Monday, April 29, 2013

Daughters of Destiny

Wow, I have handled Baum's books intended for adult readers (as in not intended for young readers, not that they contained risque material) way out of order!

Daughters of Destiny was part of Baum's 1906 bumper crop of books, and definitely inspired by his trip to Europe and Egypt. It was published under the Schuyler Staunton pseudonym.

The edition you see pictured is a reprint by Hungry Tiger Press. They had included the book as the rare Baum novel for Oz-Story 4 in 1998. Included from their previous reprint are many excellent illustrations by Eric Shanower, which include one per chapter for the heading, as well as a few more textual illustrations and a design at the bottom of each page.

There is also a cheaper new print on demand reprint by Pulpville Press, but it of course doesn't include Shanower's illustrations. I suppose it's fine, since I was actually pleased with their reprint of The Fate of a Crown, but I definitely prefer Hungry Tiger Press' lavish edition. There are also plainer print on demand editions in hardcover, but as their prices are up at $30, you might as well get the Hungry Tiger Press one. You can also read the book for free at Google Books.

The story concerns the fictional country of Baluchistan. An American company sends a delegation to get the right of way to put a railroad through this Middle Eastern country, and the delegation consists of Colonel Piedmont Moore, Dr. Warner, Colonel Moore's daughter Janet and son Allison, their Aunt Lucy, and Janet's friend Bessie. They are led by a Baluchistan native named Kasam who claims that his family has the proper right to rule Baluchistan, but the throne was wrested from them, but it is possible that Burah, the current Khan, will soon die, and if he cannot turn the throne over to his son Ahmed, that will make Kasam the ruler by default.

And speaking of that, a Persian physician is fighting to keep Burah alive while faithful servant Dirrag goes to retrieve Ahmed from the monastery where he's spent all his life. But Ahmed is reluctant to go, being given over dutifully to his Muslim beliefs. However, Dirrag soon rides back with an Ahmed in tow. But when they arrive in the capitol city of Mekran (thanks in part to briefly joining Kasam's group), Burah has been dead for two days. So why do the people of Mekran see Burah name Ahmed as his successor?

The intrigue is only beginning, however, thanks to the scheming of the vizier's daughter Maie. What is going on in Baluchistan, and why is so much attention being paid to Janet?

Baum writes in his excellent style for adventure stories, but longtime readers can spot that he often turned to certain tropes that are at play here: duplicity, people taking the blame for serious crimes, sudden revelations of things that seemed to have worked out insanely well that they're almost a deus ex machina... Wait, he did all that in the first Mary Louise book as well...

Although Baluchistan is a fictional country, Baum writes as one quite enamored with the Middle East. There is a regrettable stereotype in character of David the Jew who will do anything for money. (Why is it that critics mind if these stereotypes show up in fiction over a hundred years old, but no one bans Family Guy or South Park for using them now?) The culture of Baluchistan is actually very well established, and Baum leads us to think that perhaps that shouldn't be changed.

Altogether, Daughters of Destiny is one of Baum's better adventure novels. Unlike The Last Egyptian, we actually have people we want to cheer for, though The Fate of a Crown is still a beast all to itself.

Friday, April 26, 2013

'L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz': Distribution Announcement, New Trailer

Whoa, it's been a bit since I've blogged!

Not much to talk about this week, but let's dive right into it.

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the upcoming independent film often talked about around here, is one step closer to being completed and released.

It was announced Tuesday that the team has signed a deal with Fantastic Films International, L.L.C., who will be serving as the sale agent in securing distribution. Additionally, Fred deWysocki has joined the team as Executive Producer.

You can expect a brand new trailer with a bunch of cool footage next month, but for now, take a look at this exclusive still...

...and a new poster!


In other news, Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (formerly known as Dorothy of Oz) will be premiering at the Annecy International Animation Festival in France this Summer. I'm not sure if we have any readers from that neck of the woods, but still wanted to mention it here.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Last Egyptian

The Last Egyptian was L. Frank Baum's final novel for adults. It was published anonymously, and seemingly, it is thanks to the Oz Film Manufacturing Company that it was attributed to him, as they produced a silent film adaptation in 1914, planning to follow it with adaptations of Baum's other adult adventure stories. They announced all three books as being attributed to Baum's pen, so this led researchers to attribute these pseudonymous and anonymous books to Baum.

The Last Egyptian is a curious piece of Baum's writing. The story begins by following a young Egyptian named Kāra as he meets Gerald Winston Bey. Kāra surprises Winston with his seemingly lowly appearance, yet a high intellect and extensive knowledge of Egyptian history. Kāra claims heritage from Ahtka-Rā, High Priest of Ămen. Thus, he claims that he is the last true Egyptian. He lives with his aged grandmother Hatacha, who married the English Lord Roane, but was publicly humiliated when they divorced and she was left in poverty. Winston promises to help Kāra if he can recover some ancient papyrus scrolls that it appears Hatacha owns.

However, Kāra soon has new plans as Hatacha tells him that she is about to die, and she gives him secret information to find their ancestral treasure (which she's only gone to when they needed money), which he can use to avenge her dignity by destroying the family of Lord Roane.

Tadros the dragoman appears on the scene and is hired by Kāra to serve him as he sets himself up as a respectable gentleman in Cairo. He sells the girl Nephthys to Kāra to be the first in his harem.

Kāra proves very successful in his plots to discredit Lord Roane's family, but eventually has second thoughts when he meets Roane's granddaughter Aneth Consinor and falls for her. (Never mind that she's his cousin.) He asks her to marry him, but she refuses. This infuriates Kāra, and he has Nephthys sent back home to her mother. He blackmails Aneth into agreeing to marry him, but some of Aneth's friends scheme to get her and her family away from Cairo, enlisting Tadros who'll do anything for money or to save his life. A scuffle in a secret tomb, a swift knife and possibly an ancient curse bring the story to a startling conclusion.

I said The Last Egyptian was a curious piece of Baum's writing. While Lord Roane is not a good man, neither is Kāra, and neither is Tadros, and especially not Aneth's father. Winston Bey could be considered a protagonist, except he doesn't do much. The only reason why the reader will not want Kāra to win is because of Aneth's innocence of her father and grandfather's misdeeds. She's the only person who hasn't done anything wrong, bringing up Baum's admiration of women and strong pro-feminist beliefs.

Baum also does a nice shift by having Kāra set out to take revenge for Hatacha's humiliation, only to humiliate Nephthys in a similar fashion. And unlike Hatacha, Nephthys takes her revenge into her own hands.

Probably the biggest difference between this and most of Baum's other work is that none of the characters are American. Kāra, Tadros, Nephthys, Hatacha and Winston Bey hail from Egypt, while Lord Roane's family are all from England. This is unusual as Baum was a proud American, but honestly, I've read this book twice before, and only just now picked up on this. It's unusual, but Baum handles it so well that it's not a detraction.

A little warning, Lord Roane twice uses the word "nigger" to refer to Kāra, once to his face. Kāra is offended at this. Remember the time in which it was written, people. Plus, Roane's a bad guy. As is Kāra...

I've surprisingly found some copies of the original 1908 edition for less than $100 online, but my copy is a 2002 edition by Fredonia Books. That was a nice facsimile of the original edition, but it appears that there is a new print-on-demand edition available now as well, from the same people who made my copy of The Fate of A Crown, so chances are they did very well on that.

There's also three different digital versions from Archive.org.
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz - Oz the Great and Powerful (Discussion)

After reviewing the new movie Oz the Great and Powerful in the last episode, Jared and Sam now dissect it! What happened to China Girl? Should there be a sequel? Where's Ozma and the Good Witch of the North in this Oz? Jared and Sam discuss, and Sam rants!

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

       

   
   
   
   
   
   

   
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Acinad Goes To The Emerald City Of Oz

Here's another early publication by Chris Dulabone, one I didn't expect to get. I found it on eBay.

Chris had referred to this book in some of the books I'd read of his, tongue-in-cheek. All I knew was that Acinad Goes to the Emerald City of Oz introduced Acinad, Ruggedo's brother.

What I didn't expect was the authorship. I'd expected that Chris had written it, but it turns out it was the work of a group of fourth and fifth graders. The listed creators (writers and illustrators) include Candice Baca, Peter Dennedy, Danica Libutti, Naomi Maestas, Billy Sanchez, Randy Tappen and David Tolzman.

As such, expectations for a long, well-crafted Oz story went out the window.

Acinad the Nome has been turned into dust in the Deadly Desert, but when a freak tidal wave washes his remains into the Winkie Country, he is restored to his living form. He meets and is befriended by the Tin Woodman, and decides to find the magic diamond in the Emerald City. However, near the Emerald City, a Wicked Witch arrives and says she has the Hungry Tiger hostage and will boil him alive if she isn't given the magic diamond. However, Acinad has a plan to trick the Witch. Will it work?

Despite being written very simply, the story was very fun. When you consider it was written by very young Oz fans (with help from Chris), it's actually rather enjoyable.

So, Acinad Goes to the Emerald City of Oz, it's an offbeat Oz book, but a fun one. But it's also rather hard to find. Good luck!

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Comeback Humbug

I've written before about the more sinister side of the Wizard of Oz (the character, that is), but a recent post by J.L. Bell made me consider another issue related to this, specifically the attitude people took toward the Wizard while he was gone. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions agree not to reveal that the Wizard is a humbug, and we're told that "the people remembered him lovingly." We're also told that "that was the last any of them ever saw of Oz, the Wonderful Wizard," and there's even a hint that he might have died on his way back to Omaha, both of which turn out to be untrue once Dorothy and the Wizard comes along. Before we get to that book, though, we'll take a look at Land. This was written soon after the success of the Wizard stage play, in which the Wizard is a much less sympathetic character. When Tip is telling the history of Oz to Jack Pumpkinhead, he says, “Dorothy went to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard to send her back to Kansas; and the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman went with her. But the Wizard couldn’t send her back, because he wasn’t so much of a Wizard as he might have been. And then they got angry at the Wizard, and threatened to expose him; so the Wizard made a big balloon and escaped in it, and no one has ever seen him since.” Later, the Wogglebug remarks, "I have been informed that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was nothing more than a humbug!" The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman contradict him, but of course the insect is actually right. And near the end of the book, we find this passage: "The Wonderful Wizard was never so wonderful as Queen Ozma," the people said to one another, in whispers; "for he claimed to do many things he could not do; whereas our new Queen does many things no one would ever expect her to accomplish." It sounds like many of the citizens of Oz are aware the Wizard is a humbug, and don't remember him lovingly at all. How would they have found this out, though? Dorothy wasn't around to tell, and the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman still believed he was the real deal. Maybe the Cowardly Lion let it slip after his courage wore off, or perhaps somebody else figured it out on their own. Still, it's quite a shift from what we're told in Wizard, and also from what we later see in Dorothy and the Wizard, in which the people gladly welcome him back once they learn he has no intention of trying to take back the throne. We're told, "The people had learned that their old Wizard had returned to them and all were anxious to see him again, for he had always been a rare favorite." It's a little unclear how many people know he's a humbug at this point, although Ozma certainly does. I guess the public attitude toward significant political figures in Oz is just as volatile as that in any other country.

The Ozma We Never Had

Today, Annette Funicello died. When we told my father, he was sorry to hear it, but knew that it was inevitable. She had been battling multiple sclerosis for many years, and complications with it had caused her to lose her ability to walk and eventually her ability to speak.

After living in her native home of Utica, New York, Annette and her family crossed country to southern California where she lived the rest of her life.

During a ballet recital, one Walt Disney was struck by her talent and arranged for Annette to audition for The Mickey Mouse Show, a role she eventually won.

Annette shot to stardom when she sang a song during a serial on The Mickey Mouse Club called "How Will I Know My Love?" The song garnered such a response that Annette was asked to record it as a single, which led to her being one of the first young female singers to appear on a Disney label as a solo artist. This led to her having a recording contract, where she recorded such hits as "Tall Paul," "O Dio Mio," "Pineapple Princess" and "Dream Boy."


Annette also appeared in many films for Disney, starting as the girl next door Allison in The Shaggy Dog to Mary Quite Contrary in Disney's Babes in Toyland and Jennifer in The Misadventures of Merlin Jones and The Monkey's Uncle. She ventured outside of Disney to star in the Beach Party films (Walt himself approved of her involvement in the first one).

As Annette grew up, she withdrew from show business, focusing on her family life. Unlike a number of other popular starlets, she divorced only once and remained married to her second husband until her death.

As a child growing up in the 1990s, one might not expect me to be so familiar with Annette. As our intake of media was highly restricted, we often turned to my father's collection of vinyl records and video tapes. Among the records was Annette's album The Story of My Teens and a single of the song "Merlin Jones." My father picked up copies of Babes in Toyland and VHS tapes of The Mickey Mouse Club, and later, I managed to get him VHS tapes of the "Merlin Jones" series. Finally, he managed to get her compilation album Annette: A Musical Reunion with America's Girl-Next-Door.

He also read to me her autobiography, A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes, and here is where Oz comes in. It was here for the first time that I heard of an abandoned Disney project titled The Rainbow Road to Oz, and how Annette was cast in the role of Ozma, a role she loved due to the hair extensions as part of her costume.

Probably most blog readers know that The Rainbow Road to Oz was shelved during pre-production, but a teaser featuring three songs was presented as the finale piece of the Disneyland Fourth Anniversary Show in 1957, a year before "How Will I Know My Love?" became a hit. Among the costumed Oz characters was Annette as Ozma, dancing and taking part in the song "The Oz-Kan Hop."


 It's important to remember that this was preliminary and Annette was likely not wearing the final Ozma costume. A costume design from the Disney archives reveals that the studio was aiming for an approach lifted from the classic John R. Neill design.
However, the Fourth Anniversary Show itself shows a different concept image for Ozma:
As the script for the film was never even finalized, we'll never know what Annette would have looked like in the finished film.

Ozma also appears during the finale of the show, dancing with Mousketeers and Oz characters as they sing the joyous song "The Rainbow Road to Oz."
Back, left to right: Scarecrow, Dorothy, Zeb, Ozma
Front, left to right: Polychrome, Button-Bright, Scraps
Given the entire preliminary piece, I'm sure that a fully-realized Rainbow Road to Oz under Walt's supervision would have been spectacular. But for whatever reason, it just never happened, and we got to see Annette as Ozma only this one time.
Finally, here below is the entire Rainbow Road to Oz segment from the Disneyland Fourth Anniversary Show.




Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Wonderful World of Oz

And a fellow Oz fan and friend has finished a long-time project. Aaron Pacentine finally got his documentary The Wonderful World of Oz: Celebrating the Oz Community finished and put on DVD.

I worked with Aaron on my own documentary series The Wonders of Oz, which I'd like to redo someday. As such, I was one of the first people Aaron contacted when he was getting the idea together to go to Oz conventions and events and conduct interviews for this documentary. At one point, he even wanted me to appear, but it didn't work out. This was probably about 2008. (I've moved twice since then.)

This DVD was partly funded by a KickStarter campaign to get it finished. I was actually surprised it worked for Aaron since it ran through the Christmas season. Since I was buying a ton of gifts, I couldn't pledge anything then. I did, however, preorder a DVD.

The DVD arrived yesterday, and for being an independent release, I had to admit, it actually looks really good. The cover features a nice piece of artwork by Ryan Vox with a yellow brick road, an Emerald City, some ruby slippers and poppies.

Popping the DVD itself in, it began with a slideshow of families and the company logo. The menu looked good, so I started the feature and saw the same slideshow again opening it. Make of this what you will.

The trailer I'd seen online had me worried about the sound mixing of the DVD, however, it sounded just fine. The music was nice. The narration was mainly factually accurate (except for saying that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was self-published: Baum and Denslow helped pay for the production costs, which wasn't the same thing), but it did have some pretty big gaps. It also helped lead in between the interviews, which are really the main appeal of the DVD. Just about the only line that I thought really didn't work was "The phone is ringing again, and this time, it's a woman."

As I said, the interviews are the main appeal of the DVD. There's video interviews with Eric Shanower, David Maxine, Aaron Schultz, then-president of the International Wizard of Oz Club Angelica Carpenter, Celia Foster. There are also a number of interviews with members of the Club as performed at the 2008 Winkie Convention (two years before my first, consarn it!), so there were quite a few familiar faces there: Anthony Tringali, Eric Gjovaag, Peter Hanff and Karyl Carlson among them. There was also an interview with the late, great Patrick Maund whose work for The Baum Bugle I enjoyed so much that I was really gutted when I heard he died.

Aaron also gets to show a couple collections of Oz fans Aaron Schultz and Foo Travetto and also shows some footage of the late Donna Stewart-Hardaway (who claimed to be one of the children playing a Munchkin in the MGM Wizard of Oz, though evidence of her involvement has yet to turn up) sharing memories of Judy Garland.

There's a couple audio interviews done over the phone. The sound quality here is very iffy. You can hear what's being said, but it's not the greatest.

The whole documentary is done with the conceit that you're on a trip to visit all these fans, however, to visually get this across, we zoom into map websites. There's some video shot from a plane, but I can see why this was only used once.

The documentary ends with a music video for "Over the Rainbow" performed by Delinda Layne.

The DVD contains bonus features in the trailer, biographies for the producers, two Oz audio dramas Aaron wrote, and a slideshow of other Oz fans and their collections. I would actually have enjoyed seeing extended versions of the interviews on the DVD most of all.

Overall, I gotta be honest. To dedicated Oz fans, there's plenty here to interest you. To casual fans, they might be put off by some of the visuals between the interviews. It's not a perfect package, but there's enough to justify adding it to your collection.

Get your copy here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Oz the Great and Powerful (Review)

Jared and Sam do a quick review of the new movie Oz the Great and Powerful. This is spoiler-free, so if you've yet to see the film, go ahead and give it a listen! (There will be a second podcast about this film that will discuss the film's plot.)

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

    
    
    
    
    
    

  
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