CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – There’s no place like home, but if you’re looking for something unique to do in Central Florida, follow the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Cape Canaveral.
The immersive experience transports you right into the world of Oz, showcasing scenes from the original stories.
“This is everything I have. I don’t believe in stocks and gold or anything else, this is my treasure,” said museum owner Frederick Trust.
For 35 years, Trust has been collecting anything and everything Wizard of Oz, items depicting well-known characters like Dorothy, The Cowardly Lion, Tin man, Wicked Witch of the West and the great and powerful Oz. (Just to name a few.)
Trust displays rare, some one-of-a-kind dolls, plates and Oz-inspired board games. Even Dorothy’s iconic ruby slippers are in the museum.
“One of my most prized-possessions is the original copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is the first known copy of existence, dated May 23 of 1900. I have a prepublication copy,” said Trust.
Trust said it was the original stories that got him obsessed with the world of Oz. The story was first read to him in the former Soviet Union when he was a kid.
“One of the Russian translators translated the story and presented it as ‘the Russian story’ and made a couple changes to the characters,” said Trust. “I came to the United States in the 1980s. I started looking for the books to read to my kids. The first thing I discovered is that it is an American fairytale. There were so many titles, and I was so confused and I started doing the research and found out most were written in the beginning of the (20th century). That started my obsession with The Wizard of Oz.”
There are 40 books in all considered part of the original world of Oz series. The books were published in dozens of different languages.
“We have here 40 Oz books, ones that are considered official Oz books. On the first row, we have 14 books written by Frank Baum. Then when he passed away, the publisher hired the lady by the name of Ruth Thompson. She actually wrote 19 more books and all of those books are written before the 1939 movie. John Neill was the illustrator of all of those books,” said Trust.
The storylines are different from the classic Wizard of Oz movie starring Judy Garland. Scenes Trust illustrates with an immersive experience inside the museum, transporting visitors into the world of Oz.
“One of the elements in the book is where the Tin Man gets involved with the munchkin girl. In the story, Tin Man used to be a man who was in love with the munchkin girl and the Wicked Witch of the East didn’t want them to get married, so she cursed his axe and every time he went into the woods to cut wood, he would cut part of his body. He’d have to replace with a tin part and that’s how he became the Tin Man,” said Trust.
Trust worked with animators to recreate characters straight from the original books. One minute of scene took three months to bring to life.
“In the book when they fall asleep in the poppy field, the Lion was too heavy to pull out of the field so Tin Man decides to build a wagon. They notice the cat chasing the mouse. They save the mouse and she ends up being the queen of all the mice and asks how she can repay them. So they ask the queen to call all the mice to help pull the wagon using pieces of string,” said Trust.
The scenes are projected onto all the walls of the room, like you’re in the scene yourself.
Along with the original books titles and Oz paraphernalia, Trust displays some items from the movie, like Judy Garland’s fur coat and featured magazines. He invites visitors to learn the entire story of Oz.
“This is the intention of the museum, to inspire people’s interest to learn about the books because the books caused the creation of the famous movies that everyone is aware of,” said Trust.
Trust says in all, his Oz collection is worth more than $10 million and he plans to continue growing that collection.
He’s also in the process of creating more scenes for the immersive experience.
The museum is located at 7099 N. Atlantic Ave, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 32920. It’s open daily from 8 am. to 5 pm.
Price: $29.99 for adults, $14.99 for ages 3 to 12.
To read this story in Spanish, click here.