Tik-Tok (sometimes spelled Tiktok) is a round-bodied mechanical man that runs on clockwork springs which periodically need to be wound, like a wind-up toy or mechanical clock. He has separate windings for thought, action, and speech. Tik-Tok is unable to wind any of them up himself. He becomes frozen or mute or, for one memorable moment in The Road to Oz, continues to speak but utters gibberish. When he speaks, only his teeth move. His knees and elbows are described as resembling those in a knight’s suit of armor.
As Baum repeatedly mentions, Tik-Tok is not alive and feels no emotions. He therefore can no more love or be loved than a sewing machine, but as a servant he is utterly truthful and loyal. He describes himself as a “slave” to Dorothy and gives her deference.
Tik-Tok was invented by Smith and Tinker at their workshop in Evna. He is the only model of his kind before the two disappeared. He was purchased by the king of Ev, Evoldo, who gave him the name Tik-Tok because of the sound he made when wound. The cruel king also whipped his mechanical servant, but that simply kept Tik-Tok’s round copper body polished.
Tik-Tok first appears in Ozma of Oz (1907) where Dorothy Gale discovers him locked up in a cave, immobilized. He becomes Dorothy’s servant and protector, and, despite his tendency to run down at crucial moments, helps to subdue the Nome King. That novel also introduces Tik-Tok’s monotonic, halting mode of speech: “Good morn-ing, lit-tle girl.”
Later Baum published “Tik-Tok and the Nome King,” a short tale in his Little Wizard Stories of Oz series (1913). In this story, the Nomes disassembled Tik-Tok and Ruggedo mistook the rebuilt Tik-Tok as a ghost. Ever after, he was colored whitish grey in color plates, apparently a mistake.
The Tik-Tok Man of Oz was a stage musical loosely adapted from Ozma of Oz; and an adaptation of that play back into a novel called Tik-Tok of Oz (1914). While Tik-Tok is a major character in that latter book, he in no way drives the plot. Tik-Tok also appears in most other Oz novels as a notable inhabitant of the Emerald City, most prominently in The Scalawagons of Oz, in which he operates the production of the Scalawagons.
Tik-Tok was played by Wallace Illington in the 1908 film, The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays. Comedian James C. Morton played Tik-Tok in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz (1913), a musical play by Baum, Louis F. Gottschalk, Victor Schertzinger, and Oliver Morosco. The former is known only from a production still or two. The latter was a straight man role regarded at as similar to that of David C. Montgomery’s Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz. The Fred Stone Scarecrow clown part was The Shaggy Man, played by Frank F. Moore, who would later play the Scarecrow in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. Tik-Tok did not appear in any of the productions of The Oz Film Manufacturing Company.
In animated productions, Tik-Tok has been voiced by Joan Gerber and A.J. Henderson.
Tik-Tok in the Disney film
Tik-Tok was a main character in the movie Return to Oz, adapted from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. His legs are very stout and he speaks with his mustache rather than his teeth. In the movie, he is the entire Royal Army of Oz, ironic considering his generally helpless nature. In an interview which is included in the DVD’s special features, Fairuza Balk described the Tik-Tok costume: An acrobat, Michael Sundin, was upside down inside in Tik-Tok with his hands operating Tik-Tok’s legs and his feet tucked behind Tik-Tok’s head. He used a monitor inside the costume. Sean Barrett provided his voice, while Tim Rose controlled his facial and arm movements.