Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oz Magazines!

I did something a little unusual last Sunday for my Oz collecting: I went to a bookstore. Not a used bookstore where one might find delightful rare Oz items, but to Barnes and Noble.

Normally, I buy Oz merchandise online. However, I needed to get out and do something that wasn't going to work, so Barnes and Noble it was.

My main goal was to look for the Spring 2013 issue of Disney Twenty-Three magazine. Walking into the magazine department, I realized my search might prove a little daunting, as there were shelves loaded with periodicals. However, there was a familiar sight waiting for me...
Famous Monsters of Filmland #266, featuring articles on the Wicked Witch of the West (and the Creature from the Black Lagoon). I initially decided not to get it, but then later, I decided to look through it. To my surprise, on page 1 was a picture of none other than L. Frank Baum himself! Opening the series of articles on the Witch was a piece by Robert Baum about the Witch as she appeared in the book vs. her famous green film counterpart.

I had second thoughts and picked it up after all.

A little searching and looking at a bottom shelf all the way to the back finally turned up Disney Twenty-Three. No secret about why I wanted it on the cover either...
It was sealed in a bag, so I had to buy it to read what was inside.

Walking around Barnes and Noble for a bit makes it clear they time merchandise for films tightly. Some books for Oz the Great and Powerful have been released, but I couldn't find any. However, I did pass and notice a shelf featuring the works of Gregory Maguire with paperback editions of the latter three entries of The Wicked Years placed prominently. In the children's section, where a few copies of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have been found by myself (yes, I have the location memorized), there were the first two books of Aladdin Publishing's "The Complete Oz" reprints, containing between them the first six Oz books. (However, looking inside, I could find no illustrations, thus I can't recommend them.)

A bit more hopeful were Disney Press' new editions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. Unlike a picture Angelo had seen on Facebook, the titles of the book were prominent, and recolored art by Denslow and Neill graced the covers, notice of the film being on the back cover only. Wonderful Wizard contains a new introduction by James Franco, and there is also a new introduction in Marvelous Land, but I failed to notice who it was by. I should like to read Franco's introduction (a salesperson asked if she could help me, so I decided to keep my time in the children's section short), but if I add this edition to my collection, I'll wait until I can get it used and cheaply. The Disney editions contain no interior illustrations.

So, getting home, I was finally able to enjoy my magazines. I decided to start with Monsters.

While Page 1 does feature Baum, I was a little dismayed to see that underneath it, they quoted "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." It is attributed to Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, rather than the MGM film, where it was likely written by Noel Langley. I think Baum would have agreed with the statement, but it is not his work. (In The Road to Oz, Ozma says, "But in Oz we are loved for ourselves alone, and for our kindness to one another, and for our good deeds.") Famous Monsters of Filmland isn't the first to make this error, and I'm sure they won't be the last.

Robert Baum again spins a tale of his great-grandfather inventing the character of the Wicked Witch of the West as he examines how the original Witch from the book differs from Margaret Hamilton's immortal performance in the MGM film.

Next up is John Fricke, profiling Margaret Hamilton's career with an especial focus on her Oz role, even mentioning how they softened the character through editing from the original version. Then Jonathan Shirshekan profiles Oz makeup artist Jack Dawn's work for the film, particularly the Wicked Witch, the Winged Monkeys, and the Winkie Guards. Then Lianne Spiderbaby looks at the legacy Hamilton's Witch left behind.

Rounding out the articles are an article about the infamous synching of MGM's The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and an interview with Mike Hill, who has sculpted lifelike statues of Hamilton's Wicked Witch and her right-hand Monkey Nikko. On the final page of the issue, there is a picture of an elderly Hamilton with a quote about her reaction to being offered the part of the Wicked Witch.

Disney Twenty-Three's issue devotes a quarter of its 60 pages to Oz, with six pages with an all-too-brief story of the development and production of Oz the Great and Powerful, and then three more pages in which the costuming of the film is covered. Curiously, the MGM film The Wizard of Oz is not mentioned.

These articles do what promotional articles do best: tell a nice, glossy story about the film to make it sound wonderful, but this is an old device: people who've watched the special features on any DVD of The Wiz can point out that the promotional special "Wiz On Down The Road" (a regrettable title nowadays) also talks up the film positively. If we hear anything about the film's production a few years down the line, we might hear different stories altogether...

A reminder of such is present in the remaining six Oz pages, which recounts Disney's previous Oz projects (with no mention of The Muppets' Wizard of Oz), including The Rainbow Road to Oz, the Disneyland Record albums, plans for Oz attractions at Disney parks, and, most of all, Return to Oz, which even mentions how Walter Murch was almost fired from the project. These six pages will prove of great interest to Oz fans, featuring a color photo I've never seen before from The Rainbow Road to Oz set, photos of prototypes of Disneyland attractions, photos of props from Rainbow Road and Return, and some behind the scenes photos, including a very flattering picture of the late Michael Sundin, the man who literally made Tik-Tok walk in the 1985 cult classic.

I know there's quite a bit of overlap between Disney and Oz fans, so I shouldn't be surprised if many Oz fans find interest in this issue as well.

I'm sure hardcore Oz fans will want both of these magazines, but be warned if you run to a shop, after tax, the price for just these two magazines was at just under $28. (The print and paper quality is excellent, though. I suppose that if they have to cut costs, they'll have to justify prices by making sure they use quality materials.) However, considering that these may easily become highly-demanded issues, it might be worth the high price tag now for what may soon become a collector's item.

1 comment:

Sam A M said...

That "Famous Monsters of Filmland" mag cover just screams "You'll get me, my pretty, and my little monkeys too . . . or else!!"

Good to know that D23 isn't JUST printed for Disney memberships, but also available on shelf stores for non-members, too. Saves paying extra money for postage or whatever!