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" Ease on Down The Road "

The Wiz is a 1978 movie musical released by Motown Records and Universal Pictures. It is based off the successful 1975 Broadway show of the same name. The film starred actress and singer Diana Ross as Dorothy Gale, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion, Lena Horne as Glinda and Richard Pryor as The Wiz.

The film was neither a critical, commercial or a box office success. However, it is still viewed by many movie lovers as a classic. It is also considered a cult classic among the African-American community and is one of the most famous all African-American family films ever made.


The film starts out on a snowy evening in New York City. Dorothy, a twenty-four year-old woman, lives with her Aunt Em in her apartment in Harlem. Aunt Em has hosted Thanksgiving at her place and invited several relatives. Despite having many family members Dorothy has no friends, with the exception her pet dog Toto. Aunt Em jokes that Dorothy has never seen any part of the world or as she quotes "south of 125th Street". Although she enjoys her job as a kindergarten teacher and is exposed to children through this, Dorothy has never considered having any of her own as she has made no effort to find a husband.

After the relatives depart, Aunt Em has a talk with Dorothy about getting a new job, finding a new place and meeting new people. Afterwards, Toto runs out the door while Dorothy is cleaning up. Dorothy chases after him into the cold streets right in the middle of a snow storm. She eventually catches him but not in time, it's too late. There is a huge blizzard (The work of Glinda the Good Witch Of the South) that sweeps her and Toto away, far away into space until the two cross over in the Land of Oz (which is a parallel universe of New York City).

As Dorothy holds Toto while she descends from the sky, they crash land into Munchkin Land. Which is a giant playground tagged up with lots of graffiti. When Dorothy came down from the sky she crashed through a big "Oz" sign above the Munchkins playground. In the middle of the bright glowing sign was a large "Z", which made the sign crush Evamene to death. Evamene was the Wicked Witch of the East aka the "Parks Department Commissioner" who just happened to be walking under the sign at that very moment but was unseen. And once she is killed the curse on Munchkin Land is immediately broken. This automatically awakens the Munchkins, who were flattened onto the walls of the playground and doomed to be graffiti forever as punishment by Evamene for spray painting on her playground walls.

The Munchkins rejoice and thank Dorothy for setting them all free and show Dorothy the dead Witch as she lies crushed under the broken Z.

Suddenly, Miss One (The Good Witch of the North) arrives to see the now free Munchkins. However, Dorothy doesn't understand what's going on and has no clue where she is, as she demands answers to all the chaos happening around her. Miss One tells her she's in the land of Oz and gives Dorothy Evamene's pretty Silver Shoes for doing everyone in Oz a favor for killing Evamene.

The Wiz 1978

The Wiz Opening Screen Shot.

With advice from the Munchkins and Miss One, they tell Dorothy to go visit The Wiz. (He's The Wiz!) He will help her find a way back home and is the only powerful one to do so. All Dorothy has to do is find the Yellow Brick Road that leads to the Emerald City. Miss One then reminds Dorothy to never take the Silver Shoes off and to watch out for the poison Poppies.

Dorothy is eager to seek the Wiz, but the problem is she can't find the road as there is no road around in sight. (Soon As I Get Home).

After wandering aimlessly in Oz, she comes across and cornfield in the middle of a vacant lot with the Scarecrow . The Scarecrow gets tormented on a daily basis by a group of bullying crows (You Can't Win). Dorothy decides to stand up for the Scarecrow and tells Toto to scare the crows off so she can help the Scarecrow and save him from the crows.

In return he chooses to accompany Dorothy on her journey to see the Wiz for a brain. And shortly after the Scarecrow finds the Yellow Brick Road and off they go, (Ease On Down the Road).

The road leads through an old Amusement Park that was abandoned long ago (parodying Coney Island of Dorothy's world), Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet and rescue the Tin Man, who is a rusted solid in a uncomfortable position. The Tin Man tells his new friends that he wants to gain a heart to love (If I Could Feel). So they quickly invite him on their journey so he can ask the Wiz for a heart, right after they oil him up first (Slide Some Oil To Me). Later on down the road, the group of friends are attacked by the Lion who was banished from the jungle and hid in Oz. He became a statue in Oz's library, which parodied the famous lion statues at the entrance to the New York City public library in the real world (I'm a mean ole lion) After he frightens them, Toto bites him on his paw and begins to cry. They all get angry at the beast but soon feel sorry after he says he is not brave and wishes for some courage. Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Tin Man invite him to see the Wiz also.


On the way they all run into frightening obstacles. First they follow the road into an underground subway, there they meet an old homeless peddler (who has been secretly spying on Dorothy all throughout her journey up until that point). The peddler unleashes two giant evil Kalidah puppets to chase Dorothy and her friends. Other objects of the subway, such as trash cans, an electrical panel and even the pillars awaken and try to kill the group. Luckily, the Lion rescues his friends by bravely fighting off the monsters and they safely escape the subway.

The group then encounters the poison "Poppy Girls". Stopping to have some innocent fun, Dorothy, the Lion and Toto are put to sleep, with magic poppy glitter to poison them to stop Dorothy from reaching the Emerald City. However, the Tin Man's tears save them both and they are awakened by the deadly trance. The Lion feels deeply ashamed for putting his friends in danger after he just saved them from the subway's monsters, but Dorothy comforts him. (Be A Lion).

Finally, they all arrive at the Emerald City and see the Wiz .The city citizens are rich socialites who changed their clothes magically according to what colors the Wiz says is in or out of style. Thanks to Dorothy's Silver Slippers, the Wiz allows her and her friends an audience. The Wiz says he won't grant any of their wishes unless they kill Evillene, who runs a sweatshop in the sewers of Oz and keeps The Winkies as her slaves and workers. She also has the crows, the peddler and Poppy Girls working for her as her slaves for failing to stop Dorothy. (Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News).

The Wiz Characters

The Three Companions

She figures out that Dorothy and her friends are coming to kill her and sends out her Flying Monkeys (a motorcycle gang) led by their leader, Cheetah, to kidnap them. The Monkeys chase them all around through an abandoned arena and after the friends are captured, Evillene dismembers the Scarecrow, flattens the Tin Man, and hangs the Lion by his tail trying to make Dorothy give up the slippers. When she threatens to burn Toto, Dorothy nearly gives the slippers up until the Scarecrow , whose still able to move, hints her to a fire sprinkler switch. Dorothy pulls the lever activating the sprinkler system which puts out the fire and melts Evillene (who is allergic to water). The Winkies are freed from Evillene, so they help Dorothy's friends and celebrate the witch's death (A Brand New Day).

The Flying Monkeys take them to the Emerald City only to discover the Wiz is in actuality Herman Smith, a failed politician from New Jersey. Smith admits he was ballooning to promote a campaign for a low office when a windstorm sent him to Oz. He lands in the Emerald City where the citizens were amazed at his balloon and proclaimed him the Wizard. Dorothy's companion are destroy by not getting their wishes granted, only for Dorothy to make them realize they did not need him to see their true worth. (Believe in Yourself).

Just as it seems that Dorothy will never get home, the beautiful Glinda appears and encourages Dorothy by telling her home is where the heart is (Believe in Yourself Reprise) and how to find her way home by clicking her heels three times. (Home).

After saying goodbye to all her friends she takes Toto in her arms, thinks of home and the things she loves about it, and clicking her heels finds herself back in her neighborhood and is finally home again. Dorothy runs into her building and back into her family.



Production Staff

  • Screenplay: Joel Schumacher
  • Additional Music: Anthony Jackson
  • Producer: Rob Cohen
  • Executive Producer: Ken Harper
  • Director: Sidney Lumet
  • Choreographer: Louis Johnson
  • Production Design: Tony Walton
  • Makeup Design: Stan Winston
  • Costume Design: Tony Walton, Miles White
  • Set Decoration: Robert Drumheller, Edward Stewart
  • Film Editing: Dede Allen





The Wiz - Trailer

Video Clips

Song List

  1. The Feeling That We Have
  2. Can I Go On?
  3. Glinda's Theme
  4. He's The Wizard
  5. Soon As I Get Home
  6. You Can't Win
  7. Ease on Down the Road
  8. What Would I Do If I Could Feel
  9. Slide Some Oil To Me
  10. Ease on Down the Road (2)
  11. ( I'm a) Mean ole lion
  12. Ease on Down the Road (3)
  13. Poppy Girls
  14. Be a Lion
  15. Emerald City ( Green, Red and Gold )
  16. ( Don't Nobody Bring Me ) No Bad News
  17. A Brand New Day
  18. Believe in Yourself
  19. Believe in Yourself (reprise)
  20. Home

For more info click The Wiz Motion Picture Soundtrack

Release and reception

Box office

The Wiz proved to be a commercial failure, as the $24 million production only earned $13.6 million at the box office. Though prerelease television broadcast rights had been sold to CBS for over $10 million, in the end, the film produced a net loss of $10.4 million for Motown and Universal. At the time, it was the most expensive film musical ever made. The film's failure steered Hollywood studios away from producing the all-black film projects that had become popular during the blaxploitation era of the early to mid-1970s for several years.

Home media

The film was released on VHS home video in 1989 by MCA/Universal Home Video (with a reissue in 1992) and was first broadcast on television on CBS on May 5, 1984 (edited to 100 minutes), to capitalize on Michael Jackson's massive popularity at the time. It continues to be broadcast periodically on Black-focused networks such as BET, TVOne, BET Her, and was the inaugural broadcast on the Bounce TV digital broadcast network. The Wiz is often broadcast on Thanksgiving Day (attributed to the opening scene of Dorothy's family gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner).

The film was released on DVD in 1999; a remastered version entitled The Wiz: 30th Anniversary Edition was released in 2008. Extras on both DVD releases include a 1978 featurette about the film's production and the original theatrical trailer. A Blu-ray version was released in 2010.

Critical reception

Critics panned The Wiz upon its October 1978 release. Many reviewers directed their criticism at Diana Ross, who they believed was too old to play Dorothy. Most agreed that what had worked so successfully on stage simply did not translate well to the screen. Hischak's Through the Screen Door: What Happened to the Broadway Musical When It Went to Hollywood criticized "Joel Schumacher's cockamamy screenplay", and called "Believe in Yourself" the score's weakest song. He described Diana Ross's portrayal of Dorothy as: "cold, neurotic and oddly unattractive"; and noted that the film was "a critical and box office bust". In his work History of the American Cinema, Harpole characterized the film as "one of the decade's biggest failures", and, "the year's biggest musical flop". The Grove Book of Hollywood noted that "the picture finished off Diana Ross's screen career", as the film was Ross's final theatrical feature. In his 2004 book Blockbuster, Tom Shone referred to The Wiz as "expensive crud". In the book Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood, the author criticized the script, noting, "The Wiz was too scary for children, and too silly for adults." Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in the 1939 The Wizard of Oz film, did not think highly of The Wiz, stating "The Wiz is overblown and will never have the universal appeal that the classic MGM musical has obtained."

Jackson's performance as the Scarecrow was one of the only positively reviewed elements of the film, with critics noting that Jackson possessed "genuine acting talent" and "provided the only genuinely memorable moments." Of the results of the film, Jackson stated: "I don't think it could have been any better, I really don't." In 1980, Jackson stated that his time working on The Wiz was "my greatest experience so far . . . I'll never forget that." Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film some of its most positive reviews on Sneak Previews. Siskel called it "superior musical theater," said Diana Ross was "superb," "terrific" and came across as "a real star" but had reservations about the film's "heavy message." Ebert praised other cast members and numerous technical aspects of the film, saying it was "fun" and in the "great tradition of the American musical." The film received another positive critique for its elaborate set design in the book American Jewish Filmmakers, which noted that it "features some of the most imaginative adaptations of New York locales since the glory days of the Astaire-Rogers films." In a 2004 review of the film, Christopher Null wrote positively of Ted Ross and Richard Pryor's performances. However, Null's overall review of the film was critical, and he wrote that other than the song "Ease on Down the Road", "the rest is an acid trip of bad dancing, garish sets, and a Joel Schumacher-scripted mess that runs 135 agonizing minutes." A 2005 piece by Hank Stuever in The Washington Post described the film as "a rather appreciable delight, even when it's a mess", and felt that the singing – especially Diana Ross's – was "a marvel".

The New York Times analyzed the film within a discussion of the genre of blaxploitation: "As the audience for blaxploitation dwindled, it seemed as if Car Wash and The Wiz might be the last gasp of what had been a steadily expanding black presence in mainstream filmmaking." The St. Petersburg Times noted, "Of course, it only took one flop like The Wiz (1978) to give Hollywood an excuse to retreat to safer (i.e., whiter) creative ground until John Singleton and Spike Lee came along. Yet, without blaxploitation there might not have been another generation of black filmmakers, no Denzel Washington or Angela Bassett, or they might have taken longer to emerge." The Boston Globe commented, "the term 'black film' should be struck from the critical vocabulary. To appreciate just how outmoded, deceptive and limiting it is, consider the following, all of which have been described as black films, . . ." and characterized The Wiz in a list that also featured 1970s films Shaft (1971), Blacula (1972), and Super Fly (1972).

Despite its lack of critical or commercial success in its original release, The Wiz became a cult classic, especially because it features Michael Jackson in his first starring theatrical film role. Jackson later starred in films such as Disney's Captain EO in 1986, the anthology film Moonwalker in 1988 and the posthumous documentary This Is It in 2009.

As of August 2019, The Wiz holds a 42% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 33 reviews, with the consensus; "This workmanlike movie musical lacks the electricity of the stage version (and its cinematic inspiration), but it's bolstered by strong performances by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson."

Differences from various versions of The Wizard of Oz 

Unlike many post-1939 Oz films, The Wiz has a few elements based off the book and ignores most lore created for the MGM musical. As well as different aspects from any other interpretation such as:

  1. Dorothy is a grown woman instead of a little girl.
  2. Dorothy and her family live in New York instead of Kansas.
  3. Dorothy flies through the tornado without her house.
  4. Glinda conjures up the tornado
  5. The Munchkins are graffiti children instead of little people.
  6. Dorothy crashes through a giant sign that falls on The Wicked Witch of The East, instead of Aunt Em's house
  7. The Crows are able to talk to the Scarecrow.
  8. The Scarecrow is made entirely of garbage, from the inside all the way to his clothes.
  9. The Scarecrow finds the Yellow Brick Road.
  10. The Tin Man is an old amusement park animatronic instead of a woodsman.
  11. The Lion was banished from the jungle.
  12. The Kalidahs are replaced by a homeless peddler and his subway of doom.
  13. The Poppies are seductresses rather than an empty flower field.
  14. The Emerald City citizens constantly change colors.
  15. The Wicked Witch has a factory instead of a castle.
  16. The Flying Monkeys are a motor bike gang.
  17. The Winkies are slaves instead of soldiers.
  18. The Wiz stays in Oz instead of leaving in a hot air balloon.
  19. Dorothy tells her friends that they have what they wanted all along, since the Wiz doesn't give them rewards.
  20. All the events that occurred were not a dream.


  • Stephanie Mills was originally going to reprise her role as Dorothy but it was changed after Diana Ross begged Motown President Berry Gordy to be a part of the film.
  • The role of the Tin Man was originally assigned to Broadway and television veteran actor Ben Vereen but Director Sidney Lumet thought Nipsey Russell would be better fit for the role.
  • The role of the Scarecrow was originally assigned to actor and comedian Jimmy Walker from the hit 70s show Good Times but the crew decided that it would be best to get someone who was able to sing and dance aswell as act, so the role was given to Michael Jackson, who was brought in as leverage by Diana Ross as an excahnge for her to play the role of Dorothy.
  • According to Michael Jackson, the film took six months to shoot.
  • Ted Ross, Theresa Merritt and Mabel King were the only three members from the original Broadway production to be in the film. Both Ross and King played the same characters they portrayed in the show, while Merritt portrayed Aunt Em. ( Merritt was an understudy for Evillene)
  • The Wiz was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1978
  • Michael Jackson's makeup artist was Michael Thomas, who also played the Scarecrow in the 1969 low-budget film The Wonderful Land of Oz.
  • The Wiz cost around 24 million dollars to making it the most expensive movies to be made in 1978 right behind Superman, but it sadly under performed bringing in only 12 million dollars.
    • One factor to the film doing poorly was that many movie theaters refused to play the film due to their loyalty and love for the original 1939 film.
  • The makeup process was said to have been so long and excruciating, that Michael Jackson would go home at times with the Scarecrow makeup applications still on and come back the next morning rather than going through the 4 hour process.
  • Director Sidney Lumet is the son-in-law to Glinda actress Lena Horne


  • During the "Brand New Day" dance sequence, the sweat stains on Dorothy's armpits appear and disappear.
  • After Dorothy is awakened by the Tin Man's tears, she sits up and wipes her face with both hands. However, in the next shot, when Toto awakens, Dorothy is still sleeping because her hands and arms are still down.
  • After the sprinklers have turned off in Evillene's sweatshop, everyone and everything is suddenly dry.
  • When the flying monkeys drive their motorcycles into the sweatshop, they are facing the direction of Evillene, who is standing at her throne. When they speed away on their motorcycles, they drive forward to where she stands. There is nowhere they could have exited the shop going forward as the scene implies they had.
  • When the red people are dancing in front of a camera at the Emerald City, a giant screen that shows the people dancing. A red woman goes in front of the people and does a dance, but her movement on the screen does not match the moves that she makes in front of the camera.
  • In the subway, Tinman gets electrocuted by two wires snaking out of a fusebox, but he starts to react to them before they even touch his head.
  • During the wide shot in "Slide Some Oil to Me" when Tinman is dancing in front of the mirrors, there's a large hole in the canvas behind him. A camera is visible through the hole, as is a reflection of him dancing in the camera lens.
  • Aunt Em comments that Dorothy has never been south of 125th Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem. However, Dorothy later gives her address as being on Prospect Place, which is in Brooklyn, miles southeast of Harlem.
  • When Dorothy is to click her heels to leave Oz, she is never seen holding Toto, but she appears to be carrying him once she's back home.
  • The Scarecrow is still learning how to walk after he gets down from the pole. When Dorothy runs to the taxis, the Scarecrow walks perfectly to another place behind Dorothy. When they sing "Ease on Down," the Scarecrow is sill trying to walk to the Yellow Brick Road.
  • There are several outtakes that happen in Evillene's sweatshop, Including some of the Winkies missing dance steps and one of the Crow's hat falling off during "A Brand New Day" and during "No Bad News" a purple cloth is laid out on the floor only for a dancer to quickly grab and toss it back on the table.

Awards and honors

51st Academy Awards nominations for The Wiz
Nomination Recipients
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Tony Walton and Philip Rosenberg; Set Decoration: Edward Stewart and Robert Drumheller
Best Costume Design Tony Walton
Best Song Score or Adaptation Score Quincy Jones
Best Cinematography Oswald Morris
1979 NAACP Image Awards nominations for The Wiz
Winner Recipients
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Michael Jackson
Site-logo Films Site-logo
Live-Action adaptations Silent films Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (1908) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) • His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914) • The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) • The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) • The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Modern films The Wizard of Oz (1939) • The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969) • 20th Century Oz (1976) • The Wiz (1978) • Return to Oz (1985) • The Dreamer of Oz (1990) • The Wizard of the City of Emeralds (1994) • The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) • After the Wizard (2011) • Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) • The Wiz Live! (2015)
Inspired films Flying Monkeys (2013) • OzLand (2015)
Guest Appearances Inkheart (2008) • Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
Animated adaptations Feature films Journey Back to Oz (1974) • The Wizard of Oz (1982) • The Wizard of Oz (1983) • The Wizard of Oz (1991) • Lion of Oz (2000) • Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz (2011) • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (2014) • Guardians of Oz (2015) • Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz (2016) • Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers (2017) • The Steam Engines of Oz (2018)
Guest Appearances The LEGO Movie (2014) • The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Upcoming adaptations Wicked: Part One/Wicked: Part Two (2024-5) • Dorothy & Alice (TBA) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (film) (TBA) • Toto (film) (TBA)
Short films After Oz (2007) • The Land of Oz (short film) (2015) • Dorothy in the Land of Stars (2017) • Unknown, Lost, or non-English Adaptations