Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Royal Podcast of Oz — Winkie Con 50 Report!

Jared and guest Colin Ayres discuss the 50th Winkie Convention held in San Diego, California and look forward to next year's convention!

As always, you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Taking Greyhound to Oz

I wrote this post on the bus on the way home from Winkies and saved it to post sometime. At least two other people used Greyhound to get to Winkies this year and I had some suggestions I wish I could have shared with them ahead of time. While it might be awhile before you might be using the advice here, I thought it might be worth posting sooner than later.
I recall that my mother once told me she saw a Greyhound bus with a celebratory Wizard of Oz wrap decorating it. I've never seen further confirmation, but it is true that Greyhound is an option to get you to your favorite Oz events. Perhaps you don't want to drive your car that far, or perhaps you don't want to fly, or maybe you've deemed it the more viable option over Amtrak.

But anyway, whether you're traveling from another city or halfway across the country, having traveled to Winkies by this service for five years, I have some advice.

ARRIVE EARLY

Greyhound is notorious for running late. Don't aim for a tight arrival and travel to location time. Choose an earlier route so you aren't pressed for time on arrival. I now attempt to arrive at least the day before the event so if I'm late, I'm not missing anything.

THE TICKET COST IS JUST ONE COST

The cost of your ticket can be quite nice compared to competitors. However, Greyhound will only get you to your destination. However, you will want a snack or a drink at some point, unless your trip is only a few hours. Greyhound does make stops to allow you to purchase food. Alternatively, you can bring your own snacks, but note that you will have to carry these in your carry on and you're allowed one piece. So, budget for stops or prepare something to take along.

PATIENCE

As said, Greyhound is notorious for running late. While sometimes the driver might have gone a different route or made a mistake, more often than not, it's out of their hands. Losing your cool at the driver can have consequences, including being stranded or further delayed.

You are also going to be traveling on a bus with other people. Sometimes you will have to share a seat with someone or be subject to loud passengers or even rowdy children. If you are traveling alone, you might want to bring some headphones and a music player to drown out the sounds a bit.

Always be courteous to other passengers. If they're not so courteous, ignore them and try to enjoy the trip as best as you can. There's no point in starting a war on the bus.

BAGGAGE

If you're carrying luggage (and you probably are) ALWAYS make sure it's transferred when you change buses. Unless they explicitly tell you they are moving it for you, claim it and carry it to your new bus yourself. Lost luggage from not being claimed usually arrives on the next trip, but they are notorious for not notifying you unless you actually visit. A little vigilance goes a long way towards saving you trouble here.

If you're bringing something for sale and you can't fit it with your luggage, you might arrange to ship it to someone to bring, or Greyhound offers a package service and can ship it with you for a fee. Definitely do not attempt to transport fragile items like this.

Finally, if you have a lot of new treasures to take home, you might consider shipping them through the mail if they can't fit in your luggage.

RESEARCH LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Greyhound only travels from station to station, so once you arrive, you still have to get to the site of the event yourself. You could get a taxi, or maybe someone else going might help you out, but a cost effective way is to check local public transportation. It's never been easier as Google Maps has the routes of many public transportation systems added to their site and even tells you how much the fare will be.

Most smartphones have Google Maps and other navigation apps to help you find your way using GPS capability. For those without a smartphone, you can look up directions ahead of time and print them out.

Definitely do your research ahead of time. A good number of Greyhound stations are adjacent to public transportation, but this is not a rule. You don't want to get there and wonder what to do next.

If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, then I'd definitely suggest calling a cab. You should research services and prices ahead of time.

Note: if you'd like to try asking a friend who is also attending to pick you up, ask around and make plans quite a bit of time in advance (try a month or two), and it's always nice if you can chip in a little for gas. Don't blame a friend if they can't do it. In many cases, they have their plans, and so do you, and sometimes they don't quite work well with each other.

OTHER TIPS

If you use your phone quite a bit, I would recommend investing in a portable power bank to give it an extra charge. A lot of new Greyhound buses include outlets for charging devices (and so-so WiFi), but not all do and some of these outlets (and WiFi) prove faulty. They do not promise these services, so you really shouldn't complain if you find you can't use these amenities or if they are not available on your bus. A number of stations also offer free WiFi and charging stations, so if you need to watch your data plan, you might want to limit your phone use to when you're at one.

If you often get headaches or nauseous, carry some cheap ibuprofen and bismuth tablets. Some supermarkets and grocery stores sell value brand packages of these for as low as $1 each. (Note: I do not suggest abuse of over-the-counter medication. Use only as directed and if you're not sure if it's safe for you, consult a doctor.)

Enjoy the view of the country!

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Music from Oz: The Wizard of Oz by Toybox

In searching for Oz videos or music, there's a little song that might pop up: "The Wizard of Oz" by a Danish group called Toy-Box.



The song seems to be a fun bubblegum pop song, a little reminiscent of "Barbie Girl." But a closer examination of the lyrics reveals it to be a little less about the classic Oz of Baum and MGM and a little more of something else... Something more adult. (Lyrics in bold indicate a male voice. Otherwise, it is sung by the female lead.)
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
Okay, so far, so good. There's some lyrics that might be interpreted suggestively, but it could be innocent.
Will you take me to the land of Oz
Yes, I will, come on (Let's go then)
But that's your house, and not the land of Oz
But this is much more fun (Really)

You can be my wizard
But don't tell anyone
Wait, he takes her to his house? Seemingly against her will, although he's able to talk her into it?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

I am searching for the magic land
Follow me, my girl (Okay)
Do you have to touch me with your magic hands
It's part of the ritual (Hey, hands off, Mister)
Okay, now he's touching her, and she's not cool about it.
Listen to the wizard
And you'll be magical
Do we want to know what "being magical" means here?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
(Love you)

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

Ho ho ho ho ho
Welcome to the land of Oz

Is this the land of Oz?
Wow! It's so beautiful
It's magical
When I showed the lyrics to my sister, she suggested that the song was actually about sex and drug use, so with this interpretation, she might now be on a trip or a high thanks to some drugs he gave her.
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Excuse me, which way to fly?)
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Shh, it's a secret!)

Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
I have a wish to be, be, be
Be, be, be
Wizard, wizard
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz
Tell me are you the Wizard of Oz

(Of course I am)
You know what? Bravo! Here's a song with a working subtext. And if it disturbs you, good.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Music from Oz: Popular Song

This little series will point out the influence of Oz on pop culture specifically by pointing out songs based on Oz in some way. Any suggestions are welcome!
 Earlier this year, I was listening to Mika's album The Origin of Love when a song came on with a familiar beat to it.

At the time, I couldn't quite place it, but when it got to the chorus, I realized that the song was based on the "Popular" number from Wicked. Here's the album version below. (Although this is my preferred version of the song, it does contain a little coarse language.)



The song is dedicated to school bullies of the past, and sung by their past victims, who actually went ahead and did something with their lives, specifically, "putting down my story in a popular song." The bully now works low-level jobs, such as selling popcorn at the movie theater or being a janitor. The chorus suggests that popularity comes from being true to yourself rather than giving in to peer pressure or by the things you own.

The song also got a single version, which reworked the tempo, dropped the bridge, sanitized the language, and had Ariana Grande instead of Priscilla Renea singing the song with Mika. This version got a music video.



The music video seems like it owes a bit to the imagination of Tim Burton or the Addams Family. But perhaps it has a few (likely unintentional) nods to Oz as well? Like Mombi in The Marvelous Land of Oz, Mika and Ariana brew a potion that turns their bullies into stone. And if they're serving the roles of wicked magicians, as suggested by several Oz tales, Ariana turns on Mika at the end.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Blu-Ray review

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return came out in theaters in May, a little over four months ago. It ran for one or two weeks (depending on the theater), performing very poorly and quickly going to second-run theaters.

And if you missed it then, you can now get the home video release and see what you missed. I reviewed the film after seeing it alone (both that I went alone and was the only person in the theater), so I won't critique the film here. If you want a plot summary, here we go:

With the Land of Oz in the thrall of an evil Jester, Dorothy is summoned to save the day! Joining her are a band of new friends: the candy-loving owl Wiser, Marshal Mallow of Candy County and the Dainty China Princess. But can this little band of friends stop the Jester?

 I will say one critique I didn't say in my previous review... This movie really could have used Ozma.

There.

So, how's the Blu-Ray package?

Well, let me say this, if you're buying any format, you might as well go for the Blu-Ray as it seems to be available for a nice, low price ($15 on Amazon on its day of release). As it comes with a Blu-Ray, DVD and Ultlraviolet copy, you're getting the movie in three formats, and if you can get it for $15, that's $5 each.

The movie looks just fine on all formats. DVD and standard definition Ultraviolet playback will have a minimal blur for folks with larger screens. It's unsurprising as this was a computer-animated film. Why wouldn't a digitally created film look great on digital video?

The main menu on the DVD and Blu-Ray is pretty identical, except that the Blu-Ray main menu branches into every other menu, while the DVD has to use submenus as a limitation of the format. The main menu displays a series of clips from the movie while the overture plays.

The content is exactly the same on both discs, so it's not one of those cases where bonus features were withheld from the DVD version. However, there's not really any substantial bonus features. There's a singalong feature, playing most of the songs from the movie with color-changing lyrics over a yellow brick road over the movie clips. The rest of the features are all EP material. "The Music of Oz" and "The Legacy of Oz" both feature clips from the film as the cast and crew say a little about the movie and their love of Oz and excitement about the project. Then, there's a trailer. All in all, these non-singalong features add up to under 8 minutes of content. Given the under performance of the film, it's easy to imagine why the Blu-Ray did not get more substantial features. The history of this film is quite a thing in and of itself, but it's not documented here at all.

The discs contain subtitles in English, Spanish and French. They only have one English 5.1 audio track, however.

If you have a DVD or Blu-Ray ROM drive on your computer, both discs have printable activity sheets for children.

The Ultraviolet copy gave me a surprise by offering a QR code as well as the typical code to type in to unlock the movie. Using the QR code, I was able to add the movie to my Ultraviolet collection directly from my phone without typing in a code. (It does lead to a browser-based version, so it helps if you have a Flixster account connected to Facebook and have signed into Facebook already.)

Overall, while there are no "gotta have 'em" bonus features to sweeten the package, the value of it is good enough to add it to your collection. Unless you don't want to get the movie at all. And considering how many of us rewatch and even keep home videos of just about every Oz film, chances are good that you'll add it to your collection sometime.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Magic Umbrella of Oz

Hardcover edition
 This year at Winkies, I worked with Paul Dana at his table in the dealer's room. We were also sharing it with Karyl Carlson, who had copies of Queen Ann in Oz for sale. He was selling paperback copies of The Law of Oz and Other Stories and its sequel The Magic Umbrella of Oz. Of course I bought copies of both of the new books.

As I said, this is a sequel to The Law of Oz and follows up from it. If you haven't read that one, it's a little difficult to discuss this one without revealing some of the revelations from that book, so if you don't want any spoilers, stop reading now and come back for the next blog.

... So, you're one of the people who's read The Law of Oz?

... Or you don't care about spoilers?

Well, I'll be starting the review in a sec.

Okay?

I warned you.

Paperback edition
Okay. Review starts now. Button-Bright and Ojo have been working with their powers they discovered and acquired in the previous book, working on transformations and how to help people with them.

However, part of the climax of the previous tale has unleashed a wicked spirit called the Piper in Oz. Unable to find any children it can lure (all of the children in Oz are actually decades old), it seeks to leave Oz, finding an ally in a green monkey named Moyna Yoop... They just need two things: the Magic Umbrella to find the Ring of Time so they can get an important item from the past of Oz: the Silver Shoes!

There's a daring adventure, some twists, some new revelations about the past of Oz and Button-Bright, and the secret of the Magic Umbrella is finally revealed.

Paul weaves a great tale, and it's illustrated beautifully by Jaun Raza. Many of the pictures are available in color in the hardcover edition (hence its higher price), but they are reproduced in halftones and greyscale in the paperback edition, so you get lovely art either way. Definitely recommended.

But make sure you read The Law of Oz first.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Inga, Rinkitink and Bilbil

This entry is a little odd because originally, these three characters were not Oz characters. They are the heroes of Rinkitink in Oz, which was actually written in 1905 as King Rinkitink. For whatever reason, Baum had held the book back from publication. Most likely, he had realized that it was a better idea not to release too many Baum books each year, and after The Marvelous Land of Oz and Queen Zixi of Ix in St. Nicholas Magazine (and the collected novel edition), he decided to shelve it.

Rinkitink was the first book Baum wrote that featured a group of characters going to the Nome Kingdom to rescue royal prisoners and going through a tough trial to complete their task. This element was successfully reworked into Ozma of Oz. Ozma was in turn adapted into the musical The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, in which the prisoner was reduced from royalty to a tramp's brother. As the musical was a loose amalgamation of elements from several Oz books, Baum adapted it into Tik-Tok of Oz, adding in an original fairyland on the other side of the world that the characters are temporarily sent to, as well as shaking up the Nome Kingdom's throne and putting Oz proper into the final chapters.

Health conditions and other issues gave Baum little time to produce a new book for 1916, so he decided to see if he had any manuscripts that he might turn into an Oz book. And so, King Rinkitink had its opening revised to mention Oz, and part of its original ending changed to have Dorothy and the Wizard suddenly visit the Nome Kingdom to resolve the plot and facilitate a trip to Oz. Unfortunately, the original version of King Rinkitink is not known to exist, so how our heroes eventually left the Nome Kingdom is anyone's guess.

Inga is main character of the book, and is the prince of island kingdom of Pingaree, which harvests luscious pearls they trade for goods to keep their country thriving. A studious young man, Inga is made privy to the family secret of the three magic pearls by his father. Hidden under a floor tile, the three pearls have magic powers: the blue pearl gives whoever carries it great strength, the pink pearl makes its carrier invincible, and the white pearl whispers words of wisdom or advice.

Inga happens to be in a tree top studying when Pingaree is invaded, enslaved, carried off and devastated by Regos and Coregos and manages to escape imprisonment. Finding the visiting Rinkitink and Bilbil the talking goat, Inga takes lead of the survivors and recovers the pearls at night, later taking them to Regos and Coregos where they use the pearls to drive the king and queen away, despite a few mishaps. They chase King Gos and Queen Cor to the Nome Kingdom, where the Nome King (Kaliko, who acts suspiciously like his predecessor) keeps King Kitticut and Queen Garee of Pingaree prisoner after being paid.

Inga defies Kaliko and uses the pearls to defeat a series of trials for him. Perhaps these trials were enough to win his parents back in the original version, or perhaps the Nome King had another challenge for him. But in the published version, Inga and his parents are freed by Dorothy and the Wizard dropping in with a basket of eggs. After a brief visit to Oz, Inga and his friends and family return to Pingaree, where they find everything rebuilt even more glorious than before.

King Rinkitink rules a small kingdom called Gilgad, where he amiably rules, but feels overwhelmed by his duties. Rinkitink in Oz has him take an unannounced vacation during which he sneaks away to Pingaree and is an honored guest until Regos and Coregos attack. He escapes imprisonment by falling down a well, which Inga and Bilbil rescue him from.

Although always preferring comfort and food and a song (which he writes and sings on the spot, much to Bilbil's chagrin), Rinkitink does manage to give some good advice to Inga, and later helps the boy keep the secret of the pearls, using one himself to get past a few trials the Nome King puts him through.

Finally, the jolly fat king of Gilgad returns home after his adventures, much to his dismay. But he is glad to have had his adventures with Inga.

Bilbil is something of an oddity. In the original version, it was supposed to be a curious thing that he was a talking goat. However, since it was released as the tenth Oz book and just about every animal has talked in the series now, the reader can easily miss that it's supposed to be a mystery as to why this goat can talk.

The gruff, surly goat serves as Rinkitink's steed. Rinkitink is too fat to walk far without tiring and cannot expect to ride a taller beast. Bilbil accepts his duty, but not without complaint. He seems to despise being attached to Rinkitink, even suggesting that Inga leave him in the well. However, Bilbil does pull his weight in the story, helping Inga and even butting King Gos and Queen Cor at great speeds.

After being protected by Rinkitink and his borrowed pearl, Bilbil meets the Wizard, who wonders why the goat can talk, since he's never been to Oz. (Because we've seen talking foxes, donkeys and chickens outside of Oz and now this is a surprise, Wizard?) He then identifies Bilbil as the transformed Prince Bobo of Boboland. (We never discover who enchanted him or why in the Famous Forty.) Returning to Oz, the Wizard and Glinda work hard to restore Bobo to his natural form, and he proves to be an amiable prince, though the last line of the book suggests that he still isn't a fan of Rinkitink's songs.

I recently revamped Bobo's character for a short story in Oziana that ballooned into Marcus Mebes and Jeff Rester's The Royal Explorers of Oz series. In it, I reveal that Bobo is amiable, as long as things go his way. If not, he turns surly and grouchy, much as he was when he was a goat. Marcus and Jeff then whisk the character off a devastating adventure on The Crescent Moon that makes him re-evaluate how he sees things.

Aside from that, I've seen Rinkitink and Bobo appear in small roles in non-Famous Forty tales. Inga not so much, though a couple books have him lend the pearls to the heroes. But the history of Oz is ever-expanding. Perhaps the prince (or now king?) of Pingaree will have another adventure in the near future, perhaps with his old friends.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Queen Ann in Oz

I bought a new edition of a book I already owned at the Winkie Convention this year. Queen Ann in Oz had humble beginnings in the 1980s as a round robin tale by the attendees of the Oogaboo Rendezvous. None of that tale appears in this book, but it did give Eric Gjovaag the idea to collaborate with Karyl Carlson on her story idea to tell a new adventure with Queen Ann. Using snail mail, a book-length tale took shape.

After being approached by Peter Glassman, Queen Ann in Oz was submitted for publication in the early 1990s as Books of Wonder branched into printing new Oz stories. Sure, it was submitted "the wrong way" (printed on dot matrix printing paper), but it was accepted, and soon, Bill Campbell and his partner Irwin Terry were approached to illustrate it.

The book tells of how Queen Ann went out with a group of Oogaboo children and a cute little dragon named Moretomore to seek her long-lost parents. Being joined by the Shaggy Man, they travel through Sand City, Barberville, and the Friendly Forest before coming to the mysterious city of Forgetville, where they must break a mysterious curse.

The story is not very complicated, nor is there really an antagonist (the Barbers of Barberville don't intend to let the party leave, and there is the curse of Forgetville, so there are obstacles), but where the story really shines is characterization. Ann has certainly matured since attempting to conquer the world, and the Shaggy Man is his loveable old self, but the new characters of Jodie Buttons, Jo Musket, Jo Fountainpen, Jo Dragon and Moretomore are also quite well-developed. The children are not a typical happy friendly group, Moretomore has personality quirks, and Jodie's driving purpose is to make a name for herself.

The book makes an odd reference to a certain Bible story. It makes sense, it's just odd to see a Bible story referenced so directly in an Oz book. Otherwise, it's a very fun Oz book, and even creates an answer to how the Love Magnet wound up in America and what the Shaggy Man's name is.

Books of Wonder no longer prints new books, and now, the original edition of Queen Ann in Oz is no longer available new. (Okay, I'm sure someone has mint condition copies, but whatever...) 20 years later, the publication rights went back to the authors, and Joe Bongiorno of The Royal Publisher of Oz (who took the name before I could!) inquired about reissuing it. Plans soon came together to re-edit the book, restoring some of the cuts Books of Wonder made. (I couldn't spot any major changes.) Getting Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry back on board, some of the art that went unused from Books of Wonder's edition was also restored.

Even bigger, this new edition contains a sequel to the book. Karyl takes sole credit on Jodie in Oz, following up on Jodie's attempt to make a name for herself and how she made it happen, with some help from Dorothy, Trot and Cap'n Bill. It definitely makes this new edition worth purchasing on its own, as Karyl writes a whimsical tale about a young girl's persistence in making her wishes happen.

And that is not the only feature! The book also contains the script for "Another Adventure With Ann," a brief Tik-Tok in Oz follow-up skit performed at the 1988 Winkie Convention, written by Eric Gjovaag. Feeling snubbed by a late invitation, Queen Ann re-recruits Private Files to help her conquer the Winkie Country.

The new edition is available in hardcover and paperback. The hardcover is rather highly priced due to it featuring color pictures, which print on demand technology requires that every page be priced as a color page, as the automated process can't tell the difference between color and black and white pages. (Not to mention paper stock issues.) Having seen both editions, I think that if you really want this and can afford it, the hardcover is worthwhile, but the much more modestly priced paperback is just as good if you just want to read the stories and see most of the pictures.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A New Adventure Awaits You in Oz...

Yes, friends, Yellow Brick Road, the animated musical that I am writing and co-directing, is moving right along!

We have a beautiful new poster created by our art director, Tally Todd. I'm rather in love with this artwork, and I think it captures the essence of fun and magic that we want for the film. You'll spot some familiar characters on this poster, and one villainous figure you may not recognize...

In Yellow Brick Road, the adult Dorothy Gale teams up with Oscar Diggs, the former Wizard of Oz, to face the mysterious Betsy Bobbin, who is tearing apart every corner of the land in search of the Silver Slippers. Our heroes will have to work with General Jinjur, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Good Witches in order to uncover Betsy's motives and ultimately defeat her.

The film is currently in pre-production, with release slated for 2016. We are beginning the casting process, with Ramona Mallory already signed on to provide the voice for Betsy Bobbin.

Ramona is insanely talented, having experience on both the stage and screen. She starred in the 2009 Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, alongside musical theatre legends Angela Lansbury, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Bernadette Peters.

I'm also really excited to have Leigh Scott, who I first worked with on Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, on board as co-director and producer.
















Keep an eye out for more details on Yellow Brick Road very soon. Go ahead and "like" our Facebook page, and we'll be sure to keep you up-to-date on all the latest with the film!

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz — Cinar's Oz Part 1

Jared and Sam begin a multi-part discussion of the PanMedia Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime series as dubbed into English and presented by Cinar. This first episode finds them examining the story arc based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

As always, you can listen and download at the podcast site, or use the player below.