Monday, June 9, 2014

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

By: Julie L. Cleveland

When asked what my favorite movie is, I have never answered with anything different than The Wizard of Oz. My earliest memories revolve around sitting two feet in front of my great-grandmother’s television watching Danny Kaye tell me about the journey I was about to take. Wide-eyed, I would watch with unwavering fascination as the story of Dorothy and Toto unfolded. I would frown in disapproval at Mrs. Gulch, and later, cover my eyes when she reappeared on her broom. I never fail to be delighted when the door opens to the colorful Land of the Munchkins.

I don’t know why the story has such a hold on me, but it does, and it will always capture my imagination any time I see it. For the longest time, I never missed it when it came on every year. Then it was a treat. It was an event. It meant popcorn and sitting down to watch the Wizard of Oz as if it were a holiday. There was a time when my son and I watched it every year. As television changed and cable was introduced, the movie lost its place in the traditional sense, and it was run at odd intervals throughout the year. It was no longer an event. I could watch it whenever I wanted. I bought the VHS tape, and I never sat and watched it like I used to do. It didn’t lose it’s magic; television and cable made a mess of the tradition of it.

I am glad to see that the movie is back on in a more traditional sense, but I have not sat down and watched it lately.

With the place the Wizard of Oz holds in my heart, it was an unexpected delight to discover that the EMP museum in Seattle, Washington had an exhibit of Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic when I was in Washington for the Tulipfest (see blog Tulipfest 2014). The exhibit covered Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Snow White and the Huntsman and of course, my beloved Wizard of Oz.

The Real Thing

These weren’t cheesy little exhibits either; these were the real thing. I was enjoying wandering through the exhibit, but when I rounded the corner and came face to face with the Wizard of Oz exhibit, I was a little kid again in front of my great-grandmother’s television set.

Instead of being nose-to-nose with the screen, I was nose-to-nose with this:

witchhat2 witchhat

Oh, you mean old woman!

Since the museum did not allow flash photography, my photos are very poor quality, but most of them are good enough to enjoy.

My delight did not stop at the witch.

lioncostume lionface

According to the plaque below the cowardly lion, that is a real lion skin suit. Bert Lahr’s costume was created from real lion pelts, which made it difficult to work with under the hot studio lights. The costume weighed close to 60 pounds. While difficult to see in these photos, the hands and feet were indeed equipped with claws and pads.

While these guys turned out to be the good guys in the end, who can forget the haunting O E O as they march into the witch’s castle?


This exhibit was a wonderful trip back in time, and it was a completely unexpected surprise.


Julie and Blu



  1. What a wonderful exhibit! I too used to watch this movie at my Grandma's each year. She'd grab a blanket and we'd sit on the floor and I'd watch while barely breathing. Loved it! Although the flying monkeys always kind of freaked me out. :-)

  2. The Wizard of Oz is a cultural icon. It's amazing how some movies stand the test of time and become part of a family tradition. Isn't it fun when something unexpected brings back familiar memories? I'm glad that you could experience it!

  3. The wizard of Oz is my mother-in-law's favorite movie. One year, she insisted that EVERYONE in the family dress up as characters from the movie for Halloween. This was no mean feat, as there were 7 grandkids, 6 parents, and then nana and papa - all of them dressed as different characters. We ended up running out of potential cast members, so some of the parents ended up donning sweatshirts embroidered with wings and "Flying Monkey". It was a lot of fun and this exhibit would be right up her alley.

    Would you say this exhibit is worth the drive up from Portland, Oregon? I think my sister-in-law is a Game of Thrones fan too.