Unlike MGM’s version of Oz, which moved its opening sequence to contemporary Kansas (in 1939), the newer film returns Dorothy to the time which the appropriate books were written (1899-1900). Although authentic, Hughes’ Kansas wardrobe is also stylized to contrast with the beauty and fantasy of Oz.
Dorothy’s Kansas is rather a bleak place; “the magic has gone out of it.” Nicol Williamson and Jean Marsh appear in this sequence as Doctor Worley and his Nurse Wilson – Somber, rather menacing Edwardians, whose clothing reflects the darkness of their motives.
Dorothy’s major costume – a one-piece dress with puffed sleeves fitted from elbow to wrist – was “Dyed down for Kansas, as if Aunt Em had made it from her own clothes.” Eight copies of this dress were made for the film, using a pink and cream Viyella flannel. In contrast to the “dullness” of Kansas, Dorothy’s dress reverts to pristine condition once she reaches the shores of Oz.
The Kansas location on Return to Oz was actually filmed on Salisbury Plain, near Stonehenge. According to production designer Norman Reynolds, Salisbury Plain looks remarkably like Kansas. Reynolds just stuck 4,000 corn stalks into the ground. “Luckily I had spent two weeks in Kansas when I thought we were going to film there, so I knew what it looked like.
Return to Oz spent ten days on Salisbury Plain early in the Production schedule. It was cold and damp, and Fairuza had to lie in a lot of wet mud. “We were so tired by the end that we both got a virus,” her mother says. “We went to the doctor, and he said that there was no way to get over it. So Ruza just recovered during shooting.
Getting to Oz
“According to Ian Winsgrove, another headache is actually getting Dorothy into the land of Oz. We had to build an actual river on Stage Five to simulate the flood that carries Dorothy along in a chicken coop.
The stage does come equipped with a long narrow tank but producing a fast flowing river in such a small area is a real problem. Submersible pumps produced the flow but we also had to control the coop by hydraulic wire rigs to make it bob up and down in the water. Obviously we are pumping water past the coop a lot faster that it was moving so we had to make sure we could hold that position.”
Use the Ruby Slippers to get home