The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
(also known as The Muppets: Wizard of Oz
and titled The Muppets' Wonderful Wizard of Oz
in pre-release advertising) is a 2005 musical telefilm
directed by Kirk Thatcher and produced by Bill Barretta
. Starring Ashanti
and The Muppets
, the film is based on L. Frank Baum
's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
and was written by The Simpsons
writer Tom Martin
. The film follows a talented girl from Kansas, Dorothy Gale
, a young woman who wishes to break away from her home and become a famous singer. Her dreams become reality as she is swept away to the magical land of Oz
, where she learns of a wizard with the ability to help her dreams come true. Along the way, she meets other characters who want to meet the Wizard of Oz: A scarecrow
, a tin robot
and a cowardly lion. The group encounters many obstacles on the path to their dreams. And although the journey is rough, everyone believes that reaching the wizard will make their dreams come true, Dorothy discovers what she and each of her companions really wanted.
Pre-production on The Muppets' Wizard of Oz took place throughout February 2004, and filming occurred during September 2004. ABC made several changes to the film after its initial script was penned, deciding to base the film on the original novel and not the 1939 film. As with the preceding Muppet films, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz is a musical, including five new songs written by Michael Giacchino. One original song, When I'm With You, was later nominated for an Emmy Award at the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards.
The film premiered on April 27, 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival and was first broadcast on television on ABC, on May 20, 2005. Three days before its television broadcast, a commemorative soundtrack was released to publicize the film. The Muppets' Wizard of Oz was released to DVD and VHS on August 9, 2005. The film was produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with Fox Television Studios, Touchstone Television and the Muppets Holding Company. Despite large distribution and publicizing efforts, the film received universally negative reviews from critics. Most revolved around ABC's decision to "appeal" the film to a wider range of viewers, which ultimately led to some questionable content throughout the film.
The film follows Kansas
girl Dorothy Gale
, a young woman living in a trailer park
. Dorothy desperately wishes to break away from her home and become a famous singer, but her dreams of becoming one appear impossible. One day, after completing her shift at her aunt and uncle's diner, she overhears that the Muppets
are looking for a female singer for a cross-country "Star Hunt." Her aunt disapproves, but with her uncle's best wishes, she goes to the audition, arriving late and only managing to give the Muppets a demo CD
that she created before hand. Returning home, a tornado hits her family's area. When Aunt Em and Uncle Henry run into the county storm shelter for safety, Dorothy hurries back to her family's mobile home
to get Toto
, her pet prawn
. Dorothy doesn't make it out in time, and both are swept by the tornado across a vast distance. When Dorothy climbs out of the wreckage, she discovers that Toto can talk and that she is no longer in Kansas.
Dorothy and Toto find out that they are in Munchkinland, a small town part of the vast Land of Oz. After discussing her situation with the Munchkins, Dorothy learns that the land's ruler, the Wizard of Oz, has the power to grant her wish of becoming a famous singer. Dorothy meets the Good Witch of the North, and receives a pair of magic silver slippers from the Wicked Witch of the East, the Witch of the North's sister who was killed when Dorothy's trailer fell on her. Soon after, she embarks on a journey with Toto on a yellow brick road to meet the Wizard of Oz, who lives in Emerald City, the capital of Oz. On her journey, she meets three creatures, a scarecrow, a tin robot, and a cowardly lion. Like her, they are also seeking the Wizard of Oz. After arriving at the Emerald city and meeting the Wizard, Dorothy and her friends are sent to retrieve the Wicked Witch of the West's magic eye, a tool the Witch uses to see anything she desires in the Land of Oz.
The group assumes that completing this task will result in the granting of their wishes, but they are soon captured by the Wicked Witch of the West and almost killed by her henchmen, the Winged Monkeys. After being threatened to be killed by the Wicked Witch of the West, the captured lion calls the Munchkins, who set Dorothy free. Seconds later, she kills the Wicked Witch by kicking her into a tub of water, in which she melts. Dorothy finds the magic eye floating in the tub and unharmed. After gaining control of the Winged Monkeys, Dorothy travels back to the Emerald City to have her and her friends' wishes granted. When they all storm into the Wizard's room, they discover that the "Wizard" is in reality just an ordinary man from Hollywood. Even so, he proceeds to grant the group's wishes. Dorothy finally becomes a singer in the Land of Oz, but realizes that all she ever really wanted was to go back home and be with her family. After traveling back to Munchkinland, she meets Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, who tells Dorothy that if she taps her heels together three times and recites, "take me home to Aunt Em", she will go back to her home.
Dorothy immediately completes this task, and is reconciled with her family. Much to her joy, Aunt Em tells Dorothy that she can go with the Muppets on their Star Hunt. Dorothy sings "It's a Good Life" on television with the Muppets as the film ends.
After The Walt Disney Company
acquired the Muppets
franchise from The Jim Henson Company
in February 2004, the Muppets were re-introduced to the public by marketing products and guest appearing on television shows such as Good Morning America
and America's Funniest Home Videos
. Starting in 2004, Pizza Hut
began airing commercials of the Muppets and Jessica Simpson
together, introducing new pizza creations, including an ad that debuted during the Super Bowl XXXIX
pre-game show. The Dippin' Strips campaign includes national network and cable television advertising, as well as print, radio, online and in-restaurant advertising. The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
was produced by Fox Television Studios
, Touchstone Television
and the Muppets Holding Company
. During pre-production, ABC made several changes to the film that differ from the original novel
. One such change was the re-titling from The Muppets' Wonderful Wizard of Oz
to The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
In many ways, elements from The Muppets' Wizard of Oz follow the elements of the original book more closely than those of the 1939 film. One example is the color of the slippers: they were silver in the original story and in the telefilm, whereas the slippers were ruby in the 1939 film. This change was made to enhance the Technicolor effect in the original film, as MGM stated that "ruby looked more magical than silver on the Technicolor screen." Another example is that the 1939 film had one Good Witch, whereas there are two in the book and the Muppets film. Similarly, Glinda was said to be the Good Witch of the North in the 1939 film, whereas she is the Good Witch of the South in the book and this film.
Major filming took place throughout September 2004 in Vancouver, Canada. Before filming, ABC announced that the film would be based on the original book, not the 1939 film. On August 25, 2004, it was announced that Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson auditioned for the role of Dorothy Gale, but Ashanti won the part. In August 2004, BBC News reported that Quentin Tarantino would appear in the film. Ashanti was also asked about how she felt about working with the Muppets. She replied, "I love children, and to me, the Muppets are just like little kids." She also stated, "The director had to give me a few pointers and tips for acting with them, but the most important thing that I learned was to keep eye contact."
, an Academy Award
-nominated composer, worked with Jeannie Lurie, Adam Cohen, Debra Frank and Steve Hayes to write five original songs for the film. The five songs created were "Kansas", "When I'm With You", "It's a Good Life", "The Witch is in the House" and "Nap Time". "When I'm With You" was nominated for a Primetime Emmy
, but lost to "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" from Reefer Madness
. Ashanti and the Muppet cast, mainly Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson, contributed the vocals for each of the songs. Ted Kryczko produced the album, Booker T. Washington White prepared the songs for recording, and Paul Silveira and Brandon Christy mixed the film's songs.
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
official soundtrack was released on May 17, 2005. The album was an enhanced soundtrack titled, The Best of Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
as it was not a film-specific soundtrack, but an album featuring the Muppets' best songs from The Muppet Show
as well as songs from the film.
- "(Gotta Get Outta) Kansas" – Ashanti
- "When I’m With You" – Ashanti & The Muppets
- "The Witch Is in the House" – Miss Piggy
- "Calling All Munchkins" – The Munchkins
- "Good Life" – Ashanti
- "Nap Time" – Dr. Teeth
- "The Muppet Show Theme" – The Muppets
- "Mahna Mahna" – Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths
- "It's Not Easy Bein' Green" – Kermit
- "Rainbow Connection" – Kermit
- "Lady of Spain" – Marvin Suggs
- "Halfway Down the Stairs" – Kermit & Robin
- "What Now My Love?" – Miss Piggy
- "Tenderly" – Dr. Teeth
- "Happy Feet" – Kermit and the Frog Chorus
- Ashanti as Dorothy Gale: A Kansas teenager dreaming of leaving her home and becoming a singer.
- Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) as Scarecrow: A scarecrow in search of a brain. Scarecrow is constantly mocked by the crows in Oz, as he is defenseless and cannot do anything to stop them.
- The Great Gonzo (Dave Goelz) as The Tin Thing: A robot in search of a heart. After finding the scarecrow, Dorothy and the others travel to a tin shed and find a sleeping robot. After he wakes up, he tells the group that he runs the Total Intelligence Network, or T.I.N. Originally human, the Tin robot was turned into a robot by the Wicked Witch of the West, who was angry at him for asking to leave her palace and marry his fiancée.
- Fozzie Bear (Eric Jacobson) as The Cowardly Lion: A nervous and frightened lion that accompanies Dorothy and the others on their journey. After meeting the Tin robot, The group continues on and meets a scared and cowardly lion, who enjoys stand-up comedy but does not have the courage to perform in public.
- Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) as The Wicked Witch of the West: The Wicked Witch that terrifies all that meet her. The Witch desperately wants Dorothy's silver slippers, so she can rule all of Oz.
- Miss Piggy as The Good Witch of the North: The Good Witch that gives Dorothy the silver slippers. She is the first witch that Dorothy meets, and tells her all about the Land of Oz.
- Miss Piggy as The Good Witch of the South: The other Good Witch that shows Dorothy how to get home. After Dorothy decides she wants to go back home, she is instructed by the Wizard to go back to Munchkinland and meet Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.
- Miss Piggy as The Wicked Witch of the East: The original owner of the silver slippers who was killed by Dorothy's falling house. This witch ruled over the Munchkins for a long time, and was hated by all who knew her.
- '''Scooter as The Wizard's assitant, a character that seems to resemble Jellia Jamb from the original Baum Book.
- Pepe the Prawn (Bill Barretta) as Toto: Dorothy's pet prawn and first companion on her journey. In Kansas, Toto was a prawn that lived in a fish bowl in Dorothy's room.
- Queen Latifah as Aunt Em: Dorothy's aunt and co-owner of the family diner in Kansas. Aunt Em was originally unhappy with Dorothy's life choices, but came to accept them when Dorothy returns from Oz.
- David Alan Grier as Uncle Henry: Dorothy's uncle and co-owner of the family diner. Uncle Henry always admired Dorothy's passion for singing, but was forced to think otherwise due to Aunt Em's stubborn decisions.
- Jeffrey Tambor as The Wizard: The legendary Wizard of Oz. All citizens of the Land of Oz see the Wizard as some huge, marvelous god that lives in Emerald City. Dorothy and her friends see him as this too, until they return from the Wicked Witch of the West's castle and find that he is just a normal man, and not a Wizard.
- Kelly Osbourne as Dorothy Gale: (Extended version): Appears in a short cameo as Dorothy when she first comes out of the Magic Makeover Machine in Emerald City.
- Quentin Tarantino as Himself: (Extended version): In a short cameo with Kermit the Frog, Tarantino discusses ideas on how to stop the Wicked Witch of the West, all of which were too violent for Kermit.
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
had its world premiere on April 27, 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival
. The film premiered on television on May 20, 2005 on ABC in the US, where it was rated TV-PG
. It aired in Canada on CBC Television
. In the UK, the telefilm was broadcast on December 18, 2005. Buena Vista Home Entertainment
released the DVD and VHS in both the US and international territories. The film was released to Region 1 DVD
on August 9, 2005. The Canadian Home Video Classification System rated the film G
for all home video releases within Canadian territories. The Region 2
DVD was released on April 3, 2006. The film was rated U
by the BBFC
, and G in Australia. For the Muppets' 50th anniversary, the DVD and VHS were released under the title Extended Version
in the US and as an Anniversary Edition
outside the US. The extended version contains 20 minutes of footage cut from the feature film. The reinstated footage included the Kelly Osbourne
and Quentin Tarantino
cameos. The DVD and VHS included an extended interview with Quentin Tarantino
, a blooper reel, and a behind-the-scenes look at the film guided by Pepe the King Prawn
. In the US, the DVD and VHS release of the film was in a 1.33:1 (fullscreen
) aspect ratio, whereas the international versions are in the original 1.78:1 widescreen
At the time of its release, during Macy's annual Flower Show promotion, Nanco marketed plush dolls of Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and The Great Gonzo. Other merchandise were offered for sale, including stuffed animals, mugs, and t-shirts. The windows at the promotion had the tagline "Hit the Bricks this May".
A total of 7.6 million viewers saw The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
on its premiere night. The film received negative reviews from fans and critics alike. At the film's Rotten Tomatoes
listing, two out of seven reviews, or 29%, were positive. For the film's positive response, Kevin Carr stated that "When you dig down and actually find (and watch) the new Muppet material, some of the magic is still there. MaryAnn Johanson
of Flick Filosopher said that, "It's not on a par with the Muppet movie madness of old, but it's darn close. According to the Bums Corner's review the film was a "treat for all ages, and that it was a colorful, musical, humorous romp. Keith Allen of Movie Rapture gave the film 2.5 stars out of 3, explaining that the film's humor was surprisingly clever, and that the film would frequently make you laugh. Mutant Reviewers
commented that although the Muppet deal with Walt Disney was sad, the film managed to be funny and witty. The song "When I'm With You" by soundtrack composer Michael Giacchino
was later nominated for a Primetime Emmy
in the Outstanding Music and Lyrics category. The song lost to "Mary Jane/Mary Lane" from Reefer Madness
Critical reaction was unkind. David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews warned the film was "... strictly for kids ..." Nusair stated that although Ashanti can sing, she cannot act. Joshua Tyler of Cinema Blend explained that Dorothy visiting the Wizard of Oz to become a star instead of going back home was a big mistake, and that it showed how shallow society has become. R.J. Carter of The Trades gave the film a B-, also stating that Dorothy's wish to become a star was a selfish one. Ultimate Disney's review found that the extended version of the film did more harm than good, Andy Dursin of The Aisle Seat said that the original film was "dull" and that the extended version was actually an improvement over the original. Cold Fusion Video felt that although the film was entertaining, it lacked the heart and wit of Jim Henson's Muppet films. Bryan Pope of DVD Verdict said that the film drained the Muppets of their spirit and was slightly gratuitous. Techtite TV reviews felt that the film was done poorly on all levels, and that the film was on the higher end of TV-PG.
Many other reviewers felt that the film's attempt to appeal to an older, more mature audience was ultimately a bad idea. Kerry Bennett of Parent Previews warned that it sometimes steered "dangerously off course" due to an excess of sexual content and violence. Referential humor to the marriage of Jennifer Lopez, Manolo Blahnik style silver shoes, and films like Girls Gone Wild, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypse Now and Kill Bill: Volume 1 were seen as too mature. The cameos by Quentin Tarantino and Kelly Osbourne received mixed to negative response. Cold Fusion Video judged the Osbourne cameo as "pointless". Dursin contrasted the two appearances and found that the Tarantino cameo dragged the film down.
- Garner, Joe. Now Showing: Unforgettable Moments from the Movies. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7407-3836-4.
- Riley, Michael O. Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1997. ISBN 0-7006-0832-X.