Saturday, August 12, 2017

Playing Adventure in Oz

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the first Oz computer game, Adventure in Oz for the TI-9/94a. Since then, I've played it a few more times and have some hints... If you want them.

Find the yellow brick road or red brick road. Both lead to the Emerald City. It is also on these roads that you find the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion.

Your companions help out, which typically breaks down into preventing you from wasting a turn. The Tin Woodman will cut down trees to cross ravines and fight the Fighting Trees. The Lion will scare off other animals from attacking you. I have yet to find if the Scarecrow helps with anything.

Ozma's palace vanishes as soon as you are done there. You must go directly west of the location I marked on the map below to find her.

The backwards road is very simple: just travel west if you want to go east, go east if you want to go west, go north if you want to go south, and go south if you want to go north. Be careful that you don't get complacent repeatedly tapping keys.

While there are no onscreen instructions telling you which direction the roads are in, sticking to the yellow brick road in Munchkin or Winkie Countries actually lead you to the characters the Wizard wants you to find.

To cross a river, travel north or south and head back to the river to see if a little man pops up to ferry you across. This will likely take multiple tries.

If you come across a lake or mountain range, go another direction.

The following map has been compiled from multiple playthroughs of the game. Each X is the location of the important sites of the game: the Wizard's Palace, Ozma's Palace in the North, the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda's Palace in the South, and the Woggle-Bug's home in the East. These are the locations, but there are many obstacles between the Emerald City and them.

You can find the game and how to play it in the blog I linked to. Happy Adventure in Oz!

Jack Snow celebrated

A little over six years ago, I finished writing about the Oz works of Jack Snow and mentioned that is grave is unmarked. I also quoted a criticism of the Snow family that suggested they were ashamed of him and left his grave unmarked. Two and a half years after that, the post was updated with new information that suggested perhaps the family was poor and couldn't help Jack at all.

And now, it seems, that is being rectified at last.

Michael Gessel of the International Wizard of Oz Club shared this news that Jack Snow will be honored with a headstone Tuesday, August 15, during a ceremony celebrating his life and work in radio, speculative fiction, and yes, Oz.

A representative of Snow's family, James C. Oda, is involved as well as Gessel, and both will be speaking at the ceremony.

While the past remains unchanged, going forward, it is good to know that people want to remember and celebrate Jack Snow, with a memorial honoring one of the Royal Historians at last.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Jay binged Lost in Oz Season 1

It feels like forever ago when the pilot episode of Amazon's original series Lost in Oz (unconnected to any other project to anything that's used that name ever), and then sometime back, they added the next two episodes alongside it to create Lost in Oz: Extended Adventure. Now, Amazon has a complete first season of 13 episodes, 22-23 minutes in length.

After finding a magic journal, a modern-day girl named Dorothy and her dog Toto are taken in their house to the modern land of Oz. The original story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz happened, but that Dorothy is the great-grandmother of this Dorothy. I don't think the later Oz books by Baum happened in this continuity. There's characters based on the characters from the other books, like an inventor named Tinker, a painter named Smith, a giant Munchkin boy named Ojo whose aspirations go beyond his father's farm, a cowardly lion, a young witch named West, a rag doll named Patches, and a wicked witch named Langwidere (no headswapping, but she is able to make herself look like other people). Ozma and the Wizard don't get mentioned at all. Magic in this Oz is a science based around certain elements, and there's not a ban on it as kids are seen learning it in school. In addition to this, there's the subplot that Dorothy's mother has some idea of what's going on.

The thirteen episode series revolves around a story arc that includes Dorothy wanting to get home as Langwidere tries to take over Oz in a rather interesting manner. (A bit more than "Steal all the magic, take over Oz.") Each episode has a neat mini-arc in its 22-23 minute runtime.

The plots are largely original, using concepts from the books as plot devices rather than plot models (Glinda's lie-detecting pearl that briefly appears in The Marvelous Land of Oz becomes a major item of interest and is called "the Pearl of Pingaree"). The overall story arc is concluded by the end of the final episode, although there is a hook for continuing adventures. (See, Emerald City? That's how you do it.) Animation is excellent, the story is pretty good and enjoyable enough to keep you watching. Those looking for a purist adaptation of the Oz series or a continuation will not find it here, though.

Highly recommended for kids and Oz fans who enjoy different takes on the material.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ozbusters! Shirley Temple and MGM's Wizard of Oz

One regular piece of trivia about MGM's film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is that Shirley Temple was considered for the role of Dorothy. It's been reported many ways, some saying that Judy Garland was who the studio went with because they couldn't get Shirley Temple. Yet, there are people out there who say the story is entirely false and that the role was always intended for Judy Garland.

What is the answer? Did MGM want Shirley Temple? Or was Judy Garland the first choice?

I believe the answer is more likely both.

What we're missing here is context of who we're talking about when we say "MGM." There are many, many people involved in making a movie and running a movie studio.

The Wizard of Oz was the dream project of producer Mervyn LeRoy, who was the driving force behind the movie. And it seems that he was the one who envisioned it to launch Judy Garland to stardom.

However, MGM was owned by a big theater chain called Loews' (this is part of how Hollywood worked back then), and noting the estimated big cost of the movie, they asked LeRoy to look into loaning Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox.

The general public loved Shirley Temple, who had starred in a long series of films from Fox. Pint sized and her face framed in little golden curls, Shirley had talent in singing little songs, dancing, remembering her lines and generally looking cute. Even then-Oz historian Ruth Plumly Thompson had expressed interest in Temple playing Dorothy, saying that if such a project happened, promoting the books with Temple would be easy.

As it turned out, Temple was a fan of the books, and photos of Temple in her home revealed the Oz books on her shelf. She claimed in her autobiography Child Star that when her mother said that she should play Dorothy, Temple said she'd rather meet Dorothy. (I feel the same, Shirley.)

However, LeRoy had a specific version of Oz in mind. Previous versions of The Wizard of Oz on stage and film had reduced Dorothy from a lead character to a side character, giving more presence to the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman. It would be easy to see Shirley Temple fitting the bill of a sweet little girl from Kansas who is whisked away to a magical world where she joins with a number of unusual friends played by comedy heavies who would basically take over the movie.

But that was not LeRoy's vision. His Oz would return Dorothy to a focal character. Yes, there would still be big talent as Dorothy's friends, but they wouldn't crowd Dorothy out of the focus of the film. For that, he'd need his Dorothy to be a strong actress who would wow the audience with her talent. And this was not what Shirley Temple would offer. Imagine Shirley Temple singing "Over the Rainbow." It'd be cute, but not the strong ballad the movie would need to open with.

Roger Edens, who worked with Judy on her singing during her MGM years, went to 20th Century Fox to hear Shirley Temple sing in person. He reported back that Temple didn't have the range they wanted for their musical Wizard of Oz, and so MGM kept Judy in the role, Loew's seemingly content that LeRoy and his crew knew what they were doing.

Fox would report that Shirley had lost the role of Dorothy, while Temple's mother was angry that a Fox producer claimed they had the Oz rights when MGM had purchased them from Samuel Goldwyn.

There's some interesting after notes here. Getting Shirley Temple would have involved Fox loaning her to MGM. While they didn't loan her, they did loan Jack Haley to MGM, who took over as the Tin Man when Buddy Ebsen was hospitalized.

As a response to The Wizard of Oz, Fox had Shirley Temple lead a film version of Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, a play that opened on Broadway in 1910 and like Oz also had silent film adaptations. (Personal recommendation: the 1918 film.) Featuring a cast of unusual characters and children in lead roles, the play had two children seek the Blue Bird of Happiness through a series of strange lands before realizing the Blue Bird was at home all along. The moral was very reminiscent of that of MGM's Wizard of Oz.

Fox's Blue Bird was a flop, and so was Shirley Temple's next film Young People. Her parents bought out her contract, and she was signed on at MGM, where they intended for her to star in projects with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, but it didn't work out and she only did one film with the studio. It seems Oz screenwriter Noel Langley worked out a treatment for an Oz sequel and it was floated that they'd have Temple as the lead, but it never got further than that.

Temple would do a series of unimpressive films with other studios before leaving film. She eventually began the Shirley Temple's Storybook television show in 1958, with the show turning into The Shirley Temple Show with regular color shows (the first season had color and black and white episodes), the premiere episode being The Land of Oz, featuring Temple herself as Princess Ozma and Tip.

Well, in Shirley's own words, “Sometimes the gods know best.”