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Ruby Slippers

February 17, 2015

The Wizard of Oz movie is probably the source of more political cartoon metaphors than anything else I can think of, and I suspect most of my fellow editorial cartoonists will agree. I’ll bet I used it in my work at least a couple of dozen times over the years.

Just about every American has seen it many times; most of us know it almost by heart, which makes it a near-universal cultural icon and perfect source material.

It’s filled with characters and classic moments that lend themselves to cartooning, especially to lampooning politicians and other blowhards. There’s the scarecrow without a brain, the tin man without a heart, the cowardly lion, the Munchkins, the wicked witch and the good witch, the bogus wizard, the flying monkeys, the enslaved goons, and Dorothy, the powerless little girl who ultimately triumphs over evil.

Then there are the classic lines, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” “There’s no place like home,” “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” “If I only had a brain (a heart, the nerve),” “I’m melting, I’m melting!” and many, many more, so many of them absolutely perfect captions for biting cartoons. Plus, the scenes are really fun to draw.

The movie itself was not a commercial success when it was first released in 1939, despite being critically acclaimed. Possibly it seemed a little too grim for Depression-era audiences. MGM re-released it in 1949 to a much better box office, and again in the summer of 1955, which is when my mother took me to Dallas to see it.

It made an impression that has lasted a lifetime. I never get tired of seeing it when it’s broadcast every year in the spring, but I’d love to see a restored version on the big screen one of these days. The next Sleeper Ave. story (I’m planning on posting a new one each Wednesday) is about seeing the great film for the first time as a child.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.