The enduring legacy of The Wizard of Oz

It was a dark time for many in 1939. The Second World War had just kicked off and no one could’ve predicted the devastation it would cause. Naturally, people sought to escape the reality around them and immerse themselves in the world of film.

At the time, there were many movies available for audiences but none were quite as fantastical as The Wizard of Oz. As an adaptation of a popular children’s fantasy novel from the 1900s, this film was suitable for all ages. This is one of the reasons why the film became so beloved.

Despite being popular at the box office, it would take over a year for the film to make a profit. The Wizard of Oz did become a critical success though and even won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

The film even found new life in 1956 after a television broadcast on CBS. This reintroduced the film to the public and showcased just how magical the film is. The film continues to be popular with audiences and is often ranked as one of the greatest films of all time.

Not many films can boast of being entertaining to audiences in both 1939 and in modern times – but The Wizard of Oz is one of the few that can. Naturally, as this film is so cherished by the general public, it stands to reason that it has had a significant impact on popular culture throughout the years.

The legacy of the film continues on through multiple different mediums including spiritual sequels and even a popular musical. Just look somewhere over the rainbow and you’ll find something on the horizon.

Reinterpretations in film

As the film was such a huge success, it makes sense for other directors to try and recapture the magic from the original film. The first film to do so was an animated movie called Journey Back to Oz released in 1972.

Judy Garland, the actress behind Dorothy, sadly passed away before she could reprise her role. However, her daughter, Liza Minnelli, would go on to play the part of Dorothy. Sadly, the film failed to be a box office hit but managed to find success on television fast becoming a fan favourite.

Disney released an unofficial sequel to the 1939 hit in 1985 with Return To Oz. There were other proposed live-action films from Disney such as Rainbow Road To Oz but these were shelved due to budgetary concerns.

With the film rights to the series about to expire, Disney took a chance on Walter Murch’s screenplay Return to Oz. Whilst this film was not the box office success that Disney had wanted. Thankfully, it has become a cult classic in later years due to the darker tones being more faithful to the original books.

In 2013, the film series even found a spiritual prequel with Oz the Great and Powerful. As the name suggests, this film follows the origins of the wizard and how he came to be in the Land of Oz. The film was a modest success and even greenlit a sequel – but this has yet to release as of 2022.

There have also been multiple animated films based on The Wizard of Oz including a Japanese anime film called The Wizard of Oz and a Spanish family film called Wicked Flying Monkeys. Other animated movies influenced by the original 1939 film include Fantastic Journey to Oz, Lion of Oz and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

However, the most bizarre is easily Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz. This follows the original film almost shot for shot but adds in the cat-and-mouse duo of Tom and Jerry. Strangely enough, this film was such a success that it led to a direct sequel called Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz. It just goes to show the full appeal of the original film as it can attract fans of all ages.

Adaptations in gaming

It’s not just the world of cinema that has been influenced by The Wizard of Oz film. Even the video game industry has found inspiration from the classic in both direct and indirect instances.

The Wizard of Oz (1993) is a platforming video game released on the Super Nintendo System. It is the first-ever video game directly inspired by The Wizard of Oz film from 1939. The player takes on the role of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion in a series of levels containing mazes and puzzles all to find the iconic ruby slippers.

It would take 15 years for another video game influenced by The Wizard of Oz with the role-playing game The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Ultimately, the game received average reviews upon release but critics praised the simplicity of the gameplay. Whilst this game did not become a cult classic, it paved the way for many other video games wanting to pay tribute to the iconic film.

A Witch’s Tale (2009), Emerald City Confidential (2009), Oz: Broken Kingdom (2016) and Monsters Invade: Oz (2016) were just a few of the many video games released that took clear inspiration from the film. However, these games were closer to spin-offs taking place within the land of Oz and featuring familiar characters – but following different stories.

For example, Emerald City Confidential is an adventure game following a film noir style. The player takes on the role of a private eye trying to uncover a mysterious disappearance. This game decides to use the world as a setting but contains a drastically different tone from the film.

The legacy doesn’t just end with copious film remakes and exciting video games because the Wizard of Oz franchise has proven to be a huge hit within the world of online slots too. Reputable slot sites know that their players can’t get enough of the Emerald City and its yellow brick road, thankfully there’s over 20 online slots featuring everyone’s favourite magical setting to choose from. 

These games include The Wizard of Oz: Wicked Riches, The Wizard of Oz: Ruby Slippers, The Wizard of Oz: Road to Emerald, Sisters of Oz and Book of Oz to name just a few.

However, it’s worth noting that Light & Wonder’s The Wizard of Oz slot was released in 2022 and is currently the officially licensed version of the game. This game contains images from the film as well as the exact likeness of the 1939 cast. With multiple bonus rounds and delightful graphics, The Wizard of Oz slot proved to be a hit with slot players.

Impact on popular culture

One of the biggest adaptations is easily the Wicked musical. In 1995, Gregory Maguire wrote  Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which is based on The Wizard of Oz movie from 1939. This book follows the Wicked Witch of the West befriending Glinda the Good Witch. Evidently, this was such a success that it was adapted into a musical in 2003.

The Wicked musical has broken box-office records around the world and even surpassed The Phantom of the Opera as Broadway’s second-highest grossing musical after The Lion King. Wicked has performed in 16 different countries and even has a movie adaptation in the works starring Ariana Grande.

Alongside the legendary musical, there has been a comic book adaptation, multiple television shows and even an album from Elton John based on the film. However, the most notable impact that the film has had on popular culture is easily with Dunkin’ Donuts.

In 1972, the company wanted to target children specifically and created a special product called ‘Munchkins’ named after The Wizard of Oz characters. These treats come in a variety of delicious flavours and have poppable treats to share with others. Almost 50 years later, the name remains, and ‘Munchkins’ are still incredibly popular with adults and children.

It’s worth mentioning that The Wizard of Oz film from 1939 has had a significant impact on the fashion industry. Whilst there are many memorable costumes throughout the film, it’s the ruby slippers that have become truly iconic.

New York Fashion Week held a charity contest in 2018 to commemorate the seventieth anniversary with redesigns from Moschino, Jimmy Choo and Gwen Stefani. These were even auctioned off to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

There was such a demand for ruby slippers that Ikon Design Studio released an officially licensed pair in 2019. These replicas came only in Judy Garland’s size 5B and even had her name written inside the shoe. Only 250 pairs were sold worldwide but the shoes sold out instantly.

This all just goes to show how beloved the film actually is. Kylie Cosmetics has even recently partnered with Warner Bros to release a special collection based on The Wizard of Oz film. The film is over 83 years old but still continues to delight and inspire audiences even today. The Wizard of Oz continues to live on and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.