Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Symphonic Suite

I just recorded an interview with Alexiel de Ravenswood for a podcast episode next month. Alexiel just released a symphonic suite on Bandcamp, which is a retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz wholly in music.

The suite is a beautiful experience for any Oz fan by someone who really loves Oz and wanted to present their version of it in a new form suited to their talents. And at only $9.99, it's nicely priced.

If you want a sample, a single track, "The Yellow Brick Road," is available for $1.99, but the Bandcamp page lets you listen to a minute of it.

Check back in early May to hear Alexiel talk about the suite.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Movies of Oz — The Wiz Live

Jay and Sam dish out about NBC's live TV adaptation of The Wiz, including what they really thought of Mary J. Blige and Hamilton gets referenced again.

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

Download this episode (right click and save)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Details Emerge on Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz

About a month ago, a trailer for Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz - an apparent sequel to the direct-to-video spin-off of the MGM film, Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz - appeared online.

We now know the premise of the film and have the cover artwork and a release date, thanks to its listing on Amazon, where you can now you can now pre-order the DVD for its release on June 12.
With the Wicked Witch of the West now vanquished from Oz, Tom and Jerry along with Dorothy are back in Kansas! But not for long as an all-new villain has surfaced from beneath the magical land, the Gnome King! Having captured the Good Witch, the Gnome King and his army are wreaking havoc throughout Oz and need but one item to take control of The Emerald City, Dorothy's ruby slippers! It's up to our favorite cat and mouse duo to team up, go Back to Oz and save the land they love. Take to the skies, courtesy of the Wizard himself, with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion as they make their magical journey. The laughs and adventure will roar as they encounter all-new frights and mischievous creatures down the Yellow Brick Road, 'cause "we're not in Kansas anymore!" 
While I didn't love Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz, I'm actually pretty excited to see this, mostly because the Gnome Nome King will be the big bad this time around. I'm interested in seeing if any other characters, settings, or story elements from the books end up in the film and in seeing how it expands on the "world" of the MGM film. And who knows? We might even get some nods to Return to Oz or even the DIC TV series.

Also exciting to me is the film's voice cast, which includes Frances Conroy, Jason Alexander of Seinfeld, and James Monroe Iglehart, who won a Tony for his role as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin on Broadway. We don't yet know which characters these actors will be voicing, but I assume that they will be characters that did not appear in Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz.

My only concern or complaint worth mentioning at the moment is that it does seem like the film will be given a Blu-ray release. The trailer only includes mention of the film's availability on DVD and digital HD, and Amazon does not currently have a listing up for a Blu-ray. It's possible that there are plans to release it on Blu-ray later on (maybe packaged with Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz), but we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Ozbusters! What's the official title of the Oz series?

The Chronicles of Narnia. The Space Trilogy. The Alice Books. The Harry Potter Series. The Hunger Games Trilogy. The Little House Books. A Song of Ice and Fire. The Earthsea Cycle.

What do these (and other) series have in common? Each has a title that immediately identifies them. If it was not approved by the author, then they are generally known by that title by fans and are generally marketed by the publisher as such. In this way, they have an "official" title.

So, what's the official title of the Oz series?

The answer is...

They don't have one.

Now, this isn't exactly true, the Oz books are generally identified as "the Oz series" and "the Oz books" by fans and literary agencies. But yet, the Oz books have a problem as to what that identifies. Generally, if they say, "The Oz series by L. Frank Baum," it generally means Baum's 14 original novels, not the books the original publisher of most of his books published after his death, and not the ongoing series of books by fans.

But there's a term we've seen fans of the books use over and over, "the Famous Forty Oz books." Is that the official title?

Not quite in the same capacity. I admit, I haven't fervently researched the origin of the term "Famous Forty," but I believe it actually came from how Reilly & Lee eventually listed the Oz books on flaps of dustjackets and inside the books themselves. The series was listed as "The Famous Oz Books," and when the list was completed (and seen inside some of the White Edition Oz books), the total came up to 40. The Famous Oz books of which there were forty. The Famous Forty.

In recent years, fans have ran with this, and I've even heard Baum's books listed as "The Founding Fourteen," and Joe Bongiorno has designated a "Sovereign Sixty" on his Oz Timeline website.I even used the title "Famous Forty Plus" to refer to not just the Famous Forty, but other works by the authors of those books.

And that is where things begin to get messy as we look at the Oz series as it stands. No one publisher publishes the entire Oz series these days, and while copies of all the books can be found with a little searching, having a complete uniform collection is very difficult. And considering other entries to the Oz series, mainly Baum's
Little Wizard Stories (since Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz and The Woggle-Bug Book can get messy when attempting to place them in with the others) and the books and stories the International Wizard of Oz Club, Hungry Tiger Press and Books of Wonder have published by the Famous Forty authors? What about Baum's fantasies he tied to Oz? Particularly The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, do these count as Oz books? Other series have side series that flesh out the worlds from the main series, do these count as a tie-in series, and if so, what is their official designation?

Baum's fantasies that he tied to Oz eventually have been given the honorary title "Borderlands of Oz" books because some reprints of
The Sea Fairies and Sky Island were given that designation in advertising and even on the cover of Sky Island. Those two books are more closely linked to the Oz series than, say, Queen Zixi of Ix and John Dough and the Cherub, but it's a nice title for them since those stories take place in lands that are close to Oz on the maps Baum created.

But still, what about those other directly Oz stories? And what if you just don't like Thompson, Neill, Snow, Cosgrove, and McGraw's stories and just consider Baum's books to be the only real Oz books?

This is why the lack of an official designation is a blessing as well as a curse. If my understanding of "Famous Forty" is correct, that term was not used as a means of designating what are the "official" Oz books, but a pure marketing ploy. Yes, those books were published with authorization of Baum's estate and under the same publisher as his own books, but there was really no authority to ensure that the books had a good continuity. As much as Oz fans may love them, it's a clear point that many details about Oz change from author to author, and sometimes even that author changes details with no real explanation.

Thus, I counter, Oz continuity can be subject to personal selection. Don't like Neill's talking houses? (No one does.) Ignore his books. (And if you were thinking of writing a derivative work, since they're still under copyright, take that advice as well.) There's so many nooks and crannies to Oz that if you ignore those details, it doesn't necessarily mean you're saying they don't exist, you're just not acknowledging them at this time.

The Oz series is unique in that you can apply any title you'd like to the series and decide what books are contained therein.

I mean, it's not like Baum invented a series title, right?

... Well, actually... He did.

In the introduction of
Rinkitink in Oz, Baum drops a few teasers for his next Oz book, and says, "I have an idea that about the time you are reading this story of Rinkitink I shall be writing that story of Adventures in Oz."

That could be read as Baum saying the story will tell of adventures in Oz, except he capitalizes the word "Adventures." So, has the Oz series had a name all these years in "Adventures in Oz" and it just hasn't been applied?

Well, apparently so. But unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if Reilly & Britton (later Lee) took the hint and marketed the series under that title, nor have fans really accepted it and applied it to the series. So while Baum gave us a title for the series, we've just never used it.

(Edit 4/13/2016: Eric Gjovaag points out that
Adventures in Oz was actually the working title for The Lost Princess of Oz. So, I'm actually not correct there. Still, the title could work for the series, except that a number of books take place outside of the proper environs of Oz.)

Still, not having an officially agreed on title puts the Oz series in a spot with J. R. R. Tolkien's works. While there are three books collectively known as "The Lord of the Rings," there's a number of his other books that tell of the same world, and they don't really have an official collective title either.

So, result: the Oz books do not have an officially agreed on title or continuity. There's some good titles to work with, one even offered by the series creator, but nothing seems to have stuck. It's strictly up to you to decide how you enjoy the series.