Thursday, October 19, 2017

Creating Oz dolls

When Oz the Great and Powerful came out, I decided to pick up dolls based on the characters. I didn't have a lot of Oz toys, and decided this would be a nice start. This was followed by picking up the new line of Barbie dolls based on the MGM film. Finally, I picked up a Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return doll that was the closest to her film appearance.

But being a fan of the Oz books and knowing of many of the Oz characters who have rarely appeared in film—much less be made into a mass-produced toy—I decided maybe to look into making my own custom Oz dolls. Specifically, Ozma and a Neill-inspired Glinda. (Thanks to the above, I had three Glindas already, two different costumes for Oz the Great and Powerful and MGM.) Getting another idea, I decided to add Polychrome to the list.

Finally, after spotting potential dolls to use for bases, I decided to go for it. I began looking online for dresses. I know how to whipstitch and mend clothes and back in the day made tiny plush characters, but by no means was I wanting to create a dress from scratch.

Here's what I picked up from Amazon:

- One rainbow dress.
- Two white wedding dresses. (Note: these came from a seller in China and took 40+ days to arrive, so plan ahead on this one or find another one.)
- One Barbie Fashionista Terrific Teal doll. (This would serve as my base for Glinda since she has red hair.)

These other items I bought on eBay or in stores, but I'm linking to Amazon listings for illustrative purposes.
- One Barbie Careers Farmer doll. (This would be my base for Ozma.)
- Kneadite (known as "greenstuff" by model makers).
- Various colored sequins.
- Red tulle
- Beading wire
- Rainbow colored ribbon
- Acyrlic paint, blue, cranberry (but I should've gone with metallic red) and metallic gold colors
- Hot glue sticks
- Paint brushes
- Velcro circles
- Small squares of red and green material.
- Red glitter nail polish.
- Black cylindrical coffee stir (this was free)
- A loose nude blonde Barbie doll from a thrift store, carefully selected for quality. (This would be my base for Polychrome.)

Items I already had at home:
- Needle and thread.
- Twist tie.
- Scissors.



I had all of Polychrome's materials together first and she was fairly simple The rainbow dress had a glittery belt that I didn't like, but it was easy to remove with scissors. I considered giving her the cap seen in Neill's pictures, and I suppose I could using a small amount of kneadite, but considering that kneadite + doll hair = a big mess to remove, I decided to use some rainbow ribbon around the head instead. Some more rainbow ribbon tied around her arms and shoulders, and the look was complete. I have since altered it with the use of hot glue, affixing the ribbon directly to her head and dress.
Ozma and Glinda both proved a little bit of a challenge. Their designs had been inspired long ago when I was digitally coloring a scan from the International Wizard of Oz Club's edition of The Oz Toy Book and I discovered a nice costume design for them that involved them having white dresses. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz specifically says Glinda wears a white gown, and Boq mentions that "only witches and sorceresses wear white." Ozma is neither a witch or a sorceress, but considering her level of authority and that she can do magic, it would not be disrespectful for her to wear that color.

Glinda has blue eyes according to Wonderful Wizard, but the Terrific Teal doll has brown. A task for a careful hand and eye (and I am nearsighted with glasses), I repainted the eyes using a bit of blue paint on the tip of a needle.

Although their dresses were actually completed last, I'll go ahead and detail what I did with them first. Note that I did cut off some material from the red square of material to make Ozma's poppies. The dresses I purchased had little brooches on the chest. Glinda's tore off while I was applying it. I didn't intend to show it, but had intended to hot glue red sequins over it. This allowed me to apply the sequins directly to the dress. Ozma's did not tear off, but I made a design with a bit of hot glue, applying a purple sequin at the top, a blue one to the right, a red one to the bottom, a yellow one to the left, and a green one in the middle overlapping the others. I had intended to put these on a base made of kneadite, but the design with just sequins looked better.


The Material was made into cloaks that flowed from their shoulders, tucked into the front of the dress and sewn in. Further tucks and folds were secured with hot glue.

Ozma's crown, I had to decide not to use the cylinder crown she has on top of her head in some illustrations. The only option would be to secure it permanently to her head with hot glue or kneadite. The circling tiara was made of beading wire, with the OZ logo made of kneadite and painted gold. The flowers were made of bits of red material folded in half and rolled a little crookedly, sewn to secure their look. They were secured to the crown using unpainted kneadite.

Now, you might say, "What is kneadite?" and it's a sculpting epoxy I first used back when I created Oz action figures. It's called "greenstuff" because it arrives in strips of blue and yellow epoxy, which you knead together into a green epoxy that can be sculpted into any form you like. It bonds to most surfaces.

Glinda's hair is secured in a hairnet that she wears in many illustrations. A hairnet worn for fashion rather than practical purposes is called a "spood," and I used red tulle to make the spood, bunching up the hair in the tulle and creating the hairnet look by twisting it together on the top of the doll's head, securing it with a twist tie.

The twist tie tie off proved to be the base of the cylinder worn on Glinda's crown that Neill designed. I went for a simple design, made completely of kneadite. However, before anyone copies what I did, I must stress that once that kneadite is on the doll's head, it's on there, so you're going to have to commit to making this change to the doll. It will be permanent. Once it was set and dry, I painted it with the cranberry paint, making it pink. I then hot glued some red sequins on it. A friend who has experience with redressing dolls suggested that I redo her crown with red glitter nail polish, which admittedly made a very nice effect, although I had to work around the sequins.


I decided to accessorize Ozma with her scepter and the Magic Belt. I picked up a coffee stir and trimmed it short, adding kneadite to cap off the bottom and creating the OZ logo at the top. Painting it gold finished the look. The Magic Belt was made with more of the rainbow ribbon painted gold. Velcro fasteners made it removeable, and a pattern of red then silver sequins were hot glued on.

 That's it, that's how I did it.

I might do more. Mattel has a line of petit body type dolls that'll work for characters like Dorothy, Trot and Betsy.

If you use some of my ideas that I've detailed here, let me know with a comment. You don't have to use the same dolls I used or the same dresses or ideas. Make these characters the way you want. That's the fun of doing crafts where you create a customized figure.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship

Given the current age of self-publishing, an Oz book released by a major publisher is pretty interesting. Enter Gabriel Gale's Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship.

Gabriel Gale has been the subject of a featured article in The Baum Bugle, and has featured at Ozstravaganza in Chittenango, New York. I even had someone heartily recommend the book and tell me about his presentation.

Ages of Oz seems to be a potential franchise of books that they plan to branch into film. In fact, it seems it was originally planned to be a film franchise before they decided to make it into a series of novels first. That seems to explain why the book is written by Lisa Fiedler. Story by Gabriel Gale, written by Lisa Fiedler. The series is planned to serve as a prequel, midquel and sequel to Baum's books (Thompson and the rest are ignored).

A Fiery Friendship follows the adventures of young Glinda Gavaria as she sets out to seek her destiny as she seeks how to rescue her mother Tilda from the wicked witch Aphidina and rescue Ember, the Fire Fairy. Joining her are a number of new friends, chief among these Locasta, a girl from the Gillikin Country who she doesn't get along with at first.

I bought this book in late July, and only just finished today. You'll notice that late July was also when I when I posted my last book review here.

Although I realize that I am also a writer of Oz fiction and may have similar criticisms aimed at my work sometime, I'm going to have to say it...

I found the book exceptionally boring. There was nothing particularly interesting about the characters. Yes, I know, this introduces Glinda and Locasta as young women and supposedly sets up how the order of Wicked Witches took over Oz before the Wizard arrived, but besides that, I was left wondering "so what?" Glinda taking on a task that has the end goal to restore Ozma to the throne is basically something Baum established in The Marvelous Land of Oz, and fan interpretation that she may have orchestrated an event or two in Wonderful Wizard is so common, some of my ideas wound up popping up in another work I recently enjoyed by someone who I'd never contacted.

Oz prequels have been quite the trend. I've even thought of a few concepts over the years and even tried to pen them into stories. The one I did complete, The Way of a Lion, actually won an award. However, I wrote that to complement the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to provide a deeper story arc for the Cowardly Lion. The problem with many Oz prequels—including the ideas I've had—is that they try to define how Oz works in a way that limits future stories, or even prevents other stories from taking place in the same continuity. And these ideas are never universally embraced by the fans.

In addition, the story felt like it was the first third of a movie, novelized and stretched out to over 400 pages. A recurring motif that bothered me was splitting a sentence of prose into its own paragraph for dramatic effect, eschewing typical sentence structure. This is fine if you're blogging or writing some piece where you're addressing the reader. In storytelling prose, it's typically not done. It probably bugged me much more because I'd just done a sentence and paragraph structure overhaul of a story a couple of friends wrote.

Perhaps Ages of Oz will go somewhere interesting, but A Fiery Friendship failed to impress me. Okay, the illustrations are impressive, but they don't really feel like Baum's Oz. They're nicely detailed and all, but there's no spirit of fun or whimsy that's a trademark of Baum's Oz. In fact, that's true of the text as well.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Chronicles of Oz - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Sometime back, I noted that my own The Royal Podcast of Oz was the only podcast I could find dedicated to Oz. And while that's still true, there is another podcast that's doing Oz: Crossover Adventure Productions.

This podcast presents something I'd love to do: full audio dramas with sound effects, a full cast and music. They seem to be famous for Doctor Who dramas, but more recently, they've finished the first season of The Chronicles of Oz, which adapted The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in six episodes.

To be fair, I'm about to start the final episode, but I think I've heard enough to give a good review of it. And I do mean good.

If you're reading this, chances are you've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and know the story, and yes, despite this being a "reimagining," it follows the plot of the book pretty well. The difference is how they do it.

It's clear that the writer behind the series—Aron Tomach—knows his Oz and decided to present an Oz based on the entire Baum series, presented as a unified world. Lurline, Ozma, Jinxland, Oogaboo, Zixi and Mombi get name dropped. The Wicked Witch has an assistant named Ugu.

However, it's not quite as if this is going to be for all ages. There's some language parents would likely not want young listeners listening to, and this take on Oz gets more on the violent side. The death of the Wicked Witch of the East prompts civil war in Munchkinland. Boq is reimagined as a Munchkin who volunteers to see Dorothy to the Emerald City, but he's no longer around by the time Dorothy meets the Scarecrow. This is just giving you an idea of what you're in for, not a list.

There's some additions and changes to streamline the story and make it more dramatic, but since this is a free-to-access podcast, I'm going to let you discover it for yourself.

The voice cast does a very good job and manages to be very entertaining with the script. Being an Australian-based podcast, some non-American accents are present. The sound effects are nicely done and the music is excellent. So, it's not just a free audio drama, it's a free quality audio drama.

That said, I wound up enjoying the presentation. This is what I'd want from an Oz for more mature audiences, one that focuses on mature storytelling over reveling in mature subject matter. Looking forward to finishing the series on my way to work tomorrow morning, and look forward to future Oz stories from this podcast.

You can download the mp3 files from their website, or you can listen to the series on YouTube, or subscribe through iTunes or search "Crossover Adventure Productions" in your favorite podcast app, and if that fails, you can give it the link to this RSS feed.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Garrett Speaks!

Jay chats with recurring podcast guest Garrett Kilgore to finally discover his personal love of Oz and what he's been doing lately.

Garrett's YouTube Channel

The Art of Oz, Garrett's blog

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.



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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The New Animated Oz

Jay and Angelo Thomas talk about the new animated Oz series: Boomerang's Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and Amazon's Lost in Oz!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.



 Download this episode (right click and save)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Lion of Oz discussion

Jay and Sam follow up and supplement their commentary for Lion of Oz with a standard discussion episode.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.



Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Windham Classics' The Wizard of Oz

Sometime back, I talked about the first digital Oz game, Adventure in Oz for the TI-99/4A. In that blog, I mentioned I had previously (erroneously) believed Windham Classics' Wizard of Oz game to be the first. But I haven't blogged about that game before.

So let's fix that.

Windham Classics was a series from Spinnaker Software that presented five games based on literary titles. The first couple were platformer games that had a menu of commands to bring up. These were Alice in Wonderland (based on the two Alice books by Lewis Carroll) and Below the Root (based on the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and actually served as a continuation of the story of the books). There was also Swiss Family Robinson, a real-time text adventure featuring many puzzles. The final pair were a couple of elaborate text adventures with graphics and music to enhance the gameplay. These were Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz.

It's been awhile for some, but I've played and completed all of the games. They were available for several computer systems, including DOS on the IBM PC, the Commodore 64 and the Apple II. I played them through emulators, specifically the Commodore 64 versions.

Loading The Wizard of Oz (and Treasure Island) in the Commodore 64 can be challenging for the novice user. Most emulators let you select the file you need to load ("wind") and enter it automatically. The problem with these games is the long loading time. The emulator CCS64 speeds it up right away and makes the loading time no problem with the default settings. For other emulators, such as Frodo and Vice, you need to ensure the type of drive being emulated is a standard 1541, and that the main drive (Drive 8) is the only one being emulated. You can also select speed up options to help cut down the wait to the Windham Classics loading screen. The game will require you to swap discs, which is possible with emulators, but you might want to make sure you know how to do before settling in to play a game. It's also worth noting that the game does require quotation marks, and on the C64, the equivalent is holding down the shift key and pressing 2.

The DOS version I have played, but the versions online are lacking many of the game's files, so the game can't be completed after you meet the Wizard. The game came on the large floppy discs encased in cardboard, so for someone to get those files, they would not only would need to own that version, they would also need a drive capable of handling those discs. The Apple II version seems to be complete.

My recommendation for which version to play goes to the Commodore 64 version. Not only is it complete, but the graphics are in full color.

The game's story features an expanded version of The Wizard of Oz that can be played through. You play as Dorothy and as you travel around Oz using an interesting parser. In addition to moving by using the commands N, NW, NE, E, W, SE, SW, UP, DOWN, ENTER, EXIT to navigate the game, and the standard "TAKE ITEM" style commands, you can also address characters with commands such as "GLINDA, TALK EVIL WITCH."

The story expansion is several features from The Marvelous Land of Oz. As you head west after meeting the Wizard, you find Mombi's cottage and are joined by Tip when you escape. Along the way to the Witch's castle, you build Jack Pumpkinhead and bring him and the Sawhorse to life. Mombi's attempts to thwart the return of the Scarecrow to the Emerald City in Marvelous Land are now turned into tricks by the Wicked Witch. The Wizard names Jack his successor instead and when you head south, you run into Jinjur and have to head back to the Emerald City and escape by building the Gump. After falling into the Jackdaws' Nest, you have to return to Emerald City once again, this time bringing an army of tin soldiers who chase away Jinjur's army. In addition, the Hammerheads are beaten by putting everyone to sleep with a magic music box and commanding none other than Tiktok to carry your friends over the hill.

Probably the most controversial change made to the game's story is Glinda at the end revealing that Tip is the lost prince of Oz. He's not a transformed Ozma, just a missing prince. It's a little disappointing given the legacy of the Oz characters. Making Tip a girl would have been a bit more palatable.

For anyone who enjoys retro gaming and Oz, it's worth playing once. However, given the linear style of the game, it's unlikely anyone will be playing it many times unless they want to experience it again.

You can watch a playthrough here.

MyAbandonware.com has downloads for the partial DOS version as well as the Apple II and C64 versions.

The Classic Adventure Solution Archive has a walkthrough if you need help solving the puzzles as well as links to more information about the game.

Below are pictures of the game's packaging from the Computer Game Museum.








Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adapting "Return to Oz": from Screen to Page (part 3)

Back in June I started making comparisons of some of the tie-in books for Disney's "Return to Oz", adapting the almost-two-hour long movie into shorter children's books and whether they work well or not.
"Return to Oz" is a very good and fine film (despite its problems), but some of the important and smaller aspects of it don't carry well in condensed form.

Here we are going to look at one of its shorter adaptations, the second Little Golden Book: "Escape from the Witch's Castle".
Dorothy's bad hair;  Billina looks hard;  2 sofas yet everyone crams onto one side ... and where are the safety walls to prevent falling off?!

In this book, the second installment of the four part series, Dorothy and Billina and Tik-Tok are looking "through Oz" for Scarecrow, who is missing.  The first change mentioned is that the Emerald City (no word of it being in ruins is mentioned) and where Princess Mombi lives are separate buildings.

When Mombi (who is already wearing the dark haired head from the film) captures Dorothy, Tik-Tok suddenly winds down, so Billina has to attack Mombi to allow Dorothy to escape, but iron bars block the door; and when Mombi threatens to cook Billina, that's when Dorothy kicks Mombi and is captures again, the girl and the hen taken to the tower.
Fortunately, Jack Pumpkinhead is also in the tower with them, who he mistakes Dorothy for his missing mum, before she sets him straight (he's described as a mess, but he doesn't really look that badly separated).  Jack's story of how he came to live with Mombi's Powder of Life gives Dorothy an idea of how to escape.
  "Soon" they get Tik-Tok upsatirs while Dorothy gets Mombi's (non-ruby) key and the Powder - accidentally waking Mombi's head up in the process!  The other heads wails, Dorothy dodges past Mombi's headless body and rejoins her friends in the Tower room who have finished assembling their flying Gump (Tik-Tok did not seem to wind down this time), which Dorothy sprinkles with the Powder and they "lift" off the floor and through the open window.   Each with their own hopes for the future, Dorothy rests as she and her friends soar off into the night sky.

The story itself is not so bad, but it's the illustrations that are lacking.  Part 1 ("Dorothy Returns to Oz") was painted (with oil?), while "Dorothy in the Ornament Rooms" had inked drawings with painted (watercolour?) illustrations and "Dorothy Saves the Emerald City" having soft airbrush paintings ... this book (which does not have "Dorothy" in the title) has pictures that are done in markers and the lines are thick, thicker than any of the other pictures in the other books.
Billina looks hard and too smooth, like a clay figure, instead of a living moving creature, while Tik-Tok looks ... well, it's hard to say.  He doesn't quite look as easily movable like the film, yet some pictures have him look and glance in a way not possible.   In some pictures Dorothy looks fine, but in others she looks more manly (once or twice she looks like Tobey Maguire in a dress; and another time she bares a strong resemblance to Bruce Timm's Superman).  Dorothy's black Kansas shoes have also acquired a strap, making the pair become "mary janes" (and her hair on the cover is just awful!)
.  Jack's pumpkin head is supposed to be round, yet his face looks flat.  
Possibly the worst change, visually, is the construction of the Gump: in the film the two sofas have backing, to prevent the riders from falling off the sides ... but here both sofas are open and have no walls, which was more a choice of showing the characters in illustrations than being practical storywise.  This presents the threat of the characters actually falling off the sides, especially Dorothy rolling over in her sleep!  And despite being brought to life, he doesn't say anything or really have any personality in the last three pages.
 
When you look at this book on its own and without the full context of the film, this short story makes absolutely no mention of the real threat to Oz, its people or its capital, the missing monarch or the usurpers and how and where the good characters need to go or what to do.  It is not mentioned HOW Mombi has the beautiful heads or why.  Just that she is "a terrible witch" who collects the heads of beautiful young ladies.  Her own ugly head is never shown (but it is mentioned in that certain scene).  Nor is the exact number of beautiful heads recounted.  And, again, Mombi seems to have no connection to the disappearance of Scarecrow and nowhere is the Nome King mentioned.  Also, no lunch-pail, or Wheelers, or even the "ghost in the mirror/palace".

While the other three Little Golden Books do end with a somewhat happy note of hope, this one doesn't seem as strong.

This book may be the weakest of the set, but it is not the worst adaptation of the movie ...

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A Chapter Closes

A long, long time ago, an Oz fan had a dream of creating a website. After finding free hosting, he tinkered around with HTML and built a small but original content-rich website and titled it "Dorothy and Ozma Productions." The website offered capsule reviews of Oz films, an original biography of L. Frank Baum, e-texts of the Oz books (including the first e-texts of Dot and Tot of Merryland and Queer Vistors from the Marvelous Land of Oz) and original content for free downloads, as well as old digital Oz games for systems no longer made that would have to be emulated to be played. (With a copyright disclaimer, of course.)

The website went through a few iterations, eventually being retitled "The Royal Website of Oz" and getting its own actual domain. Thanks to a generous friend, it was hosted for free and a forum was added when the International Wizard of Oz Club decided to close their forums. An ambitious wiki project was started.

However, the fan who had started the website found other ways to express his love of creating and sharing Oz content. He had begun blogging, which spun off into a podcast and even a series of videos. He even began writing Oz stories and even published a full-length Oz book and attending a regular Oz convention. So progress on maintaining and expanding the website eventually ground to a halt.

If you haven't guessed, of course, I'm talking about my own story here.

About two months ago, the Royal Website of Oz went offline. I still have the domain, but the server is no longer active. My generous friend who had hosted the site has yet to reply as to what happened, but all I can assume is that the free ride the website had is no longer open. The forum is gone, the wiki has some pages archived through Internet Archive, and an older version of the website is still online. A later version of it is also available through Internet Archive as well.

While it's a little sad that this has happened, it's not as if all is lost. I still have that content I had, and I believe I can use the blog to bring some of the best of it back. I had even begun a secondary blog titled The Royal Library of Oz, which managed to present e-texts as blog entries.

If you want an Oz forum, there's a Wizard of Oz subreddit that could use more members.

Why am I not looking to get my own host and revive the site? Well, with writing Oz stories (and now other non-Oz stories) and running a podcast, this blog, helping with "Oz and Ends" for The Baum Bugle and now chairing Oz Con International 2018, I don't feel the drive to pursue such a venture.

So, one chapter closes as others open and continue. See you in Oz, folks.