I remember watching this series on TV when I was little, along with many other animes, Oz and not, and I'm glad to have this japanese take of Oz on DVD. I used to borrow videos of 'Wonderful Wizard' and 'Emerald City' when the store/s were open, and of course they're gone now, but that's why I'm grateful for the DVD Collection, even in its *not so good* condition (I'm working on the reviews for the individual DVDs). One of the best things about this animation is that some of it not only goes back to the original books, but some of its characters' appearances pays homage/is modelled after previous Oz (e.g. Tin Woodman is fat just like Oliver Hardy in 1925, Scarecrow's arms are lined up just like Denslow, Lion resembles the costumes worn on stages and in the silent films, Emerald City is white because of the White City in 1893's World Columbian Exposition in Chicago which inspired Baum's Emerald City, etc. - the streets and houses are own the lower level, while the Palace is at the top). As for the designs for the Witches of Oz, they were GREAT!! Glinda (despite being pale and blue all over intsead of red-and-white) looks just like Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, which matches her personality perfectly, the Good Witch of the North and Mombi were both well thought up, the East Witch took up the dark cloak with pointy hat and the Wicked Witch of the West, possibly modelled after the 1973-4 Russian Stop-Motion animated version (which I wish I got the DVD of earlier), with her fingerless gloves, long bushy white hair with red streaks, thick black dress with occassional hood, long pointy red shoes and pale skin, was PERFECT!! I just wish that Dorothy's long brown hair was in braids, just like Denslow's drawings and that Ozma's design be a combination of Dorothy and Glinda, even if it would resemble Emma Ridley's portrayal of Ozma in 'Disney's Return to Oz'. As for the Magic Shoes: when the Wicked Witches have them, the shoes are big, brown, baggy and curly-toed, but when Dorothy has them then they are child-like, with straps, a white surface (possibly silver?) and not-so pointy toes, and they usually glow pink and/or white. More character design descriptions will be in the other DVD reviews.
Since there are a LOT of Deleted Scenes/Episodes, many references the characters make on the final (English Movies) DVDs are ACTUAL Scenes that you can see on the Full-TV DVDs from YesAsia. Despite the cuts, I still Like the movies Very Much, because the music, voices, designs and stories are great and teh most faithful to teh original book's stories!!
And, in case you're wondering "Who is Margot Kidder, the Narrator?", she was LOIS LANE during the 1978-87 Christopher Reeve as 'Superman' Movies!! Although many of her lines are unnecessary - she sometimes says things we can already see for ourselves, and it makes the feature seem a bit more childish, it's still okay to listen to - her job possibly came onto the Video release rather than the actual TV Show itself. The fact that there was a lot of editing would explain the gaps and strange bits on the English Videos/DVDs and any deleted bits get a little mention. All 4 DVDs have the same Main Menu Set-up and the same 'Special Features':
* (Main Menu Set-Up) "Searching for a Dream" breifly plays as the (opening) tornado-with yellow-bricks, etc. creates the title of the 'movie', which then minimizes in the top left corner, allowing room for 'Play All', 'Chapters', 'Additional Titles' and a starry-circle that plays stills from the feature to appear on the screen. Except for 'Wonderful Wizard', the Oz DVDs have the opening song play in the main menu - 'Land of Feelings' plays on both 'Emerald City' and 'Wonderful Wizard' menus. The Menus for the Scenes and Additional Titles are silent.
* There are only 12-13 Chapters, having titles that could be from the actual TV Episode titles, although the packaging unfortunately makes some spelling mistakes (Glenda, Dorothy Magic Powers, etc.)
* (Additional Titles) This menu has a look at other Lightyear Entertainment Videos/DVDs, and is on every DVD. These are "People: A Musical Celebration", "My First DVD" and "Stories to Remember", which is animation for families and little children.
Another thing I should point out is the Logo. If I recall the video correctly, 'Wonderful Wizard' had a sneal peak at 'Emerald City', and that started with this 'disco-like' music playing as colourful lights shot across the screen forming a little shooting star. This time on the DVD before the Menu sets up, there is a 'Beating of Drums' as a black page turns over to yellow, as 'Lightyear Entertainment (and its site name)' appear in flashes. Except for the music, it does the same thing at the end of the movies.
These features would be a lot more enjoyable if there had been a bit of better writing, and the videos being cut into 1 hr 45 mins instead of 1 hr 30-5 mins - therefore, we might have been able to have a bit more of the original book bits. Despite having no sub-titles, the same old sneak peaks and not so good picture quality, I am grateful to at least have these to keep.
A GREAT site to visit is 'landvanoz . com' (starts with small 'L', without the spaces), which has a comic strip of the series, showing bits rarely seen in English.
*BUT* . . . if you REALLY WANT to get the COMPLETE EPISODES, then you may be interested to know that the TV versions are avaialble on two different 2-Boxed DVD sets: in French (at 'Manga Distribution' under "Le Magicien d' Oz") and Chinese/Japanese (at 'Yesasia . com' - which is better, because unlike Manga, the online store is in English!). I have the C/J version and therefore the following information: Each box set has a DVD with 2 disks with 5 episodes lasting over 2 hrs. All Disks have the same cover design as the Box-Set they come in, the same Menu (only difference is the volume number) and the same options of looking at other Chinese/Japanese DVDs. Each DVD plays as follows: opening, tile & episode and next ep. preview with end credits. The Disk automatically plays Chinese Audio and Subtitles, but you can change the audio to Japanese. But just like the English DVDs, the picture quality on the Chinese/Japanese DVDs change: sometimes one shot can be excellent, while another can be dark/dim and another can be quite bright. Even in a foreign language I could make out what a character was saying, quite a few bits (e.g. names) sound close to english and easy to hear on the first time. Box Set 1 has 2 DVDs, therefore 4 disks each with 5 episodes, while Box Set 2 has 3 DVDs with 6 disks, but with the last DVD having 6 episodes on the last 2 Disks, resulting in over 2 1/2 hrs. The foriegn music certainly is different to that of the English and sometimes sounds better while a few other times isn't as good, and if you had this collection, you wouldn't be able to watch even 1 minute without finding something cut-out, replaced, moved to somewhere else or even 2 episodes put together. I do wish that 4 of the individual DVD covers had the same pictures as 4 Japanese Cinar Oz videos I saw in the 'landvanoz' fan site as well as having Englsih sub-titles. BUT I do have the original TV Show, and that's all that matters . . . although, having English DVDs of the FULL TV-animation or even 3-4 hr versions would be nice . . .