Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Adapting Return to Oz - Long Movie, Short Story Part 1

Whenever it's June I always consider it a time to really focus on Disney's "Return to Oz" film, which was released on June 21 back in 1985.

And as you may be aware, there was a massive selection of books to choose from and to collect with the merchandise made to promote the film.

Whether you see it or not, it is a somewhat complex and detailed film ... so I thought it was time to devote a post that focused on the few books that do not do a good job of adapting the story.

The BEST official full-length adaptation of the movie from screen (back, of sorts) to writing on paper was the Novelization by Joan D Vinge, which allowed an in-depth look at some of the characters' backstory, such as Aunt Em being a Christian woman who believed in GOD and whose father was a Preacher, but now struggles with a broken unfinished home, invalid hopeless husband and troubled sleepless niece and second mortgage, as winter approaches ... how the Wheelers were a free people before Mombi and the Nome King's offer to keep them alive as servants or be turned to stone ... these were a great companion to the film.  It even has a retelling of the story with the Wizard that feels in line with this follow-up.

There was another novel adaption of the movie, but this was a "Young Puffin" version by Alistair Hedley and the writing is not very sophisticated or enjoyable.  The introduction says this book "has been especially written for Puffin with younger readers in mind."
It also includes photo stills (in rather poor quality) and new illustrations by Jo Worth, but they are sketchy and rather off.

The illustrations show the characters the same height as Dorothy, including Dr Worley/Nome King.  Ozma, however, has a different look each time (she's in 3 pictures) and doesn't appear pretty or beautiful or consistent at all, aside from the first picture.  But the Ruby Slippers are drawn pretty nicely.

The one good thing I like is that it also includes a Map of Oz, which was featured in other books by Puffin.

These are just some examples of the writing from this book:

* Uncle Henry suggests Aunt Em taking Dorothy to the Doctor for healing, while she is a bit hesitant

* the "Electrical Marvel" machine is mentioned but not actually used or seen, but replaced by a simple hypnosis by pocket watch on a chain-string - a blackout still allows Kansas Ozma to rescue Dorothy from the clinic and into the storm to Oz ...

* When Dorothy finds Billina talking, the hen replies "Ten out of ten for observation"

* Before recognising her old farmhouse, Dorothy calls it "an old derelict building.  It's surprising the Scarecrow allows a broken-down old ruin like that to stand.  Let's go and look."

* When they meet Princess Mombi, she says "I am quite fatigued with playing.  It is the emotion.  I am so sensitive and my heart is not strong.  Help me to rise."

* Upon arriving at the Nome King's mountain, the landing is similar to the Joan D Vinge Novel which followed an earlier script, where Tik-Tok and the Gump were dangling on the edge of a cliff and were saved by their friends - this retelling is shorter and without any drama.  Moments later, Billina "crept inside Jack's head and went to sleep, while no one was looking" - how can she do that without even Jack saying something, or any of the others noticing her absence?
Later when Jack is about to guess his turn, Dorothy is aware that Billina is inside his head, but it is not specified how or when she found out.

* During this time, Mombi plays a note on her mandolin which threatens to shatter the glass in her Throne Room, which "was an unspeakable agony to the smoky indistinct spirit trapped in the mirrored door."

* The friends make their way along the mountain, the Gump being reassembled to walk on his own.  Later, Dorothy does not introduce the hen to the Nome King for fear she'll forget "her temper in the Royal presence."
When brought to attention Tik-Tok clicks his "copper heels" (that's not even physically possible!)

* When falling through the mountain, Dorothy experiences "in her body the stubborn hopelessness of rock, that holds so grimly to what it contains, yet in the end must yield it up.  And she felt behind her eyes the beauty of secret colours on which no light has ever shone; flesh, blood, muscle and bone of her was admitted to the intimate society of the earth's interior."

* When the Nome King offers a game to find and rescue the Scarecrow, Dorothy responds "That's worth any risk" (whereas before on screen, she is uncertain);
Later when he offers Dorothy the chance to go back home instead of risking transformation, he says "There's no hope.  Forget about them.  They're not even human.  You've got to look after yourself in this world.  I'll let you have the ruby slippers  and you can wish yourself back home and never think about Oz again."  To which Dorothy responds "Poor Nome King ... You don't even understand about friends."  And she leaves, leaving the Nome King "looking sadly at the ruby slippers".

* "You're too late, Mombi ... You're always too late.  You're incompetent.  A nincompoop.  An out-and-out failure.  Go and drown yourself in a bucket of lard."

* Upon being restored, the Gump describes being an ornament as "educational ... But I have to admit, a trifle lacking in variety, a trifle limiting, a trifle cramping.  In a word: dull."

* During the climactic finale, the Friends watch the Nome King swallow Mombi in her cage "down his great stone gullet, that was ribbed with layers of rock laid down through all the ages of the world" ... When he swallows Billina's egg and Dorothy wonders how that defeated him, he explains how "The egg is life, growth, change.  That egg is now in my heart.  And in the fires of my heart, the egg will develop, quicken into life.  The chicken will awake.  I feel it stir.  It begins to peck, peck, peck at the shell.  Strong is the shell, but the chicken is stronger.  It will shatter my heart.  You have won."  then there is a thunderclap "like the first bang that formed the world", a flash etc and blackness/silence.

* When Ozma is free, she reveals how her father King Pastoria was bewitched by Mombi and he promised to give her the first living thing that would greet him home, which he expected to be his dog ... but it was Ozma, so he exchanged her for a potion of eternal life, but even so he threw away the potion and killed himself.

* Back in Kansas, Aunt Em is relieved that Dr Worley and Nurse Wilson were killed by the lightning caught by the "infernal" machines ... not to mention that he "wasn't a real doctor at all!  He was an evil man"

So here we have an inferior retelling of the movie, with words poorly formatted and written in a boring manner with questionable changes, where what is supposed to sound poetic instead comes across as dreary and talking down to children instead of sounding informative, inspirational or even encourages an improvement in vocabulary and proper speaking in text.

I plan on reviewing other "lackluster" adaptations of Disney's film from film to book in the remaining month.

1 comment:

rocketdave said...

That bit about Pastoria seems to have been taken from the biblical story of Jephthah.