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Western Animation / Tales of the Wizard of Oz

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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 First-Run 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 Strawman", 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, ensuring it a home as early morning kids' entertainment on Canadian television well into the 1980s.

In 1962, Dell Comics published a single-ussue Comic-Book Adaptation (Dell Four Color Comics #1308, Tales of the Wizard of Oz) which retold the first few episodes of the series, and Dorothy's arrival in Oz, in kind of a Broad Strokes way.

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, slightly more complex 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:

  • Adaptation Name Change: In the original books, The Tinman's acutual name was Nick Chopper. Here, his name is Rusty.
  • Adaptational Hairstyle Change: In most depictions of Dorothy (most notably W.W. Denslow's illustrations and the 1939 film) usually have her wear pigtails. Here, Dorothy wears her hair in a ponytail. The 1964 Return to Oz special would have Dorothy wear pigtails though.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job:
    • Dorothy's an interesting case. Her hair color wasn't really described in the books, but in the illustrations by John R. Neill (who illustrated most of the Oz books) she's depicted as blonde. Tales from the Wizard of Oz gives her auburn hair like in the MGM movie, but the Dell comic makes her blonde.
    • Toto is specifically and repeatedly described as having black fur in the books, but here he's white.
    • Dandy Lion is orange all over in the series proper, but in the Return to Oz special he has a red mane. In the Dell comic he also has a red mane, but his body is brown.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: The Munchkins.
  • Amnesia Episode: "The Flipped Lid" involves the Wizard of Oz getting magnesia ("Amnesia! AMNESIA!") when in Topsy-Turvy Town. And then Dandy Lion gets it after the Wizard is cured.
  • 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," "Going to Pieces," "The Gusher," "The Hillies and the Billies," "Love Sick," "The Rubber Doll," "Monkey Air Lift," "The Raffle," "The Fire Chief", "The Poet", "The Flying Broom", and "The Brain".
  • Art Evolution: The two-part pilot has a slightly different look to it. It's most noticable with Dorothy, who has Black Bead Eyes, a different dress, and a slightly different-looking ponytail. The series proper has everyone settle into their permanent designs.
  • Artistic License Biology: Dandy's mother in "The Sucker" and Lulabelle in "Mail-Order Lover" are seen each with a mane, despite real lionesses lacking them.
  • Art Shift: The Return To Oz special features updated and more complex character designs, as well as slightly more elaborate backgrounds.
  • 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."
  • Beach Episode: "Beauty and the Beach."
  • 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 Socrates Strawman (on occasion), the Flying Monkeys, Desmond the Dragon, and some other incidental/one-off characters. Dorothy too has Black Bead Eyes in the pilot, but averts it in the series proper, where she's depicted with eye-whites.
  • Boxing Episode: "Boomer Rang," where Socrates idolizes and ends up pitted against...
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase: Dandy has one whenever he's scared: "YEEEOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!"
    • And another one: "MAMAAAA!!!!"
    • The Wizard: "Here, pick a card, any card."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Socrates Strawman
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Only one issue, in Dell Comics's Four Color Comics series. The comic was an alternate take on the beginning of the series; it followed the same Broad Strokes plot as the first few episodes, but elaborated on some sequences, shortened others, and added a lot of new stuff like a more detailed description of how Dorothy ended up in Oz in the first place. Also, Toto could talk in the comic, which he couldn't in the series.
  • Cowardly Lion: Dandy Lion, obviously, though this version is more of a Lovable Coward whose moments of courage are nearly (though not totally) non-existent.
  • 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 halfway through the second paet of the two part pilot), and her attempts to get back to Kansas are more of a Running Gag than anything else.
  • Deranged Animation: Happens from time to time, even with the low animation budgets. It happens even more frequently in the Return to Oz special.
  • Diabolical Dog Catcher: Seen in "The Jail Breakers," which involves such a dog catcher snatching Toto while Rusty Tinman watches over him, and then Rusty and Dandy have to break Toto out of the pound.
  • The Ditz: Again, Socrates Strawman, to the annoyance of others.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The two-part pilot suggests that the series was going to be done in a narrated serial style, similar to its sister series, the stop-motion New Adventures of Pinocchio. The series proper abandons this, however.
    • The earlier episodes Socrates appeared in, he was at his dumbest never got anything right, not even the names of people or places.
  • Episode Title Card: Each episode opens with a title card that features a character that will be the main focus of the story, accompanied by a gong and magical harp sounds. There are title cards featuring Dorothy and Toto, the Wizard, Socrates, Rusty, Dandy Lion, the Wicked Witch and the Munchkins. In most cases, the same poses/templates are utilized, but occasionally a customized title card is used (such as "Chowy Mein" showing Dorothy looking in a book, and "The Long Hair" featuring Dandy showing off his curly (for this episode only) mane.)
  • 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!
    • Dorothy's intro scene also almost instantly establishes her as a Plucky Girl who easily slides into Fearless Fool territory, after she's fallen into Oz through a hole in the landscape and collided with Dandy.
    Dorothy: You're not gonna eat me up, are you, Mr Lion?
    Dandy: (peeking out from the tree he's hidden behind) Eat you up?! Oh, my goodness, no! Oh dear, what a terrible thought!
    Dorothy: (marches up to him, glowering suspiciously) Say, what kind of a lion are you, anyway? Lions are supposed to be ferocious — ROOOOAAAARRR! (roars lowdly in Dandy's face) — and attack poor defenseless little girls like me! (points accusingly at him) You're not much of a ferocious, tough lion, are you?
    Dandy: ...well, you're not much of a poor defenseless little girl!
    Dorothy: (giggles) Yes, I guess you're right. Say, where are we, anyway?
  • Fearless Fool: Dorothy swings between Plucky Girl and this trope. She'll leap in where angels fear to tread without hesitation, and as her Establishing Character Moment above shows, even start accusing the potential dangers she encounters of of not being dangerous enough.
  • Feuding Families: Seen in "The Hillies and the Billies".
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: The Wizard whenever he drinks some of Zeek Hilly's corn soda pop in "The Hillies and the Billies", rendered in Deranged Animation.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: One of the Wicked Witch of the West's old classmates, Frankie Draculoff, whom she had a crush on.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Done with Rusty Tinman in "Have Your Pie and Eat It Too" and "Too Much Heart."
  • Gravity Screw: This is the main gimmick of Topsy-Turvy Town and its inhabitants.
  • Green Thumb: In several episodes, Dandy is shown to be exceptionally good with plants. He's an excellent gardener, he has a lot of knowledge of magical and mundane plants, and in one episode he befriends the talking trees and flowers and is crowned King of the Forest.
  • Harmless Villain: Zig-zagged with the Wicked Witch. In the 1964 special, she's almost as menacing as her MGM incarnation, while in the series proper, she's so inept, her brand of "evil" consists of nothing more than pulling harmless pranks. And even when she tries doing something evil (such as trying to enslave Dorothy to do her housework), outside factors always interfere.
  • Henpecked Husband: In "Love Sick," the Wicked Witch wants a lover, so she concocts a love potion and disguises herself, and gives the potion to the Wizard, whom goes head over heels for her. But Dandy Lion warns the Wizard that marrying the Witch would be a terrible idea, and they look into the Wizard's crystal ball to see this trope come into play.
  • 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 perfectly fits the character 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.
  • Laugh Track: Used at the end of "The Pony Express" when the Witch gets stamps (literally) from a Munchkin.
    • Another episode "The Jail Breakers" has an unseen crowd booing at the dogcatcher when he first appears.
  • Leitmotif: In addition to the music cues that normally start and end each episode, a few characters have their own music cues, such as Dandy Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West (the latter theme is also used for the end credits music, which unusually just features the Wizard and a few Munchkins.)
  • 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.)
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion were given the names Socrates and Dandy respectively.
  • New Job Episode: Socrates has had many, such as becoming a military soldier ("Gung-Ho Gang"), a boxer ("Boomer Rang"), an opera singer ("The Great Laurso"), a concession hawker ("Beauty and the Beach"), a supermarket clerk ("The Super Duper Market"), a politician ("Get Out the Vote"), a newspaper reporter ("Roll the Presses"), a firefighter ("The Fire Chief"), a mail carrier ("The Mail Man") and a few others.
  • 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 Wicked Witch of the West's voice is an imitation of Jonathan Winters as Maude Frickert. It helps that a man voices the Witch in this series.
    • In "The Reunion," a former classmate of the Witch is Frankie Draculoff, a Frankenstein's Monster with a voice based off Boris Karloff (his name is a play on Frankenstein, Dracula and Karloff).
    • 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.
  • Out of Focus: In the Dell Comic-Book Adaptation, Socrates and Rusty have surprisingly small roles. Rusty in partucular is barely involved in the story (he only appears briefly in the beginning, and then in the final few pages, where he blows up the balloon that's meant to take Dorothy back to Kansas, but is then so exhauted he spends the rest of the story unconscious). Instead, the comic focuses mainly on Dandy, Dorothy, Toto (who has a larger role here) and the Wizard.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Despite the Wicked Witch's Shapeshifting abilities, sometimes she'll magically conjure these up, and she normally doesn't even attempt to disguise her voice either.
    • Lampshaded in "The Bubble Champ" when she disguises herself as a male train conductor by means of simply wearing a conductors' outfit and fake mustache...
      Socrates: Hey, your voice sounds familiar. Don't I know you?
      Witch: I don't think so. I only get into Oz when the train comes from Kansas.
    • In "The Last Straw," the Wicked Witch passes herself off as movie starlet "Zelda Zowie" by simply wearing a mink and designer sunglasses while smoking a cigarette holder, as part of her latest scheme which involves holding a fake "Handsomest Man in Oz" contest all so whoever she chooses as the winner will become her slave. Eventually Rusty realizes something is screwy when she's "judging" with dark glasses on, removes "Zelda"'s glasses and recognizes her as the Witch.
  • Pick a Card: This is the Wizard's favorite magic trick to perform.
  • Plucky Girl: Dorothy, who borders on Fearless Fool at times.
  • Poke the Poodle: This incarnation of the Wicked Witch is more of a harmless prankster than The Dreaded, only becoming sinister in the 1964 special.
  • Pony Express Rider: Rusty Tinman volunteers to be one on a mechanical horse in "The Pony Express" when the Wizard sets up such a service in Oz. Of course, the only threat Rusty has to deal with is the Wicked Witch of the West, who wants to steal the mail Rusty is delivering to Muchkinville.
  • 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.
  • Recycled Animation / 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.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Once in a while, some background music snippets from Rankin/Bass's other series at the time, The New Adventures of Pinocchio, get used in this series.
  • Runaway Train / Track Trouble: The Wicked Witch intentionally sets this up in "The Bubble Champ," tricking Dorothy and Socrates to board a train while posing as a railroad conductor, claiming it's the "Oz to Kansas Express." But the train ends up unmanned and is routed towards a cliff with the bridge out. But when the train derails and crashes off the cliff, Dorothy and Socrates's coach does not fall off the broken bridge, but is barely hanging on, and Socrates and Dorothy are able to escape via blowing bubblegum bubbles, along with leaving a mess of gum inside the coach for the Witch to get stuck into when she returns to the crash site.
  • Shapeshifting: Both the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West are capable of this.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Signature Laugh: Rusty Tinman's screechy "Ha-HAA ha-HAA!" and the Wicked Witch's cackle. The Wizard also has a somewhat similar "Ha-haa" laugh to Rusty.
  • 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.
  • Story Arc: In addition to the two-part pilot episode (done in a serialized fashion similar to Rankin/Bass's other show of the time, The New Adventures of Pinocchio), there are four episodes that are linked together involving characters trying to get Dorothy back to Kansas: "The Big Shot" (where Rusty tries firing Dorothy out of a cannon), "On the Wing" (where Socrates and Dorothy attempt to fly in a pelican to Kansas), "To Stretch a Point" (where Socrates and Dorothy try it again), and "The Flipped Lid" (where Dandy Lion tries growing a very tall tree to take her there, but it then becomes an Amnesia Episode).
    • There is, however, an earlier story-arc that immediately follows the two-parter pilot, which also make up the plot of trying to get Dorothy and Toto back home to Kansas: "Leapin' Lion" (where Dandy takes Dorothy and Toto to meet the Munchkins and the Wizard for the first time), "The Magic Hat" (where Dorothy and Toto first meet Socrates), and "The Balloon Buzz" (where Dorothy and Toto first meet Rusty). After some failed attempts, the gang decides to let them stay at Oz.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The Wizard has concocted a drink to make Munchkins, whom normally babble high-speed gibberish, talk eligibly, as seen in "The Sound of Munchkins" and "Be a Card." But each time it's happened, things go awry, and so the Wizard reverses it.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Dandy Lion has a crush on a lioness named Lulabelle in "Mail-Order Lover." He lies in a letter to her that he is brave, strong and rich. So when Lulabelle comes to visit Dandy, he has the wizard make it look like Dandy is all those things. Later, Dandy feels guilty and confesses the truth, though Lulabelle doesn't mind that he is a coward and weak, she leaves Dandy among finding out he's not rich.
  • 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.)
  • The Tooth Hurts: Seen in "Down in the Mouth," when Dandy Lion gets a toothache and fears having the Wizard play dentist on him. Rusty also has one in "The Wisdom Teeth," despite being a tin man.
  • Truer to the Text: The 1964 special is this to the books. Notably, the wizard is changed back to a fraud who really can't use magic. It's also the only time Glinda appears in the series.
  • 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 a digital audio editor, the audience can then understand them.
  • Vampire Vords: The titular character in "The Count," whom is obviously based off Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula, and the Wicked Witch is in love with.
  • 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 (as an imitation of Jonathan Winters's Maude Frickert character), but her high-pitched laugh is still used.
  • Voices Are Mental: An interesting variation 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!")