The Wizard of Oz film is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and the new Wizard of Oz exhibit at the Portland Children’s Museum not only brings back warm-fuzzies for grandparents and parents who have seen it, but it offers a glimpse into the film for little ones, as well. The exhibit is all fun, completely interactive and educational and runs now through January 18, 2015.
photo: Tornado Maker by Portland Children’s Museum
Just past the front desk at the Portland Children’s museum, keep your eyes on the ground n to follow the yellow brick road from the front of the museum, through the hallway, twisting up onto the walls and ceiling, past the fabric tornado, leading to all the way to replicas of Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers.
The Gale Farm
In one corner of the exhibit, sits the The Gale Farm with Dorothy’s askew bedroom. Kids can walk inside the room with a slanted floor and crooked artwork on the walls. Little ones can spin a couple of different steering wheels to make a tornado on the wall spin one way or a little house in the center the other way.
Just outside Dorothy’s house, kids can push a button to create their own tornado out of mist and wind in a vertical tunnel. A sign inside the tornado maker reveals a few interesting facts about volcanoes.
Other parts of the farm section let little cowhands work as farmers, collecting eggs from the chickens, harvesting crops, sitting on a small cow statue, milking a cow, petting faux farm animal hyde and pushing buttons to hear animal sounds.
photo: Professor Marvel’s Wagon Portland Children’s Museum
Next up, it’s Professor Marvel’s Illusions and Sleight of Hand Wagon, where kiddos can peer into his wagon and spin steering wheels to create three separate optical illusions. There’s a hypnotic, black and white spiral, a bird in a cage and a vase that spins to reveal a face.
photo: Munchkinland Rainbow by Portland Children’s Museum
Munchkinland is in the center of it all and appears to be a favorite with the real-life munchkins. Here, they can stack large vinyl-covered, foam cubes to create a rainbow – then knock it all down. The rainbow-building is definitely a team effort. The knocking down, not so much. There are also image-distorting mirrors and a funny, two-sided voice changing station that instantly transform kids bodies and voices into munchkins. Kiddos can also stack big foam disks to craft Glinda the Good Witch’s crown and use a loom to weave Dorothy’s dress.
photo: Cowardly Lion by Portland Children’s Museum
After Munchkinland, you’ll see the friendly face of the Cowardly Lion. Kids are encouraged to brush and comb his soft mane and invited to climb through a short, darkened tunnel with rubber fringes on each side. Inside are tiny pairs of lights that resemble sets of red eyes. This is probably the scariest it gets in the whole exhibit. Kids can show how brave they are by climbing through the tunnel to the other side.
Movie facts paired with an educational lesson are built into the exhibit via signs, called “Movie Moment Messages,” placed throughout the room. These are usually one part movie trivia and one part teachable lesson. The Cowardly Lion’s message talks about courage. Another one, near Dorothy’s house, talks about how Dorothy learns to face her problems rather than run away.
Then, it’s the Meet the Movie section where buttons will light up corresponding still frames from the movie. This is a good introduction to the film, for little ones who may not have seen it. It’s also the only place the witch’s face appears. Her frames are small and honestly, you might miss them if you’re not looking.
The Tin Man offers the chance to pull magnetic gears and rearrange them to make them work, while the nearby Scarecrow section allows tiny designers to craft their own scarecrow faces from felt circles, squares, rectangles and fringe they can attach to blank scarecrow heads wearing grey hats.
In Emerald City, where kids can push buttons, change colors, distort their voices and create a little “fire” via a button that starts up orange lights and fabric blown by a little wind to change the Great and Powerful Oz’s scene.
There’s also the Horse of a Different Color station that lets mix masters change the projected colors onto a horse. Red, green and blue can be added at different levels and intensities to create a variety of colors.
The Witch’s Castle
The Witch’s Castle is at the back of the exhibit and gives kiddos a chance to scale a rock wall, climb around on a rope spider web and slide down from the castle on a mini slide.
The Witch’s Eye View lets one little witch stand and look at other kids through the crystal ball. On the other side of it, kids can see the little witch’s green face inside the crystal ball.
photo: Miss Gulch’s Bike, Portland Children’s Museum
Miss Gulch’s (stationary) bike lets kids climb aboard and pedal to spin a giant jewel-shaped object that, when spun fast enough, changes tiny silhouettes of Miss Gulch to a flying witch. Toto rides along in the bike’s basket too. Yes, Toto, too.
Kids of all ages will get a kick out of the music from the movie playing throughout and will love wandering through to learn trivia about the movie, as well as facts along the way. Especially if it’s been awhile, it’s hard not to want to watch the film again after you leave.
“The Wizard of Oz”
Open daily through January 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Portland Children’s Museum
4015 SW Canyon Rd.
Free for museum members and children under 1
$10/person ages 1-$54; $9/person seniors
Have you checked out the exhibit yet? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below!
— Suzie Ridgway