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This man remixed The Wizard of Oz word by word — and the result is a surprising delight

Alphabetizing this movie turns out to be the best thing that could ever happen.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Do you like The Wizard of Oz? Most likely you do. It's a beloved film classic, a longtime television staple, and the movie that spawned the song "Over the Rainbow."

But haven't you ever thought to yourself, "I wish every word in this film were presented in alphabetical order?" The answer to that is probably no, but that's because you're not Matt Bucy, who first came up with the idea in 2001, recut the film accordingly in 2004, and then posted the result to the internet in early 2016.

Of Oz the Wizard (which, yes, even alphabetizes the opening credits and concluding "End The" card) is the fruit of Bucy's labors, and it's astonishingly entertaining for being a movie in alphabetical order. The first thing you hear after the title sequence is every time someone in the movie utters the word "a," which gives you some idea of what you're in for.

What's impressive, however, is just how musical the whole thing is. Of Oz the Wizard has an energy and pace that make it feel like its own thing, and the occasional moments when the original film's famous songs break through in tiny snippets — as with the repetition of the words "lollipop" and "rainbow" — keep things dancing along. It's a weird, avant-garde project, but because it's made out of the bits and pieces of one of the most famous movies ever made, it's entirely approachable.

Click play on the video. Watch it all the way through or just skip around. You'll have a good time, I promise. And when you're done, read my brief interview with Bucy below.

The Wizard of Oz.
They're just as confused as you are.

Todd VanDerWerff: I say this from a position of someone who really loves the result, but what on earth possessed you to do this? And why The Wizard of Oz?

Matt Bucy: It arose out of a challenge from a friend, Ray Guillette, who posited to me, one day back in 2001 or thereabouts, that nothing original was possible. I disagreed. He asked for an example. This idea popped out of my head. It took a while to explain the concept, but after riffing on it for a while we both were convinced it would be amazing.

The film choice seemed obvious to me. I didn't think about it much and couldn't say what made it perfect in my mind, but it was the only choice as far as I was concerned. Then I totally forgot about it. I owe the whole thing to Ray for reminding me about it a couple years later when he came over for dinner.

TV: How long did it take you to make it? Did you come up with a transcript and start moving it around?

MB: I'm a coder, and hell if I was going to tackle this manually! So I wrote a simple little app that helped me and another friend take the movie apart, marking out all the words one by one. It was still pretty manual, but I used a nifty little technique to visually display the soundtrack such that words were easy to spot and locate. It went very fast.

That program spit out a big text file with all the words and their locations in the film, which I then imported into a spreadsheet, sorted in alphabetical and then chronological order, and fed into another little program that took the sorted list and produced the edit. So basically, it was edited in Excel. The credits were done straightforwardly in a video editor. The clouds behind the titles were shot from my roof.

All told, I think it took about seven days spread out over a couple of months. Disassembly was mind-bending in itself. It was literally hard to talk after moving word by word, or syllable by syllable, through the film. English stopped sounding like language, and at times I had to stop because I could not figure out what a word was — I just couldn't hear it right.

TV: What did you learn and come to appreciate about The Wizard of Oz from examining it on that level?

MB: Generally, I became much more impressed with the craft in the film. All the stuff that's in the background — amazing! Look into the forests — there are all sorts of things wandering around. I grew to appreciate the work the sound editors put into the film, which you really hear when looping over sections with headphones.

I can't say the meaning of the film changed much for me, but neither did the edit do any damage to my childhood memories. I did worry a bit that the edit would be an unintelligible mess, but when we first played it, I think all of us who were standing there watching were astonished by what happened. The energy this edit released knocked us off our socks, and all that time frying our heads finding word edges became totally worth it.

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