|Spit and polished: the Royal Army of Oz.|
In L. Frank Baum's 1907 book Ozma of Oz, Dorothy discovers a clockwork man in a chamber cut in rock in Wheeler Country. "He was only about as tall as Dorothy herself, and his body was round as a ball and made out of burnished copper." Illustrator John Neill's accompanying pen and ink drawings provided the key to re-creating Tik Tok for the 1985 movie, Return to Oz. Three variations were built for the film—two "dirties" in various states of disrepair (today one resides at Skywalker Ranch), and one "bright 'n shiny" used only in the coronation scene at the end of the film. The shiny model, pictured here at Disneyland's offsite Entertainment Development in 1985, is now in the Disney archives.
So utterly likable, Tik Tok is my favorite character in the film for his design. He's a wind-up, walking-talking marvel of steampunk wonderfulness. Where do I begin to explain what I love about this guy? Let's start at the top:
The concentric rings of Tik Tok's construction can't be fully appreciated in the film, so I'm grateful to the mystery photographer (reflected in Tik Tok's shiny pate) who appears to be bridging the prongs of a forklift with his own two legs. That's dedication!
As with the Tin Man, Tik Tok's body design implies clothing—or in this case, a turn-of-the century military dress uniform, complete with fancy "oz" buttons.
Fortunately for Dorothy, the Patented Clockwork Mechanical Man comes with instructions, cast in metal and screwed to his back.
His "action" key is located smack in the middle of his back.
The key for "thinking" can be found behind his left shoulder.
Do you wonder what he's thinking about? Let's wind up his speech and maybe he can tell us.
The keys that supposedly power Tik Tok to do "everything but live" were actually battery-powered so they could run down on cue. The "speaking" key is located behind his right shoulder. And speaking of shoulders, Tik Tok's are beautiful:
The small chains that drape from shoulder to elbow to wrist were purely cosmetic. They didn't actually do anything at all, except look terrific.
Tik Tok is made of lightweight Kevlar, a super strong polymer, cut into sheets and pieced together. Though a difficult material to work with, its sturdiness reportedly held up to Tik Tok's many face-forward dives during filming.
It's great fun watching Tik Tok come to life in the movie, especially in scenes that show him walking. Tik Tok's peculiar stomp was acted out by a live performer crammed inside his spherical torso—a 23 year old gymnast named Michael Sundin.
One of Tik Tok's memorable lines in the film is "I am not alive and never will be, thank goodness." But inside, he had a human soul.