Monday, September 23, 2013

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Rating of THE WIZARD OF OZ

Next year, THE WIZARD OF OZ will mark its 75th anniversary. In preparation for the diamond-event, the classic film has been re-released in theatres in the IMAX 3D format. Despite being digitally remastered for superior picture and outstanding sound, the film is unchanged from its 1939 version, save for one thing: the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has changed its rating from G to PG.
The MPAA’s rating system is intended to help parents decide which films are suitable for their children. The rating of G means a film is intended for general audiences, while a PG rating means some material may not be suitable for children. THE WIZARD OF OZ has had a rating of G since its release in 1939, and subsequent re-releases on the big screen, TV-broadcasts, and home video.

So what’s the deal? THE WIZARD OF OZ, if released today as a new movie, would probably never get released as a G movie without substantial edits and changes. This is a film with some nightmare-inducing characters including flying monkeys and a green-skinned witch.  By the letter of the MPAA’s own law, a G-movie may contain mild violence and horror, but it must be cartoonish in nature and minimal in quality. A PG film may contain violence, disturbing/startling images, mild horror, action and peril, and emotional intensity. Looking at the guidelines, OZ seems to fall into the PG category more than a G. The MPAA may be operating on the side of caution, but on paper they seem to be putting the film where it belongs. This is also a sign that G movies may soon be a thing of the past. Of the 175 films released in North America this year, only one has been given a G…and that would be Pixar’s MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.
It can be a bit maddening to figure out the logic behind the MPAA’s decision making. As a wee-lad, two of this Blogger’s favorite animated films were (and still are) WATERSHIP DOWN (1978) and THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982). Both films were eye-openers as it was this Blogger’s first experience with cartoons going dark. WATERSHIP DOWN had rabbits clawing each other to death, not to mention a tagline which read “if they catch you they will kill you”, while NIMH had fuzzy little creatures stabbing each other with swords.  Both films had a fair amount of character deaths and bloodshed, and yet WATERSHIP was slapped with a PG, while NIMH scurried away with a G. The MPAA guidelines support a case for both films to be PG, or even a G. It’s a very subjective thing and clearly parents need to do the homework and decide for themselves. Maybe the important thing to remember is that the MPAA isn’t a rule; it’s a guideline.

But back to the wonderful WIZARD OF OZ…in the grand scheme of things this won’t matter. Parents and grandparents are still going to take their children to see the wizard and eagerly share the memories. Despite the new acronym on the bottom of the poster, the slippers are still ruby, the brick road is still yellow, and the munchkins are still short. The legacy of THE WIZARD OF OZ transcends its rating; it did so in 1939 and it will for another 75 years and beyond.

What say you?

THE WIZARD OF OZ will enjoy a one week run in IMAX 3D, which started September 20th.

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