Fans of the 2014 Golden Globe-nominated animated feature The Book of Life will remember writer-director Jorge R. Gutiérrez‘s incredible character design and unique storytelling style that set that film apart from other animated fare. Those traits are on display once more in Guardians of Oz, a recent effort from Mexican animation studio Ánima Estudios (and Indian co-producer Discreet Arts) that became the country’s biggest animated production to date. Though it opened in Mexico last year, this delightful family film is now available on DVD thanks to Lionsgate’s Grindstone Entertainment. It’s well worth a pick-up if you’ve got little ones who are into colorful characters and silly action, or you just appreciate original stories that are a cut above typical kids’ stories and just so happen to be set in the land of L. Frank Baum‘s Oz.
Guardians of Oz not only displays the talent of Gutiérrez, it boasts director Alberto Mar who helmed one of the biggest box-office openings in Mexican cinema history in Top Cat: The Movie. That film was critically panned, but this effort puts a better foot forward for Mar. The English voice cast, which is the only audio option on the DVD though it does have Spanish subtitles, features YouTube sensations Mikey Bolts and Jenn McCallister, along with relative acting veteran Ambyr Childers, all of whom do a fine job of bringing personality to the characters. However, it’s the story and the character design that does the heavy lifting in this movie.
Rather than centering on a windswept heroine from another land, Guardians of Oz focuses instead on an unlikely hero: a flying monkey named Ozzy (Bolts). We get a brief glimpse of Dorothy along with a bit of exposition explaining how the stranger melted the Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. Eveline (Childers), and helped Glinda the Good Witch restore order to Oz and install the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman as guardian kings of the land. However, in her good-hearted nature, Glinda also restored Eveline’s life but transferred the wicked witch’s powers into her broom, which she left in the safe keeping of the guardians. But with Eveline still hungry for power, and with an army of flying monkeys under her control, she makes devious plans to retrieve the broom and subjugate the citizens of Oz.
So you could probably guess how most of the story goes from there, but Ozzy’s journey is still an interesting and unordinary one. As the runt of the flying monkeys (he’s only able to fly with the assistance of a balloon tied around his waist) and the son of a powerful leader named Goliath, Ozzy is more apt to follow orders than not. So when Eveline orders the monkeys to steal back the magic broom with Goliath leading the charge, you might expect Ozzy to fall in line. But it’s in doing the unexpected by stealing the broom himself, and more importantly in challenging authority, that Ozzy finds his true test and, ultimately, his true strength.
Guardians of Oz follows Ozzy on a quest to get the broom back to Glinda so that she might help to remove the curse placed upon his father and the three Kings of Oz by an irate Eveline. But things are never that simple; he’ll need the assistance of an apprentice witch named Gabby (Melissa Hutchison) to locate the guardians, unite them, and defeat Eveline once more. There are plenty of twists and turns and magical surprises along the way to keep things interesting on the kid-friendly hero’s journey. The only real downsides are a bit of herky-jerky animation at times, an overly sexy design for the wicked witch, and the use of contemporary slang that feels out of place but is thankfully only used sparingly. If you and yours are fans of the Oz mythology and want an original story that’s entertaining and family-friendly, check out Guardians of Oz on DVD now!
- Also from Lionsgate (Trailers): The Wild Life, Amazonia, Elephant Kingdom, The Adventures of Panda Warrior, Beyond Beyond
- Behind the Scenes: The voice cast talks about their characters and their experiences on the film.
- Miniscule Bonus Episodes – Thomas Szabo’s shared “universe” of short films:
- Wasp Belle – Cute/weird little live-action/CG shot about a squadron of wasps racing across the countryside.
- A Snail’s Dream – This snail wants to go fast, and he can do so in his dreams … or by hitching a ride on the hood of a car.
- Chewing Gum – A fly gets stuck to a piece of gum.
- Bananas – A troop of ants goes after a banana.
- Guardians of Oz trailer