Catalina's Whimsical ‘Wizard of Oz' History

Sounds for the classic film were recorded on the island; a screening is just ahead, in Avalon.

CATALINA ISLAND'S CHARM... is so legendary, and so widely rhapsodized over, that to learn that one of the most beloved movies ever made drew some of its distinctive aural character from the island's sound is to, well, totally believe it. For if you know the town of Avalon, and you know the rolling hills of the ocean-surrounded burg, and you know its wildlife, natural beauty, and vintage quaint-a-tude, you know that it has charm to spare and share. And some of that charm was definitely shared during the making of...

"THE WIZARD OF OZ"... when the sound director and other crew members from the MGM gem visited Catalina to record bird calls, or, per the Catalina Island Conservancy, "trills, chirps, and songs." The place they went? Why celebrated Bird Park, of course, a massive aviary with one very famous founder at its early helm: William Wrigley, Jr. And those bird calls eventually made it into the film's Haunted Forest sequence after being "distorted and overlapped," creating a memorable cacophony that instantly chilled Dorothy and her new friends.

FEW PLACES, IN SHORT, can claim such awesome Oz-related cred, but Catalina can. And, on Wednesday, Aug. 1, "The Wizard of Oz" will screen at the Catalina Island Museum's Ackerman Family Amphitheater. The cost of a ticket if you're not a member? It's $17, while kids ages 3 to 15 will be admitted to the 1939 film for free. And the dusk start time for those famous opening credits gives you ample room to take an Avalon-close stroll earlier in the day, to listen for any birds, including those birds who can claim a great-great-great-great-grandparent in the film. Surely there are feathery descendents of the "Wizard"-wonderful birds still on Catalina Island? Birds that have a celebrity in the family tree? It nearly sounds too fanciful to contemplate, but it is a notion that must hold a bit of water. Though, of course, perhaps not the same water that so memorably causes the melting of a certain witch.

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