Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ozu no Mahôtsukai

The story of the Midwestern farm girl resonates no matter what language or culture. The universal ideals of longing for qualities we think we lack cross all boundaries. We all want to be smart, be brave, to love and be loved. Mostly we want to find where in the world we truly belong. The place where we feel smart, brave, loved; the place which we call home. The Wizard of Oz is embraced the world over and has been translated into at least 40 different languages.

The Japanese in particular have a yen for the whimsical and the fantastic. Both the Wonderful Wizard of Oz children’s novel and the 1939 MGM film fit the bill perfectly. Though L. Frank Baum himself stated his book had been translated into Japanese, the earliest known Oz book from Japan was published in 1951 over 30 years after his passing. The MGM film debuted in December of 1954 and ever since the Land of the Rising Sun has been enthralled with The Land of Oz.

Numerous dramatizations have originated in Japan including animated features and live action musicals. In addition, many United States productions have found their way to Japan. The Kenneth Feld production of The Wizard of Oz on Ice was a hit with Japanese audiences. A Smithsonian exhibit in Japan featured the ruby slippers. Disney’s Return to Oz made more of an impression in Japan than in the U.S. resulting in a variety of exclusive merchandise.

Wizard of Oz memorabilia in Japan runs the gamut from books, dolls, toys, figurines, kites, to clothing, lunch kits, pins, music boxes, and everything in between. An Oz store, much like our Disney stores, based on Willard Carroll’s Oz Kids was open for a short time. Merchandise from this store is featured in the book 100 Years of Oz and is on display at the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas.

In July 2006, the Universal Studios Japan theme park opened a Land of Oz section.  The Land of Oz contains a variety of attractions including the Toto & Friends animal show and a 20 minute version of the Broadway hit Wicked to whet the appetites for the full length production slated for next year. Best of all there’s the Munchkin Market souvenir shop with a variety of Wicked and Oz merchandise.

I have no doubt that Wicked will skyrocket the popularity of Oz abroad even further. I can’t wait to see Japanese reaction and who knows what exciting things will follow?

The Wicked show closed January 11,2011.  The remainder of the Land of Oz section followed about a month later.

Pictured below is a small assortment of Japanese Oz memorabilia and more Land of Oz Universal Japan


Oz  American audiences are familiar with

Land of Oz Universal Studios Japan

More pics continue in the post below