In 1985, Walt Disney Productions released Return to Oz, a sequel to the beloved 1939 film.
In actuality, the film is merely a spiritual sequel to the 1939 landmark. Director Walter Murch gave Return to Oz a darker, far more sinister feel that is closer to the tone of the original books from L. Frank Baum. The film turned out to be the subject of much controversy due to the horrific nature of many of the situations that Dorothy finds herself in. The film was pulled out of theaters prematurely and was a box-office and critical flop.
Years later, the film developed a strong cult following, and fans have been clamoring for a proper making-of documentary for a long time. In 2021, that documentary, Remembering Return to Oz, finally arrived. Unfortunately, the final product is a disaster of epic proportions, as it has been haphazardly cobbled together by highly incompetent amateurs.
Director and editor, Aaron Schultz, and his co-editor and producer, Aaron Pacentine have taken a golden opportunity and squandered it, utterly and completely. The film, as it stands now, seems to have been edited with a chainsaw. The whole of the film is comprised of interview segments with the majority of the cast and crew of Return to Oz, but in the hands of Schultz and Pacentine, these segments have been edited in such a careless manner that it becomes positively infuriating. Audio drops in and out of sync throughout. Interview segments are abruptly cut while the interviewees are in mid-sentence. The generic score overwhelms the dialogue, completely removing us from the film while drowning out important information. The audio that is here is fuzzy and sloppily mixed. There are awkward transitions, horribly rendered PowerPoint animations that pop up out of nowhere, and several instances of terrible dissolves in between clips.
This goes on for the entire runtime.
Yes, there are some gems to be found here. The interviews are revealing (when you can hear them) and very touching at times. The interview with Fairuza Balk is almost worth the $5.99 rental price alone. When the music and the terrible sound mix isn’t drowning her out, the anecdotes of her time on set are a dream come true for fans of this wonderful film. It is a travesty that this footage just happens to be in this…thing.
It is truly ironic that Walter Murch – widely considered to be one of the greatest film editors of all time – is featured so prominently in this hackjob. I would be embarrassed to have my name attached to this project.
I’m angry. Angry that this project fell into the hands of people who clearly didn’t realize what they had. Scultze and Pacentine lack both the talent and the filmmaking prowess to pull off a project of this magnitude. That is a damn shame. You’d think that this was a rough edit, but it is not. This is the final cut. This is the cut that has been published to Vimeo, which means the filmmakers saw what they had and decided to settle for mediocrity.
Keep in mind that the Remembering Return to Oz documentary was the outcome of a very long Kickstarter campaign. The production took so long to get off of the ground that backers began to wonder whether or not the film would ever materialize in any way, shape, or form. According to this thread on Reddit, many felt that they had been scammed. Backers asked for refunds on multiple occasions and were ignored. One of the “perks” for backers was a replica of the infamous Oz key that, according to those who received it, was brittle and cheaply manufactured on a 3D printer. Family Films Productions has a history of prolonging fundraisers, only to deliver atrocious products. They balk at any sort of criticism and dig their heels into the ground while prepping for their next disaster. Family Films Productions had an opportunity to give Return to Oz the retrospective that the fans deserve, and at the end of the day, they failed.
They failed horribly.
Not only are Schultz and Pacentine willing to deliver a defective product, they are unwilling to do anything to remedy the problem – and to top it all off, they want you to pay $5.99 to stream it. They have even threatened to offer a longer, rougher “director’s cut”. I shudder to think what the extended version is like. Save your money, people. Just watch the trailer instead.
And lastly, be forewarned: Family Films Productions are already preparing their next “crockumentary” – and this time, they’re going after Disney’s Parent Trap series. Someone hide Haley Mills.