Entry updated 9 February 2022. Tagged: Film, TV.
Japanese animated film (1996). Enoki Films, EZ Films. Directed by Yoshiaki Okumura and Sōji Yoshikawa. Written by Sōji Yoshikawa (and Glenn German). 80 minutes. Colour.
The Japanese animated Television series Space Oz no Bōken (1992-1993; vt The Adventures of Space Oz; vt The Galaxy Adventures of Oz), comprising 26 25-minute episodes, is based on the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L Frank Baum. It was subsequently edited (mainly using episodes 1, 2, 24, 25 and 26) and dubbed into English for this North American film release by Enoki Films USA, Inc. The film's English voice cast is not credited; the original series' voice cast included Mariko Kouda as Dorothy, Hirohiko Kakegawa as Beasty (Lionman in the film); Hiroshi Takemura as Chopper; Kōzō Shioya as Planty (Plantman) and Noriko Uemura as Glumilda (Gloomhilda).
As the three suns of the planet New Kansas (see Colonization of Other Worlds) align, their combined Gravity creates a "galactic vortex": Dorothy, her dog Toto and the family Robot, Chopper, take shelter in the farm's Spaceship; lifting off to avoid earthquakes, they are sucked into a Black Hole caused by the vortex.
Emerging in the Galaxy of Oz amidst a space battle, they scare off the fleet attacking a nearby planet before crashing onto it. Here they meet Plantman ("He can speak!" "That's because I gotta mouth"), an experiment by the witch Gloomhilda: she ruled the planet until it was liberated by the Wizard of Oz, a Scientist. When not sneering at soap operas, Gloomhilda plots to reconquer the planet – thus the invading fleet. Dorothy and friends, joined by a cowardly Lionman en-route, travel to the floating Emerald City in the hope the Wizard can send them home; Chopper, Plantman and the Lionman also want to ask the Wizard for a brain, heart and courage. Their meeting with the Wizard initially parallels the original story, until he is revealed to be Prince Mosey, a boy manipulating a giant animatronic head and hands: Dr Oz, his father, having left to seek the Rainbow Crystal, which can make thoughts real.
The quartet, with Mosey and his spaceship, search for the crystal and Dr Oz; though they find both, Gloomhilda gets the crystal first. Her mother, the Wicked Witch of the West, is imprisoned in her necklace: when freed by the crystal she declares she will use it to rule over everyone. Dorothy and her friends flee to the Emerald City and – though Gloomhilda argues this is unnecessary – are pursued by the Witch. Dorothy announces she is tired of being afraid: they must sneak onto the Witch's ship and steal the crystal back. They get aboard easily enough, but are confronted by the Witch – however, as she is about to kill them, Gloomhilda grabs the crystal and declares she admires Dorothy's team and how they love each other; unmoved, her mother turns her to stone.
In the ensuing chaos Dorothy takes Gloomhilda (with crystal) back to the Emerald City: Dr Oz announces the crystal is an antenna picking up the goodness in all creatures, uniting it as a single force. The Witch now arrives and – proving this is indeed an Anime – turns into a giant red Kaiju that rampages through the city; however, Dorothy – prompted by the spirit of the crystal – realizes all everyone need do is wish together; they do ... and it works: the crystal shatters the monster, returning the Witch's spirit to Gloomhilda's necklace. The crystal also grants Chopper's, Plantman's and Lionman's wishes, thus rather missing the point of the original. After saying farewell to their friends – who now include Gloomhilda – Dorothy, Toto and Chopper are returned to New Kansas.
Aside from The Wizard of Oz, this production's other big influence is Star Wars (1977) – Dorothy and Prince Mosey are Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia respectively, whilst the well-spoken Chopper is clearly C-3PO. Most of the characters are not particularly memorable, but Dorothy is strong-willed, the hippyish Plantman has some amusing lines and Gloomhilda is a likable Villain. Cutting the television series down to 80 minutes required the removal of a prolonged quest plot that had the group visiting many planets (see Planetary Romance); though this was mainly padding, its deletion means we lose Gloomhilda's growing respect for Dorothy and her friends, making her change of heart in the film rather sudden. Though the resolution is a little too easy, this is a reasonably fun children's film.
The two versions are arguably the first genuine sf spin on Baum's work in Cinema and Television: though they were preceded by The Wizard of Mars (1965; vt Horrors of the Red Planet), that film's similarities to the original are largely cosmetic. [SP]
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