Friday, January 14, 2011

Depicting Oz, Real-Life or Books

Having been off the internet for some unknown reason, and coming back from a little holiday in Melbourne with Mum, it's high time I got back in contributing to the Royal Blog of Oz.

(* Any incorrect titles or facts please let me know and I shall amend them immediately ASAP *)

Baum started writing Oz in 1899, and Denslow worked on the illustrations.

Ever since 1956, his superb introduction to the Fairyland of Oz has gone into Public Domain allowing many other artists - professional and almost so, Oz fans or not - to show their different, unique and often just as fanciful view of Oz, its places, items and characters.

It is debatable whether there are more books depicting 'Oz' than the films, or vice versa. Either way, we get an assortment of different visions, whether they are more akin to be original and unique, following the MGM look, or both.

I should like to talk here about what I believe works and what doesn't fit, referencing a few certain versions.

Cinematically, we have yet to receive an adaptation (and series) of Baum's book that faithfully and properly places Dorothy's home life in Kansas, 1899-1900 etc., with the hard working farm life of that era of America - before girls wore shirts and pants, before TVs, lots of radio stations, automobiles, cordless phones and the like - and Oz shown as a believable fairyland of various colours, strange animals and one-coloured locations.
We have MGM for America/the Musical-lovers during the War, THE WIZ for the African Americans, RETURN TO OZ for the 80s fantasy (both of which are Cult Classics), MUPPETS WIZARD OF OZ for the TV, TIN MAN for the modern audience . . . and, I suppose to a lesser extent, WICKED for the Adults. But we don't have an Oz for the BOOK FANS.

In some particular illustrations of the book, are the Japanese editions. Be it manga or book, I have occasionally seen Dorothy being depicted as a pretty girl with starry eyes, pink lips, lacey or frilly dresses, rosy cheeks and a cute dog. As good as she looks, this is not always correct. Her family is poor, struggling to make ends meet and not always having enough to comfort themselves. Since they work on a farm, Dorothy, and Aunt Em, would not have time or a good enough reason to put on make-up or very nice and colourful dresses when they have dirt to dig, fields to plow, clothes to wash and hang dry . . . and hurricanes. At times Aunt Em has been depicted as fat also, which might not always make sense if they can only afford one serving of food each meal. It's hard to understand how with minimal meal servings a farmer's wife can remain fat. Only Alice can wear the slightly more fancy attire because of her Victorian upbringing.

As for Oz, it is a fairyland and a world of fantasy, but it mustn't be confused with that of other strange worlds like Wonderland or too normal like a vast forest and/or valley with trees and rivers. Nor is it the epic landscape of, say, Middle Earth with its snowy mountains and marsh lands. I don't see Oz the type of fairyland to have giant mushrooms, trees with gnarly faces or plants with curly vines. It can have waterfalls, a giant hill of rocks (the Hammerheads), flowers in bushes and on vines around trees, but not feel like somewhere we've seen or read before (and can experience everyday). Since each section of that place has its own colour, I imagine the plants (flowers, leaves, maybe a few animals, trees) to have the appropriate colour to where they reside - but not the colour of the people's skin, tint of the sky or grass - The People in those regions of course would wear the same colours, but vary in shades, tones and other fabrications.

One place in particular would be a big discussion in design: the Emerald City! Now, it has been said that OZ (Oscar Zoroaster) designed and had the people build the green palace. Before coming to Oz, Oscar was in a traveling circus, so I believe his visiting the countries would be a good influence in his designs for the Emerald City, possibly combining any artistic or grand architectures before his stormy departure - I'm guessing Van Gogh, Gaudi, the French Castles, Hotels & other Royal Palaces and such but I could be wrong. But I'm sure he'd think back on and be interested on how to combine these major landmarks from his world.

As said before, I just came back from a holiday with Mum in Melbourne, where we stayed at the Hotel Windsor. And while walking through these halls, I could not help but think of this as a good model for the Emerald City, only taller and greener with more shine. I think the Emerald City would also benefit from having little gardens along the paths and streets next to seats and beside the lamps (which would be fire-lit?), not just buildings and marbled streets. I sometimes wondered if the shops inside the walls would include small cafes or tea rooms for eating, resting, leisure and conversations.

Of course people are allowed to show Oz in their own way as it is in Public Domain and should not have their imagination limited, but there also has to be a line to prevent any depictions from being unrecognizable or 'Un-Ozzy', and it helps to show how much respect you actually have for Oz, its author . . . and its purist fans.

I think I should like to go into more Oz Depiction Thoughts, in further blogs . . .

Till then, feel free to add your own depiction thoughts as comments below.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To me the look of Oz will always be that provided by John R. Neill, mostly because I grew up only with Baum's 14 books -- and that left Denslow outnumbered 13-1. Not that Denslow's work wasn't also excellent, although I much prefer Neill's Dorothy.