In 1900, author L. Frank Baum wrote and released the popular children’s novel, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the book, Dorothy Gale of Kansas is taken to a magical fairyland in a cyclone along with her dog Toto. She meets a living scarecrow, a man made of tin, and a talking lion; kills an ugly and evil witch with a pail of water; follows a road of yellow brick into a city of emerald; and exposes a purported wizard as a fraud. In the end, she uses a pair of magical slippers to wish herself home. The book, considered the ultimate American fairy tale, inspired Baum to release over a dozen other books featured in Oz, many of the books featuring Dorothy as well as introducing other popular characters to readers, including Tik-Tok, the Patchwork Girl, the Hungry Tiger, the Wogglebug, and Princess Ozma herself.
Various books from the Oz series were turned into plays in the early 1900s, and dozens of books have been written by other authors, exploring the lands of Oz with both beloved characters and new additions.
Then in 1939, MGM spent millions creating the Wizard of Oz movie, based on the book with different formatting and character portrayals, starring box office hit Judy Garland. Filmed in Technicolor and with a new musical score, the film just broke even upon its release, and it lost its Best Picture nomination to Gone With the Wind; however, it was re-released in theaters 10 years later to huge critical acclaim, and in the mid-1950s it was broadcast on television annually, and has remained a family classic ever since. The film has inspired multiple sequels and adaptations on the screen and stage, notably including the films Return to Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful, and the Broadway show the Wiz, written for an all-black cast. In addition, Gregory Maguire wrote the Wicked series, exploring the lives of the Witch, the Cowardly Lion, and others in adult fiction, and Wicked was turned into a wildly popular Broadway musical that is still touring. In 1970, a small theme park dedicated to Oz even opened.
Partially due to the gay community’s love of Judy Garland along with a combination of powerful music, colorful imagery, a magical fairy land where anything is possible, and the idea of leaving gray dusty Kansas for a magical life of acceptance and love in another world, the Wizard of Oz has been deified by the gay community as an archetypal film, and the Rainbow adopted as the primary symbol of the gay movement.