Sunday, June 10, 2018

Yookoohoos of Oz by Paul Dana

 Two reviews in one day?

Look, I had a really good weekend.

Yookoohoos of Oz is the third Oz book by Paul Dana, who's now kind of up there as a good friend. That might make me biased, but for what it's worth, I don't read poorly written books very quickly.

Paul's Oz books tend to focus around Ojo and Button-Bright, who L. Frank Baum established as friends in The Lost Princess of Oz. His books have some major developments for the pair, so it's kind of hard to talk about one of the ones after the first without touching on spoilers. The series also builds on the lore of Yookoohoos, the transformation practitioners we first met in The Tin Woodman of Oz and again in Glinda of Oz.

Just to catch up, the first two books are The Law of Oz and Other Stories and The Magic Umbrella of Oz.

Let's try a spoiler-free review: a gathering of Yookoohoos goes completely awry when a surprising new Yookoohoo arrives with a special present. It's up to Ojo, Button-Bright, Grandma Natch and some of their new friends in a mysterious magical adventure.

There really isn't a major villain in the book, and major Oz characters like just about the entire cast of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz don't even appear. Still, Paul writes the story at a good pace and clearly isn't tired of the characters he's invested in during his previous stories. Far more interesting is that the book is written from the first person view of Ojo, instead of from the third person as most Oz books are. While it's a change, it's not unwelcome.

The book is illustrated by Vincent Myrand, who does some dynamic yet somehow also dream-like illustrations that suit Oz so well.

There's a few ways to get a copy. There's a deluxe hardcover edition with some color illustrations, a standard hardcover without color illustrations and also a paperback.

In addition, you can pick up a copy at OzCon International and have Paul sign it right there. Or you can buy a copy ahead of time and he'll happily sign it. He'll also lead a bit of programming discussing Yookoohoos. So, you could just get a book online and read it, or you can come to OzCon, get an autographed copy and the whole Paul Dana experience (patent pending).

Jay watched more Lost in Oz!

Well, Amazon Prime's Lost in Oz Season 1, Part 2 has landed!

I'm not entirely sure why it's considered Part 2 of Season 1 rather than simply Season 2. It does pick up right where the first batch of 13 episodes left off, and has its own brand new story arc that is completed in another 13 episodes.

This time around, Dorothy, Toto and the Scarecrow are stranded in Dorothy's house in the Deadly Desert. Thanks to a magic flying "carpet," they are able to leave the house and try to make their way back to Oz. However, they wind up in the Nome Kingdom, where they meet Roquat, the spoiled young king of the Nomes who has a penchant for turning whoever displeases him into an ornament.

Luckily, Dorothy is able to befriend Roquat and with him, they escape the Nome Kingdom. However, General Guph decides to move in and take over as King of the Nomes and makes plans to invade and take over Oz!

There's a lot going on in this batch of episodes, and I watched it all in a space of 36 hours. I don't want to spoil much as there's a number of twists and turns. I'll tell you that Dorothy's mother does play a big part in this season, and West gets to develop more. The ending is nicely set up to either conclude the show or continue on later.

The show doesn't talk down to kids, it's exciting, it's funny without being crass. It's not a perfect continuation of the Oz Baum wrote about, but when it's this good, I can let that slide. This is a show for kids, families, and adults. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Steam Engines of Oz: The Movie

The Steam Engines of Oz began as a comic book series from Arcana Studios in 2013. Bolstered by a Kickstarter, it ran for three issues (plus a Free Comic Book Day issue), then got a second volume of another three issues, subtitled The Geared Leviathan.

The first volume told of an Oz in the future where the Tin Man rules the Emerald City under an iron grip. Victoria—a mechanic for the machines in the Emerald City—helps free some prisoners and they sneak out to the Munchkin Country to discover how the rest of Oz is coping with the Tin Man's rule and what can be done about it. Perhaps a Wizard can give them the answers they seek.

For what it was, the comics were very visually lush. I can't say I was crazy about the story, but it at least had its own logic and was complete.

So, here we are in 2018 and the first volume is now adapted into an animated movie available on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital services. And how is it?

Well, for plot adaptation, I guess it's great because it's an extremely faithful adaptation of the comic. Dialogue and plot beats are lifted directly from it. It's not quite a 1:1 translation, but it's close.

The voice cast does a good job. It's led by Julianne Hough as Locasta, Ron Perlman as Magnus (the Cowardly Lion's son) and William Shatner as the Wizard. There aren't further notable names in the cast, but no one does a bad job.

The animation, though, is where it gets ugly. Check out the trailer.

As you can see, the visuals are a far cry from the comic's look. The characters are clearly based on the look from the comics, but simplified to be easier to animate. Scenery looks sparse. The opening scene with Victoria where she fixes a pipe goes from a fantastic looking machine in the comic to a pipe along the wall.

The look of the human/humanoid figures is fine, but when we get to the lions, it's weird. They have human bodies and lion faces with hardly any hair. It's more likely these were combined from pre-existing elements rather than designed from the ground up. A lot of the visual appeal of the comic is lost here.

Some of the action is not so great, holding too long on shots of characters fighting, including a bit where the Tin Man jumps into the air and stays there for several seconds before Magnus jumps up and hits him. So what should be dynamic isn't. Common low-budget CG animation "stiffness" pops up.

Then there's a couple shots with a pretty big animation error. To add shadows, a lot of CG animation goes for ambient shadows around their feet that isn't particularly noticeable and doesn't need to be altered very much. However, in these two shots, we have the opposite of a shadow...

When the characters walk across here, their shadows become a glow. And while this is a small studio's effort, surely someone should have picked that out before it got into the final edit and onto the Blu-Ray and DVD copies, and probably the digital version as well.

Finally, as for references to MGM, the movie quotes two lines directly from that film, "I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" and "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others," which it even displays as text and credits to L. Frank Baum. Hardly! Both of these lines were original to the film!

The DVD and Blu-Ray contain English subtitles and the video and quality are great. There are absolutely no bonus features.

My recommendation is that if you're an Oz fan who tends to pick up every version of Oz for film, TV and internet regardless of quality is to go ahead and pick up the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. It's going for about $13 online right now. I don't think it'll go up in price as it gets more scarce, but that's pretty cheap. You might hold out for cheaper, though. If you prefer to just go digital, search your preferred digital video vendor as it's not a Movies Anywhere title. If you want to try it for yourself, give it some time, and maybe it'll pop up on Netflix, Hulu or some such service.

If you're just interested in the story, my big suggestion would be to get the original comic instead. The complete first volume is only $6 whether you buy the collected edition or the individual issues on Comixology. In print, there's a hardcover collecting both volumes and trade paperbacks of each volume.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz - OzCon International: Andy Mangels

At OzCon International, we will be welcoming Andy Mangels, a foremost authority on Filmation, the company that produced the first animated Oz film, Journey Back to Oz. But Andy's connection to Oz goes a bit deeper. Jay chats with Andy about it.

Find out more about this year's OzCon here and register here.

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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz - OzCon International: Robert Payes

At OzCon International this year, in celebrating all things Oz, there will be special attention given to Rachel Cosgrove Payes, the fifth Royal Historian of Oz, author of The Hidden Valley of Oz, The Wicked Witch of Oz, "Percy and the Shrinking Violets" and "Spots in Oz."

Joining us is her son, Robert Payes, who has appeared on the podcast before. In this brief interview, Robert tells us about Stiff Shots Photography and what he's looking forward to at OzCon.

Find out more about this year's OzCon here and register here.

 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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Jay watched more of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz

Well, it's been awhile since I sat down to the first thirteen episodes of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Several more episodes were released, finally, I decided to sign up for Boomerang for a month and catch up. If you remember my issues with streaming the series, I now have a phone capable of running the app and using the Chromecast feature was a breeze.

If you're a fan of Looney Tunes, Popeye, Johnny Quest, The Smurfs, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, Tom and Jerry or Scooby-Doo, you'll find the Boomerang streaming service well worth the $5 a month. I was also pleased to find that the older Garfield animated specials featuring Lorenzo Music were available, including some I'd never seen before but had seen the comic adaptations of. Apparently, the service is currently featuring the Captain Planet series for a limited time.

The series continues with more adventures of this kid-friendly amalgamation of imagery from the MGM movie and concepts and characters from the books. Characters from Dot and Tot of Merryland and The Sea Fairies pop up and one episode even took a plot element from The Royal Book of Oz. Each episode is only about 11 minutes long, so they never overstay their welcome. Make sure you see my above linked previous blog entry about the setup for the series.

Of course the series doesn't faithfully follow the books, but you never know that it might wind up being what gets new fans to check out the original books for their own.

  • "Wand-erful" - This episode sees the debut of the series' version of Glinda, capably voiced by Grey Griffin as she loses her wand just as she needs to whip up a bubble to protect Emerald City from a storm.
  • "No Sleep Sleepover" - When Ozma and Dorothy have a sleepover with their friends (including the Patchwork Girl), Wilhelmina interrupts it using her magic.
  • "Lion Catches A Bug" - Dorothy needs Lion to face a threat to the forest, but he's come down with a bug.
  • "Tik Tok and Tin Man" - Tik-Tok makes his debut in this episode as Dorothy and her friends find him, but he needs some repairs and joins them to find some new springs. Tin Man feels indignant at the presence of a new metal man.
  • "If I Only Had Some Brawn" - Scarecrow goes for a bulkier body to impress Patchwork Girl, but the new brawn seems to decrease the powers of his brain.
  • "The Beast Royales" - Wilhelmina kidnaps a popular band and it's up to Dorothy and her friends to find them in time for the concert.
  • "Time After Time"- Wilhelmina tries to use a time-turning hourglass to steal the Ruby Slippers.
  • "Kitten Around" - Dorothy and her friends find a lost kitten they name Eureka and help her find her home, which has been attacked by a Rak. (It looks more like a griffin, however.)
  • "Castle Sitters"- Dorothy and her friends have to care for Glinda's castle while she's away.
  • "Stuck on You" - A magic locket makes Ozma and Dorothy get stuck together.
  • "Family Matters" - Dorothy and her friends try to help the Woozy find his family.
  • "The Emerald of Zog" - To defend Emerald City from the Jewel Mule, Dorothy and her friends go to fetch a sea emerald, but a sea creature named Zog demands the gem.
  • "Cooking Up Some Magic" - Dorothy and the gang accidentally make a batch of gingerbread men who come to life.
  • "Copy Cat" - Stealing a magical device that makes copies of things, Wilhelmina clones herself to conquer Oz.
  • "Snow Place Like Home" - When Ozma makes it snow over Emerald City, Wilhelmina attempts to steal the magical snow globe to make the capitol of Oz freeze over.
  • "Mirror Madness" - After stealing a magic mirror, Wilhelmina accidentally creates a monstrous version of herself.
  • "Everything Coming Up Poppies" - Lion accidentally uses poppies from the deadly poppy field to make a float celebrating Ozma. Wilhelmina tries to use the situation to her advantage.
  • "A Cut Above the Rest" - In her first formal function as a princess, Dorothy is nervous about meeting royalty. Too bad Wilhelmina's monkeys Lyman and Frank slipped magic marbles into Dorothy's dress that causes magical mishaps.
  • "Abraca-Oops" - Dorothy accidentally causes Ozma's magic to be temporarily deactivated when the ruler is supposed to compete in a contest in which the winner will get a single wish granted. One of the other contenders? Wilhelmina.
  • "Halloween Heist" - The first part of a Halloween special, Wilhelmina attempts to spoil a Halloween party by bringing to life a pumpkin-headed man, Jack Pumpkinhead, however, Dorothy's friendship might be more effective than Halloween scares.
  • "Haunt Me Not" - Dorothy and her friends go trick-or-treating and come across a creepy house inhabited by a strange being that steals their candy.
  • "Wheelers Of Fortune" - When a stretch of the Yellow Brick Road disappears, Dorothy and her friends have to find the culprit.
  • "Sister Sister" - Glinda's evil twin Belinda is introduced. The Munchkins mix up the twins, much to the detriment of Glinda's reputation.
  • "Moody Magic" - While trying to keep the Hungry Tiger sated to keep him from Dainty China country, Wilhelmina controls a magic mood ring that makes Dorothy act up.
  • "If the Shoe Fits" - When Wilhelmina steals one of the Ruby Slippers, she attempts to use it, sending her to Under, where all broken magical items go. Dorothy and her friends have to find Wilhelmina and retrieve the stolen slipper.
  • "Get Smart" - When the Woggle-Bug releases a book about the Great Rulers of Oz, the Nome King is furious that he isn't included. He hatches a plot to take over Oz so he can be included in the next edition.
  • "Mission Imp-Possible" - When Wilhelmina gets some imps to play tricks on Dorothy, Ozma sends the fabulous foursome to assist the Zoop.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What have you learned from L. Frank Baum?

So, today marks L. Frank Baum's birthday. If by some miracle he was still with us, he'd be 162.

To many people around the world, Baum is a little-noticed credit as they watch some production based on or inspired by his works. A slightly more knowledgeable person may say he wrote The Wizard of Oz or the Oz books.

As for me, I can say L. Frank Baum changed my life, even though he died sixty seven years before I was born.

Baum wrote for a couple reasons: one was of course to provide income for himself and his family, the other was to tell a good story. Even at Baum's worst, he was still very entertaining. And he tried many ways to tell his stories, prose, poetry, songs, stage, and even film. (I'm still surprised that he never attempted to record his voice.)

Baum let his imagination run free in his stories, and in his fantasies, he created a world in which people and creatures of all types live alongside each other. In his pseudonymous works, he created daring adventures and tales of civilian life featuring characters who were at least amusing.

So what do we take away from Baum?

If you're creative, create what you want. Find the right avenue, but know that sometimes the audience isn't there for it yet. But they'll never find it it you don't get it out.

If it wasn't for Baum's works, I wouldn't have met a lot of my current friends. The friends who I'm myself with and don't have to lie to. Friends from across the country and around the world. Now I'm chairing a convention celebrating his legacy that a lot of them are coming to.

Thank you, L. Frank Baum. Thank you.

What are your thoughts about how L. Frank Baum affected you? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

The Royal Podcast of Oz: 100 Years of the Tin Woodman of Oz

To celebrate L. Frank Baum's birthday, the Royal Podcast of Oz presents an excerpt from The Tin Woodman of Oz, celebrating its centennial this year, read by Phil Chenevert.

You can download Phil's complete reading of The Tin Woodman of Oz for free from

 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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Register for OzCon International today!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz - OzCon International: James Ortiz

OzCon International Chairman Jay Davis chats with Guest of Honor James Ortiz. Find out why James created the play The Woodsman and what he's looking forward to at OzCon!

 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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Register for OzCon International today!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Woodsman

When it was announced that I would be chairing OzCon 2018, I knew I wanted to reach out to one potential guest of honor in particular: James Ortiz.

James is the co-creator of the one-act play The Woodsman, a somewhat surreal experience that retells the story of how Nick Chopper came to be the Tin Woodman, based on the account in The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I had to admit, I wasn't familiar with The Woodsman, but I knew about it thanks to editing the Oz and Ends column for The Baum Bugle. A particular contributor sent me several updates about the show, so many that I had to remind him that we couldn't possibly use them all. Just that the show was opening, how long it'd be running, and a broadcast of the recording airing and appearing on BroadwayHD as an exclusive.

Well, now I have seen it. And everything positive I'd heard about the show was true. The show uses mainly music, visuals and human-produced sound effects to tell the story, the most dialogue being in an opening monologue to set the stage of this world. The characters of the Tin Woodman, the Wicked Witch and the animals of Oz are created through puppets, animated by actors onstage dressed as the Munchkins. Being a theatrical production, the audience is to use their imagination to fill in the gaps and pretend those people aren't there.

The show might be considered by some to be dark with the very creepy Wicked Witch and the original story of a man being dismembered being presented faithfully. Yet there's a spirit of whimsy present in the proceedings that feels right for Oz.

Well, luckily for OzCon, James did agree to attend, and he will be talking about some of the creation of the play in addition to screening a video recording of it. So, you can actually see it and learn more about it at OzCon this year if you register for it.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

New OzCon announcements!

There has been some shakeups with OzCon, and we're excited to tell you about it.

First of all, if you wanted to go to OzCon, but can only attend Friday or Saturday instead of the whole weekend, you're in luck! Single day registrations are now available! Check the bottom of the registration page at the OzCon website.

Another thing is we have a new special guest lineup: James Ortiz of The Woodsman, Journey Back to Oz expert Andy Mangels, Royal Historian Rachel Cosgrove Payes' son Robert Payes, and Aljean Harmetz of The Making of the Wizard of Oz are all still coming, but now they're joined by two guests with special connections to MGM's The Wizard of Oz: Barry Bregman, grandson of Tin Man Jack Haley, and Christianna Rickard, niece of Scarecrow Ray Bolger.

Barry is a music producer who helped compile The Heart of the Tin Man: The Collected Writings of Jack Haley, and Christianna is the author of A Legend in Straw: The Spirit of my Uncle Ray Bolger.

There should be opportunities for you to not only purchase copies at OzCon, but get them signed as well, and that's just two of the people who'll be doing signings! More announcements are to follow soon! Keep posted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Read-Along with Return to Oz

We now come to the next section in seeing how "Return to Oz" is adapted from film (back) to book for merchandise tie-in.   Here we have a Read-Along, whether it was with records or tape cassettes.

This is not the only Read-Along treatment, however, considering the scarcity of that other one, I may devote a post to that.  But for for let's focus on this one.

Like many other books that told the film's story, these pages were a condensed version using photographs instead of making new illustrations - which isn't a bad thing because there are some rarely seen images here.

The books are both square shaped with the Tape Cassette being not as wide as the Record, allowing the pictures inside to have a bit more imagery shown and seen on the furthest edge of the pages.
And yes, it's possible the covers have a slightly different tint to their colouring, depending on how they were printed (or exposed to conditions on shelf).

The voices, including a Narrator, are performed by a small cast of British-sounding sound-alikes, the best being a girl who sounds a lot like Fairuza Balk!

This is actually a good and nice short adaptation of the film, but with subtle changes to the context that many people wouldn't notice:
* Billina is described as Dorothy's pet
* Aunt Em does mention taking Dorothy to see a doctor, but Doctor Worley is not mentioned by name or even actually acknowledged (but he is in a photo).  It is Nurse Wilson who gets the attention, who straps Dorothy to a table and "a huge electric machine" - the lightning allows a blonde girl to suddenly free Dorothy and escape with her into the storm.
* No mention of finding the old farmhouse (or a lunch-pail tree, but it its pick is seen in photo), just the broken yellow brick road which leads to the ruined Emerald City - there Dorothy encounters the Wheelers, the Head saying how "the Nome King rules now" and that they should take Dorothy to Mombi because "you know of the Scarecrow" - Dorothy escapes them.
* Tik-Tok is still under His Majesty the Scarecrow's instructions to wait for Dorothy, he somehow knows of Princess Mombi and takes Dorothy to her, without fighting the Wheelers (this moment uses an image of the two characters underground, not in the hidden chamber).  Tik-Tok also knows that the Nome King hates chickens and hides Billina in Jack's head when they arrive on the Mountain later.
* While it is established that the Nome King has the Ruby Slippers ("Things have changed since you were last here, Dorothy.  Did you know you left something behind?"), there is nothing about his transformation - he apparently only offers the game for DOROTHY to play, but if she guesses wrong then she and her friends will be turned into ornaments just like the Scarecrow.
Naturally, Dorothy makes a lucky guess "The pincushion! It's green - like the Emerald City!"
* Oddly, despite the image of a GIANT Mountainous Nome King, he is written to "burst angrily through the door" - there is no mention of Mombi following Dorothy to warn him, being caged or any of her demise/punishment being mentioned.  Only the King's demise is retained and Dorothy reclaiming the Ruby Slippers to make her wishes (which is returning to the Emerald City and "all life to be returned to this land" separately).
* Scarecrow suggests Dorothy to be Queen, which she wants to but can't and wishes, allowing the blonde girl to step out from the glass as Ozma, long lost queen of Oz (again, Tik-Tok knows!).
* Ozma is on the throne (only the image shows her wearing the Ruby Slippers - no confirmation in text) and that allows Dorothy to say good-bye promising to never forget her friends, as a mist carries her back to Aunt Em, worried that Dorothy had drowned but is glad to be safe and welcomes her back, saying she will "never worry about your dreams again!"

So here is an actually decent short retelling of the film, even if it loses some vital key details with some minor bad guys and gives Tik-Tok slightly more of a role.

As good as it is having a book that includes rare photographs from the film, I do now wonder what it would be like if it had been given nice new illustrated paintings, like the Disneyland Records?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Chatting With Walter Krueger

Jay chats with fellow Oz fan and collector Walter Krueger!

 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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oz Updates

It might be mid to late March, but here we go.

Just yesterday, I finally renewed my membership for The International Wizard of Oz Club. I know we have a picture on the side advertising the Club (and when the blog gets linked to on Facebook, Facebook likes to use it as the thumbnail), but they deserve some extra talk.

The International Wizard of Oz Club has been the main assemblage for Oz fans since 1957. In The Baum Bugle (the club's journal released three times yearly), research about Oz, Baum, etc. not only advanced but was out there for other fans to read and use as a basis for their own research. Today, in addition to research, The Baum Bugle prints interviews of people who create new Oz material and reviews of books and other ways Oz has been presented. For fans of the MGM film The Wizard of Oz, there is often new or rarely seen material about the film.

The Club also promotes interactivity among fans, including at museum exhibits and conventions. It's under their auspices that Oziana was created, the magazine containing some of the earliest fan-created Oz stories and artwork. Oziana continues to this day and is available for all to purchase through its print on demand publisher at

So, you know, if you're an Oz fan, join the International Wizard of Oz Club!

(And if you don't keep your membership up to date, don't complain when you miss an issue of The Baum Bugle. Due to the limited print run, it's difficult to get previous issues to members when they join after those have been printed.)

Another thing is get yourself going to OzCon International this year! Colin and I are working hard to make it a great time for Oz fans. We're in a great location at Kellogg West on the Cal-Poly campus in Pomona, California on August 10-12.
We're bringing in all the Oz Con favorites:
  • Quizzes - There are four different quizzes for Oz fans. One of them is about the MGM film and general Oz pop culture. The other three are for fans of the books: the junior quiz focuses specifically on the Baum book of the year, in this case, The Tin Woodman of Oz; the standard quiz, covering L. Frank Baum's fourteen novels; and the fiendishly difficult Master's quiz, based on the Famous Forty Oz books. Prizes are awarded for this one.
  • Show and Tell - Bring a special Oz treasure from your collection: a book, a one of a kind piece of memorabilia, something rare, or just something that means something special to you. You can show it off and share why it matters. It's a very open forum program.
  • Costume Contest - Also fondly known as the Masquerade, attendees get into costume (and often into character) as favorite or even—sometimes—original Oz characters. Prizes are awarded for multiple categories: best child's costume, best adult's costume, best group costume, best theme costume.
  • Live Presentations - This will be our fifth year with multi track programming to give attendees more options. Special guests and attendees present talks and panels discussing many different aspects of Oz.
  • Auction - This auction is presented by the International Wizard of Oz Club and offers many highly collectible items from early edition books to rare items. There is both a live auction and a silent auction.
  • In addition, there's the presentation of the Winkie Award and as the board of the International Wizard of Oz Club will be joining us, we will also see the presentation of the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award. In addition, the Club will be presenting awards for the contests. (See below!)
  • Special Guests - Each year we invite notable people with a connection to Oz or fans. This year, our current lineup consists of James Ortiz, the co-creator of the off-Broadway hit The Woodsman; comics writer and historian Andy Mangels; son of The Hidden Valley of Oz author Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Robert Payes; The Making of the Wizard of Oz author Aljean Harmetz will be attending, as will fandom extraordinaries John and Bjo Trimble. We are looking into additional special guests. Other fans of note attending include Sarah Hadley and Nick Campbell, the pair behind the Burzee blog as well as Sarah taking over as editor in chief of The Baum Bugle. Also coming is Dina Schiff Massachi from UNC Charlotte, who will be speaking about various incarnations of the Tin Woodman.
In addition to all the regular Oz Con fun, since Pomona is so close, Oz con attendees are being invited to the spend the day after the convention at Disneyland. It's noted that this is not an official part of the convention, but a separate event.

There is early talk of the day after Disneyland of fans going to some sites of interest to Oz fans. Details on that are pending.

So, go ahead, register for OzCon, book your hotel room, plan your days and make it one pretty awesome summer vacation!

Finally, the International Wizard of Oz Club is sponsoring a few contests with cash prizes! As mentioned above, awards will be presented at OzCon, but it is not required to attend or even be a member of the Club to enter or win.

There are three categories for the contest: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Art. Fiction covers short stories (maximum of 10,000 words), poetry and drama scripts about Oz. I managed to win this one five years ago with The Way of a Lion. Non-fiction is a written piece about Oz. It could be you writing about your own experiences with Oz, or it could be about a specific piece of Oz lore or the Oz phenomenon of your interest. These must be submitted by the deadline (June 15 for hard copy, July 1 for digital) to be eligible. All work must be original and not published before OzCon.

Art is different and a copy of it must be sent to the convention. If you're sending the original piece, you must arrange for it to be returned if you want it back. This could be a painting, a pencil drawing, a watercolor or colored pencil piece, a sculpture, an original doll or plush figure, one year a short original animated video playing on a loop was submitted. The deadline for submitting these is July 15.

For details on submitting pieces, please refer to the rules.

So, between OzCon and the contests, Oz fans could win big this summer! This could very well be a summer for the books!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Jane Albright Tours The Toys of Oz

International Wizard of Oz Club president Jane Albright shared this video online recently. From January 14 to August 20, 2017, Kansas City's National Museum of Toys and Miniatures featured the exhibit Over the Rainbow: Toys from the Land of Oz.

The exhibit mainly featured merchandise and occasional costumes and props. Not everything in the exhibit is exactly a toy, but there's plenty.

Jane provided many pieces seen in the exhibit and contacted other collectors who loaned various pieces for it, in many cases completing collections of rare merchandise.

In this video—initially filmed for Facebook Live, so excuse the portrait mode video—Jane tours the exhibit on its last day and explains what the pieces are. If you couldn't make it to the exhibit, this is a nice alternative. If you did, here's a way to relive it. And the real highlight is Jane's clear and informative narration.

In the video description, Jane provides a list of the collectors who loaned their pieces to the exhibit. I have copied it below:

Jane Albright
Robert Baum
Bill Beem
Dianne Breitenstein
Bill Campbell
Currie Corbin
Scott Cummings
Valerie Dunaway
Billy Ferguson
Atticus Gannaway
Micheal Gessel
Peter Hanff
Edith Hollister
David Kelleher
Walter Krueger
John Masson
Gita Morena
The Oz Museum
Richard Rutter
Aaron Schultz
Bill Thompson
Jan Vanderwall
Chris Warkala

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Disney's "Return to Oz" Comic

Our next look into the adaptions of the 1985 film "Return to Oz" focuses on one of the more widely seen paperworks, the Comic (and how inferior it actually is).Naturally, it reuses the poster used for most of the advertising.  It is a nice poster, but seeing the same art too often can be tedious, even boring.

There are quite a few things wrong with this telling: there's the art, the printing, the text, the "adjustments" and the overall story.

The art isn't really that impressive, or easy on the eyes.  The most troublesome
thing is the alignment isn't exact or matching up, so different-coloured lines are next to eachother instead of neatly on top, which can cause a slight dizzying glare.  The text is clear and fine to read, but the visuals themselves need much to be desired (so many good characters look ugly or unattractive, especially Dorothy and the Lead Wheeler).
The art is also rather unoriginal, using a majority of stills and photos to be a "model" for the panels, instead of being completely new art with new positions and angles.  This can cause some major errors in timing and context or even story - such as the severe LACK of NOMES the King calls for (none ever appear) to stop Dorothy from finishing his game, most notably the various forms and shapes he goes through (human, then even face on wall).
Now there is nothing wrong with using stills and photographs to tell a story (the "Wonderful World of Reading" Random House book does and it used a few photos not seen anywhere else), but so many of these images are reworked differently to how or when they were originally taken and are out of order and show a severe lack of originality and imagination (Towards there end, there is a photo of Dorothy waving GOOD-BYE to her friends - in this comic, that pose, including her waving hand, is used for when Dorothy enters Mombi's chamber and sees the heads in cabinets).   Only a few panels are entirely newly drawn and actually look good on their own.

Uncle Henry's leg is not broken in this retelling

Because of the (somewhat limited) technology and time of that era, the colours were flat and couldn't be enhanced with lighting and shadow, so Dorothy's dress (and main outfit) is a strong pink, even her Kansas shoes are warm coloured and have little contrast to the Ruby Slippers seen later.  In fact, much of the colouring seems rushed.
Toto is white-haired, however.  And in one panel, Doctor Worley is completely green!  Ozma has blonde hair is Kansas, but as Queen in Oz she has gone brunette.

Each and every word balloon / speech bubble either ends with an exclamation point "!" or a question mark "?", with the exception of a few sentences finishing with triple dots "..." .

One of the strangest, most bizarre and inexplicable things is how, on the way to Dr Worley's clinic, Jack Pumpkinhead (or a strikingly similar figure) can be seen in Kansas.
Why is there a Jack Pumpkinhead in Kansas?
Aunt Em and Dorothy must be so nervous they keep changing places to stand ...
When they do arrive and wait at the door, Aunt Em and Dorothy keep changing which side they are standing (Dorothy mentions hearing a scream, but Aunt Em doesn't).
Upon leaving Dorothy, Aunt Em briefly hears a distant cry (which was one of the victim patients damaged from Dr Worley's "electrical healing"), but thinks she may have imagined it.

Sitting on the corner edge of a coop floating on water is not a good idea ...  
When the storm has caused the procedure to black out, there is an awkwardly placed drawing where it looks like a man is holding a shrunken doctor to access a small intricate system.

When Dorothy and Billina approach land by chicken coop, the edges are rocks and mountains, not sands or grass and trees.

Dorothy and Billina encounter the Wheelers - who taunt with jeers and "Oink! Oink! Oink!" - soon after picking from the lunchpail tree, escape by finding a door in a rock cavern and meeting Tik-Tok who battles the Wheelers and has the Leader guide them to the ruined Emerald City (so here's a good point: it refers slightly more closely to the "Ozma of Oz" book).

Jack repeatedly thinks a talking chicken and a "talking copper kettle" are wonders - "What will they think of next?"

Mombi sleeps without her head, as in the film ... YET, her body is able to talk regardless, calling her Wheelers.  Before that, Dorothy is in a rather dark and gruesome/gloomy panel that strongly resembles the MGM scene when the WWWitch got melted, complete with burning torch and arch wall.
Dorothy, the point of sneaking around is being QUIET.
And really, how is it possible to talk without a proper mouth

When the Gump falls apart, Dorothy is horribly drawn with her legs showing from her dress.  Upon landing on the Mountain, Billina has disappeared (Dorothy also asks why everything is upside down - ?)
What possible is there to see Dorothy's legs from under her dress?It's indecent!

There is no transformation of the Nome King from rock to near-human as he already looks man-like, but he actually walks (showing his skinny little feet - he's not even wearing the Ruby Slippers!) with his visitors, talking about his ornaments, the game he proposes and directly approaches a caged Mombi.

In this comic treatment, Jack Pumpkinhead is the first to take a whack at the Nome King's Guessing Game in the Ornament Room
Apparently Scarecrow can also participate in the game, because he says "Oz" and restores a character.

It turns out that Billina had been in Jack's head and was taking a nap after laying an egg.  She may have fallen into his head when they landed, without him knowing and didn't say anything that whole time.
Anyway, Billina's simple laying of an egg makes the Nome King's mountain crumble (it doesn't poison him) which allows Dorothy to regain the Ruby Slippers and make her wish.
This is possibly the ONLY time a visual reference is made of the Nome King's mountain having a final explosion (it can be heard in the 2-disk Soundtrack from Intrada / Creature Features and is also read in the Novelization). 

Scarecrow found out from his imprisonment about Ozma (his discovery is interrupted briefly by Mombi who's "mind is gone" when the mountain fell) and Dorothy frees her from the mirror.  Another big problem is how Ozma says for Dorothy to click her heels three times and remember "there's no place like home".
It is not explained or even implied that the Ruby Slippers are given to Ozma, where they belong or even if Dorothy is granted the possibility of returning to Oz in the future.
Dorothy wakes up in her room (and their house has already been completely rebuilt by now), surrounded by her family, Aunt Em saying how they found out about the cellar full of past victims.

While I can understand a lot of people like this comic, it is actually not that good as it seems. It suffers from lacklaster quality in art, poor storytelling and abridgements that leave out vital information or expositions.

Fortunately this was not the only comic treatment the movie got ... from April 7 to July 14, it received a weekly Sunday strip printing the year it was released!
Now those pages has yet to be seen more commercially, but hopefully there will be future installments of the "Walt Disney Treasury of Classic Tales" (vols 1 - 3 already exist) that includes these strips.

If that day comes, you can be sure I'll review it!

Still, this good film could certainly do with a nice NEW comic retelling, though . . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Thundertoad's Patchwork Girl of Oz

Jay and Sam start the 2018 episodes with a discussion of Thundertoad Animation's 2005 CGI animated adaptation of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. How faithful is it? How's the visuals? Where can you get a copy? All shall be answered!

 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 and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Wizard of Oz

Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage production of the MGM Wizard of Oz finally made its debut in Australia at the beginning of 2018 (Capitol Theatre in Sydney until February 4, before moving onto Adelaide for April 3 and Melbourne May 15).

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Glinda's dress was WONDERFULLY Sparkling from afar!

This is the version of the 1939 take where Andrew Llyod Webber and Tim Rice added new extra songs to the story and a few other changes or revisions (possible SPOILERS):

* Dorothy sings "Nobody Understands Me" first,
* Miss Gulch arrives and leaves before Dorothy sings"Over the Rainbow",
* Professor Marvel sings "Wonders of the World" before the storm hits - it is at this moment Dorothy says she'll give Toto to Hunk to protect him from Miss Gulch
* During the Cyclone (an impressive, loud and thrilling scene) with the family and neighbours looking for Dorothy but also taking shelter from the storm (which was projected onto a screen on stage in front of the characters), the audience "rode" alongside Dorothy (who is not seen getting knocked unconscious by her window) as the house was lifted up into the funnel, up through the clouds with the Wicked Witch of the East flying past the window, as the house ascended into the atmosphere, before slowly heading back down "to earth" before falling into Munchkinland - Dorothy had apparently fallen out of her room and bed, landing on the ground outside her damaged house, with darkness surrounding her until Glinda appeared revealing a bright and colourful landscape ... and the sparkling footwear beside her.
* the Munchkins do wear Blue (and their clothing patterns do look like the blue willow dish), although they are not as funny or dolly or silly as the actual film's look, so characters like the Mayor, the Coroner the Lullaby League (three mothers each with a baby wrapped up) and the Lollipop Guild do not stand out from the crowd until their own musical cues
* in the Emerald City:
 - Dorothy blue-and-white gingham literally changes to GREEN-and-white on stage,
 - the Wicked Witch of the West does not appear to threaten the friends after the Tin man's rescue, nor does she skywrite "Surrender Dorothy" but does stand on a side balcony and uses a loudspeaker to warn the Citizens to spare themselves by surrendering Dorothy to her,
* the Wizard sings "Bring Me the Broomstick", which closes Act 1 (there is no "If I Were King of the Forest" number).

View from my seat

* Act 2 has the WWWitch's "Red Shoes Blues" open in the Haunted Forest
* While searching for the Witch, the signs are not seen, but Lion mentions them; and the "Jitterbug" number is not sung but it is referenced when the Friends feel stings and jolts of dancing before being attacked and (Dorothy is) captured by the flying Monkeys,
* "If We Only Had a Plan" is sung by the three guys in trying to save Dorothy,
* Dorothy reprises "Over the Rainbow" while being held captive, but says more than once "I will not cry",
* A funny scene has Toto find the Scarecrow, Tin (wood)man and Lion after escaping the Witch's castle:  Lion asks Toto where Dorothy is, but Tin man says Toto "can't talk, he's an animal!" to which Lion points to himself (an animal who CAN talk).
* Naturally, "Ding-Dong! Emerald City" is included here as a Triumphant number, although it is only the Winkie Soldiers to dance and sing alongside the friends ("Now she won't hit us with the broom any more!")
* After the Wizard's departure, Glinda reappears and sings "Already Home" to and with Dorothy (and others);  upon saying Good-byes, Dorothy says WHY she'll miss Scarecrow most of all, to console a distraught Tin man and Lion
* just like the tornado scene, the no-place-like-home scene has a moment of animation projected on to the stage screen, taking the audience through a swirling cloud funnel (though not as intense or stormy) and falling back into the Kansas landscape,
* Back in Kansas, reunited with her family (plus Professor Marvel) and left alone to rest - because she has been in a coma for the last few days and Miss Gulch has dropped the charge, a breeze reveals the Ruby Slippers in her closet, before a colourful bright Rainbow appears over her farm house's bedroom.

It was an Impressive Show:  there were screens and lights - both BRIGHT FLASHES and spotlights, use of darkness and even fog effects - projection, as well as animation, but most of all was the use of a revolving section on the stage, to allow for scene changes a rotation of views to help move the story along on a static platform.

In Kansas, the Lion's role was foreshadowed by having Zeke's jacket have a dangling cord on his back.  The farmhands also have a mischievous streak where they once shot Miss Gulch with a hose; when she mentioned this "nearly caught my death" to Em and Henry, Dorothy mutters "I wish you did".  Henry and Em also discuss how they took her in and brought her up.

One of the most interesting things I found while watching this version of the "Famous" adaptation is that, while it doesn't fully imply if it's a dream or really happening (so it very much resembles Disney's "Return to Oz" with the ending and storytelling), I did get the feeling that this had a slight psychological layer, as if Dorothy holding onto the Ruby Slippers against the Wicked Witch was an attempt of her subconscious trying to regain her confidence and become a better more reliant person for herself.  Even so, there is still the moment where Dorothy hears Aunt Em and Uncle Henry trying to call out to her when she is imprisoned by the Witch - that is a somewhat more clearer view of her guardians making contact with her unconscious, possibly comatose, self.

If I had a problem with the show, it was only that Glinda tendered to sound a bit like Karen Walker from "Will & Grace" (or the "Wicked" portrayal of 'Galinda').

Whatever view you choose to take while watching this Musical it is definitely worth a look!  And, on a personal note, much more preferable than "Wicked".
While there are many other stage versions of mGM's the Wizard of Oz, this one in particular is most interesting and refreshing, by adding in extra elements of the play and including a few details from the L Frank Baum book.

Having waited years and YEARS for this performance to finally come to Australia, it was worth the wait and I really enjoyed it!
So much so I wish I could see it again and again!  However, until the day this gets released onto DVD, I will just have to contend with the Program and songs and Youtube videos to relive these memories.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oz: Broken Kingdom

 Since switching to a more capable smartphone, I decided to install some of the recent Oz mobile games.

One of the more interesting ones is Oz: Broken Kingdom. At first glance, it looks like a standard fighting RPG with some dark Oz theme.



It is.

But, it's a book-based dark Oz theme!

The game's story follows a young woman named Ophelia who washes up on the shores of Oz with her cat, who unfortunately died during the trip, but is revived when she's transformed into a crystal cat by Ozma. Ophelia becomes a freedom fighter for Oz, joining with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and Lion.

A strange darkness has fallen over the Land of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the East has been revived and many creatures and folks have become aggressive, some even reversing their personalities. Dorothy and the Wizard are missing. Ozma has put the magic of Oz into gems to help protect it. It's up to the freedom fighters to travel through Oz and set it free once again.

There are a lot of characters from the books you'll run into during play: Tik-Tok, "Lady" Ann of Oogaboo, Professor Woggle-Bug, Kalidahs, Polychrome, Mrs. Yoop, the three Adepts, the First and Foremost of the Phanfasms, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Nome King. The big bad seems to be an original villain.

The game is played through a series of battles you enter by selecting "nodes" from a map screen. You pick one of the fighters and before you enter, you can choose what abilities you can use during the fight.

Each node enters a battle that could be one to five waves of no more than three bad guys per wave. You can choose from four abilities. One of these is free to use at all times. The others use mana, which if you've played other RPG video games, is your points for special moves. These can be offensive abilities, healing abilities, or abilities that will prepare you for a major attack on your next turn. Each turn gives you two mana to work with, and defeating a bad guy earns you an extra one.

And being an RPG, you also have a health meter that is drained as the bad guys attack you. You can use healing abilities or defense boosts to try to keep it from reaching 0. If it empties, you can use a life potion to continue your fight, but you can only do this once per battle.

Leveling up and "evolving" your heroes are of course included to encourage repeated play. The team levels up together, and experience points are earned by winning battles, completing tasks, opening chests won in the arena and upgrading abilities and companions. To "evolve" your heroes, you have to collect pearls. To upgrade your abilities, you collect cards and use essence to level them up once you have enough. Essence is earned all throughout the game with each battle, redeeming coins at the Well of Wonders, in chests won in the arena, and it's often given freely as a daily gift.

The game gives you free items every day. When you start the game, there's a screen that gives you a free gift each day, and signing in every day eventually gives you an extra one. The Great Tree of Oz gives you 25 free Emeralds every 24 hours, but the countdown to the next one begins when you collect them. Coins for the Well of Wonders in the Emerald City (which serves as the main base for the game) are given freely: a bronze coin is given once every 4 hours, and a silver coin is given once every 24 hours. The countdown to the next free coin begins when you redeem the last one. You can also purchase more coins with emeralds. Also, keep an eye on the mailbox in the Emerald City as it sometimes contains important messages that include free gifts.

The game also features an "arena," where you can fight other players throughout the world live. You pick two companions (who can be leveled up just like your abilities) to fight a randomly selected other player from anywhere in the world. Winning a match earns you trophies, losing a match costs you trophies. The more trophies you have, the higher your league, but if you lose enough matches, you can go back to a previous league. Defeating an opponent or their companion earns you a star, and when you earn 15, you can open a Star Chest which has more free items inside. Defeating your opponent instantly wins the match and earns you three stars and a chest of wood, silver or gold. Wooden chests take two hours to unlock, silver takes four, and gold takes eight, but you can use emeralds to open them right away or watch an advertisement to take an hour off of your wait time, but you can only do this once an hour. Chests contain essence, cards to upgrade your companions, and a few random items depending on what level chest you got: it could be a gem, a pearl or a coin for the Well of Wonders.

It's also possible to bolster your fighters with gems you can craft. Crafting takes essence and either ore or gems that are not equipped. You can craft ore into a common gem, then craft two common gems into an uncommon gem, and you get the idea. The higher evolved your heroes, the more gems can be equipped to them, and the more you're leveled up, the better the gems you can craft.

To encourage you to play every day, the game gives you daily tasks: upgrade three abilities, craft three gems, redeem five coins, win three battles with each fighter (you can go back and replay battles you're now overpowered for and it'll still count) and also purchasing emeralds (which I don't do). You are rewarded with experience points, essence and keys used to unlock certain nodes that'll lead you to special battles and treasures.

There is also a Rainbow Road event where you earn crystals. In Rainbow Road, you fight through increasingly difficult waves of baddies with handicaps: you only recover health after so many fights. (In regular battles, you instantly go back to full health once the battle's done.) There are also other status effects.

This being a mobile game, there's of course an item shop where you can use emeralds, crystals, essence or actual money to make purchases. Among these are pearls, gems, more emeralds and essence, cards and even adding Jack Pumpkinhead to your team of fighters. So far, I've only bought an occasional number of life potions, which are four for $.99, which seems pretty fair considering it's an item in a digital game. Money might not exist in Baum's Oz, but micro transactions keep the development of the game going. So while I'm not a fan of sinking a lot of money into a digital game, consider making an occasional purchase as a tip to the developers.

Playing through battles costs energy, which is replenished one unit every five minutes. The amount of energy you have increases by one unit every time you level up. You can also replenish your energy with an energy potion. Each series of stages generally use progressively more energy, tapping out at 10 per battle.

Leveling up tip: if you perform really well in a battle, it's marked with three stars. You can replay any battle, but if you earned three stars, you can "raid" it instead for the same amount of energy it would take to play it. Raiding gives you all the rewards you would have gotten for playing through. It's a good way to earn more essence and experience points if you have extra energy and aren't ready to progress further into the game's battles. Note that raiding is not counted towards winning a battle with a character for your daily tasks.

For being this type of RPG, the story is fairly well-done and the graphics are quite beautiful and detailed, although some depictions of the Oz characters are rather unique. The sound is also rather immersive, although it can be turned off. The Android version uses your Google login to record your progress, so presumably (but I haven't tested this) you can continue playing if you switch to another device.

If you're a gamer who enjoys Oz, Oz: Broken Kingdom might prove quite a bit of fun. It's available for iOS and Android mobile platforms.