Off to see the wizard
Cape Canaveral museum offers visitors a trip down the yellow brick road
It’s been 84 years since one of America’s most-loved musical family films, The Wizard of Oz, brought the characters of Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Lion, the Scarecrow and two witches to the big screen. Critics still recognize the 1939 classic starring the beloved actress Judy Garland as one of the greatest films of all time.
While the story continues to be a part of the American culture, the collectibles and memorabilia from both the film and original children’s books revolving around the story of the Land of Oz, are now a part of The Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral.
Now celebrating its second year, the museum features more than 2,000 pieces of Oz history from dolls and games to T-shirts, posters and more.
Owner Fred Trust, a retired software engineer, first fell in love with the stories of Oz while an elementary school student living in his native country of Azerbaijan in the Soviet Union.
After moving to the U.S., he began collecting books in the mid ’80s.
“Most do not know the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie is based on only a fraction of the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Trust said.
An avid reader, Trust began collecting the children’s novels and launched the website rareozbooks.com in 2007.
He owns the first copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz written by L. Frank Baum that he purchased during an auction about 15 years ago. “It is the first known copy in existence and a pre-publication copy,” said Trust.
“The second copy was given by Baum to his mom and is located in the New York Public Library in the rare book section.”
Trust published a price guide for Wizard of Oz books in 2009 and continues to update and expand it.
He has sold more than 10,000 copies of the guide.
Among one of the most unique collectibles on display is a row of vintage handcrafted stick puppets; the original puppets and backdrops that were used in the 1950s and 1960s performances of the Oz films.
Trust said his rare puppet collection was requested by the Smithsonian Museum during the first stages of his collector days.
“It was then I made the decision to open a museum where I could share not only the puppets, but all of my Oz treasures publicly,” he explained.
There is also a 3D video immersive experience in a special room that offers visitors interactive participation in the Land of Oz.
Developed by Pixel Rain digital, the animated scenes are displayed via 31 projectors [15 covering the four walls and 16 over the floors] to create a spectacular array of images from the movie that include the tornado scene, the scene in munchkin land where mice save the Lion, a witch’s castle, the dark forest and, of course, the yellow brick road.
“We have many visitors, including those who have come from countries as far as UK, dressed in full Oz character costumes, that have described this immersive experience as the perfect way to connect with the world of Oz.”
In addition to the four rows of Oz collectibles, Trust recently acquired one of the dresses worn by Garland in the 1939 movie.
“I was able to purchase this authentic garment via an auction held last December,” he explained. “The right pocket sewn in the garment was used as a place to store her cigarettes.”
Other highly valued memorabilia featured as part of the self-guided tour include an August 1938 copy of the movie script and an oil painting of a China Girl from the 2013 Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, which he said is valued at $100,000.
Trust said that the entire estimated worth of his Oz memorabilia in museum is around $5 million.
Touted as one of the top children’s museums in Florida, the attraction has been popular among young visitors and parents alike.
“Since opening, we have had around 13,000 visitors, and are currently listed on the search for things to do on Tripadvisor — No. 1 out of 13 recommendations in the Space Coast area,” Trust said. “We are hoping to surpass the approximate 1,000 visitors monthly during the past year.”
Want to go?
WHAT: Wizard of Oz Museum
WHERE: 7099 N. Atlantic Ave., Cape Canaveral
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Visit www.wizardofozflorida.com or call 888.949.6369
Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.