveaway.
    • Invoked by the Nome King when Dorothy and company arrive on his Mountain and are stomping all over the place. The Nome King dispatches his Messanger to find out what the hell is going on above ground.
  • Human Head on the Wall: A variant with Princess Mombi's hall of stolen heads in display cases. They're still alive, and Mombi can take off her own head and replace it with one from her collection.
  • Humiliation Conga: During the triumphant parade at the end, Mombi is paraded in a cage.
    Ozma: I forgive Mombi. Dorothy has punished her by removing her magical powers. And a witch with no magic is a miserable creature indeed.
    Mombi: And that's a fact.
  • I Fell for Hours: The characters make a long fall to the ground when their living flying machine falls apart. Soon after this, Dorothy falls deep into the Earth, and the fall is long enough for her to have a conversation with the Nome King.
  • I Gave My Word: Subverted by the Nome King: after Dorothy figures out the secret to his ornament game and starts winning, he takes on a more monstrous form and storms into the chamber. She points out that he promised that if they guessed correctly, he'd let them go without a fight, but he's far too enraged to bother with his vow: "I'm tired of games. I'm tired of ALL OF YOU!"
  • Ironic Echo: When the Nome King invites the guests to take part in his knick-knack game, he says politely "Why doesn't the sofa go first?", and then "Next! Pumpkinhead". Later, he furiously yells these same words, just before trying to eat the characters concerned.
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: The electroshock machine.
  • It's All About Me: The Nome King. "It sounds fair to me. And what I think is all that matters."
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: The Gump's reaction to freefalling after he breaks apart? "If I had a stomach, I know I'd be sick!"
  • The Juggernaut: The Nome King, in his larger form.
  • Just a Machine: Tik-Tok is capable of thinking, but as he is only a machine, he "can-not be sor-ry or hap-py, no mat-ter what hap-pens". When the characters are speculating who will be turned into ornaments, Jack says "Tik-tok's not even alive", to which Tik-tok replies "I have always valued my lifelessness". But near the end of the film, Tik-tok believes his steel brains are damaged, and he cries green oily tears.
  • Kick the Dog: See Nice Job Breaking It, Hero. Strangely enough, it's by the same guy who petted the dog...
  • Leitmotif: Most of the characters have distinctive music; especially the trumpet music for Tik-Tok, and the creepy mandolin music for Mombi, played by Mombi herself.
  • Light Is Not Good: The ornament room is brightly lit and filled with beautiful trinkets. And if you guess wrong, you end up there...forever.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the film's epilogue, we're told that Dr. Worley's asylum was set on fire by a lightning strike after Dorothy escaped; Dr. Worley was implicitly burnt to death due to his insistence on trying to save his precious electroshock machines from the burning building, whilst Nurse Wilson is seen being hauled off to jail for "damaging" patients and locking them in the cellar.
  • Lip Lock: During Princess Mombi's first appearance with one of her false heads, the audio doesn't match up with her lips, indicating that the actress' dialogue has been dubbed over.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The Nome King in the climax.
  • Losing Your Head:
    • This happens to Jack Pumpkinhead.
    • Princess Mombi and her hall of heads, that can be installed and removed as desired. When she retires for the night, she retires headless.
  • Magical Land: Obviously.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Wheelers, with their truly horrifying masks (their true faces aren't much better). The novelization states that they were enslaved by Mombi under threat of being turned to stone like the other denizens of Oz, so they may not be a traditional example, but they're no less terrifying because of it.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Nurse Wilson says things that Princess Mombi later echoes. And Mombi's eventual fate is repeated in Kansas by Nurse Wilson.
    • So is the Nome King with Dr. Worley, in both ways. Both are portrayed by the same actor, just like Nurse Wilson and Princess Mombi. This reflects how in the original, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion were all representative of three of the (film-only) farmhands from Dorothy's home in Kansas.
    • Likewise for the Wheelers. The same actors play the orderlies at the hospital, and the carts and gurneys they push make the same squeaking noise the Wheelers' wheels make.
    • The Nome King invokes one of the MGM film's most famous lines... and twists it in an attempt to emotionally manipulate Dorothy.
    • When Uncle Henry finds Dorothy at the end of the film his mannerisms and speech closely resemble those of the Scarecrow.
  • Menacing Mask: Many of the Wheelers are masked when they first appear, making them doubly frightening, especially the one who first confronts Dorothy.
  • Mid-Battle Tea Break: The Nome King has this during the trial of ornaments during Gump's turn.
  • Mistaken for Insane: Dorothy is sent to a Bedlam House because she kept talking about the Land of Oz, worrying her aunt and uncle. Dorothy escapes before the doctors there began their electro-therapy treatment.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Gump again. He was built in a hurry out of what was lying around the room Dorothy, Tik-Tok, and Jack were stuck in.
  • Mooks: The Wheelers are Princess Mombi's common henchmen, show up multiple times through the story, and three die onscreen.
  • Morphic Resonance: Downplayed- The objects Dorothy's friends transform into don't look like them, but are somewhat indicative of their true selves. The Scarecrow, the King of Oz, is transformed into a regal-looking emerald. The Gump is transformed into a four-footed tchotche, not unlike his couch body. Jack is changed into a vase, something hollow like his head, and Tik-Tok, the Army of Oz, is changed into a military medal. The common thread among the ornaments is that they are all green.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The film depicts mountains in scenes taking place in Kansas, a prairie state (the movie itself was filmed in England).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: According to the novelization and earlier drafts of the script, Ozma’s father Pastoria was so ashamed of giving up his daughter to Mombi that he killed himself out of guilt.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Beware of the Wheelers." Averted when Tik-Tok mops the floor with them almost effortlessly.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Nome King comes exceedingly close to full victory—Dorothy, the only member of the heroes still unchanged, was down to her absolute last guess in the ornament game, and only figured out the trick of picking emerald green knickknacks by sheer luck. Had she chosen incorrectly, all of Oz would have been under his control for eternity.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The scene where Dorothy has to rescue her friends (who've been turned into ornaments) by finding the ornament versions of themselves — in a large room filled with various ornaments. The trick is to pick the emerald-green ones.
  • Never My Fault: Both the Nome King and Princess Mombi fall into this. After Dorothy solves the former's ornament puzzle and breaks his power, he turns his rage on the latter—"You had her and you LET HER ESCAPE!"—conveniently forgetting that he was the one who allowed Dorothy and her friends to play the game in the first place because it was "more fun" to watch them slowly fail. Mombi, in turn, says that Dorothy's escape only happened because the Nome King didn't give her "a proper army," which ignores all of the magic she possesses and the fact that she left the Powder of Life, which Dorothy used to escape, unguarded.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Ruby Slippers fell off Dorothy's feet when she went home... into the hands of the Nome King, making it possible for him to take over the Emerald City. And she didn't know any of this until she came back and met the Nome King, poor kid.
    Dorothy: My ruby slippers—
    The Nome King: No, no, no... My ruby slippers. They just fell out of the sky one day — you were so anxious to get home! They're very powerful; they made it possible for me to conquer the Emerald City. Thank you.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: "Shall we have some... refreshment while we wait?"
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Four of them, actually.
  • The Nth Doctor: Princess Mombi, whenever she switches heads. The 'main' one is Jean Marsh.
  • Objectshifting: The film partially adapts the plot of Ozma Of Oz, and thus the climax features the Scarecrow being captured by the Nome King and transformed into one of the ornaments in his collection. Dorothy and her friends are roped into playing a guessing game to rescue him, but losing three times in a row will result in them being transformed into another ornament.
  • Offered the Crown: At the end of the film, there's a huge party in the Emerald City and everybody is practically begging Dorothy to "be the Queen of Oz!" She refuses, and Oz is instead ruled by Ozma, the rightful heir.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Nome King freezes in terror when he hears a chicken, the eggs of which are poisonous to him.
  • One-Book Author: This was the only film directed by Walter Murch. He has been much more successful as a film editor though.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: During the coda, back in Kansas, Dorothy touches her bedroom mirror and is surprised to see a vision of Ozma and Billina. Refreshingly, this is done in a way so that book purists who prefer Oz to be real and movie fans who prefer Oz to be a dream reflection can both interpret it how they wish.
  • Pardon My Klingon: The Nome King fumes "Hippikaloric!" when he realizes that the ornament puzzle has been solved. It must be a dreadful word, because we don't know what it means.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The Nome King actually comforts a crying Dorothy and offers her a way to rescue the Scarecrow. That way is a Death Trap, though.
    • Further, he even offers to send her back to Kansas! Granted, this would mean leaving her friends to be ornaments forever, and the Nome King did mention he wants to make everyone forget about Oz, but still, offering her an escape when she's on the cusp of walking into his death trap is surprisingly decent.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Princess Ozma, and Mombi.
  • P.O.V. Cam: Used when the Gump crashes out of the tower and plummets to the ground: the ground is seen fast-approaching. Also, when Jack's head is on his body upside down, there is a shot of Dorothy and the Gump upside down.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Various aspects of The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz were changed, condensed, or otherwise modified to work for this film.
  • Pumpkin Person: Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The main characters are quite the diverse bunch—a farm girl from Kansas, a talking chicken, a childish man made of sticks with a jack-o-lantern for a head, a fighting robot, and a random assortment of furniture (including a moose head) brought to life with some magic powder.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Budget cuts on the film meant that the roles of The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodsman, and The Cowardly Lion had to be heavily reduced.
    • The Scarecrow was also going to be given an animatronic model similar to The Gump's. But budget cuts meant the puppeteers had to give him a series of masks with fixed expressions as an alternative.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: Just before Dorothy enters the ornament room to try to save her friends against very high odds, the Nome King suddenly offers to send her home, where she will never think of Oz again. Dorothy refuses.
    Nome King: Dorothy! You don't have to go in. I can use the ruby slippers and send you home, and when you get back, you'll never think of Oz again.
    Dorothy: What about my friends?
    Nome King: Forget about them, you can't help them now. There's no place like home.
    (Dorothy turns her back, and strides defiantly into the ornament room)
  • Rewatch Bonus: When she's in the hospital, Dorothy waits in Room 31. In Oz, Mombi keeps her original head in Cabinet 31.
  • Rightful King Returns: Princess Ozma, who was trapped by Mombi.
  • Robot Buddy: General Tik-Tok.
  • Rock Monster: The Nome King is a rock monster.
  • Same Language Dub: Emma Ridley was dubbed by Beatrice Murch in post-production because her voice was considered "too British" for Ozma.
  • Shown Their Work: Compared to the ''Wizard of Oz, this story is more accurate to the books.
    • The designs of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion are more book accurate.
    • Ozma- while she's more well known for her brunette hair- was originally portrayed as blonde, which the movie shows in the climax
    • A weird case where the movie takes the book description over the illustration when creating the Nomes- making it word description accurate to the book. The Nomes are written to be like a gloomy cliff face squirming, as though alive, with a swarm of jagged stone-like beings, which the Nomes in the films are shown to be. In comparison, the books portray them as rather banal, furry elves, curved and round rather than jagged like a rock.
    • Dorothy's design is more accurate to the first book.
  • Shout-Out: The band Scissor Sisters made a song called "Return To Oz" based on this film.
  • Smug Snake: The Nome King, full stop. When Mombi arrives to announce Dorothy's return, she realizes that he already knows the news, and he says with a smirk, "I know everything." He also tricks Dorothy and her friends into playing his ornament game, knowing that their chances of winning are practically zero, just because he wants to build their hopes a bit before crushing them.
  • Sore Loser: The Nome King after Dorothy solves his puzzle.
  • Spotting the Thread: The Nome King's ornament chamber is absolutely packed with various knickknacks, none of which bear any resemblance to the people who have been transformed by his spell. As such, it seems like determining the right gewgaws to pick comes down to sheer luck... until Dorothy notices an emerald green paperweight on a table, and realizes that that color is extremely rare in the room. Sure enough, any object with green in it is actually a transfigured Ozian.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Dorothy ends up strapped to the trolley which takes her into Doctor Worley's operating theatre. They tell her this is so she does not fall off, but it is clearly to prevent her escaping.
  • Swiss-Army Appendage: Princess Mombi and her heads.
  • Taken for Granite: The citizens of the Emerald City have all been turned to stone, and some no longer have heads.
  • Talking Animal: Billina, a chicken who gains the power of speech while in Oz. The Gump is a variation: he's composed of various antiques and furniture that Dorothy and Jack find in Mombi's palace. They choose a mounted moose hunting trophy for the head, which proves to be quite chatty once animated with the Powder of Life.
  • Tantrum Throwing: When the Nome King starts having his Villainous Breakdown, he begins by screaming and throwing his pipe, which promptly explodes.
  • Tears from a Stone: Tik-Tok sheds a tear for Dorothy, knowing full well what kind of fate both of them may end up sharing. This is after he has previously said "I am only a machine, so I cannot be sorry or happy, no matter what happens."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When the Nome King starts fuming over Dorothy solving his ornament puzzle and begins going One-Winged Angel, there's a quick shot of Mombi's terrified expression. She knows things are about to get very bad very quickly.
  • Trap Door: This effect is invoked when Dorothy assertively tells the Nome King that she is there with her army, to conquer him, and force him to restore the Emerald City. The Nome King chuckles, and the ground opens up, causing Dorothy (and later her friends) to fall into the King's vast underground dominion.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Subverted. The Nome King is genuinely grateful to Dorothy for accidentally dropping the Ruby Slippers on her way home to Kansas. If she hadn't, they never would have landed atop the Nome King's Mountain, he would never have been able to claim them, and would never have been able to conquer the Emerald City without their power boost. He even sincerely thanks her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The Nome King mentions that after Dorothy used the Ruby Slippers to return home, they just "fell out of the sky one day", and their power inadvertently allowed him to conquer the Emerald City and turn most of Oz into a desolate wasteland.
  • Vain Sorceress: Princess Mombi.
  • Villain Has a Point: The Nome King declares that the Emerald City was built with gemstones that were stolen without any kind of permission or even communication from him and his race, and claims that he is simply seeking justice for this crime. Dorothy concedes that this was wrong, but it's also clear that what the Nome King is doing is far worse; furthermore, he never bothered to ask for the emeralds back and blames the Scarecrow, even though the stuffed man didn't even build the city in the first place (the Wizard did).
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Nome King, upon realizing that Dorothy has just beaten him at his own game.
  • Wacky Wake Up Gadget: Played with. Mombi keeps her ruby key tied to her wrist, and Dorothy has to untie it extremely delicately while Mombi sleeps. She succeeds, although Mombi snorts and jerks.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Nome King says that eggs are NOT part of a nutritious breakfast!
  • Wham Shot: Things are clearly off when Dorothy and Billina begin trekking through Oz, but things get real when the former sees the Yellow Brick Road has been torn apart. It gets worse from there, with examples pertaining to the Emerald City's Establishing Shot, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The fate of the Ruby Slippers after falling off Dorothy's feet during her trip home to Kansas. This ends up being crucial to the plot, as where they landed and who found them is the catalyst for everything that's happened by the time Dorothy returns to Oz.
    • The girl who helps Dorothy escape from the hospital at the beginning. It's a hot topic of debate among fans whether she's just Princess Ozma or her Kansas counterpart. Dorothy's line "I thought you had drowned" when meeting Ozma confirms that Dorothy at least believes they are the same person.
    • Also, the Munchkins from the destroyed Munchkin village could count as well. Seriously, what happened to them? (Keep in mind that the climactic parade features people dressed as characters from all 14 of Baum's Oz books, including some Munchkin characters. One could assume the others are somewhere there in the crowd.)
  • What You Are in the Dark: Before Dorothy enters the ornament room to wind up Tik-Tok and make her three guesses, the Nome King, who has Dorothy's Ruby Slippers, instead gives her the chance to return home without any recollection of Oz. Dorothy, knowing full well that she could become an ornament herself and never go back to Kansas, refuses to leave her friends behind, and enters the room.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Mombi asks the Nome King why he doesn't turn our heroes into ornaments. The Nome King's response? "It's more fun this way!" Which later reveals him as a Bad Boss once Dorothy starts winning the game by freeing four of five of her missing friends-as-ornaments. The Nome King starts yelling at Mombi for being the one responsible for this debacle because she "let her escape!"
  • Wind-Up Key: This is the main weakness of Tik-Tok: in spite of his amazing capabilities, he is clockwork, and has to be wound regularly, with three keys: one for thinking, one for speaking, one for action.
    Tik-Tok: From now on, I shall be your obedient servant (raises his hat), if you keep me wound up.
  • You and What Army?: When Dorothy meets the Nome King, she bravely declares that she is there with her army, to conquer him, and force him to give back the emeralds of the Emerald City. The Nome King responds by laughing with increasing mania before huge gashes open up in the ground and Dorothy falls through. This is foreshadowed by the Nome King's messenger referring to Dorothy's entourage as "a small army" (admittedly, Dorothy has Tik-Tok with her, and he is known - with good reason - as the "Army of Oz").
  • You Didn't Ask: A particularly sinister example. The Nome King has transformed the Scarecrow into an ornament for his palace, and offers Dorothy and her friends the chance to play a guessing game to change him back. Of course, the penalty for losing the guessing game is to be transformed into an ornament yourself, which the Faux Affably Evil Nome King didn't even mention (although he does say that they risk something) until the first member of their party lost. When called on it, he gives them a reasonable second option they can take instead of the guessing game.
    Dorothy: But you didn't tell us about it!
    The Nome King: You didn't ask. Perhaps you'd like to visit my fiery furnace!