Dorothy and her dog, Toto, find themselves in the beautiful but dangerous land of Oz after being swept away from Kansas in a cyclone. After her house lands in Oz, Dorothy meets the Munchkins. They are in awe of her, supposing her to be a powerful sorceress because her house landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy knows better, and she wants to go home. The Good Witch of the North can’t tell her how to do that, but she does give Dorothy a kiss of magical protection and a pair of silver shoes and sound advice. Then she sends Dorothy to ask the Wizard of Oz, who lives in the Emerald City, for directions home.
Kingdoms sit at the compass point in Oz, each with a predominant color preference and an existing ruler. Some rulers, such as the Witches in the North and South, are good. Others, such as the Witches in the East and West, are wicked. One ruler in the middle of Oz is said to be a wizard.
Dorothy meets new friends on her journey, each with a need of his own. A Scarecrow longs for brains, the Tin Woodman wishes he still had a heart and the cowardly Lion wants to be brave. Convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them, they travel together, facing challenges and adventures.
They arrive at the Emerald City full of enthusiasm, but the Wizard sends them on an impossible quest to prove their worth. They must kill the Wicked Witch of the West, or he won’t help any of them. With little hope, they head out. The Wicked Witch of the West does her best to destroy them, and although they defeat many of her minions, they can’t defeat the Witch.
The protection Dorothy received from the Good Witch of the North does limit the harm that the Wicked Witch can do, though. Eventually Dorothy is able to destroy the Witch — through a complete accident. She rescues and reassembles her friends, and they return rejoicing to the Emerald City for their reward.
The Wizard acts strangely toward them. He ignores them for days, then denies knowing what promise he ever made to them. Too late, they discover that the Wizard isn’t a wizard at all, just a long-lost traveler, rather like Dorothy herself, except that he used his status to create the illusion that he was a powerful wizard. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion are convinced that even though he is a fake, they won’t be complete until he gives them brains, a heart and courage. The Wizard tries convincing them that they already have what they’ve been searching for: true wisdom, love and courage. The three insist they don’t. When they persist, he pulls together a token of each character quality to present to them. It makes no practical difference, but the three feel better. Dorothy’s request, however, is not so easy to either fake or solve. The Wizard suggests an escape from Oz via a hot air balloon. But when the balloon lifts into the air, Dorothy is outside of the basket.
So the four friends travel to another ruler, who may be able to help Dorothy: Glinda the Good Witch of the South. Along the way, they find more adventures and difficulties, but in the end, all three of the Oz friends have a kingdom to return to and rule over themselves. Glinda confirms that what the Wizard said was true for Dorothy, too. The silver shoes Dorothy has been wearing in Oz are not only sturdy, they’re magical, and they will take her home. Since Glinda knows how the magic works, Dorothy and Toto say their bittersweet goodbyes. Then Dorothy returns home, leaving her friends in Oz to apply their gifts by ruling and living well.