The Muppets' Wizard of Oz was an ABC television movie broadcast in 2005 based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and starring the Muppets. After a few years of mostly being seen in commercials and cameo appearances in television specials, this was the first major Muppet product after Walt Disney Pictures purchased the characters from the Jim Henson company and an attempt to reintroduce the Muppets to a new audience. Although a satire and parody, The Muppets Wizard of Oz rarely makes reference to the 1939 MGM film and relies more on the original book. This is not the first time that the Muppets have journeyed to Oz; parody photos of the Muppet Babies were published in the 80s based on the 1939 film. The main Muppet cast is the same for the most part except for one difference: Baby Piggy portrayed Dorothy in these photos.
- Ashanti as Dorothy Gale
- Kermit the Frog as the Scarecrow
- Gonzo as The Tin Thing
- Fozzie Bear as the Cowardly Lion
- Pepe the Prawn as Toto
- Miss Piggy as Glinda, Tattypoo, the Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the West
- Queen Latifah as Aunt Em
- David Alan Grier as Uncle Henry
- Jeffrey Tambor as Wizard of Oz
- Lew Zealand
Warning: Contains some spoilers
Dorothy Gale is a waitress in a diner owned by her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Tired of her life in Kansas, she dreams of becoming a singer, which is a dream that her Aunt Em discourages and Uncle Henry encourages. As luck would have it, the Muppets are currently on a search for some new talent. So, while Em is not looking, Henry tells Dorothy to go to the audition for the Muppets. Unfortunately, she just missed them, but manages to give the demo CD that she made to Kermit before they drive off.
When Dorothy returns home to her home in a trailer park, the modern equivalent of the prairie farmhouse of the original story, she gets in a fight with her Aunt because of going to the audition. But the storm is getting worse, so everybody heads for the storm cellar just before the tornado hits. But Dorothy realizes that she left Toto, her pet King Prawn, behind in her bedroom. But when she goes back in, the tornado lifts the trailer and carries her off to Oz.
After landing in Oz, she finds that Toto can now talk and he's a lot bigger. On coming out, she's greeted by the Munchkins, portrayed by the Muppet rats, led by Rizzo, who praise her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. Tattypoo, the Good Witch of the North, gives Dorothy the silver slippers and sends her on her way to the Emerald City where the Wizard can make her a star.
On her way to the Emerald City, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (Kermit the Frog), who wants a brain, the Tin Thing (Gonzo the Great), who wants a heart so that he can marry his love, the chicken Camilla, and the Cowardly Lion (Fozzie Bear), who wants to overcome his cowardliness so that he can be a great stand-up comedian. When they eventually get to the Emerald City, the Wizard sees them one by one, appearing in a different form each time. He tells Dorothy that they will all get what the want if they bring back the Wicked Witch of the West's eye.
On the way to the Witch's castle, the Witch captures the party with the help of the Flying Monkeys, a club of motorcycle enthusiasts who are under the control of the Wicked Witch by the enchanted biker cap.
After a fight, Dorothy kicks the Witch into her jacuzzi, where she begins to melt away because it was filled with a bit of tap water instead of pure bottled water.
On returning to the Wizard with the eye, everybody discovers that the Wizard is a fraud, just a tour bus driver that managed to amaze everybody with a simple magic trick. But, the Wizard keeps his promise by putting on a TV show where Dorothy will make her television debut as the biggest star in Oz. However, she realizes that this, too, is a scam and cuts her song short, and that what she really wants is to go home.
Everybody travels to Glinda to find out how the shoes work and Glinda tells her how to get home.
Upon returning, still in her clothes from Oz, she rushes into the diner to apologize to Em and Henry. Kermit is waiting there for her, wanting to make her a star and Em finally gives her blessing to pursue her dreams.
Baum's Oz and MGM's Oz
Similarities to the original story
Unlike many post-1939 Oz films, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz is based more on the book and ignores most lore created for the MGM musical. Elements based on the book that are frequently forgotten due to the popularity of the 1939 musical include:
- The Wicked Witch of the East has silver slippers.
- Glinda is the Good Witch of the South.
- The Good Witch of the North introduces herself as Tattypoo. While this name was not used in Baum's novel, it does show that the writers referenced the original forty books in order to establish that the North's witch was not Glinda.
- The Tin Thing wants a heart so that he can love his girlfriend, Camilla.
- All must wear green glasses while in the Emerald City.
- The Wizard sees Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Thing, and Cowardly Lion one at a time, appearing different each time. However, he appears as the beast (a dragon) to Cowardly Lion and as the beautiful woman (who transforms into a chicken) to Tin Thing.
- The Wicked Witch of the West wears an eye patch.
- The Wicked Witch of the West wants to send out wolves, crows, bees, among animals, with various enchanted accessories. However, she is given excuses as to why they aren't currently available.
- The Wicked Witch of the West uses an enchanted biker cap to brainwash the flying monkeys.
- The Wicked Witch of the West has an eye that can see everything, similar to the telescopic eye of the original book. Unlike the book, however, it is this eye that the Wizard sends Dorothy to bring to him.
- When Dorothy and her friends get to Poppyfield's, they are saved when the Munchkins pull them out after they are called. While it was the field mice that pulled them out in the book, the Munchkins are portrayed by the Muppet rats.
- The Wizard fills Scarecrow's head with a box of bran flakes cereal.
- Though the people of Oz are based on people she meets in Kansas (a common theme of films depicting Oz as existing only in a dream), the end of the film sends her back in the clothes she wore while in Oz, suggesting Oz to be a real place.
References to the 1939 MGM Film
As stated above, the Muppets rarely acknowledge the 1939 film, possibly due to legal issues related to using images of the 1939 film. However, there are some notable elements taken from or referencing the MGM musical.
- The Kansas scenes are presented in desaturated color, reminiscent of the use of sepia toning of the Kansas scenes in the 1939 film.
- Many characters that appear in the Kansas scenes later appear as characters in Oz.
- When Dorothy and Toto get to Oz, Toto faces the camera and instructs audience members that have a copy of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to start playing the album. This is a reference to the belief that the album is an alternate soundtrack for the film. (Sgt. Floyd Pepper, who plays bass guitar for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, seen in the Poppyfield's scene, is partially named after this band.)
- Jim Hill, "Were Disney's lawyers at odds with 'The Muppets' Wizard of Oz?'". Note that most of the article is based on rumor and that fair use laws in the US allow for parodies.