Have always been a huge fan of Tom and Jerry. Have vivid and fond memories of seeing all of their cartoons, with the classic ones (the Hanna Barbera years, the best of which among the best cartoons ever made, Chuck Jones' output was a mixed bag and most of Gene Deitch's were abominations and disgraces to cartoondom) being watched over and over, at my sister's late godfather's house at the age of six and have been a huge fan since.
'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is as said a sequel to 'Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz'. Consider that film one of the best Tom and Jerry films (most of which range from decent to very good, 'Tom and Jerry: The Movie', 'Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' and particularly 'The Fast and the Furry' are the exceptions, was also mixed on 'Spy Quest'), so there were high hopes as well as worries as to whether it would make the same mistake as their version of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'.
Luckily, 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is just as good as 'Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz'. Occasionally the film is a little hastily paced and crammed and one does wish that, despite wisely focusing mainly on the Oz characters and Dorothy, that Tom and Jerry had more to do. Is it as good as the 1939 'The Wizard of Oz'? Of course not, that is a timeless classic and it is a tall order for this to be on the same level. Like Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz', 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is faithful to the 1939 film as well as including elements from the original Baum stories, but doesn't suffer from being too faithful or not having enough to set it apart that it removes what makes the original so timeless. This was one of the biggest mistakes that 'Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' made.
Animation is bright and colourful, with imaginative backgrounds and very nicely done character designs with spot on expressions for particularly Tom and some of them reminiscent of Tex Avery, like a very Red-like Dorothy. The music here is one of the film's biggest strengths, it is nothing short of amazing with a mix of classic old and refreshing new. The highlight is the Jitterbug sequence, so good that it beggars belief that it was intended initially for the 1939 film and then cut, having it here was a treat and it was brilliantly done in terms of the marriage of exuberance, visuals and music. "There's No Place Like Home" is also wonderful.
When it comes to the writing, 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is done in a way that children will have no trouble following, without ever feeling dumbed down, and be continually captivated by and still have plenty for adults (especially those nostalgic for the 1939 film and Baum's original stories) to enjoy. The story is full of heart, fun and charm and was clearly made with a lot of affection instead of trying to cheapen the material where it took its inspiration from, also bursting with colour.
Despite being underused and more like supporting characters, Tom and Jerry do serve a purpose, are true to character, add enough to the plot to stop them from being pointless and their shenanigans are funny are playful and never sadistic. Love Spike and Droopy, can take or leave Tuffy who can be cute and can also be annoying (the character's okay here but doesn't stand out). The Oz characters are wisely focused more on and they have a lot of spark, with likable heroes, an endearing protagonist and a fun and sinister, if not quite iconic, villain.
Voice acting is another huge strength, with very experienced and hugely talented voice actors (such as Grey DeLisle, Jason Alexander, the late Joe Alaskey, Andrea Martin, Michael Gough, Rob Paulsen and Kath Soucie, many in more than one role) paying homage with huge respect to their characters and the original cast. Those with more than one role never sound over-parted and bring enough individuality to each. Alexander's Nome King is a standout, as is DeLisle as Dorothy Amy Pemberton providing beautifully Dorothy's singing voice.
In summary, really enjoyable. 8/10 Bethany Cox