August 31, 2019

THE OZ KIDS


THE OZ KIDS
(ABC, September 14-November 9, 1996)

Hyperion Animation, Meldac, Canal + D.A., Wang Film Productions


MAIN CAST:
Eric Lloyd – Neddie Hugson
Frank Welker – Toto II, Kalidahs, Wolf-fish
Jonathan Taylor Thomas – Scarecrow, Jr.
Benjamin Salisbury – Tin “Nickle” Boy
Bradley Pierce – Boris
Shayna Fox – Bela
Shay Astar – Andrea
Alex Zuckerman – Frank Jr.
Aaron Michael Metchik – Jack Pumpkinhead


            The Oz Kids is a sequel series to the Wizard of Oz franchise created by L. Frank Baum. While taking cues from Baum’s works and the 1939 MGM film, it was an entirely original concept with all-new characters.

Dot and Neddie.


            The series was set sometime in the future after the chronicled events of the Oz stories. Dorothy Gale (Erika Schickel) had married Zebediah Hugson (Ross Mapletoft)--a main character from the 4th Oz book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz--and they had two children: fearless tomboy Dot (Julianne Michelle), who essentially wore a version of Dorothy’s well-known blue dress, and her inquisitive younger brother Neddie (Eric Lloyd). They also had a dog named Toto (an uncredited Frank Welker, reprising the role from the 1990 animated series), named after Dorothy’s dog—his father. Dot and Neddie spent their time in the Land of Oz along with the children of Dorothy’s friends, who were essentially miniaturized versions of their parents (often with juxtaposed personalities).

Jack, Neddie, Dot, Tin Boy, Scarecrow and Boris.

Amongst them was Scarecrow, Jr. (Jonathan Taylor Thomas), son of the Scarecrow (Andy Milder), who possessed a high intellect but could be very childish when he didn’t get his way; Tin “Nickle” Boy (Benjamin Salisbury), son of Tin Woodman (Steve Stoliar), who was very mechanically inclined and often managed to get into trouble through his trusting nature; the twins of the Cowardly Lion (the only original character never seen on the show), the gentle and easily-frightened Boris (Bradley Pierce) and the aggressive, sometimes bullyish Bela (Shayna Fox); Jack Pumpkinhead, Jr. (Aaron Michael Metchik), son of Jack Pumpkinhead (Mapletoft), who had a neurotic obsession with cleanliness; Frank Jr. (Alex Zuckerman), son of the Wizard (Stoliar), the oldest of the group who inherited his father’s blustery nature along with an inclination for science; and Andrea (Shay Astar), daughter of Glinda (Schickel), who was socially inept and a bit egotistical. On one of their adventures they met Rick (Lawrence Terney), a homeless man from New York City who helped them when they were there and was invited to come live in Oz where he’d have a home and friends. Character designs by Stephen Anderson, Ken Boyer, Christi Lyon and Tom Owens took strong influence from the 1939 film.

Otto taking a break from being a jerk with Toto II.

            The primary antagonist of the show was Otto (Chauncey Leopardi), the son of the Nome King (Marc Allen Lewis) who had once tried to take over Oz but ended up outsmarted by Dorothy and banished to an underground lair. Because of that, and because of feeling lonely for being left out, Otto often tried to cause as much trouble for the Oz kids as possible—often with disastrous results for him. Occasionally, he managed to convince Andrea to help in his schemes. Andrea, while not exactly bad, had a mischievous streak in her and often used her magic to play pranks on the others when she felt like she was being ignored or excluded by them. Mombi (Darlene Cornley), an evil witch that first appeared in The Marvelous Land of Oz, returned once from her banishment to try and conquer Oz again utilizing Dot’s magic belt; the one that once belonged to the Nome King and was used by Dorothy to defeat him (this confrontation was also the only time Dot actually used the belt).

Promo image of the kids with all you ever see of their parents.

            The Oz Kids debuted on ABC on September 14, 1996. It was the second animated series based on Oz to air on the network after the aforementioned 1990 series. Similarly to Muppet Babiessole adult character, none of the original Oz characters were ever fully seen on screen. The kids’ parents’ bodies were only shown from the neck down, and the Nome King was only seen in shadow on the wall. The entire series was written by Willard Carroll, a fan of the franchise who was known to have the largest privately held collection of Oz memorabilia. In fact, the series was produced by Hyperion Animation, a subsidiary of Hyperion Pictures co-founded by Carroll. Michael Muhlfriedel composed the music. Animation duties were handled by Wang Film Productions.

Oz Kids VHS with Andrea front and center.

            The Oz Kids only ran for nine weeks before it left the network. The series was released onto nine VHS collections by Paramount Home Video between October 1st and February 18th. The VHS releases had a different opening to the show: showing the kids running around and playing as the titles and credits flashed over them. The show’s original opening featured Dot talking to the audience to introduce them to her and her world.



EPISODE GUIDE:
“Toto, Lost in New York” (9/14/96) – Andrea accidentally sends Toto off in Frank’s hot air balloon to New York.

“The Nome Prince and the Magic Belt” (9/21/96) – Otto finds one of the Nome King’s tunnels under Oz and manages to get his hands on Dot’s magic belt.

“Underground Adventure” (9/28/96) – An earthquake swallows up the kids’ bus and sends them on an underground adventure.

“Who Stole Santa?” (10/5/96) – The kids try to help elf Wisk find a missing Santa before Christmas.

“Christmas in Oz” (10/12/96) – While the kids try to get Rick to come to the Christmas party, Otto tricks Andrea into thinking she wasn’t invited.

“The Monkey Prince” (10/19/96) – One of Dot’s fairy tales inspires Neddie to program the computer to take him and Toto to China where the Monkey Prince steals it from them.

“Journey Beneath the Sea” (10/26/96) – Jack takes the kids on a boat ride where they end up taken to a magical world by two mermaids.

“Virtual Oz” (11/2/96) – Lonely Otto traps the kids in a virtual game in order to play with them, but patchwork baby causes an overload and traps them in the program.

“The Return of Mombi” (11/9/96) – The kids have to rescue their parents from Mombi, the evil witch.

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