Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Returning to Oz Episode 32

Well, the final episode of "Returning to Oz" is online. After some wonderful music, we get an introduction with Aaron Pacentine, Aaron Schultz, and Celia Foster.

Then we move on to an audio drama of a man trying to find a specific book.

We then return to Aaron and Aaron, who pretty much lay out the ground work of how this final episode will run.

Now, we move into hearing from Oz fans who get to voice their opinions on the two most popular movies based on L. Frank Baum's works.

Next up is an interview with Joshua Dudley, who has been working on the final installment of his "Lost in Oz" books. He also mentions that he is making YouTube videos based on his books.

Up next is one of my latest Oz friends, Alan Cook, a Scotsman, who will have a special appearance in an episode of "Wonders" sometime soon. He gets to voice his opinions on Oz and how to find a copy of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in Scotland.

Next up is a violinist Omer Lopez who loves the Oz series, and reveals how he discovered Oz on the Internet. Believe me, after his segment, you just want to applaud!

Next up is some guy who mentions what he thinks of MGM's "Wizard of Oz" and "Return to Oz." Then there's Richard Burch of Oz Central. Some of these excerpts are from earlier episodes of Aaron's series, as well as some interviews he has done that were not directly connected with the series.

Next on is Celia Foster, who began the series with Aaron. They reminisce about working on their early episodes. Long time listeners will have some smiles and chuckles during this part.

Then is Doug Aberle and Will Vinton, who did the "Return to Oz" claymation. We hear even more from behind the scenes, including the answer to long-standing rumor than the Nome King crumbles into the Anarchy symbol.

And well... That's where it ends... There will be a video that isn't online yet for the absolute LAST part of the episode, but the whole series... wow... When you think about how many people have appeared on the series and Aaron's interviews, it really stands out as an unparalelled accomplishment. Never before has anyone made a freely available series that has gathered this many people and covered so much in an interview format.

I can still recall when I first heard about the series. I had been keeping an eye on Aaron's productions at the time. One night, I was at the library, waiting to head over to a Chapter 6 concert (yeah...), and I noticed that Aaron was starting a series with Celia Foster about "Return to Oz," and I thought, "Oh, cool! That's my favorite movie." My, how things can evolve.

It's a little sad, because I and probably several others really looked forward to each new episode of the series, and now it's finished, but it's still online for everyone to enjoy.

The episode is 89 minutes and 25 seconds long, about as long as a standard feature film. The link is here: (LINK).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Orissa Kane, Aviatress and Action Heroine

You will recall that I recently mentioned that I got Hungry Tiger Press' new reprint of The Flying Girl by L. Frank Baum.

To be accurate, they have reprinted it before in Oz-Story 3, but this new edition is still desirable for Baum collectors and scholars with that edition. One, this edition contains the Eric Shanower illustrations from Oz-Story as well as the halftone illustrations by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens. Second, the Foreword was omitted from the Oz-Story printing, but it is retained here. (I have my guess as to why it was omitted, but it is difficult for me to phrase it.) Third, it is in hardcover and in a volume by itself, making the reading a bit easier, complete with larger type.

The story tells of the Kane family, who were quite well-to-do, when the husband and father died and the family had no income save for their orange grove. Stephen Kane, one of the two children, works in a mechanic repair shop and happens to learn how to fix airplanes almost by accident, then begins to plan how to build a better one. His sister Orissa completely supports his endeavors, and helps him plan and raise money to build one.

Warning, from this point on, I will be discussing plot elements from The Flying Girl and The Flying Girl and Her Chum. If you have not read these books yet, and don't wish to have the story spoiled for you, you may not want to read further.

Baum wrote the Flying Girl series under the pseudonym of Edith Van Dyne, the same pen name he used for the Aunt Jane's Nieces series and the Mary Louise books. The Flying Girl books didn't sell quite so well as "Van Dyne's" other books. While a recent article in The Baum Bugle (Why "The Flying Girl" Crashed, The Baum Bugle Spring 2006) brought up why certain events in female aviation killed the series, I think another reason may be found in the other works of "Edith Van Dyne."

I've only read Aunt Jane's Nieces (as it is the only book from the "Van Dyne" collection not printed by Hungry Tiger Press that is available in an edition worth collecting), where at the end, the three nieces have become prim ladies. Orissa and her friend, Sybil Cumberford, are still ladies, but they are active, impulsive (though Sybil doesn't break out really until the second book), and, in book two, they exhibit some tomboyishness.

And another thing, the Flying Girl series has a stock of young, eligible bachelors: Orissa's brother Stephen and Chesty Todd, the Kane/Cumberford press agent, who proves instrumental in the outcome of Book One. While there is some interest hinted at a possible romance that could develop between Stephen and Sybil, nothing comes of it. While it may seem that Chesty and Orissa might make a perfect romance, in Book Two, it seems more obvious that a relationship may develop between him and new friend Madeline Dentry. Orissa is oddly left without a love interest.

Quite odd for a girl's book, eh?

Instead, what do we get? Why, two classic L. Frank Baum adventures, full of action and intrigue, and memorable characters who would never fit into an Oz book.

If you haven't read the books yet, I highly suggest them. I've read The Flying Girl about four times already and it has yet to get old.

Hungry Tiger Press' editions are always high quality (I've yet to have a HTP book fall apart on me), and these two reprints truly shine in their matched brilliance.

(Wishes that he could write more about the illustrations, but realizes that this has gone on for long enough.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wonders 10 and another Oz blog

Wonders 10 is now finished, another two part episode, and it's a little over 18 minutes long! (Yeah...)

(Maybe part 2 goes a bit much on the clips I use, but I put work and money into getting those clips!)

I've also found another Oz blog run by a fellow Oz fan here:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oily Oz

My father brought me a political cartoon in the newspaper, based on the MGM characters.

Generally, I don't discuss politics outside of my family members, but I get the idea. (To break my usual form, I find myself not really caring who is elected president this year. It's all literally choosing the lesser of several evils.) This cartoon has to do with the oil demand and issue.

You know... we never hear about the Tin Woodman refilling or getting a new oil can (given that the decorated one described in The Marvelous Land of Oz was just ornamental)... In Oz, do oil cans never empty?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Baum's Birthday 2008

Well, today is L. Frank Baum's birthday. If he was somehow still with us today, he'd be 152 years old.

As it is the day that it is, I should blog about something, but the truth is, I have nothing to say today. I got Hungry Tiger Press' new reprint of The Flying Girl yesterday, but have not read it yet (well, I've read the printing in Oz-Story 3 a few times), not given it a thorough looking-over, so I can't really say much about it.

I have done some work on Wonders 10 today, looking good, although it does seem hard to find pictures of Walter Murch when he wasn't quite so old as he is today.

And tomorrow, I'm seeing something that isn't Ozzy, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian with my father and older brother. (Though, they are the two biggest supporters of my Oz projects in my family.)

So, yeah, not much to talk about.

Well, let me share with you this video: I made a video celebrating Baum's 150th birthday in 2006, though I released it much too late for it to coincide with the day. That video is my 10th most watched YouTube video at the moment (I have 64). This remixed version, that I prefer to see, comes in at #47...

EDIT: Well, later on I did do something Ozzy. The exact details I'll leave unclear, just to tease you and aggravate you, but let it suffice to say that I killed a Witch.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

72 on 1

Okay, the latest Baum Bugle featured 72 covers on it's front and back covers, with a picture of L. Frank Baum imposed over it. (Well, his head does block some of the covers, all of past Bugles.)

Well, it was dated Autumn 2007, and frankly, it still feels like Autumn here. We kicked off April with snow, so it's been taking awhile for the weather to warm up. (This is not global warming, this is global cooling! Maybe the world is turning upside down.)

I had heard this issue was about to come out, but missed the notice that it had shipped, so it was a nice surprise when I opened the mailbox and found it. (Especially since it was at the end of a nice, long day at work.)

Well, this issue was a retrospective of the International Wizard of Oz Club's past 50 years. I wish I could have had this information at hand when I made the special Wonders episode about the Club.

Highlighting the issue are several articles by Club founder Justin Schiller, Martin Gardener, and David Greene. There is also a timeline of the Club, mentioning notable events from each of the past 50 years. To make this timeline even better, there are little notes and other items written by Club Members and current Club President Angelica Carpenter.

Rounding out the issue are the regular installments in Oz and Ends (where my submission, announcing Wonders right and proper in the Bugle, appeared, giving me QUITE a buzz to see my name in print*), The Oz Bookshelf, The Magic Picture, and the Oz Calendar.

Also is an entry in CuriOzity, wherein we see the earliest Oz-inspired political cartoon. (At least, it seems to be.)

Another item is that Hal Lynch, an early supporter of the Club, has passed away.

As with EVERY issue of The Baum Bugle, this is a fun read, and always a welcome entry in my mailbox.

* Well, my name has appeared in print before: a birth announcement in a special publication by the hospital I was born at, announcing all the babies born there in 1986; possibly when I got hit by a truck at age 8, and items relating to my grandparents' funerals. Yet, this is still the first time my name appeared in print due to a submission I'd made. I should work some more on that New Year's Resolution and see if maybe I can get something else in the Bugle (like a review) soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wonders 10 Opening Titles

I'm doing a different layout for opening titles on Wonders 10.

Here, and only here, you can see it before the episode is completed and put online. (Which, before that, I'm doing a quick music video for a bit of fun.)

Please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The End is coming...

I spoke with Aaron Pacentine today about the next and final episode of his series "Returning to Oz."

It sounds like it's going to be a great episode, and he told me a few things that will be in it.

As much as I'd like to share them with you, I'll leave it be and you can find out for yourself in a week or so.

Aaron is planning a new podcast series, but the focus will not be Oz, but on family films in general, though he says there may be some Oz episodes in there as well.

I'll be looking forward to this episode, I hope you will be, too.

Speaking of finales, I'm looking for someone who can sing to do an original version of "The Wonders of Oz" theme song for the "Wonders" finale. Please e-mail me for more information.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A little extra effort...

My, working on The Wonders of Oz has caused me to learn quite a bit about video editing.

In "Wonders 9," I made use of some YouTube videos of varying quality, but I managed to polish and shine them up for use in the episode.

Just tonight I processed a new video for "Wonders 10." Here's a before and after look at the video quality (using a random keyframe)...

When I do this, I use a freeware program called VirtualDub that has the best features for processing video that has been taken from low-quality source material. Sure, you can't make it look like the original photography (or in this case, cel artwork), but it doesn't have to look pixelated and dark.

Man, working with Oz sure has taught me a lot of marketable skills... Just last week I was invited to apply for an IT job, which I qualify for consideration because of skills I've learned while tackling my many Oz projects. Take that, anyone who says Oz is a waste of time!