The Smaller They Are, The Harder They Fall
By Deb Roberts
We’ve all heard the story about how the little house from Kansas became caught up in a tornado and landed on top of a wicked witch (who had an unmistakable diva style in shoes) in another land far away. It’s a timeless movie and a beloved favorite of several generations. I’ve lived a fair portion of my life in Kansas where the Wizard of Oz is as common as sunflowers so I’ve never really given a whole lot of thought to it until just recently when I returned to the area to visit a friend.
The small town she lives in is home to the Official “Dorothy’s House” Museum. I hadn’t intended to go there until I heard about a specific piece of the movie memorabilia that is on exhibit at the museum. Imagine my reaction when I found out that I could go see the miniature house used in the tornado scene in the movie!
The life size house at the museum is an old farm house that was moved into town and rebuilt on the museum grounds. It’s not an exact duplicate of the movie house but it’s still delightfully charming. The interior has been lovingly restored to the period accuracy and our guide explained how each feature associated with the lifestyle of the Gale family.
Outside the house you can see the “Yellow Brick Road” which is made of yellow paving stones, each one purchased by visitors to the museum. The center of the road holds yellow bricks carrying the names of former president and first lady, Ronald and Nancy Regan. However, one of the first bricks is this one:
It brought a smile to my face to see Judy Garland’s daughter making a family connection to the museum.
The tour thru the house was delightful but what I really wanted to see was in the big building out back. We went around the storm cellar doors and followed the yellow brick road to the doors of a large, metal building and I wasn’t prepared for what I saw inside. Various life size scenes from the movie had been recreated with stunning accuracy and following our guide thru the walkway was like being in the movie itself. My favorite scene was even represented! I love flying monkeys!!!
As we reached the end of our stroll thru Oz, my heart beat a little stronger because I knew that there was a miniature just around the corner. And there in a glass case, suspended in the air just as it had been in the movie, was one of the houses from the tornado scene in the movie. (Please pardon the quality of the photo—I lamented the ability to get a picture in brighter light and outside of a dusty glass case but obviously they wouldn’t let me move the house to take pictures.)
This house isn’t the Gale farmhouse. If you watch the tornado scene carefully, you’ll see this house flying by the window along with cows and trees. It was donated to the museum by its builder along with a scale cut-away model that showed the rooms inside the house completely furnished.
The Gale farmhouse was shown in the last few seconds of the tornado scene just before it set down and it was also filmed with a miniature house. Our guide was unsure if that house was made by the same miniaturist but she was reasonably certain that it would have been the same person working on that part of the set design.
Needless to say, I was completely twitterpated by the chance to see one of the most famously known miniature houses in America. Even non-miniaturists would recognize this 1:12 scale house! After I got all the pictures I was able to take, I pressed my face as close to the glass as possible to see more details such as the weathered siding and the shake shingles on the roof. The porch posts were made from 1/4” square pieces of balsa wood just as we’re still using on our bashes and scratch build houses today. The house was painted in shades of light blue and grey with dark grey shading to ensure that it would photograph well in black and white. After I got home I immediately started searching for a video of the tornado scene so I could see the house in action again and it really gave me a kick to see it zipping past the window.
I also contemplated about how daunting it would be to recreate the Wizard of Oz in miniature. It’s an iconic film so it’s natural that it does appear in miniature once in awhile. I thought I’d show you one of my favorite “Dorothy’s House” miniatures made by shamrockgirl18. Erin’s miniature bedroom is eerily similar to the movie set.
Here’s one of the bedrooms from the museum house. Isn’t Erin’s work charmingly similar?
Her touch for detailing and even the wallpaper make this a distinctive house that really connects to the book and movie. I’ll let you look at these two pictures and decide for yourself which one is Erin’s miniature and which one is the movie recreation in real life size.
Walking thru the recreation of the movie set reminded me of how dangerous it can be to wear striped socks and ruby slippers in Kansas:
And Erin’s perfect scene warned me of that danger one more time:
So I think for the rest of my visit in Kansas I’ll carry an umbrella and watch for flying houses.
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