|The Muppets' Wizard of Oz|
|Directed by||Kirk Thatcher|
|Produced by||Bill Barretta|
|Written by||Debra Frank, Steve L. Hayes, Tom Martin, & Adam F. Goldberg|
David Alan Grier
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Editing by||Gregg Featherman|
|Studio||The Jim Henson Co.
The Muppets Studio, LLC
20th Century Fox TV
|Distributed by||ABC (TV)
Walt Disney (DVD)
|Release date(s)||United States
April 27, 2005 (Tribeca Film Festival)
May 20, 2005 (television premiere)
May 20, 2005 (television premiere)
United Kingdom December 18, 2005
|Running time||Tribeca Film Festival & television airing:
|Country|| United States
|Preceded by||It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)|
|Followed by||A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008)|
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 starring Ashanti and The Muppets. The film was produced by Bill Barretta and written by Debra Frank, Steve L. Hayes, Tom Martin, & Adam F. Goldberg.
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz follows a young woman named Dorothy Gale who dreams of becoming a singer but is unable to pursue her dreams. After being swept up by a tornado with her pet prawn Toto, Dorothy embarks on a journey to meet the Wizard of Oz, the person who both Dorothy and the citizens of Oz believe can help make her dream come true.
The movie was produced by The Jim Henson Company in association with Fox Television Studios, Touchstone Television and the Muppets Holding Company. 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 base the film on L. Frank Baum's original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz instead of the 1939 film. 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 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. Overall, the film ended up receiving negative reviews from critics. Most critics agreed that the film was too mature for young audiences, and that the cameo scenes and popular culture marks were unnecessary.
The film follows Kansas girl Dorothy Gale, a young woman living in a trailer park. Dorothy desperately wishes to leave 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 beforehand. In returning home, the tornado sirens sound, and 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 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 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, 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 the 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 (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. 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 flying Monkeys. After being threatened to be killed by the Wicked Witch of the West, the captured Toto 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 unharmed and floating in the tub of water, and she then grabs it. After gaining control of the flying 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 just an ordinary man pretending to be someone he is not. Even so, he still 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, she will be able to go anywhere she desires. Dorothy does so, saying "take me home to Aunt Em".
She is then spun by a twister into Kansas, and much to her surprise, Dorothy finds out that Kermit was looking for her, saying that she was the best voice they heard on the whole search. However, due to just getting home, Dorothy thinks it is not the right time to go. However, Aunt Em says that she wants Dorothy to go with the Muppets on their Star Hunt, much to her surprise. When then see Dorothy sing "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.
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, Canada. Before filming, ABC announced that the film would be based on the original book, not the 1939 film. In many ways, elements from The Muppets' Wizard of Oz follow the elements of the original book more closely than that of the 1939 film. A prominent example is the changing of the color of the magic slippers; from ruby in the 1939 film to silver for the 2005 film. 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. Also in August 2004, BBC News reported that Quentin Tarantino would appear in the film. 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."
|Best of the Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz|
|Released||May 17, 2005|
|Recorded||Walt Disney Studios|
Michael Giacchino, who 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.
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.
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, several Oz items were on display and for sale, including stuffed animals, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. Also for Macy's Flower Show promotion, Nanco marketed plush dolls of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and The Great Gonzo in their respective costumes from the film.
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 mostly negative reviews from critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently holds a 29% "rotten" rating, with two out of seven critics giving the film a positive review.
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.
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 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.
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.