Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Danielle Paige, Author of 'Dorothy Must Die'

I recently got to interview the wonderful Danielle Paige, author of the new book Dorothy Must Die.

Give us a quick rundown of the premise of Dorothy Must Die. 
Short version: Another girl from Kansas lands in Oz via tornado and learns she has to fight an evil Dorothy. Long version: Amy Gumm lands in Oz and is inducted into the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, a group of not-so-wicked witches that are determined to rid their land of Dorothy. But first, she has to take the Scarecrow's brain, the Tin Man's heart, and the Lion's courage. 
How did you approach writing this book? It's a rather drastic departure from the Oz everyone knows and loves. Was it difficult to find a good balance between staying true to that and creating something new?
I was terrified at first of stepping onto Baum's Yellow Brick Road. But once I got started, I did so with abandon. I enjoyed pushing the characters to their limits, but I think that each character still possesses, at his or her core, something of what we first fell in love with in Baum's original. Dorothy may now be wicked, but she is still loyal to her friends. 
Were you at all influenced by the original Oz books? Or is the story mostly derived from the 1939 movie and your own ideas?
I read all fourteen Baum books, and I've seen the movie so many times, but the books have a wealth of amazing characters and lands to explore. I was so lucky to have so much to work with. 
It was reported last year that The CW was planning a TV series based on Dorothy Must Die. Is that still in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
I can only say how much I would love to see it on screen!
There have been plenty of revisionist takes on Oz over the years, from Wicked to the Syfy Channel's Tin Man. What makes Dorothy Must Die unique? Why should Oz fans check it out?
I love all things Oz, too! Wicked and Tin Man and Return to Oz are all fabulous. But I think there's a place for my Dorothy, too. As a writer, I felt like there was another story to tell. And as a fan, I could not let go of this idea of what happens after Dorothy goes home from Oz and has to go back to being a normal girl in Kansas. Could she leave Oz behind? I think she can't. I think she longs for the beauty and the magic and, to a degree, the fame she achieved there. I think she longs for it, and out of that longing, a new Dorothy begins to form.
Your first book was just released, but are you already planning on writing sequels?
There will be two more books! Working on book two now.
The original story was written 115 years ago, and is still relevant and popular today. Why do you think Oz has withstood the test of the time?
It's America's fairy tale. The theme of good vs. wicked is timeless, and Baum's characters and settings are among the most imaginative in all of literature. I hope he wouldn't mind the update.
Thank you so much, Danielle! 

Dorothy Must Die is now available from Harper Teen wherever books are sold. Click here for more information.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Bungle, the Glass Cat

So, Dr. Pipt knew how to make a powder that could bring things to life. But if he knew it could do that, he must have used it before, right?

Indeed. It seems he would have had more than one test subject, but the only one we meet is Bungle, the Glass Cat.

Bungle began as a glass ornament shaped like a cat. It featured emerald green eyes, a ruby heart, a spun glass tail, and tiny pink balls in its head for brains. When it was brought to life, the cat adopted a female gender.

The Glass Cat was tasked with catching mice, but she refused to as they would be clearly visible inside her body. Thus, as she wouldn't serve the purpose that she was brought to life for, she was considered a "Bungle," thus her name.

Bungle wasn't an entirely useless creature and would provide company for Margolotte as Dr. Pipt worked. As she did not need to be fed or cleaned up after, she made an ideal pet.

However, Bungle was also a cat and acted as such. Her decision to come when called was entirely voluntary and she often enjoyed going out on her own. Being able to speak, she would express her opinions, her vanity, and her believed superiority, particularly over her pink brains, which would move, leading her to point out, "You can see them work!"

When Dr. Pipt had to send Ojo to the Emerald City, he sent Bungle along with them, thinking that he might be rid of Bungle. Aside from her snarky commentary, Bungle adds little to Ojo's team and is left behind once Ojo reaches the Emerald City. The Wizard changes her pink brains out with clear ones to reduce her vanity, but by her next book appearance, they were pink again.

Perhaps her feline shape mixed with the Powder of Life helped Bungle not break so easily, because she soon began exploring Oz independently, her small size and transparency likely helping her observe without being seen. In this way, she learns many things about the Land of Oz, and it is this exploration that leads to her second Baum role in The Magic of Oz, in which she tells Trot and Cap'n Bill about the Magic Flower and leads them to it. She winds up having to rescue them as well by having to find the Wizard for help. But then, the Wizard needs some help himself when she finds him, which she's able to.

The Glass Cat didn't reappear in the Famous Forty Oz books. Typically, I avoid mentioning other works, but she is the main character of the story "The Ruby Heart" in Oz-Story 5 by Michael O. Riley which finally addresses what would happen if Bungle broke. It's also a very good character piece for her. She also makes a notable appearance in Eric Shanower's The Blue Witch of Oz. Finally, Gina Wickwar's The Hidden Prince of Oz reveals where the Glass Cat was actually made.

Like Eureka, Bungle is once again a feline character based on the way cat owners interpret their cat's personality. Bungle is vain and haughty and has a very high opinion of herself. The fact that she is also an animated glass ornament only ties in with her vanity. Bungle's vanity makes her a little difficult for other characters to work with, but she is not condemned for her attitude: this is simply who she is.

Friday, April 04, 2014

News!

Marc Berezin reports that a new film adaptation of Volshebnik Izumrudnovo Goroda (Alexander Volkov's The Wizard of the Emerald City, his Russian rewrite of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) is set for release in 2015. And it even has a teaser trailer!



The Royal Blog of Oz friend Zach Allen and his fellow Oz crew have their eyes turned on to helping Oz-stravaganza in Chittenango be even better with their presence. But they need funding for travel expenses and have turned to Indiegogo for help.



Finally, I'm sad to report that a friend and Oz fan has crossed the Shifting Sands. John C. Ebinger was literally the first Winkie I ever met. When I first attended the Winkie Convention in 2010, he picked me up from the Greyhound Station in Salinas and took me the rest of the way to Asilomar. In the next three years at Asilomar, I'd keep an eye open for him and say hello and chat a little. He told me he was working on an Ozopedia and he always had his camera ready.

Last year was the last Winkies at Asilomar, with plans to meet in San Diego this year. Even though I knew that someday I wouldn't see some beloved faces return to Winkies, it'll be very sad not to see John among all the familiar and new faces.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

New 'Legends of Oz' Stills & Clips!

The UK website for Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return has launched, and with it, some new stills and clips!

In this first clip, Dorothy (Lea Michele), Wiser (Oliver Platt), and Toto are arrested by Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy) for eating candy.



In the second clip, Dorothy and friends encounter fireflies while on board Tugg (Patrick Stewart).



Check out some of the new stills below, and see Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, opening in the U.S. on May 9, and in the UK on May 23.






Tuesday, April 01, 2014

More Kickstarter Updates!

Well, I wound up signing up for another Oz writing project that has a deadline, so... Yeah...

Anyway, here's updates on Ozzy Kickstarters that are running we've talked about in the past.

First up is Who Stole the Ruby Slippers? It has less than two days left and they are still quite under the minimum goal! They've added some cool new perks (including Ruby Sneakers and a poster) to entice pledges. Help this dream go over the rainbow!



The Tik Tok Man of Oz is still doing quite well, and is hopefully on its way to meeting its last couple stretch goals! Which could be covered if a couple people could go for the $1000 pledge, which nets you all of the souvenirs AND an original painting of an Oz character by Eric Shanower. That alone would be worth $1000! Eric doesn't do private commissions, so this is a rare opportunity to get your hands on some of his actual artwork.



Finally, Polychrome managed to meet its minimum goals, but you can help make the book even more elaborate and get a few perks. While the book doesn't seem to be set in Baum's Oz, it has been getting some good press, even by Mari Ness, who is a Baum fan.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Looking Ahead: 'Legends of Oz'

In a little over a month, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return will make its debut in theaters nationwide.



As some of our readers know, I have been following this project for years... since 2007, actually.

I would constantly be searching through the internet, looking for new information on the film. I would tell all of my friends in 4th grade about this awesome new movie that was being made- letting people borrow my copy of Roger Baum's Dorothy of Oz, showing off my so-called 'fan-art,' getting excited when one of the producers emailed me back, etc.

I feel a bit nostalgic when I see Legends of Oz toys at Toys R Us, when a commercial comes on TV, or when I see a poster up at the movie theater, because to me, this film represents my passion for Oz and film-making in general. It was so much fun dreaming about what the film would look like and be like. I remember thinking to my eight-year old self, "I want to make movies like this. I want to be a part of this."


I would constantly email people involved in the film, telling them who I thought should be cast, and how it should be released. It was interesting seeing the project evolve even just from what was on the internet; from storyboards, to the casting process, to animation tests, to concept art, and now the final product.


I've gotten into some trouble through all of my information-hunting antics, and I haven't always had the most positive things to say about the film, but the eight-year old in me is still rooting for this project, and though I'm not going to the red carpet premiere, I will be at my local movie theater opening day. And probably a few times after that.

Legends of Oz opens in theaters in the U.S. on May 9.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

UltraOz

During the lead up to the big re-release of MGM's The Wizard of Oz on Blu-Ray last year, I mentioned that certain sets comes with a code for an Ultraviolet copy of the movie. And then when I reviewed the set, I didn't even mention it. Shall we rectify that?

Ultraviolet is the film industry's answer to illegal streaming sites and the interest in digital copies of a film. The concept is that you set up an Ultraviolet account and an account with a content provider (of which there are several: Vudu, Target Ticket, Flixster and CinemaNow being just a few). Any Ultraviolet codes that come with a DVD or Blu-Ray you own can be redeemed for access to that title through the Ultraviolet service, creating a "locker" of films you can watch with an internet connection and an Ultraviolet device, including a computer. Even better is if you use multiple content providers, your movies are accessible on all of them. (Unless there are licensing issues.)

Ultraviolet access can also be purchased, either by buying the film or putting a DVD copy in your computer with the service's program (Flixster and Vudu have this), and get a Ultraviolet copy in standard definition for a few bucks or a high definition version for a couple more. Alternately, Blu-Ray copies can be brought to a merchant (Vudu is owned by Walmart, for example) and high definition Ultraviolet access bought for title for a few dollars. This access also lets you download the movie to a portable device for internet-free playback later.

Basically, with a portable device, you can watch some of your favorite Oz films on the go or bring them up on your home theater system without grabbing a disc, if you have a compatible device (more recent TVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles and other streaming video devices have some sort of Ultraviolet capability).

There aren't a lot of Ultraviolet Oz titles available right now. There's MGM's classic film, and Warner Brother's Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz. There's also the film version of The Wiz. There are a number of other Oz titles available from these providers, but they're not Ultraviolet compatible: they'll be tied to the one content provider unless they eventually do get added to Ultraviolet. This includes The Witches of Oz, the Disney Oz movies, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime series.

Disney has recently launched Disney Movies Anywhere, which they hope to connect to more content providers, but is currently tied to their site and iTunes. (And yes, all three of their Oz titles—Return to Oz, The Muppets Wizard of Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful—are available on it.) Still, it's a separate service from Ultraviolet.

As you can imagine, depending on your internet strength (if you're streaming it), most Oz titles look as good as their DVD/Blu-Ray counterparts (or better, if a title is available for streaming in HD, but not available on Blu-Ray).

MGM's The Wizard of Oz is a different story, though. Unlike recently-produced theatrical titles, it wasn't made in an widescreen aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is almost the shape of a CRT ("box") television set. Almost. The image is actually a little wider than such an image. Thus, when you watched the MGM film on VHS and DVD, a tiny bit of the picture was actually cut off.

With Blu-Ray being designed for widescreen televisions, the 2009 home video release was actually the first time the entire picture was released to home video. And this same high definition print is what is available on Ultraviolet. If you were to view it on a widescreen television or a portable device, you would see black bars on the sides of the image.

However, with me still having a CRT TV, my experience watching the Ultraviolet copy through my Blu-Ray player's Vudu support was different. At first glance, the image appears identical to a DVD copy (aspect ratio-wise), but taking a closer look, there were tiny black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. Thus, without an HDTV, those little bits of frame were all visible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Writing a prequel to Oz

So, people write Oz stories. I write Oz stories now. But most new Oz stories tend to pick up where Baum or the other Royal Historians left off and tell further adventures.

Still, there are some who go back and tell stories of Oz's past. Perhaps as a midquel, happening in between previous Oz books (often patching up what seem to be continuity gaffes), or perhaps even before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, making it a prequel to the Oz books.

I'm actually now responsible for two prequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: "The Way of a Lion," published in Oziana 2013 and "Aunt Em and Uncle Henry," a little story I posted on this blog not long ago.

Very much, both of these prequels were based on concepts I'd had for a film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that would flesh out the backstories of the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy. The Scarecrow tells how he was made and informed that he was brainless, and the Tin Woodman tells how he became tin, but the Lion simply tells us how he lived day to day, while we are told little information about Dorothy.

To me, what made the lion unique is that he wasn't cowardly, he simply misunderstands what courage is. According to actual accounts about male lions, they largely allow the females to do the hunting and only defend their prides when the need arises. So, it seems the Lion was actually a well-depicted anthropomorphic lion, that is, if you consider Dorothy and her friends the lion's "pride."

Since the story would start when the Lion was a baby, I had to change some things about real lions. Cubs are often raised together by a group of mothers for defense. This is because young lions are delicate and need protection, though. However, lions often live in the plains, and not in forests as lions in Oz seem to do. Thus, I assumed, given that animals in Oz speak and have come to respect each other, the danger to a cub is reduced, except from a kalidah. The trees and other features of a forest might allow a single mother to care for her cub on her own.

As one reads my story, I reveal that the Cowardly Lion is not a native Munchkin lion, but actually a Quadling. Due to a tragic point of the story, he flees to a new forest, and somehow manages to miss all other forests (I did trace his route on the International Wizard of Oz Club's map) until he comes to the Munchkin forest Dorothy will one day travel through. The main part of him being a Quadling lion was so that he actually has a story arc that begins in my story and reaches its triumph in one of the final chapters of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. So it's as if I began a story and then let L. Frank Baum finish it, except he'd already done it over 110 years ago.

Dorothy's backstory, I knew, did not need to be complicated. I cordially dislike prequels that make out Dorothy's coming to Oz as predetermined or prophesied, or that her parents were tied to Oz somehow. What I enjoy about Baum's stories about someone from the United States going to Oz is that they were no one special when they arrived, but become known for their actions. Dorothy and the Wizard are similar in this regard, except that the people believed the Wizard to be a Wizard, but then, Dorothy was also believed to be a sorceress, the only difference is that she denied it.

The backstory for Dorothy that I wrote was actually folded into Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's, because I knew they had to be tied to each other. How they met was actually based on how my maternal grandparents met. All the names I gave them were either from Baum's life or my grandparents. "Carpenter" was the married name of one of Maud Baum's sisters, so I gave it to Uncle Henry, while Em's maiden name "Stanton" was from an uncle of Baum's. Aunt Em's middle name "Marie" was my grandmother's name. "Matilda" is of course the name of L. Frank Baum's mother in law, while "Charles" is from Charles Dickens, one of Baum's favorite authors. (It's also been suggested that "Oz" came from Dickens' nickname "Boz.")

The difficult part was finding out how Dorothy became an orphan. I had decided to tie Charles' death to the sinking of the USS Maine, the event that set off the Spanish-American War. This was with the idea that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz takes place in 1900. Matilda's death was harder to decide on. I suppose I could have made it easy and had Matilda die during childbirth, thus Charles had to leave Dorothy with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry when he had to serve his country anyway, but I'd decided that Matilda would die after Charles.

My main intention was that after Charles died, Dorothy and her mother would move in with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Matilda would die on the farm somehow in an accident that Uncle Henry could have possibly avoided. He'd then blame himself for her death, leading to his rarely speaking in Wonderful Wizard. But there wasn't really a good opening without making him look like a really negligent farmer. I did once take a page from Baum's short story "The Diamondback" and have Matilda save Dorothy from a rattlesnake that bites her instead, except that snake venom isn't that fast acting, and surely Uncle Henry and Aunt Em could have been informed and treated it before it proved lethal.

One person suggested that a sinkhole open on the farm and Matilda gets caught in it while rescuing Dorothy. That seemed a bit much, however. So, in the story I posted on the blog, Matilda's death is left vague. I just can't seem to kill Matilda...

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Dr. Pipt

Ojo and Unc Nunkie decided to go to their nearest neighbors: the Crooked Magician and his wife Margolotte.

Baum tells us little of Margolotte. She seems rather content living as she is, though she makes a Patchwork Girl out of an old patchwork quilt her grandmother made so her husband can bring it to life and she can make it do all the work while she enjoys herself. She appears to be a kind woman.

The Crooked Magician was called Dr. Pipt and had been living in the Munchkin Forest for some time it seems. He is an old friend of Unc Nunkie, suggesting that his residence has been lengthy. His body is so crooked that he can stir four kettles with his arms and legs at the same time.

Presumably, Dr. Pipt's main output is the Powder of Life, a substance that takes six years to make. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he and Margolotte claim that he made the same Powder of Life that was used in The Marvelous Land of Oz, bringing to life Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse and the Gump.

I suggest that the Powder of Life has only been made twice by Dr. Pipt. The first batch—a large batch, it seems—worked very well, but the charm was activated by the phrase "Weaugh, Teaugh, Peaugh" and making certain gestures. And it seems—though no one tried it intentionally—wishing that the sprinkled item was alive would also work. When Dr. Pipt made his second batch, he revised the formula so no magic words or gestures would be required.

Fans have noted that the surfaces and containers that Dr. Pipt used to make the Powder of Life do not seem to be alive. Perhaps certain objects cannot be brought to life with the powder, due to them not having life-like features or being made of certain materials (a marble table or a golden vial). Or—some posit—these items are alive but are unable to express themselves due to a lack of features that would allow them to move or communicate. (Which is a pretty poor way to live...)

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, it is said that Mombi gave Dr. Pipt a Powder of Perpetual Youth in exchange for the Powder of Life. The Youth Powder didn't work, and The Marvelous Land of Oz finds Mombi saying, "Why, here is a good chance to try my new powder! And then I can tell whether that crooked wizard has fairly traded secrets, or whether he has fooled me as wickedly as I fooled him." Presumably, the Powder of Youth is the wicked fooling Mombi was talking about.

However, The Marvelous Land of Oz has Tip find some of Dr. Nikidik's Celebrated Wishing Pills, and he says, "I remember hearing her (Mombi) say that she got the Powder of Life from this same Nikidik." So, who was Dr. Nikidik?

Personally, I think that Dr. Pipt marketed his wares under the name and guise of Dr. Nikidik so he wouldn't be bothered while making his powder. A man who could make pills that grant wishes (which must be a simple thing that he can do quickly or Margolotte made them under his instruction) or a powder that can give life to inanimate objects would be a very popular man indeed. So, as to avoid people coming to see him, he used a fake name (and possibly appearance, as Neill's single picture of Nikidik looks very different from Dr. Pipt) so they wouldn't be able to find him and disturb his work.

That would solve this continuity snarl, except The Road to Oz finds the Tin Woodman saying that, "the crooked Sorcerer who invented the Magic Powder fell down a precipice and was killed." His remaining items went to a woman named Dyna who lived in the Emerald City, and she accidentally used the Powder of Life to wish her blue bear (who had been made into a rug post-mortem) alive again, which made it come to life.

Is Dyna actually a relative of Dr. Pipt? Or was Nikidik a magician whose identity Pipt had taken (presumably after the real Nikidik had died or permanently departed Oz)? Or, perhaps the accident in which Nikidik was killed was staged due to Ozma's ban on magic so no one would ask after him, a false home being made so as to sell the idea of his death even further? Did Dr. Pipt himself claim that Dyna was a relative, as he believed her to be harmless? If it was to lay low because of Ozma's magic ban, it certainly seemed to have worked.

Aside from the Powder of Life and the Wishing Pills, Dr. Pipt made the Liquid of Petrifaction, which turned any object it touched into marble. It was useful in stopping some attacking Kalidahs and making certain household items more durable. Unfortunately, it had a downside, as seen in The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Among other achievements was creating qualities for manufactured people as powder, Ojo famously remixing the brains that Scraps would be given. He also knew how to enchant food so that it would not run out, which would be quite a boon to the Great Outside World.

At the close of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Dr. Pipt's magic tools are confiscated and his body is straightened out. He is otherwise pardoned. But what became of him and Margolotte afterward? Did they move? Did Dr. Pipt really stay away from magic afterward? Perhaps Dr. Pipt assists the Wizard. Some stories outside of the Famous Forty pick up on these ideas, but the main series leaves him alone. Who knows, though?

'Legends of Oz' UK Trailer

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return will arrive in select theaters in the United Kingdom on May 23, and we've got a new trailer to prove it! 

I obviously did not like the first two trailers for this movie. They weren't Ozzy enough and I felt that they should have showcased more of the film's music and story. 

This trailer, however, is much more promising! I love the bits of music we get to hear in this trailer, and I like that it's a slightly darker tone than what we've seen so far. Watch it below!