Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Oz Kids (Intro)

Jay and Sam prepare for a multi-episode discussion of The Oz Kids video series, starting by giving some general information about the series, including its characters, premise and general availability.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below!

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Monday, September 26, 2016

A couple Ozzy announcements...

So, I've been thinking about what to do at this blog (I've posted a couple entries at my other Blogger blog lately) and I think I've thought of a blogging project. But more on that in a moment.

First off, I got contacted by RAMstar Studios, who says they're producing a live action movie adaptation of Donald Abbott's How The Wizard Came To Oz, set to be released to theaters in 2018, directed by Cole S. McKay. Producers are BJ Plott, Dan Guardino, and Derrick Iloni. The budget is a modest $35 million, but it's not always about how much you have as much as how you use it.

The synopsis provided is as follows...
When a runaway balloon carries Oscar Zoroaster Diggs to the war torn Land of Oz he inadvertently manages to bring peace to its people, and finds himself hailed as a great wizard. Now he has to defeat a vengeful witch to maintain the peace.
That's really all the information I have. You can check out the RAMstar Studios Facebook page (where I stole that graphic from) to check out their other works and see if they have any updates.

Donald Abbott initially wrote How The Wizard Came To Oz as a short story for Oziana before reworking it into a book for Books of Wonder's Emerald City Press in the early 1990s, following it up with a few other Oz books. Recently, he adapted the story into a film script, which is the script RAMstar is using.

They did confirm that Donald Abbott's currently running webcomic adaptation of the story is based on the script, so go ahead and look there if you want to see what you can expect.

 Other news is that another Oz-themed Kickstarter is getting ready to wrap up and has just under $1000 to go before its goal is reached. The Wicked Wizard of Oz is a choose-your-own-adventure style RPG gamebook which is "inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, but with a dark Dieselpunk twist."

THE WICKED WIZARD OF OZ is set after the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy finds herself transported back to the marvellous Land of Oz and hunted by the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys. But how can the Witch be back? And why has Dorothy been brought back to Oz? There's only one way to find out.
Joined by her friends - the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion - Dorothy sets off for the Emerald City. Surrounded by enemies on all sides, will you uncover the secrets of THE WICKED WIZARD OF OZ?

I was contacted about this just today, so I don't really have any more information than what can be found on the Kickstarter website. But lovers of all things Oz might want to look into supporting this to help it happen and get their hands on some unique Oz collectibles.

So, finally, what to do on the blog after blogging for so long? Aside from blogging about Oz books I've read (which I've even fallen behind on that as I read a new edition of Wonderful Wizard and Marvelous Land on my return from Oz Con I meant to write about), it feels like most of the ideas there would be to write about I have written about!

Well, I had an idea. How about breaking down the history of Oz and our own culture into a timeline and begin going in for indepth looks at the world L. Frank Baum created his stories in, and how his stories later influenced that world? The scope is wide enough to basically include anything related to Oz. A blog about Baum's life might be flanked by examinations of his work at the time or about where he lived and what was going on in the US and the world. I'd certainly welcome guest posts.

I'd like to tie podcasts into this as well, I could certainly see me inviting David Maxine to discuss the 1902 Wizard of Oz musical. "Movies of Oz" would run separately, but blogs about the movies would certainly pop up, perhaps multiple posts.

Basically, whenever we're done, what we'd have would hopefully be a massive body of work about Oz.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Magic of Oz and Other Oz Animation

Jay Davis, Sean Carlson, Jimmy Weinstein and Eric Gjovaag kick back and watch "The Magic of Oz" cartoon, billed as "The Worst Cartoon Ever!" on YouTube. But does it deserve that title? What are the origins of this cartoon? What does our new friend Jimmy think of Oz animation in general? Find out in this episode!

This is the fourth and final of four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

 You can listen, download and subscribe at the Royal Podcast of Oz website or use the player and links below.

Support the Royal Podcast of Oz on Patreon!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Two Royal Historians

Paul Dana, author of new Oz books The Law of Oz and Other Stories and The Magic Umbrella of Oz and Jared "Jay" Davis, author of Outsiders from Oz and The Way of a Lion: A Tale of Oz talk about how they came to write Oz stories and read excerpts from their work.

This is the third in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.
Watch the Costume Parade video.
Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.
Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the Royal Podcast of Oz website or use the player and links below.

Support the Royal Podcast of Oz on Patreon!

Download this episode (right click and save)

The Birthday Girl of Oz

In writing his 4th Oz adventure, "the Road to Oz", L Frank Baum wrote two passages in the book that gave a specific date for the time the story was set:

"I wish it would snow; don't you?"
" ' Course not, Shaggy Man," replied Dorothy, giving him a severe look.  "If it snowed in August it would spoil the corn and the oats and the wheat; and then Uncle Henry wouldn't have any crops; and that would make him poor; and - "
"Never mind," said the Shaggy man.


"Do you know Ozma?" she asked, wondering.
"I regret to say that I do not," he answered, sadly; "but I hope to meet her soon.  You know the Princess Ozma is to celebrate her birthday on the twenty-first of this month."
"Is she?" said Dorothy.  "I didn't know that."

So ... "August" and "twenty-first".
Ever since then, August 21st has been chosen by Oz fans to be the day they celebrate Ozma's birthday, wherever they are in the world;  and they do so in whatever way they can that plays tribute to the favourite Queen of Oz.

One of the imaginative and creative ways of celebrating her Birthday (last week) is by editing fan videos on Youtube (and elsewhere).

This unique version, starring Shirley Temple and Agnes Moorehead from the 1961 TV Show, combines the two transformation scenes together with some music from Walt Disney's animated classic "Sleeping Beauty".
I made this one a few years ago, before technical and other difficulties prevented me from finishing other videos (including two others for "Patchwork Girl" in 2013; and especially more videos to this Playlist adapting "Wizard" in Music Video form).

(I also made a image that had John Neill's illustrated surrounded by onscreen presentations - that image has yet to be modified for satisfying further viewing)

Of course this isn't the only video to celebrate Ozma, by me or anyone else; each video does something different:
Coloured-in illustrations from the book that act as a showreel for Ozma's Guests, Gifts and Birthday Celebration  . . .

 . . . A selection of clips from the 1999-2000 Russian animated "Adventures in the Emerald City" series . . .

 . . . and finally one that shows the different portrayals she has had onscreen throughout the century!
(these two done by Jay "RoyalKidofOz" Davis)

No matter how often she changes in looks or age, in the books or onscreen, her Birthday will always be celebrated by Oz Fans on the 21st of August.

All Hail Ozma, the Birthday Girl of Oz!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Meet Peter Hanff

Jay interviews Peter Hanff live at Oz Con International 2016. Hear how Peter Hanff discovered the world of Oz for himself, began building an incredible collection and began research into the history of the Oz series.

This is the second in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Oz Con International 2016 Recap

Jay reports live from Oz Con International to let you know what went down in Portland, Oregon. Plus, hear from Sean Carlson about how his setting the songs of Rinkitink in Oz to music became a hit for the attendees.

This will be the first in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wicked: News, Rumors, and Speculation about the Upcoming Stage-to-Screen Adaptation

For years, Oz fans and musical theatre fans alike have wondered what a film adaptation of the musical Wicked might be like. Jared and I even discussed it, albeit somewhat briefly, in a recent podcast. It wasn't until last month, however, that such a film was formally announced and given a release date. (You can read Jared's thoughts on that announcement here.) Although we're still a ways away from that December 20, 2019 release date (1,242 days as of this posting, but who's counting?), we're starting to learn more about the approach that director Stephen Daldry and company are taking in bringing the beloved stage show to the big screen.

Wicked's composer and
lyricist Stephen Schwartz
Just this past week, composer Stephen Schwartz revealed during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con that the film would have four songs not included in the original musical, one of which is a song that was written for but was ultimately cut from the Broadway production. This could very well be "Making Good," a song that had been written for Elphaba but was replaced by "The Wizard and I." (You can listen to a recording of "Making Good" here.) Schwartz has said that the cut song was "too mild" and that he and the creative team felt that there needed to be a bigger, more compelling (and showstopping) song for Elphaba in its place.

It seems that most people are responding with excitement to the news that the film could include as many as four new songs, but personally, I have more mixed, less enthusiastic feelings about it. I definitely understand that the film will not and should not be a carbon copy of the stage show – one reason being that the clearly defined, two-act structure is different from the more fluid, three-act structure of a film, and another being that it's simply not realistic to expect that everything from the show will be carried over to the film. I feel, however, like there's no need to add to what's already there, and I hope that the final film doesn't diverge too much from the stage show.

Disney's film adaptation of Into the Woods was generally well-received and was mildly successful in terms of box office, but there were many people who were not happy about the changes that were made from the original musical. Not only were nine of the stage show's songs absent, but much of the violent and sexual content was toned down for the film (likely in order to obtain a PG rating and to be able to appeal to a wider audience, as of most Disney's content does). I think it's also relevant to mention the most recent film adaptation of Annie, which was basically "dead on arrival" in terms of the way it was received by critics and many, if not most, moviegoers because of its contemporary approach to the material and its obvious and significant differences from prior adaptations.

I honestly don't think there's much of a chance that the Wicked movie will be so different from the stage production and so harshly-received as the aforementioned Annie adaptation, especially since the screenplay is being written by Winnie Holzman, who also wrote the book for the original musical, but I'm definitely curious to see what changes are made and how those changes are received.

I'm also curious to see how people respond to the casting announcements that will inevitably arrive within the next year or so. It's pretty much a given that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth won't be reprising their roles from the Broadway production, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were cast in other roles or made some sort of cameo appearance in the film. Kristin Chenoweth has said in passing that she'd be up for playing Madame Morrible, and if that were to happen, you wouldn't hear any complaints from me. The bigger question, though, is if not Idina and Kristin as Elphaba and Glinda, then who? Who should take on those now-iconic roles?

Anna Kendrick and Kristin
Chenoweth performing
the song "For Good"
at Trevor Live in 2013.
Well, I think it would be remiss of me to ignore the possibility that Anna Kendrick will be cast as Elphaba, and allow me explain my reasoning for that. The Wicked movie is being produced and distributed by Universal, the studio responsible for Pitch Perfect, the movie that made Kendrick a star and that was successful enough to spawn two sequels (the second of which is expected to arrive late next year). Assuming that a Wicked movie would carry a price tag of at least $100 million, it's unlikely that relatively unknown actors would be cast (although I know some musical theatre fans may not want to believe that). Kendrick has demonstrated her star power with the Pitch Perfect franchise and her ability to work in a musical of this caliber with her role as Cinderella in Into the Woods (which shares a producer with Wicked in Marc Platt), and I can't think of any other actresses (who would be appropriate for the role anyway) of which the same could be said. Aside from that, she's already expressed interest in the role, and she even performed a song from the musical with Kristin Chenoweth at an event in 2013 (video here).

Another name that's come up over the years is Lea Michele, best known for her role as Rachel on the TV show Glee. Like Anna Kendrick, Lea has expressed interest in someday playing Elphaba in a Wicked movie, and she's performed with both Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth even suggested Lea in a recent interview in which she was asked who she'd like to see cast in the film. I've talked to many people who are rooting for Lea to get to the role and who feel like she's better suited to the role than is Anna Kendrick, and while I don't necessarily disagree with that, I think the reality is that Lea hasn't done enough post-Glee. Sure, she's on Fox's Scream Queens, but that show isn't popular and doesn't get very good ratings, and she, aside from a voice-over role in Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, hasn't been given a shot on the big screen since New Year's Eve, which was released almost five years ago. I do think that Lea should and probably will be at least considered for the role of Elphaba, but I don't know if casting her would be in the best interest of the film in terms of its potential to really succeed financially.

Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron as Maleficent and Mal, Maleficent's
daughter, respectively, in Disney Channel's Descendants.

As for who could end up cast as Glinda, I think the possibilities are less clear than they seem to be for Elphaba. Amanda Seyfried has campaigned for the role for some time (and has even named Anna Kendrick as her pick to play Elphaba), and even though I like her and think she's very talented, my concern is that she might be a little too old for the part. Another actress who's thrown her name in the ring is Disney Channel star Dove Cameron, who shared the screen (and a musical number) with Kristin Chenoweth in the hit television film Descendants last year. In the same interview in which Chenoweth suggested that Lea Michele play Elphaba, she said that she'd like to see Dove play Glinda in the film. I'm not convinced that Dove Cameron has the charisma or the singing chops for it, but I'd certainly be open to the idea of her taking on the role.

At the end of the day, it obviously isn't up to me or any of us who will be cast in the Wicked movie or what the movie will be like, but it's fun to think about and speculate while we wait for those decisions to be made and announced and for the film to (finally) be released. As a big fan of the musical and having seen the stage production going on ten times, I'm eager to learn more about the film and to see it come together over the next three years, and I hope that it's as good and as successful as I think it has the potential to be.

Feel free to share your own hopes, ideas, thoughts, or concerns about Wicked's long-awaited move from the stage to the screen in the comments below!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The musical Rinkitink

Last year, Karyl Carlson announced that there would be CDs of her son's efforts to put music to the songs in Rinkitink in Oz. Well, Karyl's son Sean Carlson delivered!

The Songs of L. Frank Baum's Rinkitink in Oz is a 23 minute concept album in which Sean sings as Rinkitink (and speaks as Bilbil on one track), putting all of Rinkitink's ditties and songs from the book to music, reminding us that this was a very musical book.

Sean uses synthesized music as well as his own instruments, and he noted specifically that he used a ukulele and a didgeridoo. Synthesized music can sound good, and it does here. It doesn't feel like you're suddenly listening to a computer game from 1998. In addition to the songs, the album has four instrumental tracks of just music inspired by the story.

It should be noted that this is one interpretation of Rinkitink, not a definitive one. For me, when I read Rinkitink's songs in the book, I imagined Rinkitink having a deep baritone voice, and he'd belt out all his songs. Sean is not a baritone, so his Rinkitink is different with a much more gentle voice, giving more of the idea that Rinkitink is coming up with these songs on the spot and singing to himself and his friends. It's a viable interpretation, and the results are very pleasing.

Sean also doesn't try to keep the music in line with the time it was written. Perhaps I have a bad ear for genre, but the album uses all sorts of song styles for Rinkitink's songs, which lends to the idea that Rinkitink is coming up with these on the spot. Also, it helps with the idea that this story takes place in Fairyland, which has a culture that doesn't always mirror our own.

The CD comes in a digipak case (heavy cardstock with a hard plastic disc holder glued to a fold-out panel), decorated with art by John R. Neill in full color. The fold out panels include lyrics for the songs, and a track list, which reveals some of Sean's inspirations for these songs.

The CD was for sale at Oz Con International for $12 a copy (this is a small run of a concept album by an independent artist, so it will become a collector's item), and several copies will be available at Oz Con Philly next month, so if you're going or know someone who is going, your chance to get one is not far off. All sales will help fund future Oz Con events.

To order online, go to http://Paypal.Me/OzConInternational, enter $17.00 ($5 to cover shipping) and log in.