The pointy black hat. The guacamole-green face. The spine-chilling cackle.
For Thaddaeus Colston, it was almost too much to take. First the wide-eyed 4-year-old put his fingers in his ears. Then he covered his eyes.
Even after all these years, the Wicked Witch of the West still has the power to petrify.
To see a classic in a new light, we showed “The Wizard of Oz” to a couple dozen preschool kids at the Creative Kids Learning Center in Kansas City, North.
Some had seen the film, now celebrating its 75th anniversary. Others hadn’t.
Slower scenes brought yawns and prompted a few to lie on the floor. But the movie definitely had its moments.
“Tornado!” cried several, pointing at the snarling black cyclone blowing across the Kansas prairie.
But that was nothing compared to the Wicked Witch.
“I don’t like that lady,” said one under her breath.
“Somebody call my mom,” said 4-year-old Xander Arnold. “I want to go home!”
He was kidding.
After the Munchkins advised Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road, Xander’s mind was stuck on something else.
“What happened to her house?” he said.
Later, with Dorothy on the road to the Emerald City, a child said, “She wants to go home to Kansas.”
“I don’t know why,” replied a snarky classmate.
We were in Missouri, after all.
The Tin Man drew laughter when he swayed right and left and tooted his horn. The poppy field made more than just Dorothy and the Lion sleepy. But the brightly colored steeds in the Emerald City seemed to wake everybody up.
And apparently they’ve been learning their colors.
“Purple horse!” cried one.
“Yellow horse!” added another.
Several boys debated the scene when the Cowardly Lion, frightened by the Wizard, smashed through a window.
“I could do that,” said one, extending his arms like Superman.
“No you couldn’t!” said another.
Flying Monkeys drew oohs, ahhs and monkey noises.
Then came a realization.
“Hey,” said 4-year-old Devin Farnsworth, “monkeys can’t fly!”
“They can in here,” said another boy.
But back to the Witch.
“Those slippers will never come off,” she said. “As long as you’re alive!”
Silence. All eyes locked on the screen.
Just then, Toto escaped.
“Run, doggie, run!” called Xander.
When the Witch’s guards began to chant “O-Ee-Yah. Eoh-Ah!” a boy said, “Oreo?”
“I want an Oreo,” said another boy.
As the movie wound down, fewer and fewer watched. Still, some stayed until the climactic scene where Dorothy splashed water on the Witch.
“She melting!” yelled one girl.
“Snowmans can melt,” added Sophia Williams, 4. “And ice cream!”
You’re right, Sophia.
“And now all the other things are going to melt,” said Devin.
All the … other things?
“Yeah,” Devin said. “Like the monkeys!”
At that everyone laughed and began to loudly suggest other things that could be melted.
Ghosts. Godzilla. Transformers.
Oh-kay. We’re getting off track, guys. Let’s finish the movie.
Kids were tired. Attention spans were shot.
“I’m sleepy,” declared Xander. “I want my Mr. Monkey.”
But how is Dorothy going to get home? Anyone know?
“Her shoes have ability powers,” said Alaina Johnson, 4.
“I have a jet pack,” said Devin.
As the movie finished, the children applauded.
“THANK YOU!” they all called in unison.
No. Thank you, guys. We hope you had fun going over the rainbow with us.
“Over where?” asked one.
To reach James A. Fussell, call 816-234-4460, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE WIZARD OF AUGUST
We’re celebrating this month’s 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” movie with a story a day.
Sunday in Star Magazine: We visit Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz in southwest Kansas.
Monday in FYI: The scholars who study “Oz.”