Just a few days ago, I took my two year old daughter to the IMAX 3D release of The Wizard of Oz. Since she was first introduced to the story of Dorothy a few months ago of DVD, my little one has been obsessed not only with the songs and grandeur of the film, but importantly the idea of displacement and home, which is very much the story’s narrative grounding. From drawing pictures, to listening to the soundtrack and now playing with her collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, she has focused in on Dorothy leaving her home and feeling anxious about the adventure of returning. My little girl’s stories and drawings are about her getting Dorothy home. It is with this universal theme, along with the audience composition (parents with kids, seniors, young couples), that one thing came to mind during the IMAX screening: The Wizard of Oz is the most important Hollywood movie ever made.
Wow, that is a bold statement. But this is why I share it:
Released in 1938, the film was only the second (after Gone with the Wind) to be filmed in color. Unlike Gone with the Wind that used new coloring technology to foster blockbuster appeal, the creative team behind The Wizard of Oz recognized the narrative duality the technology could bring to life – projecting the magical world of Oz through the mise-en-scene of a hyper colorized palette within a framework of rich set design and matte paintings with focal depth. The Wizard of Oz, more than any early film is an example of how film technology can be used to transport an audience into story.
The film was the first major cultural phenomenon. Although other films before it’s time were major successes, The Wizard of Oz was a synergistic first– the film, soundtrack, book and print media (movie booklets) were tremendously successful.
To this day, the synergy still exists. The film is lasted the test of time and transcends beyond the film experience itself. From animated film versions, a cartoon series, releases (including the recent IMAX), toys and most recently a MacDonald tie-in, the film (and the original story) has be accessible for over 75 years.
Most importantly, regardless of decade, the film retains and grows in audience and technological relevance – it is accessible with no bias to age, demographic, religion, class or technology. The film’s narrative, ideologies and conventions retain important – it is a film that can be taught and a film that teachers. Along with this, the film adapts to every technology changes in exhibition and distribution. The film is every lasting.
In all, when at a time when Hollywood is releasing big films with little meaning, I encourage you to revisit Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. Their story is worth revisiting.