Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Follow Up...

Last year, I made some resolutions (link here), let's see how I've done...

1. I have been actively searching for a better job, but all have since failed to open up. Given the economy and number of businesses around my area that have closed, my only real hope is moving somewhere else, which I can't afford to do.

2. Wonders will be finished next year. This year has been a real low for me. Maybe it was my change in work schedule, or a lack of creative drive since I started living alone. I have also had issues with video editing software. Believe me, no one is more disappointed that the series didn't have many installments this year than I am.

3. Because I wasn't able to find a better job, the option of taking a trip to an Oz convention never opened.

4. Also, since that announcement to re-do the Dorothy and Ozma Productions website, nothing has happened...

5. All right, now this one is better! I have submitted a few news stories to the Bugle this year, and was asked to do some reviews, which I did. I understand one is in the current issue of the Bugle, which I am still waiting for in the mail.

6. That was too optimistic. In fact, over the year, once again, I and Sam Milazzo have re-evaluated our scripts for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and have decided that we could make them even better. We've also been looking at ways to get the scripts actually filmed. Who knows? An independent international film company may just emerge from this...

7. With a few small exceptions, I have been consistently replying to e-mail from Oz fans.

I also did a few small accomplishments this year that I hadn't resolved to do:

  • I've made more international friends, and have been able to increase the number of contacts I have in the United States.
  • I launched The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Writer's World site for fan fiction, thanks to Jericho Mathew Bloom, who still has the server.
  • A bit of bright side on the lack of Wonders episodes: the time I was evaluating alternatives to Windows Movie Maker opened up new options for video effects and editing. I plan to use some of these in the final episodes of Wonders.
  • The purchase of a webcam enabled me to do a live show one night. (I'd like to do another one, but will wait until I have a better camera.)
  • Increased usage of Instant Messaging and using Skype opened up new methods of communication with otherOz fans.

Next year ("resolve" is such a strong word), I hope to:

  • Meet some of these people I've only e-mailed, instant-messaged, or "Skyped."
  • Improve my writing skills. (I know I'm not the best!)
  • Do more videos, with more original content.
  • Get better at Flash animation! (Anyone who read it, please consider my Enchanted Island of Yew animation to be indefinitely shelved, an idea to be dusted off when I feel I'm good enough at Flash to do it.)
  • Do another live show.


Have a great New Year, all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A new video at last...



Merry Christmas. Windows Movie Maker is working for me again. More videos sooner than later!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oz in the UK blog coming... sometime...

A United Kingdom resident who I've mentioned on the blog a few times has asked that I do a blog about Oz's UN-popularity in the UK.

Only problem is, I've no idea where to start... Help!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Other Good Witch Of The South...

I was looking up some Oz videos on YouTube, and ran across these clips from a stage adaptation of MGM's Wizard of Oz, with a twist! Glinda now has some company, Cinda, the Good Witch of the South!

Of course, those of us familiar with the books know that Baum never officially named the Good Witch of the North, while Glinda was the Good Witch of the South, but these are still funny!



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa Caps

Well, I mentioned I did a capture of the 2000 The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus. Here is a video clip I edited out before I did a more final pass on it (I'm going to try to get the audio to sound better):



Here's a screen cap of the current version:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another idea...


JD: This painting of W.W. Denslow they used in this documentary looks a lot like Robert Carlyle...
AC: Really?
JD: That's it, I'm saving this shot... It's a nice example of enlarging 352 X 240 video to 640 X 480 video.
AC: Ah.
JD: But when I noticed that, I had to mention it to you. Here it is, if you care to see.
AC: He does look like Bobby a little.
JD: Yeah...
AC: Baum a little teeny bit, too.
JD: I noted both Baum and Denslow had similar features. They were also the same age.
AC: Hmmm.... (Genius at work.)
JD: But Den died first. Sad story, died broke, drunk, and alone.
AC: Hope I ain't his reincarnation.
JD: You could really do a whole movie contrasting the lives of these two.
AC: That would work.
JD: Baum died with enough money coming in to keep his widow supported, a cigar at his bedside, with his wife.


It might make an interesting dramatic narrative to compare the lives of two men who were born at the same time, grew up, became business partners, then fell out and they died in contrasting ways.

Now, who to sell the idea to?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

More On Santa and the Immortals

I want to remind everyone that the last two blog entries, and the pages I link to here, involve a lot of personal opinions from the people expressing them. Opinions in the matter of works of fiction are usually not wrong or right, they can just be fun to discuss.


Yesterday, Nathan DeHoff posted an entry in his LiveJournal about the Immortals in Baum's works and the Oz books. It was very well-written and covered several details. (LINK)

Also, the Books of Current focus log about the book is worth a read: LINK.

I have also recently FINALLY managed to do a VHS to DV transfer of the year 2000 version of The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus, so I might be posting some screencaps or a video clip soon.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ranking of fairies?

In my last blog, both Bloom and I agreed that Queen Zurline of Burzee and Lurline were different characters. A comment suggested that maybe Lurline and Queen Lulea were the same character.

Possibly, as both were given the name "Fairy Queen." But, I don't see a reason to think they were the same.

In Baum's books, we're given several types of fairies...

Nomes, of course, count here as they are immortal earth spirits, unless they have a fatal encounter with an egg.
The Knooks count here as well, they care for animals.
Ryls, who look after plants.
The Rainbow and his Daughters should count, since they're sky fairies.
The Mist Maidens and Cloud Fairies also count as sky fairies.
We also must include Mermaids.
The Wood-Nymphs of Burzee are also fairies to their own extent. They are ruled by Zurline. They also figure in Eric Shanower's The Forgotten Forest of Oz.
The Sleep Fays
The Water Sprites
The Sound Imps (In The Enchanted Island of Yew, Prince Marvel summons messengers from the Sound Elves. It's very possible that this is the same race.)
We also have Demons, but not the evil kind the Bible teaches of. There are The Wind Demons, and The Master Key has the Demon of Electricity.
There are also Daemons, but this spelling refers only to the five found in A Kidnapped Santa Claus, the Daemons of Selfishness, Envy, Hatred, Malice, and Repentance.
We also have Light Elves who may be related to the Ladies of Light in Tik-Tok of Oz.
We also have the simply named Fairies in Queen Zixi of Ix who also live in Burzee, which leads me to suspect the unnamed Fairy Queen in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is Queen Lulea. These fairies seem to have human wards they care for, which would make them comparable to the fairies in Peter Pan, except much larger and they actually use speech.

However, in the Oz books, we also have Lurline, who, in The Tin Woodman of Oz is has a fairy band and is called Queen. In Glinda of Oz, Ozma says that she was part of the band of the Fairy Queen Lurline. All we really know for certain about Queen Lurline is that she made Oz a fairyland, when she passed over it.

I begin to wonder if Lurline is supposed to be the closest Baum got to a goddess in his books. In The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, there's a mention of an otherwise-unnamed "Supreme Master," who could be Baum's take on God, or stemming from his interest in Theosophy.

I began to wonder recently about Lurline passing over Oz... Does this make her a sky fairy? Is she an elemental? Is her home on a cloud? Maybe the sun, or a star, or... the moon?

... Maybe that's why Tinker never came down...

It seems that there is the Supreme Master, Lurline, then the rankings of Ak, Bo, and Kern, and the smaller Kings and Queens and Lords. Unless Tititi Hoochoo is the Supreme Master, he should fit in somewhere above Ak, Bo, and Kern. He also has a host of Kings and Queens of just about everything.

... Bloom was right when he said it would be easy to make a religion based on Baum...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Santa Talks

Last year, I mentioned I had been discussing The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus with Matt Bloom. I also mentioned that maybe he'd let me share some of these chats. Well, he did, but I've waited until this Christmas to share them.

NOTE: These are edited versions of chat logs. Most of the editing has been done for clearer reading, and also to conceal parts of what was a private conversation, as well as keep a focus on the subject. My name is abbreviated as JD, Bloom's is JMB.

JD: Baum was more about telling stories than developing characters, wasn't he?
JMB: That's true, he was big on action, not detail. Well, in Oz, at least. There were other books he wrote where that was not true. Santa Claus comes to mind. It struck me as unusual for Baum.


Looking back, I wish I hadn't gone off a tangent about Baum's other "unusual work," but anyways, our chat was interrupted by a phone call to Bloom.

JD: I recently read a poorly researched article on "Life & Adventures of Santa Claus." Claimed it was Baum's least know book.
JMB: It isn't!
JD: I'd say that it's second to Oz.
JMB: Baum created the secular Santa, it's still known, if people realize it's Baum or not.


Unfortunately, I said something stupid again and went off in another direction.

JMB: I'm actually reading it (The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus) as we speak. Needed to borrow details in the course of my research, the story is referenced a few times. Haven't finished reading it through though.
JD: Definitely a point of Oz mythology...
JMB: I think so. I like to have my kids talk about Santa Claus as someone infallible.
JD: Any reference to the Great Ak in your book(s)?
JMB: Not yet, but I've got bits and pieces of Baumian lore all over the place.
JD: That'll be Oz-some. Some folks have called this one "pagan." Don't get why.
JMB: Really? You're kidding?
JD: Nope. Some people don't know Baum.
JMB: As a Jewish kid, this was the only implementation of Santa that made any sense.
JD: I think it makes better sense than say... "The Santa ClausE"
JMB: Good point. My mother hated this one too, same reason as Oz though. All the talk of nymphs and what not.


This topic went way off... We began discussing other Baum books, which led into other things. (Somehow, we even discussed religion...)

We did get back on how Baum affected the standard view of Santa...

JMB: There is no other single American author who has had the impact that Baum has, culturally. It's one of the things I think is very interesting about him, even the modern image of Santa Claus can be attributed to Baum.
JD: It's strange, though. Baum's Claus makes more sense, but the more common North Pole Santa is told of.
JMB: True, but the secular Santa would not exist, if not for Baum. North Pole or otherwise, he invented it. I mean sure, it's got other origins, too.
JD: But Baum was able to stabilize it.
JMB: Right. It's funny, I read an article from the 50's that called Baum and Lewis Carrol perverts of mythology, but only after praising Baum for ten paragraphs, that was just sort of the end.
JD: Weird.
JMB: It was weird, like the editor just sort of added it in
JD: And this was published?
JMB: Yeah!
JD: Sounds like poor journalism.
JMB: It's America, we invented it.
JD: America: The Great & Terrible... And We Mean TERRIBLE...
JMB: It's true. Home of everything bad and everything good.


Yes! We went into politics!

There was another rather fascinating bit about Oz and Afterlife, but I won't put it up yet as Bloom wants to use it in his books.

JD: Ever read of Baum's Daemons?
JMB: No, I haven't
JD: "A Kidnapped Santa Claus?"
JMB: Haven't read that in years, need to re-read
JD: I reread it earlier.
JMB: I wonder if Librivox has it
JD: I believe they do, and "Life & Adventures" as well.
JMB: That one I've read more recently, interesting note on that: it's one of the few baum books I've read that has nice long descriptions in it.
JD: I noticed. If you wanted Baum to do a grand myth, here it is.
JMB: I actually mention Baum's Santa a few times in my book, once with a brief biography.
JD: I noticed. Good mojo.


After that, I never used the term "mojo" again...

This next segment starts a little abruptly, but I couldn't include some of the ideas Bloom has going.

JMB: You can't really kill an immortal
JD: Beat the heck outta 'em, but they can't die.
JMB: Like fairies, they just keep coming back.
JD: You can't keep a good immortal down.
JMB: So true, especially an interesting one
JD: Wait... Oh, never mind.
JMB: ???
JD: Baum did make bad immortals.
JMB: Like all his other creatures, good and bad.
JD: The Awgwas, not immortal. Daemons of the Caves, definitely.
JMB: Well, they are demons, but I think Baumian demons can be killed.
JD: Not the ones in "A Kidnapped Santa Claus," Claus says so himself.
JMB: I haven't read that one yet
JMB: Man, what time is it?
JD: HOLY CRUD!
JMB: Feels late! My clock is probably wrong.
JD: I thought it was earlier than that!


Yeah, we once decided we'd both head off to bed at 4:30 AM... You get two Baum nuts jawing away and time loses all importance... As long as we have coffee.

'Twas the day AFTER Christmas 2007, and we were Instant Messaging again...

JD: Hey, did you see this?
JMB: Ah, a solution to the age old quandary: how does a fat man climb down a chimney without getting stuck? He's quite thin.
JD: In this, he doesn't. He's neither fat, nor does he use the chimney.
JMB: He sort of did
JD: Must be something Ak taught him to do.
JMB: Yeah, that's probably the most developed Santa myth, and not just because I like Baum.
JD: Baum pwns all.
JMB: The North Pole Santa isn't very well thought out.
JD: Admittedly, you are correct.
JMB: Baum's vision actually makes sense, and it's far more mystical.
JD: There's dozens of variations on the mainstream Santa myth. Baum's is more straightforward.


We rather repeated what had been said before, but I did wind up leading the conversation this time. (And check that video link.)

JD: For some reason almost no one gets it [that Lurline and Zurline are seperate characters].
JMB: I know, and they try to combine them.
JD: I say, don't do it.
JMB: They're clearly different characters.
JD: In fact, Baum left two more types of fairies he never explored.
JMB: which ones?
JD: Well... Ak rules the nymphs, Baum explored that in "Life ... of Santa Claus."
"But in the center of the circle sat three others who possessed powers so great that all the Kings and Queens showed them reverence. These were Ak, the Master Woodsman of the World, who rules the forests and the orchards and the groves; and Kern, the Master Husbandman of the World, who rules the grain fields and the meadows and the gardens; and Bo, the Master Mariner of the World, who rules the seas and all the craft that float thereon. And all other immortals are more or less subject to these three."

So, what of Baum's other fairies, ruled by Kern and Bo? Although... Perhaps Bo rules the mermaids and the sea serpents as well.
JMB: Perhaps Kern is synonymous with "Father Sky," or Bo would be more likely, mythical roots of the name. Sky gods often had named starting with Bo or Ba.
JD: Huh... Interesting...
JMB: You know, I hate to say this...
JD: ???
JMB: ...but it would be easy to come up with an Ozite religion based on this stuff, if religion wasn't such a bad idea in Oz or for Oz.
JD: Nuts... Baum didn't want to mix Oz and religion.
JMB: It's hard to do it without religion.
JD: The most that ever happened was a church in Dainty China Country, and Cap'n Bill talking about God's forgotten blessings in "Magic."


And well, there we go... We touched on several subjects that might make excellent public discussions. Food for thought!

Friday, November 28, 2008

AVENGERS FAIRY TALES #4

SPOILER WARNING! I will be discussing the plot of this comic book. If you have not yet read it or got it, you may want to skip this blog entry. If this is the case, I would recommend that you read another blog, watch a YouTube video, take a walk, have a glass of water, make a pot of tea, whatever. Then get the comic book, read it, and come back here. Okay?

Well, if you have decided not to heed my warning above, or if you already have the comic... Read on!

Marvel has done a few series of comics that retell fairy tales with their own twists. Last year they had Spider-Man Fairy Tales, which I kept up on! (It had the only version of Cinderella I've seen where the Princess dies at the end...) From these, you can get the idea that each story was basically the essence of a fairy tale and the essence of the Marvel hero mixed together to create a new story.

This year, they decided to take on classic fairy tale books that were actually originally novels, with takes on Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and of course, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. These featured the Avengers team, who is pretty popular for it's "rotating roster," so there was no end to Marvel characters who would be transformed into fairy tale characters.

Issue 4, the final issue, was the Oz story.

The story opens with She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) defending the Avengers mansion from Whirlwind, who manages to knock her out. In a total wink-and-nod to the MGM movie, she has a delirium in which she finds herself in a beautiful countryside, greeted by Agatha (Harkness?), the Good Witch of the North, who thanks her for freeing the Munchkins (mini-people, a wink and nod to Ant-Man and Wasp) by dropping the Avengers mansion on Pietra, the Wicked Witch of the East.

Wanda, the Wicked Witch of the West (dressed in red, as she is represented by Scarlet Witch), arrives, Agatha hurries Jennifer to put on Pietra's silver shoes, which turn green when she dons them. Seeking revenge for her sister's death and infuriated by Jennifer's refusal to give her the shoes, Wanda chants "No more Munchkins," making all the Munchkins vanish.

Feeling responsible for what happened, and wanting to get out of Oz, Jennifer takes Agatha's advice to follow the Yellow Brick Road to Ruby City to see the Wizard of Oz. Along the way, she meets a Scarecrow who wants his strength so he can use his hammer again (based on Thor), a Tin Man who wants a heart (based on Iron Man), and a Lion who doesn't have courage (based on Captain America).

They soon reach Ruby City, where the Wizard has a task for them... But I'm going to stop recapping here... (Because that's where we really leave our old story behind.)

While the story does have a bit of a cheezy feel to it, it's expected. It's a comic book that has already stated that it isn't going to take it's source material very seriously. It manages to be funny and a little sweet.

The art is not the most detailed or elaborate ever seen, but it is good in a fairy tale for children style. It's very pleasing to the eye.

Oz fans, yes, this is yet another weird twist on the Oz story, and while we've seen many of those (Illusive Arts' Dorothy and SciFi's Tin Man come to mind right off the bat), I found it enjoyable.

Worth a read, and, shoot, help the comics industry and buy it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas tradition begun again...

Hey, I haven't begun re-reading The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus yet this year (Irvine Welsh and Oliver Sacks have been taking up my reading recently, hence why I haven't done too many Oz blogs), but I did just finish a new blog about the book, well... actually... It's not that...

What the blog I just finished is is excerpts from chat logs I've had with an Oz fan and Baum enthusiast where we discussed Baum's Santa Claus. I set it to appear on my blog on December 1, so keep your eyes open! There's plenty to talk about on it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A list...

Someone on YouTube asked me about how many Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote. I threw out some numbers, and asked "Want a list?" Well, they did... Here's what I came up with.

Novels...

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)
Ozma of Oz (1907)
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908)
The Road to Oz (1909)
The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)
Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)
The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)
Rinkitink in Oz (1916)
The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
The Magic of Oz (1919)
Glinda of Oz (1919)

Picture books...
The Woggle-Bug Book (1905)
The Little Wizard Series (1913): 6 picture books,
The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger
Tik-Tok and the Nome King
Little Dorothy and Toto
Ozma And The Little Wizard
Jack Pumpkinhead And The Sawhorse
The Scarecrow And The Tin Woodman

The stories published in newspapers was "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz." The stories ran from 1904-1905, and have been collected in "The Visitors from Oz," and there is a full-color oversized collected edition coming out next year.

There was also a partial draft of a chapter discovered for an unfinished Oz book, and a quick story that Baum wrote in a copy of "The Road to Oz" for his grandson is considered it's own tale, "A Short, Short Oz Story." He also wrote a story called "The Littlest Giant: An Oz Story," but there seems to be no real connection to Oz.

Baum's books that are connected to Oz...
The Magical Monarch of Mo (1903, originally "A New Wonderland" from 1900)
Dot & Tot of Merryland (1901)
The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)
The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903) (Loosely connected)
Queen Zixi of Ix (1905)
John Dough and the Cherub (1906)
The Sea Fairies (1911)
Sky Island (1912)

Oz-related short stories...
The Runaway Shadows (1901)
The King Who Changed His Mind (1901)
A Kidnapped Santa Claus (1904)
Nelebel's Fairyland (1905)

Did I forget anything? That list was exhausting! I hope it was also exhaustive...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

MarvelOz Comics

I'm awaiting the arrival of Avengers Fairy Tales #4, the last issue that will relate a fantasy story using the story of The Wizard of Oz and the characters of The Avengers.

Last night, I put in my subscription order for Marvel's adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. (If you haven't subscribed yet, DO IT! Right now it's only $30, it'll cost you a lot more if buy the comics individually. At a rate of $4 per comic, with eight issues each story, that's $64, giving you a $34 savings!) (LINK)

These series are being adapted by Eric Shanower, with artwork by Skottie Young. I've been an admirer of Eric's work, especially his Oz work, for many years, and Skottie seems to be a talented artist, even though he's no Neill or Denslow. (Thank God.) Here's a link to an interview with Eric. (Link)

I also wound up with two copies of the Sketchbook Marvel released for free, and so far, have been unable to find anyone who wants a copy...

You know, this isn't Marvel's first Oz project. They were planning a comics adaptation of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz back in the 70's, when competitor DC Comics informed them that they were doing their own Oz project. Stan Lee suggested the two companies collaborate on Oz instead of competing, and together they produced an oversized graphic novel based on the classic MGM musical. Marvel followed it up with an adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz that had characters modeled after Neill's illustrations, or in the case of the iconic MGM characters, the adaptation used their likenesses. (An exception was made with Glinda, a note in the back explained that the Good Witch in Wizard was the Good Witch of the North, while Glinda would look like Neill's Good Witch of the South.) However, disappointing sales and legal issues dealt a crushing blow to this series, and somewhere (or possibly several somewheres), the work for Marvel's Ozma of Oz is wasting away.

(My information about the beginning of Marvel and DC's collaboration comes from the back matter of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew: The Oz/Wonderland Wars #1.)

Marvel later used the Oz story in What If? #100, with a backup story featuring a slightly different origin for the Fantastic Four. Sue Storm gets knocked out on the crash landing on Earth after the four have been bombarded by cosmic rays. She has a delirium where she's in a fantasy world, though I don't think it gets called "Oz." Very humorously, the Scarecrow's role is filled by an ever pliant (and very silly) Mr. Fantastic, the Tin Man by a burning Johnny Storm, and the Cowardly Lion by Ben Grimm, the Thing. The Wicked Witch is replaced by Doctor Doom, and the Wizard is the Sub-Mariner.

In addition, Oz references pop up all over in Marvel's comics. In another issue of What If?, the Fantastic Four have been given different powers, Johnny becoming a man made of metal. In one panel, he says he needs to oil himself, leaving some girls to compare him to the Tin Woodman.

Jack O'Lantern reminds Spider-Man of Jack Pumpkinhead in one comic book.

Peter Parker even owes more than a few passing resemblances to Dorothy. He's an orphan, living with his aunt and uncle who are getting along in their years, and then is later thrown into a world of danger and adventure. Even the names of his aunt and uncle bear some resemblance to Oz. Using an initial, Aunt May becomes Aunt M., and Uncle Ben's name has a one letter difference from "Uncle Hen," "Hen" being a shortened form of Henry. (Of course, the namings could be, and probably are, pure coincidence.)

Anyways... Make Mine Marvel!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hey!

Yeah, Wonders is ending, and I've made it official.

The big news will be under wraps for awhile, because I don't want it released prematurely.

Friday, November 07, 2008

CGOz

So, over the past couple days, there's been some news about CGI-animated Oz films.

First off, John Boorman (director of the Oz-inspired "Zardoz") has been signed on to direct (and he cowrote the script for) a new adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as an animated film. What interested me is that it's being produced by a French studio, though they are doing the movie in English. Some of the best Oz movies I've seen were produced outside of the United States. Of course, any movie-making is fickle, but I'm looking forward to the finished product!
(Link to news story.)

While The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus isn't an Oz story, Baum did connect it to the Land of Oz in later works. It's been adapted into two television movies, it inspired an animated video, and was the basis of what seems to have been a popular anime television series. (Though that's never been released on any type of video.) Now, it's being animated AGAIN, this time for theaters! This is one of my favorite non-Oz Baum fantasy books. It is expected to be sold to a distributor for a Christmas 2010 release. Might be the next Christmas classic, might be the next hit-and-miss. It is also being produced overseas.
(Link to news story.)

I have blogged about how I re-read that book every Christmas... It'll soon be time to go back to do it again!

And today, someone linked me to a storyboard gallery for Alpine Pictures' Dorothy of Oz. Well... seeing it got me less-than-enthused... I felt that the book was one of Roger S. Baum best offerings, and the artwork and accompanying text let me know that this is going way off from that. I'll let you see for yourself: LINK.

Time will tell how these movies do...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

O-Z Out The Vote!

So, I voted this morning. It was in a Baptist church just a block north of my apartment building, so I had a short early morning walk.

There was a LONG line, and it took me over half an hour to get from the door to the table where I got my ballot.

ANYWAYS... the Oz connection?

There were three stations for people to go to, according to their last initial. These were separated into two table. The stations were marked "A-F," "G-N," and "O-Z."

That reminded me of the story of L. Frank Baum getting the name of Oz from his filing cabinet. It's not clear if this story is true or not, and I've heard two versions. The most common version says his cabinet had two drawers, "A-N" and "O-Z." The other says it had three, "A-G," "H-N," "O-Z."

Whatever. It's enough that he came up with such a catchy name!

And yeah, if you haven't voted yet, go! (Unless you're not a registered US voter.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallozween!

Halloween 2008 is here, and despite my plans for four Halloween videos, it went down to three, and then down to one... Ah, well, there's next year... The one I did make is in my previous blog entry.

Anyways... Here's an Ozzy comic panel for the holiday... I just thought the concept of the image was funny.



I didn't take the time to draw it by hand, and just whipped it up on MS Paint.

Anyways, have a great Halloween, Oz fans!

By the way, if you or some kids in your care are going trick-or-treating, be sure to stay safe at night, and keep an eye out for tricks! (Gotta keep those future adventurers on the Yellow Brick Road safe!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Horrible Land of Oz on Halloween



Heheh... Yeah, this was fun, and made pretty quickly! I had the idea from the line from Glinda at the end of The Wonderful Land of Oz that what if Tip is considered a malicious spirit who possesses kids, making them tuck in their shirts at inopportune moments and speaking mush-mouthed! Heheh... Hollywood would eat that up with a spoon!

I did the mix of the audio sometime back, I slowed down the audio from the song "I Don't Want To Be A Statue" and then brought the pitch back to it's normal level, creating a hollow-sounding vocal. SO, the voice there IS Channy Mahon!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oz: Not Your Average Fairy Tale

Once again, I look at common themes in stories and find them in Oz...

Recently, I thought of your archetype fairy tale, like the classics of Andersen, Perrault, and Grimm.

Most of these stories feature a lead female character, like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Little Mermaid. Some of these characters are active and move the plot, like the Little Mermaid going to seek her desire for humanity in the Sea Witch. Others have the plot move around them, like how Sleeping Beauty and Snow White get cursed, fall for the curse, then are eventually rescued by the prince, or some other male figure, who steals the role of protagonist from the title character.

Other stories feature the protagonist seeking their fortune. In these stories, it is usually a male character. Usually, they defeat a monster or some foe, then get rich and/or get a princess or fair maiden. (These archetypes even made it into other forms of folklore.)

There are exceptions to these archetypes, but these are your two basic fairy tales.

In many of his Oz books, Baum played with these archetypes in his characters and plots. We have characters like the Shaggy Man, Woot the Wanderer, Bungle the Glass Cat, and Button-Bright who just wander Oz seeking their fortunes. However, they never stop, they keep going: the adventure is the reward in itself.

Not many of Baum's leading females fit the "Damsel in distress" model, nor do they fall into the category of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as I mentioned above. Dorothy and the other girls from America often spark events, take decisive action, and scarcely need to be rescued. In fact, in Rinkitink in Oz, Baum turned the "Prince saving the girl" archetype on it's head by having Zella bring Inga his shoes, and then having Dorothy help Inga out of his predicament with Kaliko.

Ozma doesn't quite match your regular fairy tale princess. First off, she's actually ruling a country, so it would seem that the term "Queen" would suit Ozma better, though she is often called "Princess Ozma" because of her apparent age. (Baum ignored this in Queen Zixi of Ix when young Bud becomes King of Noland.) In The Lost Princess of Oz, Ozma is kidnapped, but it wasn't the original intent of the kidnapper to do so, and Ozma comes upon him, though she just scolds him for his wicked action instead of taking real action. (Guess she left her fairy wand in the other room...)

Instead of having the characters being rewarded by riches or power at the end of the story, Baum would often change this. Sure enough, the Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Ozma all are rulers by the end of the second book, but it wasn't a theme Baum chose to pursue later on. He even made money worthless in Oz and jewels and precious metals and stones so common that they are used in buildings and usually left in their settings.

So, really, Oz is not your average, old-fashioned fairy tale. Rather, Baum defied the archetype of traditional fairy tales and created his own style.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

They Always Come Out This Time Of Year...

I was shopping around today, and having too much time on my hands, I decided to look around for some supplies for the costume I want to make for the 31st. (My job lets us wear costumes that day, and later, I'm going to a party!)

Finding the Halloween section, I noted some Ozzy costumes. There were a few Dorothys, and a generic Scarecrow costume had a big MGM feeling to it.

Oz really seems to fit for any time of year, but for some reason, fall especially. Maybe the Scarecrow reminds us of harvest time. Maybe Dorothy's farm (immortalized by both Denslow and MGM in brownish tones) looks like it's in autumn. And let's not forget that a beloved Oz character has a Jack-O-Lantern for a head. (Though, he wasn't in MGM's movie, though the movie he's famous for does note that "It's Halloween soon.") Maybe it's that Wicked Witch...

In 2005 and 2006, MGM's movie and "Journey Back to Oz" (featuring an adaptation of Jack Pumpkinhead) were both treated to October DVD releases. The musical "Wicked" had an October 30th debut, with it's iconic image of a witch on a broom. Coincidence?

Still, I couldn't find a suitable sword and shield for my Link costume... (Who says I gotta be an Oz fan in everything?)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Rumor Has It...

Friday night, I got an e-mail about several Oz rumors. I decided to answer them. I then decided to share them on my blog.

Tim Burton's doing a CGI animated Oz project?
Tim Burton is a big Oz fan. He did an admirable adaptation of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and is now working on "Alice in Wonderland." This has been rumored for years. Anyways, with Burton's rate, I'd bet he'll get around to Oz someday, it's just not happening yet.

What's up with Willard Carroll's Bollywood project?
There has been no update in years, but I hear that's how Bollywood is.

Why haven't we heard anything about that Todd McFarlane Oz movie recently? Has it been canceled?
Josh Olson turned in his script for that Oz movie. You can bet that it gets development hell like Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and Disney's "Enchanted," though... I doubt the projected 2010 release is going to happen, as it hasn't even begun production yet.

What's that Dark Oz movie?
"Dark Oz" got a budget and a director. It looks like it'll get made. Being released is another matter entirely...

American McGee's Oz? What happened?
It took them several years to announce that the video game had been shelved, but they claimed there was a movie version in the works. You can actually bet that it's not likely to happen. There's a movie based on their "Alice" game in the works, but that had been a big selling game. The Oz game was never even finished.

What's The Sword of Oz?
It was a digital "Which Way" book about a knight named Arthur Gale (yeah...) who winds up in Oz and helps the Munchkins seal away what seems to be the Wicked Witch of the East. Not much to it. The site is http://www.nextgenbooks.com , but it's been pulled and getting a "Special Edition" in September 2009.

Why hasn't that Nintendo DS game come out?
So far, that DS game, called "Riz-zoawd," was only for a foreign market. It's yet to get an English version, and may never. Well, that is until the ROM gets on the internet and a DS ROM hacker with too much time on their hands make a hack/translation of it. (It's lack of availability in the US is why I wasn't too interested when I heard about it.) Anyways, we're still waiting on the Wii game based on the MGM movie.

So, behind all of these so-called "rumors," there's some fact. It's just that some facts have been obscured and exaggerated by over-hype by fans and, maybe, the press and the people who announced them...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Thought...

You know, I was thinking about L. Frank Baum's death and how he left his wife Maud.

Thinking over his life, you have to admit that likely being under Baum's care was no picnic. He was out of money often, most of his business ventures failed, and the family was constantly moving.

When he finally broke into writing children's books with Father Goose: His Book (and later, the Oz series), some stability finally came into the Baum family's life with a home in Chicago and a cottage by Lake Michigan.

However, the family went through one more crisis when Baum invested in the Fairylogue & Radio-Plays, a business venture that eventually led to Baum declaring bankruptcy. (Though, in truth, Maud was directly receiving the royalties from Baum's books.)

That was really Baum's last financial disaster. The Oz Film Manufacturing Company did not involve any of Baum's own money, though it did ultimately fail.

When Baum died, he told his wife that she hoped she would stay at his home at Ozcot, where they had "been so happy."

And she did! Until her death in the 1950's, Maud stayed at her husband's home in Hollywood, thanks to the royalties from her husband's books. She never had to worry about money again.

It's a little creepy but still romantic to think that Baum was able to care for his wife after his death, even better than he had in life.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lack of bloggage?

(Huh... Bloggage... Nice term... Better put that on the same list as "linkage.")

Yeah, I generally try to do 1-3 blogs a week, but this week, I haven't had a lot of Oz in mind... Sorry...

That being said, last I heard, today I may be meeting someone in the Oz community, and I borrowed my sister's digital camera (we actually bought it together, but when she moved out, I decided to let her and her fiance have it, and I haven't been able to buy a new one), so hopefully, if everything works out, there will be some fun photos (and maybe a video) up...

And as for Wonders 11's re-make, I DID do it, but when I put it on YouTube, it got removed for using music from Wicked's OCR, which I thought was odd, since the poorer quality original version used it, too... And that's still up...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Check this out!

Hey, that Nome King comic strip I posted the Sunday before last? Well, S.P. Maldonado of S.P. Maldonado's Oz art asked me if he could re-draw it. I agreed, so... Check this out!

I started following his blog when I noticed it. The guy posts a new, original piece of Oz artwork drawn in his own unique style.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A rather compromising situation...

So, if you remember, sometime back I said I was going to start using Adobe Flash to do animated videos?

Well, to do my first project, a friend told me he wanted to make a video for a song he'd written and recorded, and I offered my help.

The thing is, I figured it'd work best if I animated it...

So, I decided, "Hey, he's singing the song and playing it, he should be in it, just animated."

Okay, sketching a "cartoon" version of your friend's face is one thing. Scanning it in, that's okay. Drawing over the scan with thick lines, that's cool. Drawing a body for friend in their animated form, also cool... Zooming into do detailing on certain areas below the shirt...

...

...

...

... I lost it.

... Oh, how we artists suffer for our art... In our minds!

Another "Oz in a bookstore" dream. This time, it was in a thrift store or flea market. It was a large, thick book that contained the text of "All of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz Books, Even Little Wizard Stories." (Yes, it seriously said that!) It was a hardcover, but it was one of those where the cover is pretty soft. It said it had "selected illustrations," but the ones on the front cover were not Neill or Denslow. It looked like a poor imitation of Denslow. The characters shown on the front in a corner were the Wizard, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman.

Weird.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dreams

Okay, before I leap into a short blog, I'm going to note that the blog looks a bit different... I upgraded from template to layout at last. I removed the video player that would play the "Wonders" series (fondly nicknamed "The Wonders Widget") as it slowed down the blog for people with slow computers (like me). I also removed the link for the short-lived networking version of the International Wizard of Oz Club Forums, as that site was re-focused, and is accessible through the Club's site. Unfortunately, I couldn't retain the categories I had the links in, but I did retain the order. Also, I added a spot to view my "followers."

Okay, now for the blog...

I have a bit of a confession. I am one Oz fan who has not had a dream where he visits Oz.

I know other Oz fans have had such dreams, but not me.

I did once have a dream where I met one of my "Oz friends," and we visited a bookstore, and I came across a set of Oz books in matching editions. For some reason, I was excited, my friend was not and said it was time for them to go home. (Which I was disappointed at, because of the other, non-Ozzy half of my dream where I lost and found them at a large outdoor event...)

The set of books was quite interesting. They were all paperback, with plain spines. But the front covers each featured an illustration from the book with an odd green pattern around them. The title of the book was printed in a blank white area in a plain, elegant typeface. The author's name was below. I believe the whole Famous Forty was there... Despite the plain designs of the books, the effects of the black picture against the white background with the green pattern was quite eye-catching.

Still, I wonder if my inability to fully envision Oz visually in my mind affects my inability to actually dream about it. Seemingly all my dreams take place in the world I've been living in for over 22 years. And they're all so vivid, I have to wonder when I awake if it was a dream or if I really lived it. (How many times have I missed work because of impossible circumstances? Only in my dreams.)

And now, knowing my luck, I'll probably have my first dream in Oz tonight since I mentioned it. (Or not.)

(And here's another dream I had that I posted on my personal blog. I get a chuckle remembering it.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Gnome King and the Nome King

Yes, a blog about our favorite Ozian villain, King Ruggeddo of the Nomes, formerly King Roquat of the Rocks.

We all know that Roquat made his debut in Ozma of Oz:

This important monarch of the Underground World was a little fat man clothed in gray-brown garments that were the exact color of the rock throne in which he was seated. His bushy hair and flowing beard were also colored like the rocks, and so was his face. He wore no crown of any sort, and his only ornament was a broad, jewel-studded belt that encircled his fat little body. As for his features, they seemed kindly and good humored, and his eyes were turned merrily upon his visitors as Ozma and Dorothy stood before him with their followers ranged in close order behind them.

"Why, he looks just like Santa Claus--only he isn't the same color!" whispered Dorothy to her friend; but the Nome King heard the speech, and it made him laugh aloud.

"'He had a red face and a round little belly That shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly!'"

quoth the monarch, in a pleasant voice; and they could all see that he really did shake like jelly when he laughed.


Santa Claus? Hmmm... You know, that reminds me of a scene in Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus...

His (Santa Claus') first act was to visit the Gnome King, with whom he made a bargain to exchange three drums, a trumpet and two dolls for a pair of fine steel runners, curled beautifully at the ends. For the Gnome King had children of his own, who, living in the hollows under the earth, in mines and caverns, needed something to amuse them.


Well, first off, we notice that the king in Baum's biography of Santa is the Gnome King, not the Nome King. (You realize reading that aloud will make no sense...)

Oz and Baum fans have wondered if these two kings are connected, as Baum wrote the word "Nome" in Ozma to be the same as "Gnome," but written in a style that children would find easier to pronounce. (Ruth Plumly Thompson changed the spelling to "Gnome" in her Oz stories.)

You know, I wonder if he had the same idea in mind for The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, but maybe an editor at Bobbs-Merrill thought it was a misspelling. Baum wasn't happy with Bobbs-Merrill's editions of his works, since they were mainly a large reprint house. When Reilly & Britton offered to make him their star author, he was only too glad to jump for it. Sadly, this is nothing but my conjecture, and could only be verified or disproven by an examination of the manuscript, which, to my knowledge, no longer exists. (Boy, I can digress... This paragraph was going to be a parentheses.)

Some fans argue that the existence of gnome children is proof that the two kings are not the same. I have to disagree, though Baum never mentions the Nomes having children. All the same, just because someone or something isn't mentioned, doesn't mean it's not there. And even though her books aren't the best, Nome children play an important part in Sherwood Smith's Trouble Under Oz, one being a child of Roquat/Ruggedo.

Other fans say that the Gnome King is pretty jolly. Well, we saw that Roquat in Ozma could be jolly as well in that quote above. Yet, the Nome King of the Oz books is best remembered as a villain... Or is he?

...Tiktok spoke.

"Why should you fight the Nome King?" he asked. "He has done no wrong."

"No wrong!" cried Dorothy. "Isn't it wrong to imprison a queen mother and her ten children?"

"They were sold to the Nome King by King Ev-ol-do," replied Tiktok. "It was the King of Ev who did wrong, and when he re-al-ized what he had done he jumped in-to the sea and drowned him-self."

"This is news to me," said Ozma, thoughtfully. "I had supposed the Nome King was all to blame in the matter. But, in any case, he must be made to liberate the prisoners."

"My uncle Evoldo was a very wicked man," declared the Princess Langwidere. "If he had drowned himself before he sold his family, no one would have cared. But he sold them to the powerful Nome King in exchange for a long life, and afterward destroyed the life by jumping into the sea."

"Then," said Ozma, "he did not get the long life, and the Nome King must give up the prisoners. Where are they confined?"

"No one knows, exactly," replied the Princess. "For the king, whose name is Roquat of the Rocks, owns a splendid palace underneath the great mountain which is at the north end of this kingdom, and he has transformed the queen and her children into ornaments and bric-a-brac with which to decorate his rooms."

"I'd like to know," said Dorothy, "who this Nome King is?"

"I will tell you," replied Ozma. "He is said to be the Ruler of the Underground World, and commands the rocks and all that the rocks contain. Under his rule are many thousands of the Nomes, who are queerly shaped but powerful sprites that labor at the furnaces and forges of their king, making gold and silver and other metals which they conceal in the crevices of the rocks, so that those living upon the earth's surface can only find them with great difficulty. Also they make diamonds and rubies and emeralds, which they hide in the ground; so that the kingdom of the Nomes is wonderfully rich, and all we have of precious stones and silver and gold is what we take from the earth and rocks where the Nome King has hidden them."

"I understand," said Dorothy, nodding her little head wisely.

"For the reason that we often steal his treasures," continued Ozma, "the Ruler of the Underground World is not fond of those who live upon the earth's surface, and never appears among us. If we wish to see King Roquat of the Rocks, we must visit his own country, where he is all powerful, and therefore it will be a dangerous undertaking."


In this quote, we get a good, all-around look at the Nome King. He seems to be, in fact, not inherently evil, but is more comparable to a loan shark, or a bank who is ready to repossess. (Baum dealt with several through his life.) He's ready to take back what is his, which happens in the Oz series. He made a deal with Evoldo, and kept his end of the bargain. Ozma takes a bargain he offers, and sure enough, Billina wins the bargain in the side of Oz fair and square. (Notably, she made a deal with the Nome King to take part in the bargain.) Ozma takes the Magic Belt, and his scheme to conquer Oz in The Emerald City of Oz was to get the Belt back. (While Ozma could be seen as confiscating the Belt, it is notable that she may have been overstepping her boundaries, though it's actually Dorothy and Billina who take the belt, but Ozma didn't return it.) After Emerald City, Roquat becomes Ruggedo, and adopts a more villainous attitude.

The whole bargaining bit does seem to match the Gnome King. He does bargain with Santa for toys for his children in return for an item Santa wants. Likely Santa's compliant attitude towards him warms him up to voting for Claus' "reward" at the climax of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, this way he can make more deals with a client who keeps his end of the bargain. Remember that by Ozma of Oz, the Nome King is feeling bitter that other humans are taking his minerals without a proper exchange. (I once theorized that perhaps his ornament collection was the result of many exchanges he'd made for use of metal and stone.)

So, is the Gnome King of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus the same as the Nome King of the Oz books? I think so.

(Everyone is welcome to disagree.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dragging my feet

Sorry that I haven't done a good blog in awhile, I kind of lost some of motivation, there.

Yesterday, I attempted to finish re-editing Wonders 11, but then wound up talking to some other Oz fans on Pidgin, then called another on Skype. Due to my buggy computer, (WHICH I MIGHT BE REPLACING NEXT MONTH, WOO-HOO!) the fourth time was the charm (after a reboot), and Sam Milazzo and I spoke for over a half hour. (As for the other two Oz fans, I won't say who they were...) It's odd, calling someone who's living in Monday morning, when it's still Sunday evening for you... (We figured out the time difference was exactly fifteen hours.)

Ugh... And I need to hit Adobe Flash hardcore. I kind of got myself in a pickle, but hope to make a non-Oz music video, completely animated, for Halloween.

In fact, it seems I might be having my hand in FOUR Halloween videos this year, two of them Ozzy... Heheh... "HE IS COMING... FOR YOUR CHILDREN... YOU CAN'T HIDE..."

EDIT: Oh, Blogger has enabled Blog-following, which is like subscribing to YouTube channels, just for blogs. Some of my more vocal blog commentators will find (if they check my Blogger profile) that I'm watching them! Unlike YouTube, it can read just about any RSS feed on any site, but works best with blogs.

There's spots where your "followers" appear on your blog's sidebar. However, it isn't appearing here, because I'd need to change my blog from "Template" to "Layout," and doing that will delete all of my links that I got so nicely set up... (I tried it before, and was lucky I was able to restore it.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scot

I took a photo of my cat Scot last Friday, and got it yesterday:



Unfortunately... I'll never be taking any more photos of him: please see this entry in my personal blog.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Anything of Oz

I know I keep bringing Al Cook up, but why not? He loves John R. Neill's artwork, and said that this was his favorite piece:



He and I were talking about this piece (via IM), and he mentioned that he thought it would be great if someone made a story out of it. Then he went on to say that it would be even better if it was a series of interconnected stories...

... So... Considering that I administrate a site for fan fiction... I whipped this up: LINKAGE!

We're both stumped as to why Neill drew the "OZ" insignia backwards, though... "Z" is a pretty hard letter to do backwards.

It dried...

Well, it took awhile, but my Winter 2007 Baum Bugle is dry now, and I actually read it a few days ago... (Just didn't blog about it until now.)

(1st of 3 overdue blog entries I usually do... Ah, well, it's not like I make money from blogging...)

I was a little surprised to find my name credited as a contributor to this issue's Oz and Ends, but I guess maybe it was from a posting I'd done on the Club forums.

This issue highlights the centennial of Ozma of Oz with articles about it from Atticus Gannaway and Micheal O. Riley. Gannaway examines the uniqueness of Ozma, while Riley talks about how Ozma was the first book with a series in mind and how it and the next three books work as a unit.

Shortly after reading this issue, I called Matt Bloom, who mentioned (without my bringing it up) that Ozma opens with the storm at sea, instead of Baum's usual exposition to introduce the characters. He also noted the man who Dorothy mistakes for Uncle Henry. I jokingly claimed it was "a ghost," and then Bloom asked "Is there a precedent for ghosts in Baum?" (Yes, there is.)

Eric Gjovaag was allowed a number of pages (the article spans six) to review the Tin Man mini-series. In addition to the review and pictures, Oz collector Sharon Ray offered a side bar that covered many of the Tin Man promotional materials, all of which were give-aways or used in promotion, and not sold. The fourth page of the article contained responses to the mini-series from fans. Included is a brief excerpt from this blog. (I'm one of the more positive-sounding people...)

Also included are the customary book reviews, as well as the Fred Meyer memorial quiz, and a list of the L. Frank Baum award winners.

And yeah, that's it...

Just wait until the next issue...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sketchy Details

I've been a little excited about that animation to open the Wonders finale. (I wanted to be a Disney animator when I was a little kid. Now, I have the opportunity to animate, but I wouldn't do it for Disney...)

Anyways, here are some idea's I've had... I sketched these with ink pens and mechanical pencils on scrap paper, so...


The Palace of the Emerald City, based on a photo of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow from Al Cook's blog.

A sketch of the towers of the Emerald City. Those squiggly lines are supposed to represent marble, which I can't seem to draw...

This is how Ozma's dress will look from the front in the animation. I've done no back sketches. Note that the sleeves (which are supposed to be green) attach to green cape/cloak, that I plan to have a gold version of John R. Neill's OZ insignia on the back. Also, I was going to do a full body picture of Ozma, but had no room for her head in proper proportion, so just imagine that Ozma's dress is on a headless mannequin, or Langwidere is modeling it without wearing a head...

Ozma's face, not too different from Neill's idea. I can't seem to avoid making her hair look wet...

THIS is not going into the animation, it was just a fun scribble...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Universe Is Not Liking Me Today

Get up, 5:15 AM, got to get ready for work. They have me come in an hour earlier than I was originally scheduled. So, I work an eight hour shift, which I don't mind. I even don't mind too much when they forget to give my break. So, I manage to get off work, and it's still raining out.

My bus is, as usual, late, but my umbrella serves me well. So, I get home (my knee is feeling worse than ever since last week), check the mailbox, and there's the new Baum Bugle! (And a bank statement and a political pamphlet...)

As I try to head to my building, I try to close my umbrella, but in doing so, turn my mp3 player (hey, when you have to wait for a bus, you gotta find some way to kill time) back on, as I'd just turned it off. I have a minute battle between the two, trying to get one closed and the other to stay off. And, to make the mix even sweeter, my right eyeglass lens falls out (fortunately on the Bugle).

I head upstairs, unlock my door and head in, fix my glasses, and then discover a large corner of the envelope that the Bugle is in is wet. I tear open the envelope and discover the Bugle and the two inserts for the Fred Meyer Collection Auction and the Wizard of Oz cruise next year are also wet. (I swear, the mailmen around here...)

I did flip through the Bugle to make sure the pages didn't stick, but full enjoyment will have to wait until it dries... Luckily, I have tomorrow off.

(I'm not complaining about my day, just hoping you all get a chuckle out of reading it. The usual rule is that "It's funny when it's not you," but even I got a chuckle or two out of looking back over it.)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This will make no sense...

...unless you're one of the three (well, there's actually a fourth, but he wouldn't know) other people involved...

Last week...

I chatted through a blue cloud to a man who lives upside-down.

I spoke with a man in the future using a bird with poor spelling.

The same bird allowed me, the man in the future, and a man who lives outside of a city that split to talk to each other without taking us anywhere.

The man in the future produced an excellent stuffed figure.

We made sure that the poorly spelled bird did not see the figure.

The man from the split city and I spoke about a bloodthirsty person.

I also used the poorly spelled bird to briefly talk to the man who lived only an hour into the future.

Are you confused yet?

Can you figure out who and what I'm talking about? (I have mentioned all of the people and things somewhere in my blogs.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Video

I made this video to try out Ulead VideoStudio 9.

(Warning, some language at the end, and a shower scene.)


Here's my list of video editing software I've used (I've left out a couple that I couldn't use because my system is kind of out-of-date)...
Windows Movie Maker A very easy-to-use interface, plenty of options and effects, but is easily corrupted by installing and using other video software. (And even if you don't, it often does get buggy, anyway.)
Video Edit Magic Promises a lot, gives little. A pretty daunting-looking interface that often messes up your video footage. Effects have to be tweaked before you get the desired look, and then your finished video looks choppy.
Nero Vision Excellent for making end credits, but is not a friendly video editor.
Virtualdub Okay, pretty much, you have to get a handle on using this one, but it's not that good for actually editing video, unless you're removing sections from a video. Really, for all practical purposes, Virtualdub is more like a video converter and re-encoder, it can also capture and add filters to video. (I've used it to make low-quality footage look a little better.)
AVS Video Editor Decent video editor, though making simple text overlays seems impossible, and it's difficult to preview and sync up your video.
Ulead VideoStudio 9 (Current version 11, but I couldn't get that one to install) Almost a Windows Movie Maker clone, now allowing you to use more kinds of video, saving in more formats, two video tracks, two audio tracks, and there's more effects. My worst problem is that it has trouble loading media on removable media, like CD and DVD ROMs and flash drives. Other than that, it's a very good editor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomorrow...

Tomorrow I will try to finish a new Oz music video, and, while I'm at it, also look through job listings.

I would be hitting the pavement, but something happened tonight that throws me off that idea... temporarily...

(Go to my other blog to read what happened. It's not Ozzy...)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ozma!

It's August 21, and it's Ozma's birthday once again. Before I fire up the CTC production of The Marvelous Land of Oz on my DVD player (first non-Russian Oz movie I've watched in awhile), let's do some quick updates...

Wonders fans, Movie Maker now refuses to save video files. I'm about to try out yet another video editor, wish me luck!

I'm also considering doing a re-editing of the series after the finale episode... But, just to answer a question I get from Oz fans, I can't sell you a DVD of the series. I could claim that I'm charging for labor and shipping, but still, Wonders does contain material I don't own the copyright for, and selling it is illegal.

That's why my next big video series project will only use original or public domain/royalty free material...

And speaking of that, I might as well announce that the project will be an Adobe Flash animated adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Enchanted Island of Yew, tentatively retitled Prince Marvel. If you haven't read the book, the series will follow the adventures of Prince Marvel and the Lord Nerle as they journey the Island of Yew, righting wrongs and bringing peace to the island. The only thing is, no one seems to know where Marvel has come from, and he plans to only be on the island for a year.

And now you may want to know "Will you ever animate Oz?" The answer... Yes! The opening titles for the "Wonders" finale, if I can get a handle on Flash by that time, will be animated and set to a special cover of "The Wonders of Oz" song. (Ever wanted to see an animated Ork?)

I got the finished version of the song yesterday. It was rearranged and performed by Alan Cook, an Oz fan, illustrator, and singer who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. And well, I think it sounds great! Al is quite excellent at his crafts, in fact, I got acquainted with him because he's working on an Oz-related illustration project.

And, while I'm mentioning him, today he put a video on his YouTube channel, he's the "clown" at the end...



And one last thing... It was Al's suggestion I publicly reveal my e-mail and instant messaging identities. It's the blog post linked at the top of my blog's links called "Contacting Me," but in case you can't see the link from here, here's a link to the entry: Contacting Me. Please use wisely.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Land of Oz: The Manga #1

Well, enough time has passed since I got my copies of The Land of Oz: The Manga #1, that I think anyone who might want to be spoiler-free about the series probably now has their copy. (Okay, actually, I forgot to blog about it earlier...) If you don't have it yet, or would rather wait for the likely forthcoming single volume edition, you might want to skip this blog, as I'll probably be doing some spoilers.

First off, the artwork. David Hutchison has improved in his manga-styled artwork, and has now utilized shading in his art. It helps the artwork look a little three-dimensional. His character designs on Mombi, Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, and Jinjur (who's very cute!) are, once again, superb and original.

As for adapting the story, as this is only the first volume in an (8 volume?) mini-series, it's a little early to say, but it's very faithful to Baum's book. But actually, in any form, Baum's story here moves very quickly (especially if long dialogue's, like Tip's recap of Wonderful Wizard, are excised), so the first issue ends with Jack's arrival at the Emerald City (and Tip enjoying some sandwiches, courtesy of Jinjur).

I look forward to the next issue, where the main part of the story will really begin!

Some hopes I have:

Jinjur will not be played off as evil or completely trusting of Mombi.

Hutchison will do Ozma of Oz, despite a robot that resembles a bipedal ant named "Tick-Tock" appearing in the Emerald City. (And replacing the Soldier with the Green Whiskers.)

If you haven't yet, get your copy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And Lo, There Shall Be An Ending

(Okay, I admit to being a comics geek as well as an Oz fan...)

I got Movie Maker working again, so the re-edited Wonders 11 should be coming soon.

And, I guess, if you haven't noticed, the Wonders series is coming to an end. Some Oz fans have responded "Why? You aren't doing anymore Oz videos?"

Well, to answer number 1, Wonders has been briefly covering history, and really, you can only do history for so long.

Another reason is that I've been doing the series for what's getting to be a year and a half, and really want to try something else.

The second question isn't so easy. While Sam Milazzo has more video ideas that I'm interested in (though he's getting into video editing himself), I have plans that kind of go outside of Oz.

I'm trying to get a handle on Adobe Flash, which is some pretty good animating software. Currently, I plan on adapting one of Baum's non-Oz fantasies for it. (This also means I can cross-post my videos on Newgrounds.com as well...)

So, there are no current plans for another stream of Oz videos.

If you remember, yes, Sam and I are working on screen adaptations of Baum's Oz stories, but we would both like to try our luck getting them optioned before deciding to make them into independent animated movies. (Though, I did note to him, the creative control would be a plus.)

Wonders 12 is currently titled "21st Century Oz," and it will cover pretty much all of the areas of the Oz phenomenon not covered in the previous eleven episodes.

After that, Sam Milazzo will be presenting a very special episode that will be covering the Land of Oz itself. He'll be onscreen and doing all of the narration, and I hope to try out some blue-screen effects to more effectively show Oz illustrations from the original books.

There are ideas floating for other special episodes, about Oz publishers, illustrators, and a very good chance that there will be one about Oz websites that Aaron Pacentine has contacted some webmasters for. (As I have no material in hand for these, the chances of production vary.) I might do some later on, we'll see. (And if anyone wants to take a shot at making an episode on their own, I'm all for it.)

Then, there's the finale coming. I'll be showing video footage of Sam, Aaron, and myself talking about making the series, and there will be a very special cover of the theme song that I got the demo for a week ago (SOME of you may have gotten it, as well), and I think it just sounds great! (So much so, I got a little excited there.)

I would love to say "You can expect all of this soon!" but I and everyone involved just do these videos and our other projects alongside of our personal lives. We all have jobs, we all have bills.

OH... and I have a very special Oz-related video project coming up, more on that when it's ready... if you haven't seen it before the time I blog about it...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wonders 11

I guess I owe my blog readers some word about Wonders 11: I did finish it. I uploaded it in the wee hours of the last day of July, so it's been on YouTube for about a week.



As you can see, it did not turn out as I'd hoped. The big culprit: Windows Movie Maker. Yes, after making 10 regular episodes of Wonders, it broke down. (Which is weird, it's not a car, it shouldn't wear out, it just bugged up.) It saved the opening titles segment and the very first part with Aaron's narration just fine, but when it came to the excerpts from "Wicked," the audio fell out of sync. When it came to the musical, I set it to mute the first bit, but it didn't in the exported video, and then you see more audio syncing problems in the clips I chose!

I tried using alternatives, Nero Vision, which I like how it does credits (the credits roll was made with it), but it would crash when I tried to save the completed episode. I goofed around with AVS Video Editor, but honestly, I wasn't sure if it wouldn't let me NOT make a DVD. The video on YouTube was edited with Video Edit Magic, which, as you see, is terrible at using pictures, and it made the Idina Menzel Tony Award video go out of sync with it's audio (I edited myself).

I'm going to remake this episode, but I'm trying to find video editing software that will actually work.

And yeah, I should really get a Mac, because they're better equipped for video editing, but unless someone wants to donate one or a thousand dollars to buy one, I'll just have to make do with what I have.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

(Post 222) 2 Returns To Oz

Sam Milazzo asked me to compare two animated sequels to The Wizard of Oz: Rankin & Bass' 1964 Return to Oz and Filmation's 1974 release Journey Back To Oz (which, coincidentally, at one time seems to have been given the working title Return to the Land of Oz).

First off, let's compare the animation styles. In Return, the animation is not especially notable. It is charming, however, with the out-of-proportion character designs (large heads, small bodies) and "flat" storybook background designs. In Journey, the animation style resembles a cross of Chuck Jones and Hanna-Barbera. All around, it is quite beautiful and smooth.

Now for the story: both start with Dorothy and Toto in Kansas, Dorothy wishes she could go back to Oz (in song), and, via cyclone, they do!

In Return, Dorothy receives a magic letter that tells her everything is going all right in Oz and that they miss her. Dorothy sings "Oz Just Can't Continue Without Me" as the letter folds into a paper airplane and whips up a cyclone that blows her and Toto to Oz as the opening titles play. In Journey, Dorothy remembers Oz, while Aunt Em tells her that there is no such place. Uncle Henry vocally says that Dorothy should stop being such a dreamer. Dorothy sings "There's A Faraway Land." A twister catches her attention, and she is knocked out by a swinging gate. The opening titles play. (Sam mentioned that Dorothy seems to be fully conscious when you see her in the cyclone...)

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Next, Dorothy arrives in Oz... and plot lines differ... or do they? Dorothy lands in Oz, a witch is causing trouble for her old friends, down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, some help or advice from Glinda comes into play, the witch is defeated, peace is restored. Dorothy goes home via cyclone...

In Return, Dorothy and Toto land in Munchkinville, where Glinda meets her and informs her of the restored Wicked Witch of the West, and how she has harmed her friends. Dorothy finds her old friends, returns to the Emerald City, gets misled by the Wicked Witch posing as the Wizard. The group walks into the Wicked Witch's trap, where the Lion gets hold of the Silver Shoes as the Wicked Witch dangles Dorothy out of the window. Remembering advice from Glinda, Dorothy tells Lion not to touch the shoes. The Lion gives them to the Witch, who turns into stone and inexplicably crumbles. At the Emerald City, Glinda reappears and tells Dorothy's friends they really have brains, heart, and courage, then advises Dorothy on wishing on "Kansas Magic" to whip up a cyclone that sends her home.

Return features short, somewhat forgettable songs, though there are some good ones. ("The Wonders of Oz," "Oz Just Can't Continue," and "Magic is Everywhere" are some pretty nice songs...)

Journey is loosely based on The Marvelous Land of Oz. Dorothy and Toto follow the Yellow Brick Road (after an encounter with a signpost who points in all directions that doesn't bear on the plot), and meet Pumpkinhead, who warns them of the Witch Mombi, who Dorothy shortly meets, and discovers that she's making an army of Magic Green Elephants to conquer the Emerald City with. Dorothy, Toto, and Pumpkinhead flee Mombi to warn the Scarecrow, meeting ex-carousel horse Woodenhead. At the Emerald City, they tell Scarecrow just before Mombi arrives and captures the Scarecrow and Toto as Dorothy, Woodenhead, and Pumpkinhead flee to Tin Man's Tinland. Tin Man gets scared of the thought of magic green elephants, and sends them to the Lion, who also gets scared, and sends them to Glinda, who appears and tells Dorothy that the solution to Oz's problems lies within Dorothy herself. She gives Dorothy a small box that Glinda tells them to use only in dire need in Emerald City, so the trio heads back (facing Mombi's Fearsome Forest), scares away the elephants with magic mice who crawl out of the box. These mice also scare Mombi, who runs out of the palace, turns herself into a rose with poison thorns, but she is crushed by her own elephants. Mombi dies, the elephants disappear, the Emerald City is restored, but Pumpkinhead's life vanishes. He is restored with a tear from Dorothy. Dorothy is sent home via cyclone.

Journey really suffers from too many songs. Some, especially Dorothy's (who was played by Liza Minelli) songs are quite excellent. Others feel pointless.

So, which one is better? Well, Return has a tighter plot, but it feels less inspired, since it is just a re-working of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a sequel to itself.

Journey has a better plot, but it drags because of pointless songs and plot devices. It's also animated better.

So, this is one case where neither is really better than the other...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Anime Series

All right, several of my blog readers will hate that I got this fortunate chance, but I have in my collection, as part of a swap from another Oz fan and collector who asked that I not redistribute or upload it to YouTube, the complete series of the animated "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" series in English!

Oz fans have been frustrated that the series has not been commercially available, just four shortened-down movies: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz.

These four 90-minute movies start promisingly in the first one: the story stays fairly close to Baum's story, but as the series progresses, adhesion to the original stories begins to drift: Glinda, who in Baum's books refuses Tip's request to be a boy again if he doesn't like being Ozma saying that "transformations... are not honest," turns into a hawk-like bird to chase Mombi who has turned into a Madam Mim-like dragon. A desert, not a rocky wasteland, is the route to the Nome Kingdom. The Nome King's fear of eggs is not grounded in fact: he erroneously thought they were harmful when a hard-boiled egg hit him in the head. Ozma only sends a few of her friends to rescue the Prince of Ev (instead of a whole family, an almost logical change) and returns to Oz. Tip hardly steps forward to lead the party, overshadowed by Dorothy, making his unveiling as Ozma feel odd. Princess Lulu (not Langwidere) changes attitudes with hats instead of heads. The Nomes tunnel to Oz with a giant worm, joined by an never-sated monster called "Growleywog." The Nomes manage to capture the Emerald City by night, despite the heroic efforts of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

Cut in shortened form, these changes feel grating to fans who love the original Baum tales. But played out in the full fifty-two 21 minute episodes, the changes feel more natural as a whole. In the English series, we do get some odd, uninspired renamings (the Sawhorse becomes "Horse" or "Horsey," and the Gump is now "The Flying Bed", neither of whom speak). In about 18 and a half hours, over three times the length of the shortened movies, plenty of time is allowed for character development, and some surprising returns to Baum's stories. There is even an episode in between the "Wizard" and "Land" story arcs in which Dorothy goes to town, happening upon a circus, where she is reunited with none other than the Wizard of Oz himself. Even the more head-scratching changes now make more sense when properly played out.

The series has these two English versions, but it is in fact an anime production, and when the series was originally released, it was released to many countries and languages. Due to odd copyright laws, in Germany, the series is widely available from unlicensed vendors. It seems that a Hebrew version was even made available for downloading (which I chanced upon). The editing of the Japanese and Chinese versions are identical, they share the same DVD release with alternate language tracks. The series is even available in Spanish and French, leaving the English version unavailable as the complete, richer series, offering only the insulting shorter version to Baum's original audience.

As I mentioned above, I came across the Hebrew version, and noted that the first episode seemed to be edited differently, introducing a dream sequence for Dorothy in the English version, while the Hebrew version showed farm life much more, and oddly, the Hebrew version has Aunt Em and Dorothy humming a tune that sounds surprisingly like "Over The Rainbow."

In the various international versions, the opening title sequence differed, sometimes with different songs. The Hebrew and Japanese versions offered different jazzy themes. The English versions offers a song that goes from slow to pretty upbeat (and deliciously 80's).

In the non-English versions, there is no narration, just the dialogue. In the English version, Margot Kidder (Christopher Reeves' Superman's Lois Lane) narrates, driving story points home, setting the scene, but, except in the shortened version, it feels unnecessary. (In one point, she says something, then the Tin Woodman says almost the exact same thing!) It also seems some dialogue was re-recorded in the shorter versions.

Honestly, I really think now that they should give the entire series a decent DVD release. It'd probably fit on six or seven DVDs.

(Thanks to Tim Hocking, Sam Milazzo, and all the other collectors that have shared their opinions and observations over the years.)

Here are several different openings for the series from all over the world:



1. English
2. Japanese
3. Japanese Version #2
4. German
5. French
6. Dutch
7. Hebrew
8. Spanish

Matt Bloom was able to translate most of the Hebrew version for me:
Come along, run run!
He doesn't have a brain,
He doesn't have courage,
And there's a girl and her dog stuck in this other world
And they need to go on the road to there
Hatizufa (Don't remember what that word means.)
And they go and they go and the beautiful way.
The yellow way
(Then it goes through the things they need, "badly," and their names.)
And the beautiful little girl
Come along on the yellow way/road,
She's here, where did she go?
And Toto, too!

Sam Milazzo was able to get a translation of the French version:

Bring me in your dreams
I want to fly with you
in the sky.

That big wind(s) *remove* us
to guide as where the life
is nice
so much beautiful (beauty?)

(Girl)
Every night when I sleep in my big bed
In my head there is / are a lot of beautiful stories
I'm the only one to believe that
But doesn't matter

(repeat 1st part)

Bring me in your dreams
I want to fly with you
in the sky