Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adapting "Return to Oz": from Screen to Page (part 3)

Back in June I started making comparisons of some of the tie-in books for Disney's "Return to Oz", adapting the almost-two-hour long movie into shorter children's books and whether they work well or not.
"Return to Oz" is a very good and fine film (despite its problems), but some of the important and smaller aspects of it don't carry well in condensed form.

Here we are going to look at one of its shorter adaptations, the second Little Golden Book: "Escape from the Witch's Castle".
Dorothy's bad hair;  Billina looks hard;  2 sofas yet everyone crams onto one side ... and where are the safety walls to prevent falling off?!

In this book, the second installment of the four part series, Dorothy and Billina and Tik-Tok are looking "through Oz" for Scarecrow, who is missing.  The first change mentioned is that the Emerald City (no word of it being in ruins is mentioned) and where Princess Mombi lives are separate buildings.

When Mombi (who is already wearing the dark haired head from the film) captures Dorothy, Tik-Tok suddenly winds down, so Billina has to attack Mombi to allow Dorothy to escape, but iron bars block the door; and when Mombi threatens to cook Billina, that's when Dorothy kicks Mombi and is captures again, the girl and the hen taken to the tower.
Fortunately, Jack Pumpkinhead is also in the tower with them, who he mistakes Dorothy for his missing mum, before she sets him straight (he's described as a mess, but he doesn't really look that badly separated).  Jack's story of how he came to live with Mombi's Powder of Life gives Dorothy an idea of how to escape.
  "Soon" they get Tik-Tok upsatirs while Dorothy gets Mombi's (non-ruby) key and the Powder - accidentally waking Mombi's head up in the process!  The other heads wails, Dorothy dodges past Mombi's headless body and rejoins her friends in the Tower room who have finished assembling their flying Gump (Tik-Tok did not seem to wind down this time), which Dorothy sprinkles with the Powder and they "lift" off the floor and through the open window.   Each with their own hopes for the future, Dorothy rests as she and her friends soar off into the night sky.

The story itself is not so bad, but it's the illustrations that are lacking.  Part 1 ("Dorothy Returns to Oz") was painted (with oil?), while "Dorothy in the Ornament Rooms" had inked drawings with painted (watercolour?) illustrations and "Dorothy Saves the Emerald City" having soft airbrush paintings ... this book (which does not have "Dorothy" in the title) has pictures that are done in markers and the lines are thick, thicker than any of the other pictures in the other books.
Billina looks hard and too smooth, like a clay figure, instead of a living moving creature, while Tik-Tok looks ... well, it's hard to say.  He doesn't quite look as easily movable like the film, yet some pictures have him look and glance in a way not possible.   In some pictures Dorothy looks fine, but in others she looks more manly (once or twice she looks like Tobey Maguire in a dress; and another time she bares a strong resemblance to Bruce Timm's Superman).  Dorothy's black Kansas shoes have also acquired a strap, making the pair become "mary janes" (and her hair on the cover is just awful!)
.  Jack's pumpkin head is supposed to be round, yet his face looks flat.  
Possibly the worst change, visually, is the construction of the Gump: in the film the two sofas have backing, to prevent the riders from falling off the sides ... but here both sofas are open and have no walls, which was more a choice of showing the characters in illustrations than being practical storywise.  This presents the threat of the characters actually falling off the sides, especially Dorothy rolling over in her sleep!  And despite being brought to life, he doesn't say anything or really have any personality in the last three pages.
When you look at this book on its own and without the full context of the film, this short story makes absolutely no mention of the real threat to Oz, its people or its capital, the missing monarch or the usurpers and how and where the good characters need to go or what to do.  It is not mentioned HOW Mombi has the beautiful heads or why.  Just that she is "a terrible witch" who collects the heads of beautiful young ladies.  Her own ugly head is never shown (but it is mentioned in that certain scene).  Nor is the exact number of beautiful heads recounted.  And, again, Mombi seems to have no connection to the disappearance of Scarecrow and nowhere is the Nome King mentioned.  Also, no lunch-pail, or Wheelers, or even the "ghost in the mirror/palace".

While the other three Little Golden Books do end with a somewhat happy note of hope, this one doesn't seem as strong.

This book may be the weakest of the set, but it is not the worst adaptation of the movie ...

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