Monday, December 31, 2012

Oz: The Other World That Isn't

When asked about fantasy worlds, many people throw out Narnia, Neverland, Oz, Middle-earth, Discworld and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, that's not exactly the case. Tolkien intended Middle-earth to be part of our actual earth, but in a forgotten period of history. And in the case of Harry Potter, the Wizarding World is part of our world, but it's been hidden away.

Arguably, a fantasy world doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be in a place outside of Earth. Simply, it is a restricted area where fantasy can take place. A prime example is Middle-earth: aside from it being a work of fiction, you can't get to Middle-earth because it no longer exists. All the places and people are long gone.

An example that does get thrown out is Wonderland, but I consider this inappropriate as I maintain that Wonderland was never anything more than Alice's dream. Thus, it may count as a world only for the fact that it is entirely cut off from anyone getting to it: it never existed except for one person's subconsciousness.

An example somewhat closer to Oz is in Harry Potter's Wizarding World. The existence is known to only a few trusted non-magical people, and their access to the lands of magic seems to be limited. This is similar to Neverland and Narnia: some can go there, but not everyone.

This brings us to Baum's Land of Oz and its Surrounding Countries. What makes it unique is that anyone can go to Oz or the outlying lands through a number of methods, a barrier of invisibility simply keeping these places from being discovered.

Some argue or present Oz as not being on Earth or being moved to another dimension. I find these contrary to Baum's clear intentions, particularly as non-trans-dimensional means of travel are used to reach Oz after the barrier has been set up.

It is certainly odd about the Barrier of Invisibility. While Baum refers to it in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and it seems more complicated magic is needed to send people through it in Tik-Tok of Oz. Furthermore, it cannot simply just protect the Land of Oz, otherwise the other lands would be quickly discovered, and with the later introduction of satellite photography, this would result in a "hole" in a continent. No, surely Glinda had to have extended it to cover outlying lands, including Ozamaland, which was said to be a large continent.

Jack Snow, though, seems to have had the idea that Oz itself is yet protected by the Barrier (perhaps a secondary one) in The Shaggy Man of Oz, which creates an obstacle for the main characters, albeit a minor one.

This brings an issue that's come up, given the longevity of the Oz series and related works: the aging enchantment. Supposedly, it affects many people in the Surrounding Countries as well. It seems the Valley of Mo has never been affected by this, as the Monarch of Mo has always been the Monarch. In some recent Oz stories, Bud and Fluff from Queen Zixi of Ix appear, not too much older than their appearances in their debut book, despite that book telling us how they grew up. (I maintain Baum added that to package it as a fairy tale on its own, same case with the ending of John Dough and the Cherub.)

However, proximity to Oz seems to be a major part of the aging enchantment: while some islands—like Pingaree—seem to be affected by it, the second volume of The Royal Explorers of Oz reveal that Ozamaland must be too far away, though there are other ways to keep oneself alive for a long time.

But back to the main point, Oz is different from other fantasy worlds: it is not exclusive or entirely cut off. Thus, it is a fantasy world only in that is only partly cut off from the rest of the world.

I guess you didn't really follow through there, Glinda, but it seems to have worked well enough...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Angelo's FINAL WEEKLY BLOG!

For 2012.

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and all that good stuff.

On Tuesday, Disney Channel will present a special sneak peek of Oz the Great and Powerful beginning at 6:00pm (so that's 5:00 for you central timers). I believe that clips and such will be shown during commercial breaks of whatever show is airing at 6:00. Exciting!

Speaking of Oz the Great and Powerful, InsideDLParis on Twitter shared an image of a new character poster on display at the Disneyland theme park in Paris. Check it out!


On February 12th, the Smithsonian Channel's The Origins of Oz documentary will be released on DVD. I've yet to watch this, so looking forward to picking it up. Click here to pre-order from Amazon. 

On February 26th, Lightyear Video will be putting out a 25th anniversary edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz anime films, originally released as one TV show in Japan. It's not clear if there will be any special features or if there's anything at all 'special' about this re-release, but it's unlikely that there will be much effort put into this re-release. They didn't even bother to use anything besides elements from the ugly 2004 release artwork. *sigh* Anyways, you can pre-order it from Amazon here.

Still keeping my fingers crossed for a Return to Oz DVD re-release sometime soon...

2013 looks to be an exciting, Ozzy year with the release of Oz the Great and Powerful and (hopefully) Dorothy of Oz!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fantastic Funhouse of Oz

And here's an earlier book by Chris Dulabone featuring Egor's Funhouse!

For those who don't remember, Egor is a furry monster who is actually quite friendly. He runs a funhouse in alternate dimension, but allows people to visit.

In this story, Egor and his friends recall a visit to Oz, and while they can't go back to Oz on their own, they decide to create a new funhouse that will have spectacular rides that take you through animatronic re-enactments of the Oz stories! The animatronics are so lifelike that an Oz character could imitate one and no one would know the difference.

And unfortunately, that's what happens. Allidap, the Wicked Witch of the West, takes the place of the animatronic Wicked Witch, and when groups of children come through, she occasionally turns one into an insect. Eventually, the missing children get reported to Egor, who has no idea what's going on.

Things change when Allidap turns a girl into a bag of ice to be used in drinks. The other transformed children manage to get a note to Egor revealing their predicament. Now, Egor and his friends have to find the ingredients for the spell to restore the children, but Allidap is onto them. Will she stop them? Are the children doomed to remain insects forever?

Again, Chris only loosely ties the tale to Oz, but honestly, this is one of his wacky humorous stories and is not meant to be taken too seriously. It's a lot of fun, which, I know by now, is what to expect from Chris.

Definitely one if you enjoy an off-beat Oz book.

Get a copy here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Royal Forums of Oz downtime

Any visitors of the Royal Forums of Oz might note that the site is down at present. I am fully aware of this, in fact I asked for it to be shut down myself.

The reason being that I checked the forums and my antivirus popped up, warning me of a trojan on the site. The server host confirmed there had been a security leak and the skin (the "look" of the site) had been infected and needed to be repaired or changed. I lost write access, so we decided to shut the site down to prevent the trojan from infecting anyone's computer. We plan to be back up soon, though.

It's a good reminder that it is imperative that you use up-to-date antivirus software if you're connected to the internet or download materials. If a site ever asks you to shut it off, don't. I personally use Avast! antivirus, which has served me quite well.

If you accessed the Royal Forums of Oz in the past couple days, definitely run a virus scan on your computer.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! To celebrate the season, Sam has put together a new video using the original color plates by Mary Cowles Clark for the original edition of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Enjoy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Giving the Gift of Oz

Early this year, I got to visit my youngest brother Daniel. We live in the same city, but we rarely see each other. He's 14 now, and quite well read. During that visit, he showed me his bookshelf. On it were copies of The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series, and a copy of Peter Pan with Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens that I'd given to him a couple years ago.

He told me he'd actually read all of the books multiple times. (Except Peter Pan...) So, I thought "Why doesn't he have the Oz books?"

Daniel also lives with my niece Amber, and last year, I'd given her a copy of The Wizard of Oz in Del Rey paperback and the MGM film on DVD for Christmas.

This year, I decided to step the gift up a notch: get them all of the Baum Oz books. In Dover editions.

Thanks to some Oz fans selling items from their collection, a few Oz fans sending spare Oz items my way, an item picked up at the 2011 Winkie Con Swap Meet and a large order from Dover Publications, I'm not quite giving them all of the Baum Oz books, instead they're getting the first eight novels, Little Wizard Stories, Queen Zixi of Ix, The Magical Monarch of Mo, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island.

Yes, they'll have two copies of Wonderful Wizard, but the Dover edition has a checklist of Baum's fantasies in the back which will also serve as the "reading order" if they care to follow it.

I am a little wary about how well it'll be received, though. Earlier this month, we were informed that Daniel had specifically asked for The Lord of the Rings, and while he's getting that as well (I'm not his only brother), I certainly hope he can find some time for Oz. If he does, I can probably pick up the last six books and see if I can get copies of John Dough and the Cherub and Dot and Tot of Merryland as well.

(The preceding paragraphs were written the evening of December 22nd. On the 23rd, we met to exchange presents. As such, the next two paragraphs have been added...)

And Daniel loved getting a large collection of Oz books, and I even helped get them on the bookshelf. He says he'll read them, though my niece was much less enthused...

And for those fellow Peter Pan fans, he told me had actually read the book and found the original Peter Pan to be more daring and heroic than the typical pop culture version.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Interview with Tom Mula

Happy Friday (night)!

I recently got to interview Tom Mula, author of the new book The Hackers of Oz.

Could you run down the basic premise of the story for us?
Scraps and the Scarecrow come here, and help Elizabeth, our heroine, defeat the Wicked Witch of the West. Again.
What inspired you to write this story?
Truthfully, a dream I had many years ago, of the brightly-colored Oz characters on a gray street in downtown Chicago. I always remembered the dream, and finally got around to writing the book.
How does this story fit in with the original Oz books or the 1939 movie?
It’s based on the original books; it also references the popular mythology created in the movie. Anything more is a spoiler; suffice to mention that Scraps and the Scarecrow are very familiar with the movie.
You’ve written quite a few books and plays already, most notably Jacob Marley’s The Christmas Carol. How was writing The Hackers from Oz different than the other projects you’ve done?
As in Jacob Marley's The Christmas Carol, I was dealing with a hugely popular work of genius that many people care about deeply; and once again, I felt a responsibility to be faithful to what I saw as essential in Baum’s creation: his sunny, wacky, joyful humor and whimsy. And as in the Baum stories, there is genuine danger, and the stakes are high. I had the same experience writing Scraps that I’m sure Baum had: once you let The Patchwork Girl open her mouth, it’s pretty hard to get it closed again. Sometimes characters write themselves. Making this journey with Scraps was a delight, and surprisingly, very moving for me.
Would you consider The Wizard of Oz to be a childhood favorite?
Oh, heck yes.
Are you planning on writing any more Oz stories in the near future?
It’s very possible. Another of the characters in the book seems to have a great deal more to say that seems pretty interesting.
Why do you think Oz fans should check out this story in particular?
I’ve really strived to deliver a genuine Oz book—sunny, funny, optimistic, faithful to Baum, delightfully illustrated. At the same time, putting the Oz folk in our world…is not the most natural fit, and they have some strong opinions. I’ve tried to make the book about something important, in addition to being highly entertaining. I hope your blog followers will think I’ve succeeded.
Thanks to Tom for taking the time to do this interview! Amazon is currently out of stock, but you can order Hackers from Oz in hardcover format here from Barnes & Noble.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quickies

Just updating a few things:

Sam and I decided to take a break from the podcast this month. It's Christmastime after all, and plus there's a movie coming out this weekend I've been waiting about nine years for.

I got and read The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #2. We meet the Sawhorse, who—while not the somewhat surly creature Baum wrote about—is quite a fun character. Some great plot development as Tip and the Scarecrow flee the Emerald City, but Jinjur sends the horrid Wheelers after them!

I also received my CD copy of Colonial Radio Theater's The Emerald City of Oz. My earlier review was based on a free MP3 copy that was provided for me to review. I like the cover art better than the previous CRT Oz releases, but to be honest, I miss jewel case packaging for dual CD sets. Sure, it was breakable, but it feels a lot sturdier than a small paper box with a slab of styrofoam and the CDs in paper envelopes.

I never thought I'd be waxing nostalgic over CD packaging. But I guess this is what we have to deal with as physical media gives way to digital, even if the physical media contains digital data. I appreciate both. I can't really feel like I can count digital texts, pictures, video and audio in my collection and I don't. With a few clicks and keystrokes or a bad accident, they could be gone forever. There's ways I can make those into physical media, of course, but unless it's something really rare that I'm unlikely to get any other way, having the real thing is much more fun.

On the other hand, particularly with digital audio, it's much easier to load digital files onto a portable player and use that on the go rather than carry around a lot of CDs.

Also received a great little Christmas gift from a wonderful Ozzy friend: a copy of Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Princess of Cozytown. Totally floored by this one!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Witchy-Washy Weakness

When talking of weaknesses in works of fiction, one example that obviously comes to my mind is the Wicked Witch of the West and her aversion to water. While L. Frank Baum only mentions this weakness in conjunction with this one particular Witch, Ruth Plumly Thompson seemed to think it was typical. In The Lost King of Oz, Mombi says that "water is death and destruction to all witches," and indeed she is destroyed with water at the end. As some recent Oziana stories indicate, however, not every historian buys that the execution actually took place. In the same book, Mombi drinks coffee and refers pretty casually to rain. Rachel Cosgrove Payes wrote in Wicked Witch about how a river nymph made Singra immune to water; I understand this bit was added in at editor Fred Meyer's behest. It's not entirely clear what the rules are here. Does water only melt wicked witches? Only witches of a certain type, perhaps because they extended their lifespans with a particular sort of magic? It's never totally clear. Neither is how someone can avoid water for even a normal lifespan, let alone one lengthened by magic. In the Futurama parody of The Wizard of Oz, Mom plays the Wicked Witch of West, and she puts it quite well: "Who would have thought a tiny amount of liquid would ever fall on me?" Then, when Leela tries to take her place, she's immediately taken out by an overflowing toilet. It's one thing to keep away from wells and bathtubs (although you'd think witches would end of being awfully smelly), but rain can come up pretty suddenly. Maybe witches who are susceptible to water have some form of weather control magic. And as we see in the very first Oz book, the water-soluble Witch allows her slave to access water for the purposes of cleaning and bathing. This issue is one that's been discussed quite frequently and thoroughly in Oz fandom, with no real conclusion forthcoming. As I indicated earlier, water might also be an effective weapon against certain dragons. This is again a Thompsonian invention, although it appears to be based on something in Baum. In Tik-Tok, the dragon Quox informs his companions that his kind have fires inside of them that keep them going and presumably never burn out under normal circumstances. Grampa seems to run with this idea by having a dragon named Enorma die when her flame is extinguished by an icy stream. And Dismocolese, the dragon in Enchanted Island, is afraid of water. The list continues with the Ogre of Oh-Go-Wan in one of Thompson's King Kojo stories. These aren't Oz stories, but they're similar in tone and could easily take place in the same world as the more famous fairyland. In this tale, the ogre dissolves in the ocean. This is presumably not the same ogre as Og from Pirates, who also identifies himself as the Ogre of Ogowan (note different spelling, however), and lives on a small island. While water might not be effective against all ogres, or indeed all witches or dragons, it really strikes me that an Oz explorer's first move upon encountering an enemy should pretty much always be throwing water at him or her. Well, maybe not if they're made of water, because then it would probably just strengthen them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Fairy Circle in Oz

And next up in the Oz reading is the follow up to Wooglet in Oz by Hugh Pendexter III. Except this is by Chris Dulabone himself.

It also follows up on the "Egor's Funhouse" series of books by Chris, but I've yet to read any of those yet.

The Fairy Circle in Oz finds Wooglet returning to Oz years after her last visit, and she joins Jellia Jamb on a mission to help the Love Fairy Amouretto recover the magic mirror from Egor's Funhouse that served as a portal from Egor's dimension to Oz.

They discover the mirror was taken by a slug-monster from the Sluggarden, an anti-magical place. The effect this could have if it is not recovered right away could destroy the entire earth.

After a ride in a hot air balloon (which involves a humorous tipsy scene), they must take Egor's rocket ship, which sends them to a planet inhabited by birds with surfboard-shaped bodies. Can anyone help Jellia, Wooglet, the Love Fairy and Egor off this planet? Ozma? Egor's friends at the fun house?

The story is a wild and rollicking fantasy by Chris and a lot of fun, though I would suggest that one familiarize themselves with some Chris' other work first. The illustrations by Anon E. Mouse (Marcus Mebes) are some of his better work. He manages to pull off elegant human forms and remarkably funny humanoid forms.

Something I found surprising was that there's what could be considered a gay couple in this story, though I'm not sure that's correct. King Genovarma was made a very handsome man due to a gift from the Love Fairy herself. He became vain and jailed a man he thought was handsomer named Xwingline, as he wanted no competition in selecting a bride. However, due to his overwhelming envy, he decided to marry Xwingline instead. The two admired each other until one day they were transformed into the slug monster in the Sluggarden. It is written in a way that depicts an unhealthy obsession with physical beauty rather than an actual love.

I find the Fun House to be quite a fun idea indeed and look forward to reading about it in some of Chris' other books.

Get your copy of The Fairy Circle in Oz here.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Do It For Oz

I haven't talked about any Oz books for awhile, and the reason is...

...hold on, there's something at the door.

...

Hey! Shipping from Belen is really fast! Got a new box of Oz books from Chris Dulabone!

Huh, which one to read next... Hmmm... Ah, Do It For Oz looks fun, and I recall reading Eric Gjovaag's review of it on his website. Let's try that one!

One day later...

Do It For Oz isn't a long Oz story. It was written in 1990, but wasn't published until 2002. Partly because Chris really doesn't like publishing Oz books without pictures, and considering this one is illustrated by Luciano Vecchio, it was worth waiting for!

Do It draws from a number of Baum books: The Road to Oz, The Enchanted Island of Yew and Dot and Tot of Merryland chiefly.

The book starts on the pleasantly titled Island of Malaria in the Nonestic Ocean, where the jolly Duke reigns with his not so jolly wife Madame Innador. Since they have no children, the Duke put Madame in charge of the orphanage, where his favorite orphan is a little girl named Duit. Duit, however, is also the target for most of Madame's cruelty.

One day, though, Duit is given a gift by a centaur: she can turn into a cat and escape punishment. Duit manages to do this until one day she is finally caught.

Then we catch up with Johnny Dooit, who made a brief appearance in The Road to Oz, as he finally gets a little break from his ongoing work. There are some fun misadventures along the way!

Then we go to the Island of Yew, where we find what became of the Red Rogue of Dawna (I believe I have yet to blog about that book), whose backstory Chris expands on, giving him the name Stora. He wishes himself to America, where he gets a job in a grocery store and decides he wants to find Johnny Dooit to help him find Prince Marvel. Who he does meet is Madame Innador. When she hears he's looking for "Dooit," she thinks of "Duit" and assumes they must be one and the same person. So off they go to find her!

So, while Do It For Oz is short, it makes for a delightful book, that is, if you're used to Chris' writing style. And Luciano's artwork make it quite a visually pleasing book as well.

Buy Do It For Oz here!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Speculations on Santa Claus

Last week, I did my annual re-reading of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a Baum book I blogged about so much, I eventually ran out of things to say about it. (Check the Santa Claus tag.)

For our new blog readers who haven't seen those blogs, basically, this book tells Baum's own unique take on the Santa Claus mythos. He has no ties to St. Nicholas and would likely denounce the title "Father Christmas." Baum's Santa Claus is actually named Claus and "Santa" is just a form of the word "saint." (Likely intended to be how a child mispronounced it.)

Baum's Claus was raised by the immortal Wood-Nymphs of the Forest of Burzee, a forest later revealed to be south of the Land of Oz. When Claus grew up, he committed himself to bringing joy to children's lives, first by being their friend, and later by giving them gifts of toys he'd make from wood and clay and later other materials. Eventually, the Immortals decide to give him the Mantle of Immortality so he may continue his giving gifts (which has been limited to Christmas Eve) forever.

The book's tone is unique in Baum's juvenile work. When discussing the Immortals, Baum evokes a mystical tone, telling us much about how they live, but it feels more like he is letting us in on a wonderful secret.

The tone changes when discussing the life of Claus: suddenly here is the Baum we know, here's his classic fairy tale style, just now he's giving us a biography instead of his adventure or journey stories.

Something I did think of while reading it this time is that Claus' first toys are made of carved wood. Baum himself did woodwork, making a bit of furniture for his summer cottage in Macatawa Park, Michigan. He also carved the sign for his cottage that he called "The Sign of the Goose," which featured a wooden goose standing in a circle.

I almost wonder if one of Baum's sons (likely one of his latter two) saw him making the sign and asked if that was how Santa Claus made toys, and from that question came the spark of inspiration for this book.

Baum himself must have identified quite a bit with Santa Claus, and I almost feel as if Baum's Claus is Baum putting what he hoped were his best traits into a character. Quite likely, they were exaggerated. One of Baum's sons remembered how one year they had four Christmas trees, one for each of the four boys.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What About That Wizard?

Over three years ago, I pointed out how Glinda might not be as good as we think. And today, it hit me that the Wizard is, in fact, holding a powerful secret that makes him the most powerful magic worker in Oz.

In The Magic of Oz, the Wizard learns the magic word "pyrzqxgl" which can transform anything or anyone into anything. By the end of the story, the Wizard is presumably the only one in Oz who knows it, except maybe Bini Aru. The only other people who knew it had their memories wiped.

Consider that: a word capable of complete transformation. And only one person knows it.

Did he tell Glinda? Well, Glinda would know he had the secret by the Book of Records, unless he could alter it with the word.

Did the Wizard ever use the word after The Magic of Oz? We aren't told, though there are a variety of places in the Famous Forty where he could have. But where's the fun in that?

Actually, there's one point in the Famous Forty where I feel sure the Wizard did use "pyrzqxgl." It's in The Giant Horse of Oz as Ozma and company set everything back to rights in the Ozure Islands. The Sea Horses are long dead due to a monster eating them and only their bones remain. But after the monster's destruction, the Sea Horses appear to have come back to life. Thompson's explanation:
...when they all crowded curiously around the Wizard he merely shook his head and muttered that restoring a herd of sea horses from a pile of bones was quite easy—if you just knew how. And with this answer they were forced to be satisfied.
 You see that?

THE WIZARD BROUGHT THE DEAD BACK TO LIFE.

What else can he do? Create life? Life that answers only to him? Slim down? Fatten up? Look at the continuity in John R. Neill's pictures of him! His weight (and age) is all over!

Actually, in Wonder City, doesn't he make himself unrecognizable to Number Nine and turn Jenny Jump into a younger version of herself and remove parts of her personality? This is one great and terrible guy we're dealing with!

So, does Ozma keep Glinda and the Wizard around because she's scared of them, or because she needs to keep an eye on them?
This has been a tongue-in-cheek but completely plausible speculation blog entry.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Christmas Poems by Ruth Plumly Thompson

For Christmas 2012, we present five Christmas poems by Ruth Plumly Thompson, read by Arthur Davis, Mike Conway, Kim McFarland, Sam Milazzo and Jared Davis.

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

       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Wait, is the MGM movie really getting a remake?

Happy Friday!

Earlier this week, an item posted to Examiner set Oz fans abuzz with the question, "is the MGM movie really getting a remake?" Well, not exactly. The only source listed in this post is an article from Deadline that was published two years ago.

"Well, that makes a difference!"

Indeed, Frank Morgan... Indeed. The Examiner post offers no more details or information about a remake of the MGM film, and the site does not appear to be affiliated with Warner Bros. or anything. So, no, the beloved 1939 musical is NOT getting a remake. Not for now, at least.

The Land of Oz is coming to Disney theme parks at last!

Guests visiting the 2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World this spring can enter the Land of Oz in the form of an original interactive play area that will be one of the festival’s newest additions. The circus-themed area, inspired by Disney’s upcoming fantastical adventure, Oz The Great and Powerful, will offer carnival-style midway games and a “Land of Oz Play Area” where The Great and Powerful Oz’s crashed hot-air balloon can be found. Guests will also be able to wander through the “Oz Movie Garden,” which will feature lush, unusual plants inspired by the Land of Oz.

Well, sort of. Check out the Disney Parks blog for more details!

Speaking of Disney, just announced is an Oz-themed episode of Disney Junior's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The episode is dubbed Minnie's The Wizard of Dizz and will be released on its own DVD with two other episodes of the show on February 5, 2013 just before the release of the much-anticipated Oz the Great and Powerful. Check out a few clips and more details about the episode here.

Whoaaa...
The Dorothy and the Witches of Oz page has recently received a makeover, and an announcement on further release of the film is scheduled for early January. Check out the new design!

A new poster for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful is being spotted in theater lobbies! Check out a photo, courtesy of Ryan Jay...

That's it for this week. Enjoy the weekend!
 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Master Key

If there's one L. Frank Baum book that people pick up due to its synopsis, it is definitely The Master Key. Baum never tied the story to Oz, so it's not as well known as his other fantasies, but I've yet to speak to anyone about the book who's read it who hasn't enjoyed it.

Of course, that's only two people...

The Master Key is also notable for being the only L. Frank Baum fantasy that was clearly based on his own life. His son Robert experimented with electric gadgets and rigged up devices in the home. While the family noted how useful these experiments could be, they were annoyed by them.

Baum decided to adapt this into The Master Key: we meet the Joslyn family. The father (who is not named), mother Belinda, son Rob, and the daughters Helen and Mabel. Here's Baum's own Gary Stu with a father and son based on himself and daughters, which we understand he would have liked to have had.

The story kicks in when Rob's experiments strike the Master Key of Electricity, summoning the Demon of Electricity. Yes, Baum's works contain good witches and Demons who do not do evil. What a controversial guy...

The definition of Baum's demon is actually found in the World English Dictionary: "an attendant or ministering spirit; genius." And the term "genius" here: "the guardian spirit of a place, group of people, or institution."

So don't worry, The Master Key won't turn people to Satanism.

The Demon gives Rob three gifts a week. The ones featured in the story are a wrist watch-like device that repulses force from its wearer so they may "fly," food tablets that nourish a human body for twenty-four hours, an electric tube (a lot like the weapons in The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan) that paralyzes whoever is shot with it for an hour, a garment that repels any attack, spectacles that reveal anyone's true character, and the "Record" which shows notable events that have happened.

We have things like a couple of the Demon's gifts today: the electric tube is like a taser, though Baum's device is much more benign. The Record of Events we basically have thanks to the Internet, and its portability is similar to tablet devices. Baum even foretells the doom and gloom side of Internet piracy:
During the evening he found that an "important event" was Madame Bernhardt's production of a new play, and Rob followed it from beginning to end with great enjoyment, although he felt a bit guilty at not having purchased a ticket.

"But it's a crowded house, anyway," he reflected, "and I'm not taking up a reserved seat or keeping any one else from seeing the show. So where's the harm? Yet it seems to me if these Records get to be common, as the Demon wishes, people will all stay at home and see the shows, and the poor actors 'll starve to death."
 That last bit also foretells television, though, as we know, it was discovered how to make it profitable.

Rob's adventures take him from American cities to a cannibal island, to England, to France, to the Middle East, to a deserted island, and even a pirate ship. Along the way, Rob is forced to see the good and evil in humanity and reconsider what technological advances the human race is ready for. Baum wraps together fantasy, adventure, technological speculation and morality to create one of his best and most unique tales.

Quite possibly the most memorable part of the story for Oz buffs is the Demon of Electricity. In John Troutman's Delusionary State, the Demon is accidentally summoned, tying him to Troutman's take on Oz. In an unpublished manuscript I was asked to give feedback on years ago, he is summoned at Smith & Tinker's shop in Ev. Apparently, Oz fans would like to tie this story to Oz for no other reason than to have the Demon of Electricity as an Oz character.

While the Demon is proud and haughty, he's also kind of a jerk. Rob himself points out how fallible the Demon is, but I'm not going to spoil that since I want you to read it for yourself.

The edition I have is a Dover edition that is now out of print. A friend showed me her copy that looks to have been published in 2001 that also reproduced the original edition, just now in hardcover. Also, Books of Wonder published a new edition with new illustrations. However, if you don't mind just going digital (the Demon might prefer that), it's available on Archive.org and Project Gutenberg for free.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Colonial Radio Theater's The Emerald City of Oz

After 12 years, Colonial Radio Theater finally returns to Oz with The Emerald City of Oz. Their adaptation of The Road to Oz ended with a hint at Emerald City, yet it took some time for it to come out. Last year, CRT writer Jerry Robbins was interviewed on the Royal Podcast of Oz and gave us the scoop.

As it's twelve years later, there is not a perfect audio continuity for CRT's Oz. Right off, the wonderful "From Boston, it's the Colonial Radio Players!" opening is missing, and neither is the ending featuring a suite of the wonderful music. I guess these things happen.

Much more notable is the cast. Much of it has changed! Kerry Donovan replaces Amy Strack as Dorothy, bringing her own interpretation of the character. Mark McGillivray and Joe Caliendo Jr. take over as the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman, respectively. Hugh Metzler plays the Wizard instead of Robert Mackey, though the CRT Facebook page noted that this is "one of his final roles with CRT," so they may have to get a third voice for the character. Also changed are the voice actors for the Nome King, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry.

Returning are Tom Berry as the Scarecrow, Joseph Zamparelli as the Shaggy Man and Jerry Robbins reprises his take on L. Frank Baum. Leigh Ann Price is also back as Ozma, except she is now credited as Leigh Berry. I guess Ozma married the Scarecrow!

The new voices, though notably different, are not jarringly different. I really enjoyed Kerry's interpretation of Dorothy, and Hugh's take on the Wizard was excellent. Also, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry now really sound like a Kansas farmer and his wife. The Nome King's voice is much improved over Ozma of Oz. That voice, though warm yet menacing, was much better suited for King Dox when it was reused for that character in The Road to Oz. Now, he's suitably grumpy!

If you've heard any of CRT's Oz adaptations, you probably know to expect a faithful adaptation that uses much of the original dialogue from the book with some of the prose adapted into dialogue to eliminate the need of a narrator. So, there isn't much need to cover the story as it is the same one from the book, just with some omissions to make it fit into two hours.

The omissions of course aren't major enough to alter the story. Guph's visit to the Whimsies is not included, but he tells the Nome King he's enlisting them and they briefly discuss them. Also missing is Guph encountering the Scarlet Alligator on Mount Phantistico. I can only assume these scenes didn't carry over to audio that well, particularly since they'd be better as visuals than audio.

Some elements from Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's tour of Oz are excised. Gone is the Woggle-Bug's college, the kangaroo outside Fuddlecumjig (don't worry, the Fuddles are still there) and Grandmother Gnit, the arguing zebra and crab, and Bunnybury. The history of the Forbidden Fountain is not discussed either.

So this means that you will hear the delightfully absurd towns of Utensia, Rigamarole, and Flutterbudget Center.

Something odd I noticed was that when Ozma discovers the Nome King's plot, the Magic Picture is referred to as a mirror. But later, it is the Magic Picture once again. Maybe some magic went awry...

Overall though, with the voice changes, omissions, and an odd change for one scene, this proved to be every bit as delightful as the original five audio adaptations of the Oz books from CRT. I look forward to more!

Read my review of the first five.
Order The Emerald City of Oz on CD.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Black Friday, Relax

While everyone else is out shopping and hopefully not killing each other, you're apparently checking the blog. To that we say, thank you!

Now here's a Friday video for you: this is the Children's Theater Company musical adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz, hailed by some Oz fans to be the best adaptation of the second Oz book.



And if you want something shorter, or just something else, here's Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man by Whitestone Motion Pictures.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Oz 101

With new Oz movies coming out, some new fans might be curious as to the origins and basics of the franchise. Here, I hope to answer a few questions and offer some information.

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published as a standalone novel in 1900. Eventual sequels were made due to popular demand and a publisher's agreement before becoming an annual tradition in 1913. Annual Oz books were turned out by three different authors—L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill—through 1942. Additional titles were occasionally added to the series by four other authors until 1963, bringing the total to 40 novels.

2. In addition, all of the writers wrote other Oz stories that were not part of the main series. Series creator L. Frank Baum tied Oz to other fantasy stories he wrote, creating one of the earliest examples of an expanded universe for fantasy or sci-fi.

3. Oz fans also create their own Oz stories, some written to dovetail with the original series, some taking a divergent continuity, others wholly re-imagining the series (that's Wicked for you). Others even use Oz as a basis for completely new story, even if it's not a work of fantasy.

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz went into the public domain in 1956, allowing anyone to adapt or borrow from it freely without fear of legal prosecution. Many of the sequels—including all of L. Frank Baum's books—are now public domain as well.

5. Musical adaptations of Oz are rather common, as the first adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a musical extravaganza, hitting Broadway in 1903. It was the first of various stage adaptations of the Oz stories, which would later include the all-black musical The Wiz and popular musical Wicked.

6. Oz was adapted to film for the first time in 1908, then again in 1910, 1914, 1925, 1932, 1933, as well as a few unofficial shorts before the MGM musical film adaptation in 1939. Not all of these films received wide release, the 1933 production being a cartoon that actually saw its debut on VHS decades later.

7. The MGM musical film The Wizard of Oz is on the National Film Registry and is one of the most popular films of all time, its rights currently owned by Warner Brothers. It is believed that its popularity overshadows the original book. The film was a very costly but prestigious endeavor and was unable to recoup all its costs until a re-release, leading to the erroneous conclusion that it was a flop.

8. Oz has been adapted for stage, comics, film, television, home video, internet content and other media countless times, some of the most notable adaptations being the film version of The Wiz, Walt Disney Pictures' Return to Oz, the animated Journey Back to Oz featuring Liza Minelli and Tin Man, a miniseries that premiered on the Sci Fi Channel in 2007. 

9. The International Wizard of Oz Club was founded in 1957 and remains the main society for Oz fans, encouraging research into the Oz phenomenon and providing reprints and new material for fans. Memberships are available for as low as $25 a year.

10. Oz events are held across the United States. At this time, the International Wizard of Oz Club sponsors the Winkie Convention and a National Convention, held during the summer. Non-Club sponsored events are held in Chittenango, New York (Oz-stravaganza), Wamego, Kansas (Oztoberfest), and a defunct Oz theme park in Banner Elk, North Carolina reopens once a year for a weekend event called "Autumn at Oz."

11. Urban legends and myths have risen over the Oz phenomenon. Despite it being a functional interpretation, it is not true that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written as a Populist allegory, particularly as its author just didn't have those political beliefs, being a Republican. The MGM film has its own wide share of myths, the most popular being that the hanging body of an on-set suicide can be seen in the film. Rest assured, this is not true and any video claiming to show it has been altered. Also, the matching of the timing of the film and Dark Side of the Moon is pure coincidence.

12. Oz's popularity is not limited to the United States: fans also hail from countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Canada. In Russia, the original book was rewritten as the first book of a new series, which has branched off into its own franchise, which recently inspired a shopping center called the Emerald City. The original Oz books have since been more properly translated and fans in both Russia and the United States have been able to embrace both series on their own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Legend of Oz — The Wicked West

Jared discusses the comic book series The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West with its writer Tom Hutchinson.

You can listen and download at the podcast site, or use the player below:
       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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The Big Dog Ink website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Policeman Bluejay

In 1907, the Twinkle Tales got a sequel: a 22-chapter book titled Policeman Bluejay, and it was this book that eventually led to the true identity of "Laura Bancroft" being revealed. It was reissued in 1911 as Babes in Birdland (alongside the collected edition of Twinkle and Chubbins), and was reissued again in 1918 under that title, but now with Baum's name on it.

Baum had suggested it be subtitled "An Oz Book," but the publishers decided not to. Perhaps Baum saw "Oz" as a way to help the book sell more strongly rather than suggest it be included as part of the expanded universe of Oz. There's not really a reason why this and the Twinkle Tales couldn't take place in the same universe as the Oz series, however, there are no ties to connect it to the Oz books either. Clearly, Baum was so resigned to being "The Oz Man" by this time, he saw it as his brand.

The story opens with Twinkle and Chubbins walking into a forest with a picnic basket, and when I read it recently, I realized it could easily be picking up directly after Sugar Loaf Mountain, which ends with them leaving the mountain with a picnic basket they haven't eaten from yet.

Suddenly, the trees seem to close in around them, and a spiny-shelled turtle enters, begging to be petted, saying that it was once "a beautiful maiden," enchanted by a cruel tuxix, which is "a magician, a sorcerer, a wizard, and a witch all rolled into one." However, none other than Policeman Bluejay from Bandit Jim Crow flies in and warns them that it is the tuxix herself, trying to trap them. Since the plot is spoiled, the tuxix turns Twinkle and Chubbins into larks, except for their heads, which become small enough to match their bodies.

Policeman Bluejay befriends the two children, leading them to an abandoned nest, and he brings an eagle who brings the basket along so they may eat the food from it. (Since they are now smaller, the food will last longer.)

Twinkle and Chubbins meet their neighbors: the squirrel Wisk who lives in a hollow near the nest, Mrs. Possum, who lives in a hollow at the base of the tree with her four children, and Mrs. Hootaway the grey Owl, who lives in a hollow at the top of the tree. The child-larks (an improvised name for what Twinkle and Chubbins have become) also are visited by many birds who offer stories about how mankind and animals can be so cruel to birds. One of the birds mentions Jim Crow, though Twinkle doesn't seem to think that it was, in fact, her old pet.

The next morning, the child-larks are rudely awakened by hunters who kill all their neighbors (Mrs. Hootaway's dying words are especially poignant: "Remember that—all—is love; all is—love!"), and the child-larks escape with the help of the eagle, whose home they briefly visit.

Policeman Bluejay lets Twinkle and Chubbins take care of orphaned hatchlings, which they find quite tiresome, until he finds another substitute parent.

Then Twinkle and Chubbins are allowed to visit the Paradise of Birds in the middle of the forest, a splendid haven for birds where everything a bird could wish for is instantly provided if it is not already at hand. Music plays always, so there is no need for birds to sing, and there is even a pool of dry water for birds to play in. However, this is quite an exclusive utopia: Twinkle and Chubbins are only allowed entrance because they are not forest birds. However, while there, they are told they may be restored to their true forms if they eat a tingleberry.

Upon leaving, Policeman Bluejay finds his position usurped by the Rooks, and he gathers his friends to fight the Rooks into submission. Then, he helps Twinkle and Chubbins find the tingleberry bush.

Twinkle is restored, but the berry Chubbins ate was partly withered, and he retains his bird's wings. Policeman Bluejay finds another tingleberry, which completes the restoration. And then, as the children leave the forest, they have something surprising for Baum: disorientation at resuming their true forms.
"Don't your legs feel heavy, Twink?"
"Yes," said she; "do yours?"
"Awful," said he.
 The book takes a few steps forward for the Twinkle Tales. Death is directly addressed as a large number of Twinkle and Chubbins' friends are killed in front of them. While it's sad, it is not written in a way to disturb children.

As a 21st century reader, I can appreciate this. Baum clearly understood that while children shouldn't be terrified, not exposing them to such topics would be a bad thing. For a series aimed at young readers, Baum never talks down to them.

Policeman Bluejay offers an open-ended conclusion to the Twinkle Tales. Baum could have continued with the series, but abstained. He did consider the series some of his best work at one point and even suggested that Twinkle and Chubbins and Policeman Bluejay be reissued in an omnibus edition titled Baum's Wonder Book.

Baum's idea was finally carried out when the book The Twinkle Tales was issued in 2005. Sadly, this edition left out many of the illustrations from the books, only selecting a small few. Twinkle and Chubbins' reprint by the International Wizard of Oz Club included all the illustrations, and Policeman Bluejay was available in a photo-reproduction by Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints, an edition I do not own. It was also reprinted as the Baum novel in Oz-Story 2, but all of the colored illustrations (I can assume it would have been too much work to remove the color) were dropped there.

The downside to these reprints is that they are generally not available to children, Baum's intended audience, and the design of them is not entirely child-friendly either. Perhaps this will be rectified someday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Twinkle Tales

As part of L. Frank Baum's bumper crop of literature in 1906, he released six little chapter books under the pseudonym "Laura Bancroft."

The books were published by Reilly & Britton in small volumes, broken into very short chapters. They were the right size for small hands to handle and Baum kept the stories very light so young readers wouldn't be bogged down or scared.

In 1911, the books were reissued in a collected book titled Twinkle and Chubbins. This book was later reprinted by the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1987, and in 2005, the book and its sequel (for a sequel it had, next blog) were collected into a volume titled The Twinkle Tales. (Which sadly didn't include all of Maginel Wright Enright's illustrations.)

The Twinkle Tales was the name of the series in its original book series form, and as I'll reveal, it actually makes a better title than Twinkle and Chubbins.

The series follows a little girl called Twinkle, who lives near the town of Edgeley, which is in North Dakota. Yes, Baum culls from his time in Aberdeen, but don't look for any autobiographical basis here.


In Mister Woodchuck, which the book edition places as the first story, Twinkle's father sets a trap for woodchucks. Twinkle watches it to see the woodchuck get caught. Instead, she finds herself outside of the Woodchuck's home, where he introduces her to his family and Judge Stoneyheart. To punish Twinkle's father, she is made to step into a trap, when she wakes up. She asks her father not to set out any more traps because the woodchucks have a right to life.

Mister Woodchuck shows Baum's love for animals quite clearly, making a touching yet humorous story about how mankind should respect animal life. Twinkle herself is a dear little girl, though I realized that with a few alterations, she could easily be a young Dorothy.


Bandit Jim Crow is second. The title would be offensive today, but I'm not convinced that Baum intended the title character to be anything but a crow. It is also the oddball of the series as Twinkle is only briefly in the story when she finds a wounded crow and bandages its wing. However, Jim Crow is very cruel and after he heals, he escapes, kills some newborn chicks, then goes to the forest.

In the forest, Jim Crow is regarded with caution by the other birds, but he remains scornful of them and causes trouble, including eating their eggs. Policeman Bluejay is called in and he keeps an eye on Jim Crow and stops him for a time, until the crow realizes he can disguise himself as a white bird in a chalk pit. When Policeman Bluejay grows wise, he gets many birds to assist him in pecking Jim Crow's eyes out.

The final chapter features the kind birds of the forest bringing food and water to Jim Crow, forgiving him of his past transgressions as he is now disabled and can do them no further harm. "And I wonder what his thoughts were—don't you?" Baum asks the reader, implying that Jim Crow is repenting of his wrongdoing.

While Jim Crow is a fine tale, it's curious as it feels more like Bambi than Oz. It's more in the vein of Baum's Animal Fairy Tales, except that there is no magic involved. It was also the most popular of the Twinkle Tales. I guess people really love stories about animals.


Third in the series is Prarie Dog Town, in which we meet Twinkle's friend, the school teacher's son Chubbins. Chubbins is a classic Baum little boy companion, like a midway point between Tot from Dot and Tot of Merryland and Button-Bright as he appeared in The Road to Oz. He's cleverer than those two, though he is not as well defined as Twinkle, a recurring feature of Baum's boy characters who accompany girls. (Though Sky Island has Button-Bright defy it suddenly.)

Twinkle and Chubbins go watch prarie dogs, who invite them into their town. This involves being shrunk down by magician Presto Digi, and the two children get to see that these animals have a little civilization of their own. After a lunch with the mayor, the two children leave the town and are restored to their size.

Baum suggests it may have been a dream:
"Do you think we've been asleep, Chub?" asked the girl.
"'Course not," replied Chubbins, with a big yawn. "It's easy 'nough to know that, Twink, 'cause I'm sleepy now!"
 Again, we see a common theme here in the Twinkle stories: animals. However, the remaining stories go for more traditional Baum fantasies.


Prince Mud-Turtle is the fourth story. In it, Twinkle finds a pretty mud-turtle that she makes a pet. (First Jim Crow, then a mud turtle...) On Saturday, it begins speaking to her and tells her that it is the enchanted fairy Prince Melga, transformed by the Corrugated Giant. He enlists Twinkle's help in defeating the giant and breaking the enchantment.

The next week (the turtle can only speak on Saturdays), Melga whisks Twinkle to the Black Mountains, where he instructs her to rub her eyes with a magic maita-leaf so she can see the fairy land. He shows her the way to the Corrugated Giant's castle, who makes her his slave, and puts her to work tending his kitchen fire.

Obeying Melga's instruction, the turtle is thrown into the cook pot, restoring him to his true form (in some traditional fairy tales, enchantments were broken by killing the animal a person had been transformed into in a specific way, this is a less grim version), and the giant is quickly dispatched. Twinkle joins a celebration before she's sent back home, where her mother tells her the mud-turtle has run away.

Baum also seems to set up future possibilities for the series. Before she goes home, Twinkle is told by Melga, "as your eyes have been rubbed with the magic maita-leaf, you will doubtless always see many strange sights that are hidden from other mortals."

This is probably the most Oz-like of the Twinkle Tales: a journey to a land of fantasy where a wrong must be righted. However, it skews a bit more toward the traditional fairy tale, and calls to mind Baum's short story "The Witchcraft of Mary-Marie." Overall, likely one of the best of the series.


Fifth is Twinkle's Enchantment, very much a travelogue in which Twinkle goes berry-picking and crosses a line of enchantment, entering a magic land where she meets the rolling stone that gathers no moss, a dancing bear, birds of a feather, a green monkey (predating Woot's transformation in The Tin Woodman of Oz), and Prince Nimble of the grasshoppers, as well as other strange and wondrous sights.

It is again suggested that the adventure was a dream, because while the dancing bear fills Twinkle's bucket of berries, Twinkle's mother finds her asleep in the grass with an empty bucket.

The story is charming and pun-filled, and is one of Baum's more whimsical stories.


Finally, we have Sugar Loaf Mountain. Chubbins has moved to Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains. (Finally! Baum takes it to my home area!) Twinkle is visiting, and they climb a mountain called Sugar Loaf Mountain. They find a locked door and key and enter, finding a land consisting entirely of sugar.

Baum notes that there are three types of people. People of white sugar seem to be in the highest class, a darker sugar makes up "more humble" citizens, while people of the darkest sugar seem to be of "less account," being servants.

The king of Sugar Loaf Mountain is courteous to the visitors, but a couple people in his court share daring secrets with Twinkle and Chubbins: Lord Cloy says he is not pure sugar, but only frosted. Princess Sakareen believes she is hollow. After a ride in a carriage and an accident, it is revealed that Cloy is actually made of a marshmallow-like substance, but Sakareen is not hollow. Cloy is disgraced.

Twinkle and Chubbins decide to leave (they are getting thirsty as there is no water in the kingdom), but after they are out, they realize they left the key inside: Sugar Loaf Mountain is now cut off from being discovered ever again.

This one offers some commentary on ethnic social class in the United States at the time. Baum refrains from actually depicting anyone negatively on the color of their sugar, and I felt that Cloy's disgrace was depicted negatively: he is shunned not because of his character but his constitution, which he can't help.

And of course, this story brings to mind the Candy Valley from Dot and Tot of Merryland, particularly Cloy's marshmallow construction.

While reading the series again recently, I couldn't help but think that they might make for a great basis for some animated shorts. Maybe someday, someone will.

The Twinkle Tales are some rather nicely written Baum tales, though I can think of other Baum stories I prefer, so I'm not quick to call them his best. Baum managed to differ enough from his regular style so the "Laura Bancroft" persona seems quite convincing. Overall, this is a great choice if you want Baum at his lightest.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oziana 2012 is out!

After a long wait, Oziana 2012 is finally here!

Normally, Oziana consists of short pieces of work by members of the International Wizard of Oz Club. This year, editor Marcus Mebes decided to do something a little different: do an issue-length Oz story, Round Robin style. Appropriately enough, the person starting the story would be none other than L. Frank Baum himself!

You remember the unfinished Oz story fragment (which might not be by Baum) that features Ozma ice-skating? That was the launching point. And to further help, Robert Baum supplied an introduction and afterword, in which he supplies all the information he knows about the fragment.

Fifteen Oz fans wrote fourteen new chapters: Marcus Mebes, S.P. Maldonado, Jared Davis (yours truly), Kim McFarland, Sam Milazzo, Chris Dulabone, Jeff Rester, Dennis Anfuso, Mycroft Mason, Nathan DeHoff, Paul Ritz, Mike Conway and Nicki Haladay, Paul Dana, and Atticus Gannaway. In addition, S.P. Maldonado, Dennis Anfuso and Kim McFarland all provided artwork to illustrate the story.

Ozma's outing to go ice-skating is interrupted by the appearance of two visitors from Hiland and the Nome Kingdom, who tell her how their respective kings have been acting strangely. Glinda soon discovers that a cruel and powerful witch is at work, making people all over Oz do and believe peculiar things. Can our friends in Oz (including the Wizard, Scraps, Percy, Kabumpo, Jinnicky, the Scarecrow, and of course Dorothy) discover the witch's plot and stop her, or has she sunk her claws into Oz too deeply?

I was one of the early writers who helped the story get rolling by setting up the villain, allowing the remaining writers to work with and deal with her. (My chapter is also the shortest.) While the story didn't reach its fullest possible potential, the story does not disappoint in the least! And also, almost everyone in the blog team contributed to it as well.

One might think the nature of the story's writing might lead to an uneven pace and jarring writing styles, but while some writers can't help but put on their little flourishes, the editors made sure the narrative flowed very well.

This one's an exciting story with some great twists and turns and quite a formidable new foe! Add it to your collection!

Your traditional-style Oziana will resume in 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Oz the Great and Powerful" Trailer, Posters, & Stills

Yes, I was just so darn excited about the new Oz the Great and Powerful goodies that I couldn't wait until Friday to blog about it!

Earlier this week, the House of Mouse revealed the third and final panel of the official poster for the film... and the three of them together look awesome if you ask me.


 Also released is a brand new trailer for the film!



The more I see from this film, the more excited I am to see it. Certainly looks promising...

In other news, The Courier-Journal, which is my local newspaper, published on article on Wednesday about me and my work on Dorothy and the Witches of Oz and my acting debut in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Also included are pictures of my Oz collection. Check that out here.


Speaking of Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, advanced tickets are still available for the red carpet screenings of the film in Boone, North Carolina this weekend. Proceeds will benefit the Brady Bakken Cancer Benefit. Contact April Smith at smithal@applestate.edu or visit the film's official Facebook page for details. Don't miss your chance to see the film!

Also, the role of the Wizard was recently cast in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. See behind-the-scenes pictures and all that here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Comics!

 Some new Oz comics in! Let's take a look

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 The first issue of an ongoing series following up from the successful miniseries.

With "Gale" and the Wicked Witch gone, there's uncertainty and unrest in the Land of Oz. Tin Man's now being forced to take orders from General Jinjur (who's taking control of the Emerald City) while Scarecrow and Lion are in prison.

The comic has some really great dialogue and shows a few scenes that we missed in the beginning of the miniseries. This first issues serves as a transition between this old west take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and now The Marvelous Land of Oz. It looks to be quite worth sticking around for!

In other comics, Marvel's series of adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz books continues with The Road to Oz #3. There's been a few changes in how the series has been put out: Road is only six issues, and according to an interview with Shanower, it seems this will be a new norm for the series, meaning that the stories will be squeezed into fewer issues. This doesn't really pose much of a problem for Road, since a quick pace helps the story, but with stories like The Patchwork Girl of Oz, there might be more concerns on how to condense it.

I haven't commented on the series much (despite buying each issue and the hardcover collections), because I'm rather loathe to admit that while Shanower adapts the story well and occasionally adds nice additional dialogue (issue #1 of Road had the Shaggy Man quip "Unusual weather we're having" when it begins to snow outside Foxville), the real star of the series has been Skottie Young.

Skottie's unorthodox and cartoonish (sometimes bordering on bizarre) take on Oz has proved a refreshing look at our favorite fairyland. While I still picture Neill's depictions when I think of Oz, Skottie's interpretations are charming in their own whimsical way. It offers more fun to these wonderful stories, though he can't break entirely away from Neill (e.g.: Ozma). I really enjoyed his new look at Allegro DaCapo (aka The Musicker) in this issue, and the Scoodlers are appropriately menacing.

Hey, next issue, Johnny Dooit and the Sand Boat! I wonder how Skottie will depict the visiting dignitaries...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lather, rinse, repeat

So, with less than five months from the premiere, Disney has begun a new wave of promotion for Oz: The Great and Powerful.

In an article for USA Today, director Sam Raimi drops a few hints about the plot: "(Oscar Diggs is) mistaken for Oz the Great and Powerful, destined to be the next king of Emerald City. But he's only to receive that title if he can defeat the Wicked Witch."

Sounds really good, right?

Yeah, except we've seen that done at least twice by Disney in the past eight years.

The film is already being compared with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which, I won't lie, I wasn't a fan of. This sequel to Lewis Carroll's nonsensical satire took a dark and serious approach to the material: the Red Queen (the Queen of Hearts with a name change) has taken over Underland (supposedly, Alice got the name wrong, never mind that no one in those stories named their country) and the White Queen and a rag tag band of misfits wait for the return of Alice to slay the Jabberwocky so they can take back their country. Except Alice doesn't believe that she is who they're waiting for.

I'll cut straight to it, I'm practically seeing the same story set to unfold in this new Oz film. However, I'm not despairing, perhaps this idea will work out better with Glinda and the Wizard fighting the Wicked Witches of the East and West. I'm not expecting it to fully blend with Baum's books, but we'll see where they go with it.

But where did they get this plot from?

Narnia.

Now, note, Walden Media was the actual production company behind The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but Disney did work on it with them.

In the film, the plot deviates slightly from the book, placing the hope for the land of Narnia to be delivered from the icy grip of the White Witch into the hands of the four Pevensie children. Eldest brother Peter, who's unsure if they're really able to help the land. (In the original book, more emphasis is placed on the involvement of Aslan, the titular lion, though the film doesn't ignore him.) The plot worked well there because it was derived from the book with a gentle reworking.

Now, you can't blame Disney for sticking with a great-selling plot (Narnia made over $745 million, Alice walked off with over $1,024 million), but honestly, I wish they'd at least come up with something new, or wait ten years before trotting it out again.

Well, we'll see how it works.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Landlady

During L. Frank Baum's time in Aberdeen, South Dakota, he ran a lavish store called Baum's Bazaar. Unfortunately, the store was too lavish to run for long and he had to close it. Not quite ready to quit Aberdeen, he started the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, a weekly newspaper.

Baum would editorialize about local and national news, but he had a fun way of treating some topics. In addition to poetry, he wrote a series of stories about Sairy Ann Bilkins, landlady of the cheapest boarding house in the United States, located in Aberdeen. She would discuss matters, sometimes relating odd stories. Her boarders—young Tom, the doctor, and the colonel (who she has a crush on)—offer commentary, usually over dinner, which the boarders occasionally find foreign objects in.

Baum is witty and humorous here, but admittedly, this book is greatly helped by Nancy Tystad Koupal's annotations and notes, helping us understand the appropriate context for it. This is not a fault of Baum, because he didn't write to have it read about 120 years later, but for his friends and neighbors at the time they were living in.

That being said though, readers fresh off the Oz books might be surprised by the Baum they find here. Instead of rollicking adventures, they get a plain country woman's view of her home and world. Baum does venture into fancy in a few strips, such as an underground ride and an idea of the future of Aberdeen, but one that really gets to Oz fans is an early one where Mrs. Bilkins tells about how the local farmers are dealing with hard times. She tells how one farmer makes his horses wear green goggles so he can trick them into thinking shavings are grass so they'll eat them, "but they ain't gittin' fat on it." This, of course, brings to mind how the Wizard makes the people of the Emerald City wear green spectacles in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Koupal notes how Baum's work for the Pioneer is actually very critical to understanding how his mind worked, noting that those who believe he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Populist allegory are actually completely ignoring his entire work for the paper. This work reveals his actual political stances, which stand at odds with the Populism interpretation.

While Baum fans may get a chuckle from Mrs. Bilkins, Our Landlady is definitely more for those who want to know more about who L. Frank Baum was and what he believed. Those who simply want to enjoy a work of fiction might look to his other works.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Another 'Oz the Great and Powerful' poster and 'Dorothy of Oz' stills

Happy Friday, everyone!

Disney just released the second of the three panels of the Oz the Great and Powerful, set to be released in 3-D on March 8th. It's said that the three images together will make one, big connected image like they did with the Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland posters a couple years back. 

Also to be released at some point next year is Summertime Entertainment's animated kid's flick Dorothy of Oz. Just Jared released new stills from the film earlier today. Check all of 'em out right here.
 
There will be two screenings of Dorothy and the Witches of Oz in Boone, North Carolina on November 18th at the Watauga County High School. The screenings will be at 3pm & 7pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ten and under; proceeds will benefit the Brady Bakken Cancer Benefit. Stars Barry Ratcliffe, Eliza Swenson, Al Snow, and director Leigh Scott are all set to attend. A great movie, and a great cause! Contact April Smith at smithal@appstate.edu to purchase advanced tickets, as seating is limited. 

I think that's just about it for this week... 'till next time! 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Oz goes Social

I tend to stay away from Facebook games, however, a few get me, but only if they're based on stuff I care about.

SO, there's a game based on the MGM film The Wizard of Oz. It uses some nicely done 3D recreations of the places and characters along with film clips and vocal imitations of the film's cast (though the Dorothy voice leaves a little to be desired).

The game focuses on Munchkinland and the Yellow Brick Road. The tiny Munchkin town you land in starts off with only four little huts and the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road.

The Yellow Brick Road is incomplete, so you need bricks to finish it. To get bricks, you make them. To make bricks, you need ore, which must be mined. To do this, you set up factories that the Munchkins will work. To keep the Munchkins happy, you can build more homes, shops, restaurants, and a grain mill to keep a food supply ready. In addition, you can control Munchkins who can chop down trees and mine rocks for more wood and ore, and an easy to control fishing game to earn more food.

When you've made enough bricks to complete a new section of the Road, you can head down it and get a series of bonuses and mini-games. Additional items can also be made by "Ozifying" with Professor Levram (clearly Professor Marvel). You can also pick up shards of Glinda's old wand and summon her when you get five of them.

From time to time, the Wicked Witch of the West pops up and has her Winged Monkeys attack. You fend them off from damaging your buildings by clicking on them.

There's also a social element to the game. You can connect with Facebook friends playing the game by adding them as neighbors and helping in their own "Munchkinland." They can also staff buildings like Town Hall, the Bank, the Lollipop Guild and the Lullaby League. You can also send them items and other things they might need, probably the Ozziest aspect of the game.

What you can do is limited by energy. Most actions take up one unit of it, then it takes about four minutes (or a power-up) to recover a point. You get a higher energy level each time you level up. Possibly the wait time to replenish energy goes down with each level up, but in my time playing, it hasn't gone down noticeably, if at all.

There are also quests you can do that will reward you with more coins, energy, and items once completed.

You can also use Facebook credits (bought with real money) or do offers to earn Emeralds which can unlock or purchase items you couldn't without them. Emeralds can also be acquired without a purchase, but you'll get them slowly. Of course, this is one of the ways the developers intend to make a profit from the game, so if you really enjoy the game, you might consider an occasional purchase to show appreciation.

The game is, of course, based on the film and generally ignores the book, but I did get a surprise when Professor Levram mentions a hy-po-gy-raf, and a trivia question on the Yellow Brick Road asks what color Dorothy's shoes were in the book.

Overall, the game seems to owe origins to Sim City, but the bonus games and actual interaction take it to another level. Facebook games are usually pretty simple, so there's not much else to this that I've discovered yet.

Still, I've yet to get to the Scarecrow. Will he join Dorothy in Munchkinland or just be along the Yellow Brick Road? There's likely more to discover as you keep playing.

Play The Wizard of Oz on Facebook.