Return to Oz is an animated television special produced by Crawley Films for Rankin/Bass (Videocraft). It first aired on February 9th, 1964 in the United States on NBC's General Electric Color Fantasy Hour. It was directed by F.R. Crawley, Thomas Glynn, and Larry Roemer from a teleplay by Romeo Muller, who later wrote the screenplay for Dorothy in the Land of Oz.
Crawley Films also produced the earlier 1961 animated series, Tales of the Wizard of Oz and brought similar artistic character renditions to the special.
There is also a 1985 live-action Disney film of the same name.
Return to Oz was produced as a 90-minute successor to the Tales of the Wizard of Oz series, although edited to fit an hour-long time slot for NBC's broadcast. The screenplay originated from New York while the voice track was recorded in Toronto at RCA Victor studios.
The plot is virtually a rehash of the storyline of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All of Dorothy's friends become trapped in the situations they were in when she first met them, cueing yet another trip to see the Wizard. Dorothy receives a letter from the Scarecrow, called Socrates in the film, telling her that everyone is happy with the gifts the Wizard gave them, and that they miss her very much. She goes to find her silver slippers and is instantly taken back to Oz again by another Kansas twister, this time not by house, but an apple tree. Once she arrives there she is greeted by the Munchkins in Munchkinville. Glinda arrives to tell her that the Wicked Witch of the West is not dead and has taken Socrates' diploma and burned it up. She has also taken the heart of the Tin Woodman, called Rusty, by turning herself into a Tin Woman, and has dropped him into water where his chocolate heart melted and he rusted. She has also stolen the medal that belonged to the Cowardly Lion, called Dandy, and turned it into a daisy, and is planning to get Dorothy's silver slippers again.
Dorothy sets off to find her friends, without knowing the Wicked Witch is watching them in her Crystal Ball. She finds Rusty who has rusted after the witch tricked him. They find Socrates in a corn field on a pole scaring crows again. After the four friends are reunited, they arrive at the Emerald City, only to be tricked by the Witch, who has captured the Wizard and taken over as the ruler of Oz. He (who is unexplainedly still in Oz in this film, despite his departure by balloon in both the book and the 1939 film) tells them to destroy her again and he will give them what they want. She arrives back at her castle just before Dorothy and her friends, but before they arrive she sends flying alligators to kill them. Socrates' quick thinking saves them when they hide under his straw. Rusty saves them from a lighting bolt, which kills him, despite his being made of tin. Dorothy asks Glinda if she will help and a glowing ball brings him back to life. They arrive and are trapped by the Witch. She grabs Dorothy and tries to take her silver slippers. The gang (including the Wizard himself) try to get her back from the Witch, who gives her and Dandy the slippers. Dorothy, who is being held upside-down from the window, tells Dandy that he will turn to stone if he takes them. The Witch takes them only to be turned into stone, crumble, and fall apart. The gang returns to the Emerald City, only to find out that the Wizard is a humbug once again. Glinda appears to tell Dorothy the reason that her friends didn't turn to stone was because they had brains, a heart, and courage. She also explains that the Witch was cruel and heartless, brainless enough to think evil could conquer good and cowardly in that she used slaves and suppressed others. Dorothy wishes to go back, and instantly a Kansas twister whisks her and Toto back home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry again.
The following characters appear in the special, with associated voice actors:
- Dandy the Lion (Cowardly Lion) - Carl Banas
- Dorothy Gale - Susan Conway
- Dorothy Gale (singing) - Susan Morse
- Glinda, the Good Witch of the North - Peggi Loder
- Rusty the Tin Man (Tin Woodman) - Larry D. Mann
- Socrates the Scarecrow - Alfie Scopp
- Wicked Witch of the West - Larry D. Mann
- Wizard of Oz - Carl Banas
Return to Oz was released on VHS in the late 1980s by Prism Entertainment. It was released on DVD by Sony Wonder and Classic Media in March 2006. It had previously been available for syndication, and a few local stations picked it up.