In 1939 special effects in movies were, well, not that special. Then, along came The Wizard of Oz. Needless to say, audiences were not only stirred by the terrific story, but they also were dazzled by the film’s special effects.
All of the Oz sequences in The Wizard of Oz were filmed in Technicolor, which uses saturated levels of color. It was the perfect choice for The Wizard of Oz because its rich use of color helps to enhance movie musicals and costume pictures, two categories under which The Wizard of Oz falls.
Interestingly, the opening and closing credits, as well as the Kansas sequences, were filmed in black and white and colored in a sepia tone process. The sepia-toned film was also used in the scene where Aunt Em appears in the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball.
Technically, The Wizard of Oz was a major achievement, especially when you consider that it was filmed nearly three-quarters of a century ago. Of course, if it were made today there would be extensive use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI). As eye-popping and jaw-dropping as CGI is, it might very well take away from the charm of the story and its characters.
Without computers at their disposal, the makers of The Wizard of Oz used the tools of their trade and of their day. For example, the Emerald City, which all agree is a great visual, was created by using sets and paintings. The inventive and colorful costumes also added to the special effects of the film, as did the marvelous make-up.
All in all, The Wizard of Oz was a breakthrough film even by today’s CGI standards. It’s safe to say that it will continue to capture the imagination of audiences for decades to come.