Monday, June 26, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Adventures in the Emerald City

Jay and Sam talk about the Russian animated series Adventures in the Emerald City, with a twist for foreign language productions: this time our guys have English subtitles. Listen to them talk about how this animated take on the first two Oz stories—with a bit of Volkov—attempted to streamline the Oz stories a bit and join them in wishing that the series had gone further.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services that mirror these.



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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Adapting Return to Oz - Long Movie, Short Story Part 2

The next book I look at in reviewing how the 1985 Disney movie is adapted from long movie into short children's book is the Random House edition for "Disney's Wonderful World of Reading".


As described on the back, this series of books by Random House adapted many of the classic Disney films that we grew up with (with little changes - such as Princess Aurora NOT being raised up by the Fairies as a peasant girl in the woods, so she met Prince Phillip when he woke her), as well as adapting other stories that happened been done on films yet (e.g. Mickey was Aladdin with two book adventures with the Magic Lamp).  All the books had simple vocabulary and many lush illustrations, some of which were done by Sheilah Beckett and other artists.

"Return to Oz" may not have been an instant classic or entirely well received, but it was still selected to be amongst the many books helping children to read, along with all the other tie-in story telling books made as merchandise for the film.

Yes, the words are rather simple and so the sentences are rather short, but unlike all the other Random House books or the other Little Golden Books retelling the film, these pages did have new illustrations that looked like cartoon characters; rather, like many of the other bigger storybooks and novels, the pictures used were stills taken for the film, many photographs of which are shrunk, in poor quality and severely cropped.  Many of these pictures are shown only here and have not turned up in any other books or magazines.

In adapting the relatively long and detailed story of the film into a short book for children to read easily, many connections and important factors are left out, making the story seem too convenient and at other times with gaps or without any of the important little things, like emotion.

It briefly says how Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry until "there was a big storm.  The wind carried Dorothy to the Land of Oz.  When Dorothy came back home, Aunt Em said she had been dreaming.  But Dorothy knew she had been in Oz.  She found a key on the floor.".

When Aunt Em takes Dorothy to Dr Worley's house, she leaves almost immediately with just a good-bye, before the nurse takes Dorothy to talk to the doctor.
(the actual names, Worley and Wilson, are not used here, so their titles are lower case, simple "nurse" and "doctor")

Dorothy is visited by the girl in her room, but there is no mention of the Electrical Healing machine, so the girls make their escape as soon the house is set on fire by lightning.  It is not implied in text or pictures that they are chased.

Dorothy wakes up with Billina "in a beautiful place", gets lunch pails from trees and finds the broken yellow brick road, without seeing or finding her old house.  She doesn't sound the least bit concerned why the road is broken up, just hoping she'll find her old friends in the Emerald City.
Upon entering the ruins and after (only) finding two of her friends in stone, it is just one Wheeler who chases Dorothy into the narrow street where she finds Tik-Topk behind a secret door in the wall.  Tik-Tok seems already wound up, talking to her and shows "another way out of the room" before he fights all the other Wheelers.

Notice how the space behind Dorothy's head is blacked out - usually one of Mombi's head is shown here;  Since the whole image is cropped, so too is the view of Mombi's hands holding her Head no. 4

While looking for Mombi, Tik-Tok says he will hit her with the lunch-pail if she isn't nice to them.
When they find her, she is wearing the same long-haired head as in the film, but the next two page have short black hair (Head no. 4), without explaining the change or even mentioning the Hall of Heads.  Tik-Tok is slow to save Dorothy from Mombi, leaving her and Billina locked up in the dusty tower room, where they find Jack Pumpkinhead.
After Dorothy outs Jack back together, he says how "the next room" has the Gump (which, on the next page, Dorothy expresses the pieces already put together) AND the Powder of Life, which she uses for their escape.

It is not explained or mentioned how Tik-Tok is reunited with them for their flying escape, nor is the scene back in the Palace and Mombi's screaming heads included (however she can be seen in the background as the Gump sets off through the balcony).

They arrive on the Nome King's mountain (no indication of falling or lucky landing), fall into the hole, meet the King (who seems nearly human) and play his guessing game.

The "small box" is actually the green ornament from the film, but is not Scarecrow's enchantment in this book (perhaps the editor didn't know this?)
Dorothy's choices are different from the film and do not reveal what her third guess was.  After the Scarecrow is restored, he actually manages to make a guess and restore the Gump.

  The Nome King is angry at Dorothy's success but does not get interrupted by Mombi, he doesn't disrupt the Game or try to devour Dorothy's friends, he has none of his Nomes to spy on or aid him, most of all Jack does not have Billina hiding in his egg to accidentally drop the egg into his throat and poison him ... yet, he crashes and becomes a rubble where Dorothy reclaims the Ruby Slippers, which have not been mentioned at all until now, which she uses to return herself and her friends to Oz.
  Tik-Tok, apparently has already been restored and he shows "where the Gump and Billina" are, while the Emerald City is "beautiful again".
This is also the first (and last) time the people are mentioned being turned to stone and back to life again during the "wonderful party".

When Scarecrow decides he doesn't want to rule and the people suggest Dorothy to be Queen, her wish to be in both places at once makes "a girl wearing the dress of a queen" stepping out of the mirror.  The girl is Ozma, who Dorothy last saw in the Kansas river.

Shown at left is the "shimmery paper" mirror wall Emma Ridley mentioned "headbut" stepping through as Ozma - the actual film has half the scene warped through special effects

Dorothy says her good-byes ... but there is no indication of what happens to the Ruby Slippers (which caused this mess in the first place), so it is not clarified that Ozma uses them instead of Dorothy ... and she is back in the muddy riverbank of Kansas.

Once clean and back in her bedroom, she sees Queen Ozma in her mirror briefly, wondering if she will go back again some day . . . 


So Random House's adaption of "Return to Oz" is a basic retelling, missing out on several moments that may have been deemed unsuitable or unsettling for children and families.
The most vital thing they leave out is how necessary Billina is to the story: not only is she the one who finds the Oz key in Kansas and guides Dorothy to the door with Tik-Tok, but she is the one who actually defeats the Nome King by laying her egg in his mouth which poisons him (and thereby saving Dorothy, her friends and all of Oz).   Bringing Billina into the story but not retaining her triumph over the Nome King removes her importance and makes her useless.  It's not enough to just be included, there needs to be a purpose (just as Jack's hollow head hides Billina from the Nome King).

Another aspect of the story that is unresolved is what happens to "Princess" Mombi after the Emerald City is restored - there is no indication that she was a witch, or imprisoned, or had anything to do with the Wheelers or the Nome King, or otherwise how she is "ruling" the ruined city in the first place.

While the pictures are lackluster and do not fit the usual approach taken with the other Random House books (having fresh new illustrations made, instead of cropping still photographs), it is still nice to see some unusual photos here that aren't included anywhere else - especially one that gives a hint at the behind-the-scenes mentioned later by Emma Ridley in her interview with Ryan Jay.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Captive Hearts of Oz, Volume 2 - Angelo's Review

(This is a review of Volume 2 of the new manga series Captive Hearts of Oz by Ryo Maruya and Mamenosuke Fujimaru from Seven Seas Entertainment. You can read my review of Volume 1 here.)

I wasn't already set on buying the second volume of Captive Hearts of Oz before buying and reading the first one for myself. As I discussed in my review of Volume 1, I didn't have the highest expectations for this series initially, but I did end up enjoying the first volume well enough.

Because this is a direct continuation of the first volume of the series, it's somewhat difficult to review it as thoroughly as I reviewed Volume 1. This volume continues to follow the overall narrative structure of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, beginning with the introduction of the Cowardly Lion (who is given the name "Leon" here) and ending with our heroes arriving at the Emerald City, where, as in the original story, they each hope to have their wishes granted by the mysterious Wizard of Oz.

Although this is by no means a faithful adaptation of Wonderful Wizard, I am still surprised by how much of Baum's work is retained here. The Kalidahs, deadly poppies, and even the rescue of the Scarecrow all make the transition in some form. What's especially unique and intriguing about this adaptation is the recurring idea that, as Bert in Mary Poppins famously said, "All that's to happen's all happened before." We understand that the events of this story follow those of a preexisting one, one that is actually known to some of the characters here.

Just how Captive Hearts relates to the original story is still a mystery by the end of Volume 2, and I'm definitely interested in seeing how that is explained in the next (and presumably the final) volume of the series. We do get a little more insight in Volume 2 as to who's involved here and what everyone's motives are, but I feel like it would be a more engaging and, frankly, less confusing read if the storytelling were a little more straightforward. There's so much teasing plot points and jumping around between different settings and characters that it becomes a bit difficult to follow at times.

I said in my review of Volume 1 that I felt like the drawings weren't very clear, and that issue persists through Volume 2, especially in the more action-packed panels. It's occasionally difficult to tell who's speaking and even to distinguish some of the supporting characters from one another.

Those frustrations aside, however, I am still enjoying Captive Hearts of Oz. It's a fun take on Oz that is unique and contemporary but still retains much of the story and spirit of Baum's work (unlike, say, Emerald City). The real strength of this adaptation is the bond between Dorothy and her companions, and there are plenty of moments sprinkled throughout this volume that play to that strength. I'm not totally buying the romance blossoming between Dorothy and another character, but I personally don't mind it as much as others might. (There are definite shades of Twilight here, though, I must admit.)

All in all, I wanted a little more from this volume in terms of storytelling, but I'm intrigued enough by the setup for the future of the series that I will be picking up the next volume and reviewing it on the blog. If you're reading Captive Hearts of Oz, feel free to leave your thoughts about the series in the comments! You can purchase Volume 2 from Amazon here.