The well-known movie called “The Wizard of Oz” was released in 1939. The film is recognized as a musical fantasy. It is based on the novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written by Frank Baum in 1900. The film has millions of admirers all over the world. The creators of “The Wizard of Oz” applied a number of memorable and genius special effects, used Technicolor, musical effects and complicated artistic make-up for the characters, all of these techniques were ahead it their time and made the film an outstanding piece of cinematographic art and a recognizable work of the American popular culture.
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The main characters of the film are a young girl called Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto. Dorothy lives in Kansas on the farm with her aunt and uncle. The conflict begins when Toto bites the neighbor and is taken away from his owner. Clever Toto manages to escape, and Dorothy runs away from home with him to save her favorite pet. The girl’s farmhouse gets into a tornado and is carried to the Munchkinland located in the world of Oz where Dorothy and Toto meet Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
The house accidentally kills a Wicked Witch of the East, so her sister, the Wicked Witch from the West, threatens Dorothy, while she becomes the new owner of the dead Witch’s magic ruby slippers. Glinda tells Dorothy to go to the Emerald City following the yellow brick road to find the powerful Wizard of Oz, who can help the girl come back home. On her way to the City, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, who needs the brain, the Tin Woodsman, who has no heart and the Cowardly Lion, who lacks courage.
They all are hoping for the Wizard’s help. Yet, the powerful Wizard of Oz sends them to another quest; the friends need to fetch the Wicked Witch’s broom. During their trip to the Witch’s castle, the Scarecrow demonstrates his wit, the Tin Woodsman shows kindness and sensitivity, and the Lion turns out to be brave. Dorothy’s friends already have the qualities they seek, but they do not realize it. The adventure at the Wicked Witch’s castle leads to the Witch’s death after she sets the Scarecrow on fire.
Trying to put out her friend, Dorothy accidentally splashes water at the Witch. As a result, the wicked old lady melts, and Dorothy gets the desired broom. After the company of friends returns to the Emerald City the Wizard of Oz gets exposed by Toto and turns out to be a simple middle-aged man, the big burning head and other appearances of the Wizard turned out to be special effects. The Wizard presents the Scarecrow with a diploma.
The Tin Woodsman gets a heart-shaped watch and the Lion – a medal for bravery. Dorothy finds out that her magic ruby slippers can carry her and Toto back to Kansas is she says, “There is no place like home.” The girl says the spell and finds herself on her bed at the farm hours surrounded by her family. Through the course of events happening in the film, it is noticeable that all the unusual characters Dorothy meets in the World of Oz resemble the people from her hometown – relatives, neighbors, farmworkers.
The special effects used in the film are multiple and innovative for their time. The first effect the audience sees is the tornado. The artificial tornado was fashioned with the use of muslin cone. The “tornado” was over thirty feet tall. The filmmakers added fans, dust, and smoke to make the scene look realistic and dangerous. The tornado was the most expensive and complex effect of the film; it took the creators several months of planning, testing, and designed to achieve their goal finally — the next special technique used in “Wizard of Oz” in Technicolor.
When Dorothy’s house crashed in the World of Oz, the girl opens the door and comes into a colorful word from her sepia-tinted hometown. Colored films were very rare at that time, the technology of Technicolor first appeared in 1922 and had been improved and upgraded decade after decade. The next fascinating special effect shows itself when the Wicked Witch spells “Surrender Dorothy or die” with the black smoke in the sky. The phrase was spelled with special paint in a tank of water.
The camera has shot the tank from below; this is why the man who was writing the phrase had to spell it backward and upside down. It took him two months of practice to learn how to do it. It is also interesting to know that the snow of the scene with the poppy field was white gypsum. The actors were told to hold their breath because the powder was extremely dangerous if inhaled.
The film “Wizard of Oz” was not only an outstandingly complex creation with an interesting storyline, talented actors and innovative special effects and make-up; it also was a great representation of American special culture, history, and specialties. First of all, the movie features a tornado, a recognizable natural happening typical for the areas of Kansas. The farm community represents the United States before the industrialization. The rapid and shocking journey to a new world that happens to Dorothy symbolizes the beginning of the twentieth century.
Dorothy’s symbolic phrase “We are not in Kansas anymore” announces that the old times are over. The shift to Technicolor happens when Dorothy travels to the World of Oz, her old-fashioned colorless home that reminds of the Great Depression opens its door to a new world, new adventures, and new friends. Dorothy and her friends’ quest symbolizes the American dream where a person achieves what they wish for only using hard work.
Watching the film from the perspective of a modern person living in the world of highly developed computer technologies that allow the film industry create all kinds of scenes and effects through programming is really fascinating because it gives the viewer a chance to fully appreciate the enormous effort the movie makers of the end of the 1930s took in order to create this outstanding masterpiece. Learning about various techniques and innovations the team working on “The Wizard of Oz” had to come up with is truly impressive.
A contemporary viewer has a stereotype that old films have awkward and primitive special effects that do not allow the audience to take the film seriously, but “The Wizard of Oz” proves this belief wrong. To my mind, the makers of this film are the ones who should be called wizards. Their unusual thinking and creative minds presented the American popular culture with a piece of art that still makes generations of people proud.