Thursday, November 07, 2013

Return to Oz: The Tin Woodman

There was once a simple woodcutter in Oz named Nick Chopper who fell in love with a Munchkin girl. Out of spite, the Wicked Witch enchanted his ax so that he gradually began chopping himself to pieces. A tinsmith made replacements for each body part until, bit by bit, the Woodman was completely tin. Even his head.

Don't forget, click on all of the pictures to make them huge!

As with many of Baum's most endearing creatures, the Tin Man comes with a harrowing backstory which makes this tall, clanking, silvery fellow with the happy smile so easy to love.  Although he has a comparatively minor role in the 1985 film  Return to Oz, the Tin Man is exquisitely designed, and a fitting tribute to Oz illustrator John Neill's original drawings.  Many of the nicest details are easy to miss in the fleeting moments he appears on the screen.

Minimal facial features were handled by radio-controlled servos that operated his mouth, eyes, and the old-fashioned square nails that are his eyebrows.  One of my favorite details is the single copper rivet "freckle" under his right eye.  It's apparent that great care was taken to avoid symmetry in his construction.

Totally un-readable in the film is the advertising plate on his hat for "Baum Hardware Co—Fine Funnels for Kerosene, Gasoline & Coal Oil"

A spiral bail handle hangs from the back of his head—a clever touch that emphasizes the fact that his head is just a re-purposed tin pail. That tinsmith of Oz was certainly resourceful!

These photographs were taken in the spring of 1985 in the parking lot behind Disneyland's Entertainment Development facility, south of Los Angeles.  Fresh out of his crate from Elstree Studios near London, the Tin Man reflects the warm Southern California sun. 

Something I particularly like is the slight suggestion of clothing in his design, such as the brass rectangle approximating a breast pocket and the row of rivets down his front like buttons.  A second metal patch on his chest is a subtle reminder of the heart given to him by the Wizard, making the Tin Man the kindliest person in all of Oz.

Even his hands and feet possess so much character and charm.  Notice how the thumbs of the left and right hands are attached and move in completely different ways, as if the hands were crafted at different times.

Mis-matched pant legs and silver shoes covered in brass spats finish the look. It appears the Tin Man wears a size ten and a half shoe.  Same as me!

Isn't it delightful to appreciate these characters from a different perspective!


Read Part One: Jack Pumpkinhead
Read Part Three: The Gump
Read Part Four: Tik-Tok


samacleod said...

Very cool. Love Return to Oz. These photos are awesome.

Unknown said...

Awesome! I loved this movie and saw it in the theater when I was a kid. Loved Faruza Balk as Dorothy.

Matt Jones said...

I'm still haunted by that movie- Walter Murch's 'gift' to my generation!

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, these photos are really terrific. I've always loved the art direction in this movie.

I am crossing my fingers that we will see Tik Tok on a future post!

Unknown said...


M.P. said...

These photos really are great. Thank you so much for sharing them!

Question: You say, "Even his hands and feet possess so much character and charm" It is almost as if this creation carries a lot of unique character, that is impossible to find elsewhere. Do you agree? Is it possible to create something without character? How do we compare character?

Thank you so much!


Daveland said...

The Tin Woodsman of Oz is one of my favorite Baum stories; especially the end where the Tin Man gets to meet his human version. Really cool stuff. I loved how Return to Oz attempted to visually follow the books.

Arpalaci said...

Hi, thank you for sharing all the photographs, now i was able to create a 1/6 scale figure of a detailed tin man for my personal use. Your images are so detailed, I just was hopping to get them at higher resolution.
You can see the result here