From the pilot reel The Rainbow Road to Oz in 1957 to the films Return to Oz in 1985 and Oz the Great and Powerful earlier this year, the Walt Disney Company has a long and varied association with the Land of Oz. Of the three projects just mentioned, only Return to Oz was based in any way on L. Frank Baum’s actual Oz books, but a recent Disney treatment of his first Oz novel will now be explored.
The project in question is an episode of the Disney Channel series Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Utilizing computer generated animation to bring to life Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and other beloved characters, the show presents funny, music-filled adventures designed to delight children– an intention of which Baum would heartily approve! In its fourth season it presented an episode entitled “The Wizard of Dizz,” which brought Minnie Mouse (voice of Russi Taylor) and dog Pluto (Bill Farmer) to a strange and magical land.
They are greeted by Good Witch Clarabelle (April Winchell), who outfits Minnie with a pair of sparkly green shoes– yes, green shoes, coveted incidentally by Bad Witch Pete (Jim Cummings)– and sends her to the Wizard for help in getting home, since the Good Witch herself knows that the shoes can help, but can’t remember how.
Traveling along the Pink Polka-Dotted Path, Minnie and Pluto are soon joined by Scarecrow Goofy (Farmer again), Mickey the Tin Mouse (Wayne Allwine), and, most bizarre of all, Donald the Lion (Tony Anselmo), who all want the usual list of wishes. In true MGM fashion, Bad Witch Pete dogs their steps, trying to impede their progress. But they manage to reach the City of Handy Helpers, its gate guarded by Daisy Duck (Tress MacNeille), and soon are ushered into the presence of the Wizard, whose resounding voice sounds suspiciously like that of Ludwig Von Drake (Corey Burton).
The Wizard sends Our Friends to Witch Pete’s castle to retrieve his hat, which is the source of his power. Naturally, he doesn’t take well to this.
The DVD of this episode (which includes two others) was released last February and can still be found in stores, and the episode is also available on YouTube. As stated, it is mainly aimed at very small children, but adults can enjoy the spoof, the visual gags (Donald the Lion first appears standing on an outcropping of stone which looks like Pride Rock from The Lion King in miniature), the MGM-esque songs, and the performances of the voice cast, particularly Cummings’s hilarious Pete.