The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz is a 2005 American-Canadian fantasy television film directed by Kirk Thatcher and starring Ashanti and The Muppets with supporting roles done by Jeffrey Tambor, Quentin Tarantino, David Alan Grier, and Queen Latifah. The film was produced by Bill Barretta and written by Debra Frank, Steve L. Hayes, Tom Martin, and Adam F. Goldberg based on a story by Frank and Hayes.
Wizard of Oz
|Based on||The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum|
|Directed by||Kirk Thatcher|
|Theme music composer||Michael Giacchino|
|Country of origin|
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
A modernized adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the story follows young Dorothy Gale, who works in her Aunt Em's diner, but dreams of becoming a singer somewhere beyond her small Kansas town. Swept up by a tornado, in her trailer home with pet prawn Toto, she lands in Oz and embarks on a journey to meet the Wizard who can help make her dreams come true.
The film was co-produced by The Muppets Studio, Touchstone Television, and Fox Television Studios, in association with The Jim Henson Company. Right after Disney bought the rights to The Muppets in 2004, 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 the initial script was written, ultimately deciding to adapt plot elements from Baum's original novel rather than the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical film, The Wizard of Oz. As with the preceding Muppet films, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz became a musical, and included five new songs written and composed by Michael Giacchino. The special is the first Muppets special without the involvement of veteran performer Jerry Nelson following his 2004 retirement from physical performing. His characters of Lew Zealand and Floyd Pepper, were respectively performed by Bill Barretta and John Kennedy. Barretta also debuts as the new permanent performer of Dr. Teeth due to Kennedy now performing Floyd. The production also marked the feature film debut of Eric Jacobson as the performer of Sam Eagle, a character originally performed by Frank Oz.
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz premiered on April 27, 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film's television premiere was broadcast on ABC on May 20, 2005, as the final ABC Movie of the Week. The film received generally mixed to negative reviews from critics, who felt that the film was too mature for young audiences and that the cameo scenes and popular culture references were unnecessary.
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Dorothy Gale (Ashanti) is an orphaned teenage girl living in a trailer park in Kansas. Her Aunt Em (Queen Latifah) and Uncle Henry (David Alan Grier) own a diner, to which Dorothy works for room and board. Her dream of becoming a singer is slim, but when waiting on some truckers Dorothy overhears that the Muppets are conducting a cross-country show called "Star Hunt" and are looking for a backup singer. Aunt Em disapproves, but with Uncle Henry's best wishes, she goes to the audition. However, the Muppets are about to end the audition, and Dorothy only manages to give them a demo CD that she created beforehand. In returning home, the civil defense sirens sound as a tornado is headed for Dorothy's trailer park. 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. She does not make it out in time, and the two are swept by the tornado across the vast fields of Kansas. When Dorothy climbs out of the wreckage, she finds that Toto (Pepé the King Prawn) can talk and that she is no longer in Kansas.
Dorothy and Toto discover that they are in Munchkinland, a small town part of the vast Land of Oz. After discussing her situation with the town's people, the Munchkins (played by Rizzo the Rat and the other rats), she learns that the land's ruler the Wizard, has the power to grant her wish of becoming a famous singer. She meets the Good Witch of the North (Miss Piggy), and receives a pair of magic silver slippers from the Wicked Witch of the East (Miss Piggy), 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 the yellow brick road to meet the Wizard of Oz, who lives in the Emerald City, the capital of Oz. On her journey, she meets three creatures: a Scarecrow (Kermit), a Tin Thing (Gonzo), and a Cowardly Lion (Fozzie). They are also seeking the Wizard of Oz to give them a brain, heart, and courage, respectively. The group meets various obstacles involving a deep gorge where the Kalidah Critics (Statler and Waldorf) are heckling them and a Poppy Field Club run by Clifford which nearly puts them to sleep. 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 she 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. The Wicked Witch of the West (Miss Piggy) sees them coming and consults with her pet Foo-Foo and her henchman Johnny Fiama. When the Wicked Witch of the West plans to have either her pack of 40 great man-eating wolves, a flock of 40 crows of despair, a swarm of angry black bees, a group of vicious squirrels, or a group of bloodthirsty cockatoos to do away with them, Johnny tells her that the animals that work for her are unavailable due to various reasons. This forces her to resort to using her Magic Biker Cap to call Sal Minella and the other Flying Monkeys (played by Sweetums, Crazy Harry, Black Dog, Bobo the Bear, Calico, Old Tom, Spotted Dick, and Aretha from Fraggle Rock) to deal with them. The Witch and the Flying Monkeys capture Dorothy, Toto and Lion while Scarecrow and Tin Thing are dismantled by the Flying Monkeys.
After being threatened to be killed by her, Toto calls the Munchkins, who set him and Dorothy free and hold up the witch. During the final battle, it cuts away to a scene where Quentin Tarantino is having a meeting with Kermit, discussing ideas for how Dorothy can defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. Tarantino's ideas are deemed too expensive and too violent for a Muppet movie, so they agree for Dorothy to do a powerful kick on the witch. Cutting back to the action, Dorothy kicks the witch into her own "bottled water bath" which contains tap water (to which she is severely allergic). Angel Marie admitted that he filled the water bottles with tap water to restock them. This action causes the Wicked Witch of the West to melt as Johnny averts Foo-Foo's eyes. With the Wicked Witch of the West dead, Dorothy finds the magic eye floating in the tub unharmed and grabs it.
Dorothy gains control of the Flying Monkeys by giving back the group's Magic Biker Cap to Sal Minella. She has Scarecrow and Tin Thing rebuilt by the Flying Monkeys. Then she and her friends travel back to the Emerald City to have their wishes granted. When they all storm into the Wizard's room, they discover it is merely a Hollywood effects stage and that the Wizard (Jeffrey Tambor) is just an ordinary man, pretending. He asked for the witch's eye so that she could not see him for who he really was. Even so, he still proceeds to grant their wishes. Dorothy finally becomes a singer in the Land of Oz, but she 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 (Miss Piggy), who tells her that if she clicks her heels together three times, she will be able to go anywhere she desires, contrary to how the Good Witch of the North said to get to the Emerald City. She does so, saying "take me home to Aunt Em".
She is then spun by the slippers' charm into Kansas, and, much to her surprise, she finds out that Kermit was looking for her, saying that she had the best voice they heard on the whole search, and that she has been chosen to go on the Star Hunt. Dorothy, having been reunited with her aunt and uncle, and feeling that she is not ready to leave Kansas to become a real star, rejects, but Aunt Em says that she wants her to go with the Muppets on their Star Hunt, much to her even bigger surprise. She then sings "Good Life" on television with them at the Muppet Theater as the film ends.
- Ashanti as Dorothy Gale: A Kansas teen dreaming of leaving her home and becoming a singer.
- Queen Latifah as Aunt Em: Dorothy's aunt and co-owner of the family diner in Kansas.
- David Alan Grier as Uncle Henry: Dorothy's uncle and co-owner of the family diner.
- Jeffrey Tambor as The Wizard of Oz: The legendary Wizard of Oz. This is Tambor's second appearance in a Muppet film, the first being Muppets from Space.
- Quentin Tarantino as Himself (Extended version): In a short appearance with Kermit the Frog, Tarantino discusses violent ideas on how to stop the Wicked Witch of the West. Despite the fact that his role is minor, his name is still mentioned in the movie trailer and listed on the cover of both the Video and DVD.
- Kelly Osbourne as Dorothy Gale (post-makeover) (Extended version): Appears in a brief cameo as Dorothy when she first comes out of the Magic Makeover Machine in Emerald City.
- Steve Whitmire as:
- Kermit the Frog as Himself/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. Prior to Dorothy's journey, Kermit organizes a talent scout for a star for a new show. After Dorothy's return, he hires her.
- Beaker: He appears as an Emerald City Technician. Beaker also appears at the end in the Muppets' show.
- Rizzo the Rat as Himself/Mayor of Munchkinland. He occasionally aids Dorothy when she is in danger. Prior to Dorothy's journey, Rizzo is seen assisting Bean Bunny in loading equipment into the Muppets' bus. He returns for the Muppets' show at the end of the film.
- Statler as Kalidah Critic #1. He heckles Dorothy and her friends as they try to cross a log.
- Dave Goelz as:
- The Great Gonzo as the Himself/Tin Thing: A robot in search of a heart. Originally human, the Tin Thing 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, Camilla the Chicken. He also appears at the end of the film in the Muppets' show.
- Dr. Bunsen Honeydew: He appears as an Emerald City Technician. He also appears at the end of the film in the Muppets' show.
- Waldorf as Kalidah Critic #2. He and the other Kalidah Critic heckles Dorothy and her friends as they try to cross a log.
- Zoot: He performs backup for the songs "Naptime", and for "The Witch is in the House", and appears at the end of the film in the Muppets' new show.
- Bill Barretta as:
- Pepé the King Prawn 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. Strangely, Pepé doesn't appear in the finale with the other Muppets.
- Dr. Teeth: He performs "Naptime", and also performs in "The Witch is in the House". He appears again at the end of the film in the Muppets' show.
- Johnny Fiama: He appears as one of the henchmen of the Wicked Witch of the West, and is supposedly her love interest.
- Lew Zealand: He briefly appears in Emerald City at the red carpet event, asking Dorothy to sign his boomerang fish.
- The Swedish Chef: He provides the Bran Flakes for the Wizard.
- Bubba the Rat: He assists the Mayor of Munchkin Land in getting Dorothy and the Lion out of Poppyfields.
- Eric Jacobson as:
- Miss Piggy as Herself: She appears early on with Kermit, and tries to get rid of Dorothy. She returns at the end of the film for the Muppets' show.
- as The Wicked Witch of the West: The Wicked Witch that terrifies all that meet her.
- as The Tattypoo the Good Witch of the North: The Good Witch that gives Dorothy the silver slippers.
- as The Glinda the Good Witch of the South: The other Good Witch that shows Dorothy how to get home.
- as The Wicked Witch of the East: The original owner of the magic slippers who was killed by Dorothy's falling mobile home.
- Fozzie Bear as Himself/Cowardly Bear: A nervous and frightened lion stand-up comic that accompanies Dorothy and the others on their journey. Fozzie shows up at the end of the film in the Muppets' show.
- Animal: He performs in the songs "Naptime" and "The Witch is in the House".
- Sam Eagle: He appears as the Guardian of the Gates. Sam doesn't appear in the Muppets' show at the end of the film.
- Miss Piggy as Herself: She appears early on with Kermit, and tries to get rid of Dorothy. She returns at the end of the film for the Muppets' show.
- Brian Henson as:
- Sal Manilla as Sal, a Flying Monkey: He accompanies Johnny for much of the film.
- Kevin Clash as:
- John Kennedy as:
- Rickey Boyd as:
- Tyler Bunch as:
- Julianne Buescher as
- Wizard's Green Lady and Chicken Forms
- John Henson as
- Mike Quinn as
- Spotted Dick as a Flying Monkey
- Allan Trautman as
- Alice Dinnean as:
Whitmire and Goelz make on-screen cameos as audience members at Aunt Em's Diner during the finale.
When 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. After a new film titled The Muppets' Wizard of Oz was announced by The Jim Henson Company, Fox Television Studios, Touchstone Television, and the Muppets Holding Company signed on to help produce it.
Filming took place throughout September 2004 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Before filming, ABC announced that the production would adapt elements from the original 1900 book, rather than the 1939 film. such as the Silver Shoes instead of the Ruby slippers. On August 25, 2004, it was announced that Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, and Ashanti had auditioned for the role of Dorothy Gale, but Ashanti had won the part. When asked about how she felt about working with the Muppets, Ashanti 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." Also in August 2004, BBC News reported that Quentin Tarantino would appear in the film.
Michael Giacchino, who had previously worked on a Muppet-related project which is video game Muppet Monster Adventure and would become an Academy Award-winning 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 later nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Music and Lyrics category, 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.
|Best of the Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz|
|Released||May 17, 2005|
|Recorded||Walt Disney Studios|
|Genre||Pop rock, soundtrack|
|The Muppets chronology|
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz official soundtrack was released on May 17, 2005. The album was an enhanced soundtrack titled 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, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie & Pepe
- "The Witch Is in the House" – Miss Piggy with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
- "Calling All Munchkins" – The Munchkin Tap-Your-Knuckles Choir
- "Good Life" – Ashanti
- "Nap Time" – Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
- "The Muppet Show Theme" – The Muppets
- "Mah Nà Mah Nà"– Mahna Mahna & the Two Snowths
- "Bein' Green"– Kermit the Frog
- "Rainbow Connection" – Kermit & Muppets With Sesame Street Gang
- "Lady of Spain" – Marvin Suggs & his Muppaphone
- "Halfway Down the Stairs"– Kermit & Robin
- "What Now My Love?" – Miss Piggy
- "Tenderly" – Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
- "Happy Feet" – Kermit and the Frog Chorus
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz premiered on April 27, 2005 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The television premiere was on May 20, 2005 at 8:00pm on ABC in the US, where it was rated TV-PG. It aired in Canada on CBC Television, and in the UK on December 18, 2005. In the US, the film's official soundtrack was released on May 17, 2005. Buena Vista Home Entertainment released the DVD and VHS in both the US and in international territories. The film was released to Region 1 DVD and VHS 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 British Board of Film Classification, K-3 in Finland, and G in Australia. The DVD and VHS were released under the title Extended Version in the US and Anniversary Edition outside the US. The extended version contains 20 minutes of footage cut from the feature film, including the footage of 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 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) aspect ratio. During Macy's annual Flower Show promotion, the store's windows along Broadway displayed flower arrangements illustrating six scenes from the movie, while the store sold The Muppets' Wizard of Oz-related merchandise, such as plush dolls.
7.75 million viewers watched The Muppets' Wizard of Oz on its television premiere night in the United States; it ranked as the forty-second most-watched television program of the week. Michael Schneider of Variety wrote that it "performed solidly ... particularly with adults 18–34, teens and kids." The film received negative reviews from critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently holds a 38% rating, based on 8 reviews.
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 "disappointing", the film managed to be funny and witty.
For the film's negative response, David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews warned that 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 an improvement. 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.
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 such as Girls Gone Wild, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypse Now, and Kill Bill: Volume 1 were seen as too mature. Cold Fusion Video judged the Kelly Osbourne cameo as "pointless". Dursin contrasted the two guest appearances and found that the Tarantino cameo dragged the film down. Critics were split on the merits of ABC's modernized adaptation to rely on plot elements from the original novel instead of the iconic 1939 film.
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