The Muppets' Wizard of Oz is a 2005 musical telefilm directed by Kirk Thatcher and starring Ashanti and The Muppets. It was produced by Bill Barretta, and written by Debra Frank, Steve L. Hayes, Tom Martin, and Adam F. Goldberg.
The film 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.
Dorothy Gale is a young woman living in a trailer park in Kansas. She 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 family's diner, she overhears that the Muppets are looking for a female singer for a cross-country "Star Hunt." Aunt Em disapproves, but with Uncle Henry'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 one hits her family's area. When Aunt Em and Uncle Henry run into the storm cellar for safety, Dorothy hurries back to their trailer to get Toto, her pet prawn. She does not make it out in time, and they are swept by the tornado across the vast fields of Kansas. When she 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 townspeople, the Munchkins, she learns that the land's ruler, the Wizard of Oz, has the power to grant her wish of becoming a famous singer. She meets Tattypoo, the Good Witch of the North, and receives a pair of magic silver shoes 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 the Emerald City, the capital of Oz. On her journey, she meets three creatures: a Scarecrow (Kermit), a tin thing (Gonzo), and a 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 she 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 her, Toto calls the Munchkins, who set Dorothy free. Seconds later, she kills the witch by kicking her into her own "bottled water bath" which contains tap water, which she is severely allergic to. This action causes her to melt. Dorothy finds the magic eye unharmed and floating in the tub and grabs it. After gaining control of the flying monkeys, she 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 he is just an ordinary man pretending to be someone he isn't. He asked for the witch's eye so that she could not see him for who he really was. Even so, he still proceeds to grant their 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 her that if she clicks her heels together three times, she will be able to go anywhere she desires. She does so, saying "take me home to Aunt Em".
She is then spun by the shoes' charm into Kansas, and, much to her surprise, she finds out that Kermit was looking for her, saying that she had the best voice they heard on the whole search and that she has been chosen to go on the Star Hunt. Dorothy, having been reunited with her aunt and uncle and feeling that she is not ready to leave Kansas to become a real star, rejects, but Aunt Em says that she wants her to go with the Muppets on their Star Hunt, much to her even bigger surprise. She then sings "It's a Good Life" on television with them as the film ends.
- Ashanti as Dorothy Gale: A Kansas teenager dreaming of leaving her home and becoming a singer.
- Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) as the Scarecrow: A scarecrow in search of a brain. He is constantly mocked by the crows, as he is defenseless and cannot do anything to stop them.
- Gonzo (Dave Goelz) as the Tin Thing: A robot in search of a heart. After finding the scarecrow, Dorothy and the others travel to a tin shed and find a sleeping robot. After he wakes up, he tells them that he runs the Total Intelligence Network or T.I.N. Originally human, he was turned into a robot by the Wicked Witch of the West, who was angry at him for asking to leave her palace and marry his fiancée.
- Fozzie Bear (Eric Jacobson) as the Cowardly Lion: A nervous and frightened lion that accompanies Dorothy and the others on their journey. After meeting the Tin Thing, the group continues on and meets a scared and cowardly lion, who enjoys stand-up comedy but does not have the courage to perform in public.
- Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) as the Wicked Witch of the West: The Wicked Witch that terrifies all that meet her. She desperately wants Dorothy's magic slippers, so that she can rule all of Oz.
- Miss Piggy as the Good Witch of the North (Tattypoo): The Good Witch that gives Dorothy the silver slippers. She is the first witch that Dorothy meets, and the one that tells her all about the Land of Oz.
- Miss Piggy as Glinda the Good Witch of the South: The other Good Witch that shows Dorothy how to get home.
- Miss Piggy as the Wicked Witch of the East: The original owner of the magic slippers who was killed by Dorothy's falling mobile home. She ruled over the Munchkins for a long period of time and was feared by them and all that met her.
- Pepe the King Prawn (Bill Barretta) as Toto: Dorothy's pet prawn and first companion on her journey. In Kansas, he lived in a fish bowl in Dorothy's room.
- Queen Latifah as Aunt Em: Dorothy's aunt and co-owner of the family diner in Kansas. She is originally unhappy with Dorothy's life choices but comes to accept them when she returns from Oz.
- David Alan Grier as Uncle Henry: Dorothy's uncle and co-owner of the family diner. He always admired Dorothy's passion for singing but was forced to think otherwise due to Aunt Em's stubborn decisions.
- Jeffrey Tambor as the Wizard: The legendary Wizard of Oz. All citizens of the Land of Oz see him as a huge, marvelous god that lives in the Emerald City. Dorothy and her friends see him as this too, until they return from the Wicked Witch of the West's castle and find that he is just a normal man and not a wizard.
- Kelly Osbourne as Dorothy Gale: (Extended version): Appears in a short cameo as Dorothy when she first comes out of the Magic Makeover Machine in the Emerald City.
- Quentin Tarantino as Himself: (Extended version): In a short cameo with Kermit the Frog, he discusses ideas on how to stop the Wicked Witch of the West, all of which were deemed too violent or expensive by Kermit.
- Statler and Waldorf (Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz) as the Kalidahs: bad and monstrous critics who kill people by "injuring" them emotionally because of their less-than-constructive criticism.
- Lew Zealand
When The Walt Disney Company acquired the Muppets franchise from The Jim Henson Company in February 2004, the Muppets were reintroduced 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, British Columbia. 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. 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." Also in August 2004, BBC News reported that Quentin Tarantino would appear in the film.
Michael Giacchino, who had previously worked on a Muppet-related project which is video game Muppet Monster Adventure and 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 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.
- "(Gotta Get Outta) Kansas" - Ashanti
- "When I'm With You" – Ashanti, Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie & Pepe
- "The Witch Is in the House" – Miss Piggy with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
- "Calling All Munchkins" – The Munchkin Tap-Your-Knuckles Choir
- "Good Life" – Ashanti
- "Nap Time" – Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
- "The Muppet Show Theme" – The Muppets
- "Mah Nà Mah Nà"– Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths
- "Bein' Green"– Kermit the Frog
- "The Rainbow Connection" – Kermit
- "Lady of Spain" – Marvin Suggs & his Muppaphone
- "Halfway Down the Stairs"– Kermit & Robin
- "What Now My Love?" – Miss Piggy
- "Tenderly" – Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
- "Happy Feet" – Kermit and the Frog Chorus
The film 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, the store's windows along Broadway displayed flower arrangements illustrating six scenes from the movie, while the store sold The Muppets' Wizard of Oz-related merchandise, such as plush dolls.
7.75 million viewers watched the film 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 38% "rotten" rating, with an average of three out of eight 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 disappointing, 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. Critics were split on whether ABC's decision to base the film's plot on the original novel and not the 1939 film was ultimately a good one.
- This was Jeffrey Tambor's second appearance in a Muppet film; he previously played K. Edgar Singer in Muppets from Space.
- This is the final Muppet movie to be produced by The Jim Henson Company.