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?)

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Winkie Photos

Okay, last night I got the challenge to find an alternative source of income, rather than my current job. I have some ideas, and I hope they work out, because now I really want to go to Winkies next year!

Eric Gjovaag posted a link to this photo album at the International Wizard of Oz Club's Message Board. These photos are by Oz Club director Peter Hanff.

Anyways, I'd encourage any Oz fan to look through these, especially if you've considered going to a convention.

People to keep an eye open for in these:
The Wonders of Oz Narrator Aaron Pacentine
Fellow Oz blogger and site owner and all-around Web Wizard Eric Gjovaag
Oz Author and Illustrator Eric Shanower
Oz Expert and Publisher David Maxine
Author Michael Buckley
Oz President Angelica Carpenter
Dorothy and Ozma!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dorothy & Anne Shirley

Since Anne of Green Gables turns 100 years old this year, I figured it's about time to compare the popular red-haired heroine with Dorothy Gale.

Other than being girls who live on farms, both are orphans. Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Anne lives at Green Gables, a farm in Avonlea (based on Cavendish) in Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her adoptive guardians are Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew.

Matthew and Uncle Henry are a little comparable. Matthew is very shy and talks only to his closest friends. Uncle Henry keeps to himself at the start of Wonderful Wizard, though he seems to open up more to Dorothy (and even to Oz itself) as the series progressed. Likewise, Matthew opens up to Anne, and lets her talk his ear off in chapter 2 of Anne of Green Gables. Also, both are prone to bad health: Uncle Henry must visit Australia for his health in Ozma, while Matthew's health becomes one of the major factors in the climax of the first Anne book.

I once came up with a possible situation for Uncle Henry that paralleled quite surprisingly with Matthew: I thought that maybe while Henry and Dorothy were traveling to get to their ship in Ozma, Uncle Henry indulges Dorothy in a haircut, where she gets the stylish bob that John R. Neill drew her with. Similarly, in Anne of Green Gables, Matthew indulges Anne in many of the simple pleasures other girls enjoy, the most memorable being when he secretly provides a dress for Anne with "puffed sleeves," although Marilla disapproves of using so much material.

Aunt Em and Marilla are also comparable, in that they are matter-of-fact but loving older women. Aunt Em takes Dorothy's stories of Oz with a large grain of salt, while Marilla finds tactful ways to reprove Anne's wistful and whimsical dreams and actions.

Both Dorothy and Anne are kind girls, imaginative, and friendly. The big difference is their tempers: Dorothy is calmer, while Anne is more prone to lose it, though she gets over it as her story progresses.

Another big, and obvious, difference is that Dorothy really does go to fantasy worlds and meet fantastical characters. Anne, on the other hand, just imagines hers.

Yeah, you see, this comparison isn't as obvious as the one I did with Alice in Wonderland not too long ago: Dorothy's adventures are fantasy, Anne's are based in reality. Dorothy faces Wicked Witches, Nome Kings, Phanfasms, all sorts of fantastic enemies. Anne faces real-life hardships, irate neighbors, gossips, later on in the series, suitors, and the foibles of her own children.

So, really, if Anne of Green Gables had turned into a fantasy story mid-way, I guess there'd be some real parlells between Anne and Dorothy, but, such as it went, Lucy Montgomery did not go in that direction and created a successful series.

(Just in case you're wondering, no, I won't be comparing to Dorothy to Laura Ingalls, Pippi Longstocking, or every other young fictional heroine. I'd thought of doing the Anne/Dorothy comparision almost two years ago, and decided to do it now.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who's it for?

Well, I must sadly admit that I did not fulfill one of my New Year's Resolutions. I wanted to attend an Oz convention, specifically the Winkie Convention, but the main part of it happened today in California, and I am here in Missouri. (I do know Aaron Pacentine went...)

It has come to my attention that some of us young "movers and shakers" in the online Oz community, have been criticized to be simply promoting ourselves. I can't speak for everyone in the Oz community, but I know quite a few will agree with what I am about to state for myself.

A lot of the work I've done for Oz projects has made me learn many skills that come in handy. I'm a better sound and video editor because of Wonders (if you want to criticize any quality, I simply had to work with what I had), my blogging has helped hone my writing skills, I've learned a lot about online etiquette from posting at the IWOC Forums, I've even learned how to run websites myself.

Now, I am rather active online, I share a lot of opinions and information, and I've tried to open a lot of options for people to express themselves in Ozzy ways. May I add, that even when I sold Oz items, I have never made a profit from my Oz enthusiasm. (I've even footed international shipping asking for nothing in return.)

Now, I'm not bragging at all. Everything I've done online with Oz is to either share information or to stimulate activity in the Oz community, even if it's as cheap to give someone a chuckle. I'm very proud of the works I've done, even more pleased when I see someone else undertake their own project. (Which is why so many links are on the sidebar on the home page of my blog.)

I know I'm not alone in these endeavors, but I will not name any names. All I can say I'm glad to have communicated and even worked with some of these people. Oz rides on the shoulders of it's fans: let's keep it going, folks.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A "Road" Thought and a Little Trivia

Anyone notice these two differing passages in The Road to Oz?

They came to a house where two youthful donkeys were whitewashing the wall, and Dorothy stopped a moment to watch them. They dipped the ends of their tails, which were much like paint-brushes, into a pail of whitewash, backed up against the house, and wagged their tails right and left until the whitewash was rubbed on the wall, after which they dipped these funny brushes in the pail again and repeated the performance.

"That must be fun," said Button-Bright.

"No, it's work," replied the old donkey; "but we make our youngsters do all the whitewashing, to keep them out of mischief."

Okay, here, Baum establishes the common concept of work: it's not fun, and makes a great punishment or solution to avoid punishment. Note that these are the so-called "Wise Donkeys" of Dunkiton.

Later in the same book, we find this passage:

The shaggy man was fairly astounded at what he saw, for the graceful and handsome buildings were covered with plates of gold and set with emeralds so splendid and valuable that in any other part of the world any one of them would have been worth a fortune to its owner. The sidewalks were superb marble slabs polished as smooth as glass, and the curbs that separated the walks from the broad street were also set thick with clustered emeralds. There were many people on these walks--men, women and children--all dressed in handsome garments of silk or satin or velvet, with beautiful jewels. Better even than this: all seemed happy and contented, for their faces were smiling and free from care, and music and laughter might be heard on every side.

"Don't they work at all?" asked the shaggy man.

"To be sure they work," replied the Tin Woodman; "this fair city could not be built or cared for without labor, nor could the fruit and vegetables and other food be provided for the inhabitants to eat. But no one works more than half his time, and the people of Oz enjoy their labors as much as they do their play."

Here Baum refutes what the Donkeys believe: work can be fun, it is necessary, and can be balanced.

Baum was never against working, in fact, in Glinda of Oz, Ozma states the importance of work once again:

...Dorothy wished in her kindly, innocent heart that all men and women could be fairies with silver wands and satisfy all their needs without so much work and worry, for then, she imagined, they would have all their working hours to be happy in. But Ozma, looking into her friend's face and reading those thoughts, gave a laugh and said, "No, no, Dorothy, that wouldn't do at all. Instead of happiness, your plan would bring weariness to the world. If everyone would wave a wand and have his wants fulfilled, there would be little to wish for. There would be no eager striving to obtain the difficult, for nothing would then be difficult, and the pleasure of earning something longed for and only to be secured by hard work and careful thought would be utterly lost. There would be nothing to do, you see, and no interest in life and in our fellow creatures. That is all that makes life worth our while--to do good deeds and to help those less fortunate than ourselves."

Work appears in other Baum books, my favorite quotes coming from the obscure Annabel:

"Hush, my daughter," said Mr. Williams, with unaccustomed severity. "You must not criticise mamma's actions, for she loves you all and tries to act for your best good. But it's nothing against Will Carden to be a vegetable boy, you know. How old is he?"

"About sixteen, I think," said Mary Louise.

"Well, when I was his age," continued Mr. Williams, "I was shovelling coal in a smelting furnace."

"That isn't as respectable as being a vegetable boy, is it?" asked Theodore, gravely.

"Both callings are respectable, if they enable one to earn an honest livelihood," returned his father, with a smile. "There is no disgrace at all in poverty. The only thing that hopelessly condemns a person is laziness or idle inaction."

And I think that's a nice place to close...

The trivia? Well, it seems, unless my father's research is flawed, that I have an X-sometime-great-uncle whose life was the basis of a movie, where he was played by Vincent Price. Apparently, he did not share Baum's work ethics... Anyone want to guess who it was?

7/16/2008 EDIT:
As no one has guessed the trivia answer, I will reveal it.

If my father's research was correct, my great-great (and maybe one or two more "great"s) uncle who was played by Vincent Price in the movie based on his life, was James Reavis, better known as "The Baron of Arizona." He forged documents claiming he owned most of the state of Arizona. He was discovered and jailed, then, after his release, became a drifter.