You'll never guess how they made that Wizard of Oz colour transition

The moment Dorothy emerges from her house after the tornado in MGM's The Wizard of Oz is one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, but have you ever wondered how it was made? Dorothy appears to step from a black-and-white world into a colour world, but this was 1939, when there was none of today's AI-powered trickery.

A video on TikTok has become a massive hit after dissecting the scene and breaking down how the effect was achieved. And it shows just how ingenious filmmakers had to be before the advent of CGI and deepfake technology, and how the results could be just as stunning for the audience.


♬ Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland

Judy Garland's Dorothy utters the immortal line "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more" after stepping into the colourful magical world she's been transported too after her house was lifted from ground by a tornado. The moment is all the more memorable because of the transition from black and white to colour as Dorothy steps outside.

But in 1939, although Technicolor had already been used in film, it was an entirely different technology to filming in black and white. There was no way to combine the two types of film in the same frame. After receiving a question about the topic, Tiktokker @femmenadia created a video breaking down how it was done. 

The TikTok video shows that the transition to colour film actually occurs earlier than what seems. The moment is disguised by the use of a sepia-painted set and dim lighting to make it look like the film is still in black and white. The door is actually opened by Judy Garland's double, dressed in a sepia-toned outfit to complete the illusion. After she backs away, Garland herself steps forward in her blue gingham dress. Here's the full sequence of Dorothy's arrival in Oz.

People on TikTok are suitably impressed. "Love this! I had no idea. I also love that you have a *spoiler alert* for an 85 y/o movie," is one of the 2,000 plus comments. "My heart still wants to burst at that first glimpse of Technicolor outside," someone else wrote. Others commented that knowing how the scene was made makes it even more magical.

The Wizard of Oz wasn't the first film to be shot in Technicolor (that was Pioneer/RKO's Becky Sharp in 1935), but the use of colour was still so novel that the transition mid-scene is said to have elicited gasps from contemporary audiences. The way the effect was achieved is a wonderfully clever little secret from film history and a beautiful piece of editing. To up your own game, see our guides to the best video-editing software and our favourite video editing tips and tricks, and for more little secrets like this, see Disney's animation hack.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.