Friday, April 29, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The True Story

So, BBC Four showed a new Oz documentary yesterday, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The True Story. (Didn't I just say that? It feels like I did.)

The documentary opens with the final moments in Oz from the classic 1939 film, but it focuses mainly on the life of L. Frank Baum, the man who created the story of the film.

The documentary focuses mainly on the type of person Baum was and his creation of Oz and how groundbreaking it was for American literature. (Carroll's Alice goes without a mention, but then, it is a different story and character.) This is done with well-researched narration, paired with historical photographs, and early film footage (including Baum's silent Oz films), and interviews with many knowledgeable people from the Oz community, such as Robert A. Baum, Gita Baum Morena, Michael Patrick Hearn, Nancy Tystad Coupal, Eric Shanower, and John Fricke (who has a lot of fun in the last 10 minutes when the MGM film is covered).

While I feel the biography did a great job of portraying who Baum was, I was surprised at some gaps in his history left uncovered. The fact that he was hesitant to create an Oz sequel, much less a series, is not mentioned at all, and neither was his pseudonymous work. And when John R. Neill's art for the later Oz books is introduced, no matter how well Eric Shanower and the rest of the wonderful talking heads try to make it sound, the documentary almost makes him sound like a usurper to Denslow's position. (The change in publisher is also left un-noted.)

Little is mentioned of the enduring legacy of Oz. No later works of Oz fiction are mentioned aside from Baum's. While we see some of Eric Shanower's art, if I had not been aware of what it was, I might have assumed it was an illustration for another edition of Baum's work. Also, the only play mentioned is the 1903 extravaganza, and aside from Baum's silent films, and the 1939 film, no other films are mentioned, not even the films for the Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, which is mentioned, though no one says "Radio-Plays."

But with those omissions, there are plenty of good points. Some photos I had not seen before. Baum's life in Aberdeen and his relocation to Chicago is highlighted very well, as is his early life and possible inspirations for Oz (though no mention of Dorothy Gage). And even though that issue of his editorials about the Indians raises its ugly head, it is explained very well, noting that this was a one-off in the tone of Baum's writing, and appropriately explaining the context.

All together, not bad for a one hour documentary, and definitely worth watching. Let's hope it comes stateside in some form. I'd recommend it for anyone wanting to know exactly what kind of person Baum was.

If the BBC iPlayer is available in your area, you can watch it at this link for a limited time.

Weekly Oz Update - #2

Angelo here.

What's been going on in Hollywood Oz-wise?

The teaser poster for L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, an independent film set to release in 2012, has been released along with a really exciting promotional image of The Tin Woodman. You can see all of that and more over at the film's official website.

Syfy UK added the Witches of Oz mini-series to their television schedule for June. However, Syfy UK said the following in a statement:
For reasons out of our control, regrettably THE WITCHES OF OZ will no longer TX in June and will now premiere on Syfy later in the year. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and do hope you're still as excited to see it as much as we are!

Thanks to Linda Iroff from Facebook for sharing that.

Speaking of The Witches of Oz...
Leigh Scott has given us his blessing to premiere a sneak peek of the film on The Royal Blog of Oz. Look for that in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wiki? We have a Wiki!

I am Ozzing out here. Again!

So, on, there is a page marked "reference section." Right now, it has a biography of L. Frank Baum that I wrote years ago and edit occasionally, and a link to some of the podcasts.

But that is going to change!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, bugs, sawhorses, pumpkinheads, Nomes, Growleywogs, I bring you... the Royal Wiki of Oz!

So, what's a wiki? It's a website (or in this case, a sub-website) with internally linked articles. And the cool part is that anyone can edit it! (Which can also be a bad part, considering the misinformed and flat-out liars out there. Which is why I monitor it with the included ATOM feed!)

I've managed to start a number of pages alone, incorporating that biography of Baum into a page about him. (And by putting it on a Wiki, I am saying, "Yes, go ahead, edit, re-write, do what you will.") Other pages are a page about The Candelabra's Glare, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, the word "Oz," The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and I've been working on a page about Dorothy today.

Of course in writing these pages, I've opened up links, but as their articles don't exist yet, they're red. Anyone, feel free to go ahead and contribute. All factual information is welcome, even if you want to feed your own vanity and create a page about yourself and your Oz work.

Pretty much, you'd have to type this into your address bar: "" and then your subject, with spaces replaced by underscores, like "Nome_King." ( ) Click on "edit this page" and get to going!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weekly Oz Update #1

Angelo here.

As Jared had mentioned in the previous blog post, I will be posting weekly updates on upcoming Oz movies in various stages of production. There have been many new developments in casting for Disney's Oz, the Great and Powerful.

Blake Lively is reportedly considering the role of Glinda. She'll most likely have to choose between Savages or Oz. Read the report here.

Director Sam Raimi and producers over at Disney are having casting disagreements over the role of one of the elder witches. Raimi wants to cast Hillary Swank, but Disney has been rushing him to offer the part to Michelle Williams. Read the report here.

John C. Reilly is reportedly in talks to play the Wizard's sidekick, whoever that is. Read the report here.

Well, that's about it for now. Keep your eyes peeled for more weekly updates.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wait, what?

Before you all come after me with torches and pitchforks, yes, I did invite Angelo Thomas to write for the Royal Blog of Oz. If you saw the review I gave his book, you may find it a surprise, but recall that I did think he needed to hone his writing skills. Thus, I have decided to do what I can to help out.

I mainly brought him on board to post a weekly news blog entry about the biggest stories right now. I instructed him to always link to a proper news story, and have maintained that I do make edits on any blog here when necessary.

As for me, I finished the first draft of my Oz book, but now we're revising, with a complete rewrite of the last chapter (as two).

Now... Back to blogging...

The Oz Odyssey by Roger Baum

This is Angelo blogging. This is my first blog on The Royal Blog of Oz, so if you don't know me well, I'm an Oz author and the youngest blogger here.

I downloaded Roger Baum's The Oz Odyssey on my Amazon Kindle last weekend. Besides Dorothy of Oz, this was my first time reading a book written by Roger. The story really starts on the first page. In fact, we don't even see Dorothy in Kansas at all. The book just starts off with her and Toto on their way to meet with the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion. They end up getting lost in the forest and throughout the entire book try to find their way out.

For starters, this book was much more MGM-inspired than I had anticipated. There is a mention that there are red bricks that form at the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road. Dorothy and Toto later discover the Red Brick Road, which is apparently a continuation of those bricks. They also meet a character that is basically a copy of the Signpost from Filmation's Journey Back to Oz. A short princess that is only a few inches tall, Bekama, to me is a poor follow-up to the China Doll Princess in Roger's Dorothy of Oz. The author doesn't even use any of the characters from L. Frank Baum's Oz books except for the famous four.

The book is well-written, but the storyline didn't flow smoothly for me. When Dorothy and Toto enter a land full of tiny people, they must turn small as well. In some parts of the book, it seems like the author just forgot that Dorothy and Toto are still six inches tall, and is sometimes unclear to the reader if they are still the same size. I had to look back and see if there was a mention of them growing back to their normal size or not several times while reading.

Does it get on your nerves when someone makes an MGM-inspired book or movie and ressurects The Wicked Witch of the West? Well, that's the case here. Turns out, the Wicked Witch of the West never died and that she thought it would be nice to go hide in a cave underground for awhile. To me, when a writer ressurects a character from a previous book, I feel like 'Really? The author couldn't even come up with their own villain?' The illustrations were gorgeous, but in my opinion, if you've seen the MGM movie, you've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and you've read Dorothy of Oz, you've already read this book. There's even a character called Tugg Jr. which is assumingly related to Tugg from Dorothy of Oz.

The writing style in this book reminded me much of L. Frank Baum's writing style, but the storyline was very repetitive of Roger's previous books and didn't really add anything new to the Oz legacy. It just didn't feel like an original Oz story because of the aspects that were heavily inspired by other works. You can purchase the book from the publisher's website. The book is available for Kindle & Nook as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Royal Historian of Oz #1-4

Maybe I'm getting into this one a little late, but here goes!

It's 2050, and Frank Fizzle is fed up. All his father Jasper does is churn out Oz books like "Nervous Nelly in Oz," despite cease and desist notices from the Official Oz Society, who were granted "eternal copyright ownership" to Oz. Frank, however, just wants an attentive father.

Jasper believes Oz exists, and when he finds a mysterious pair of silver shoes at a shop, he feels sure he knows exactly what they are. Jasper disappears for three days, then returns with a wagon filled with artifacts from Oz itself, as well as a few inhabitants, like Zik, a winged monkey, a Scoodler, and one of Jack Pumpkinhead's old heads.

However, Jasper doesn't realize what he's done. Now that Oz and our world have crossed over, there are some serious consequences. Frank winds up in Oz and a beloved Oz citizen is loose in our world and accidentally becomes the conduit for a return of an old and very dangerous enemy.

When I read some reviews, they made it sound like a revisionist version of Oz, but I was delighted to find the characters are mainly in line with Baum's original characters. And even though they're new characters, you feel for Frank and Jasper. I think the Oz fan in all of us easily relates to Jasper, while Frank feels like a real person.

As for the Official Oz Society, after being in Oz fandom for awhile, it is disturbingly easy to see people like this existing. (And personally, I wouldn't mind if there was a standard of quality that Oz books had to meet before publication.) The Society has inevitably been compared to the International Wizard of Oz Club, which, yes, you'll find some people who take Oz as serious business, but there are quite a number who are more open-minded, like Jasper.

Tommy Kovac, as I've already said, manages to keep Oz feeling like it should, with a few really well-done twists, while also keeping the story focused on the stressed relationship between Jasper and Frank. Andy Hirsch's art is cartoonish but manages to complement the writing perfectly, even though his take on the Oz characters varies quite a bit from the original art of Neill and Denslow.

Issues 1-4 are already available and at this writing, should be easy and affordable to pick up. Issue 5, the last issue, will be released in June. I'd also hope that there might be a trade paperback for people who came in late to pick up, but none has been announced.

Order issues from Mile High Comics
Order issues from Midtown Comics
Order issues from My Comic Shop
Order issues from Comic Collector Live!
Order issues on eBay
Order issues 1-4 from the publisher

And Tommy Kovac will also be at the Winkie Convention this year. Looking forward to that!

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

Jared Davis and Sam Milazzo discuss the earliest surviving Oz movie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from 1910. As always, you can listen or download at the podcast site, or use the player below.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Frogs in a Fog

Cross-posted from my own blog

Since I've addressed most of the major topics I could think of regarding the Oz books, I've been delving more into the minutiae. I'd like to know what you, the readers, think of that. Should I just rope it in until I can think of something more significant to say, or keep going with these? Anyway, I wrote a bit about Sky Island, the floating land mass from the book of the same name, in this post, but I wanted to say more on one specific place on the island, the Fog Bank that divides the Blue and Pink Countries.

As mentioned in the earlier post, this land of constant fog and rain is home to several giant animals. Most prominent, at least as far as we can tell from the brief descriptions in the book, are the enormous frogs. The members of this tribe are much larger than the human-sized Frogman, with even the smallest among them being able to carry three humans at the same time. They are ruled by a king who is ten times this size. The frogs are generally friendly, but are known to hate umbrellas, considering them an insult to their drizzly country. Phil Lewin also gives the frogs a bit of a sinister side when they return in his The Witch Queen of Oz to steal the Silver Shoes. During their visit to the Fog Bank, Trot, Cap'n Bill, and Button-Bright come across a few other oversized animals as well: a lizard, a land crab, and a turtle. The lizard, identified as "Little Lizzie" in John R. Neill's drawing, is asleep and dreaming of parsnips when the visitors encounter her. The crab, Cancer, claims to have fallen out of the Zodiac, and suffers from rheumatism in his legs. The turtle has its head and legs inside its shell, so there's no conversation there. I would not be at all surprised if there are other animals lurking in the murky country, but L. Frank Baum never introduced us to them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A thought on Munchkins

Sam's last blog made me think of something: how tall are the Munchkins?

Me, I started thinking of them as normal-sized human beings. Maybe none that are particularly tall, probably few grow over five feet high.

"But," some Baum purists will point out, "Baum says the Munchkins are as tall as Dorothy!"

Is that what he says? Way back in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we get a description of the very first people Dorothy meets in Oz:
They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, although they were, so far as looks go, many years older.

So, what do I say? Baum writes that these Munchkins were as tall Dorothy. Not that they all were. It is also noted that they were old, and it's well known that many people do get shorter with age. J.M. Barrie in his classic Peter and Wendy describes aging in a beautiful manner:
As you look at Wendy you may see her hair becoming white, and her figure little again, for all this happened long ago.

And in addition, some people just don't grow to be tall. I work with a woman who is scarcely four feet high.

John R. Neill's Munchkins were not abnormally short, and the Munchkins in Eric Shanower's The Blue Witch of Oz appear to be of normal size. W.W. Denslow drew the Munchkins at a short size, but he also drew almost everyone else in Oz at that size as well, including the Wizard, and excluding Glinda and the Soldier with the Green Whiskers.

So, that's about the size of it. "It" being the Munchkins. Or how I see it. You're welcome to disagree, and I'd love hearing your viewpoint.

And no, I definitely don't count the pint-sized Munchkins from the MGM movie as an example.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Depicting Oz: the Scarecrow

Since it's been fairly (no pun intended) quiet and uneventful here lately, now's the perfect time for another Oz Blog, but I promise this one will be as shorter, as much as it can be than the ones before!

Aside from the Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North, the SCARECROW is the first strangest character Dorothy meets in Oz. While the Munchkins and Good Witch of the North were human, the Scarecrow here is the first living human-like character.

"Its head was a small sack stuffed with straw with eyes, nose and mouth painted on to present a face. An old, pointed blue hat, that had belonged to some Munchkin, was perched on this head, and the rest of the figure was a blue suit of clothes, worn and faded, which had also been stuffed with straw. On the feet were some old boots with blue tops, such as every man wore in this country, and" the eyes were painted blue as well, with the left eye being made bigger than the right (there is some truth behind this, as the left eye tends to see better than the right *cover your right eye and look through your left, then swap over, and see for yourself*).

When it comes to some films or animations depicting the Scarecrow, some have been good and others bad, as is normal. The better ones, in my opinion and belief aside from Ray Bolger's dancing version, have been the 1910 Selig short (and maybe the 1914 Oz Manufacturing Company silent films), possibly the 1933 Ted Eshbaugh cartoon, Disney's "Return to Oz", the 1987 Pan Media anime series, Kermit in "the Muppets Wizard of Oz", maybe the 1982 Toho anime and at the end of the 2000 Sony animated "Lion of Oz", certainly Skottie Young's refreshing characterization in Marvel's latest comic line and Michael Jackson in "the Wiz" . . . and, although still too early, Sean Gates and Clayton Spinney's puppet in their independent Barnyard Studios + Used Production digital film / movie. The worse ones, however, include the 1991 Korean animated version and 1976 Australian 'Surfie'.

While it is always up to the individual to imagine the characters how they like, it must be noted that the Scarecrow is not all that human. The paint used to make his face may have been magic, but I doubt it was THAT magical to materialize such details like teeth and a tongue (since he does not need to and cannot eat, already stuffed with straw) or even eyelashes and nostrils that smell (otherwise he wouldn't have been able to help the Tin Woodman save Dorothy and Toto from the Deadly Poppy Field) - sometimes his nose been a carrot point or a rounded off part of the sack with a knot or tie. L. Frank has the Scarecrow wink to Dorothy when she first gazes at him, yet in "the Marvelous Land of Oz" the Scarecrow points out that his "eyes are not painted to shut.", so this is something to think about (the Tin Woodman Nick Chopper is said to have "tin eyelids" here).

In few screen versions or even printed versions (like David Hutchison's Manga or the 1982 Toho anime), the Scarecrow also has sticks inside his body as frameworks . . . since the character was made simply to scare away the crows from eating the corn and not go on a life-changing journey, I can't really see this being necessary.

I don't mind it if the Scarecrow has been given straw in his hat around his head to give the slight impression of hair (like the 1987 anime or the 80s Polish cut-out animation/stop-motion series), but it's the fully function of a mouth including teeth and tongue that aren't really that well needed.

Other times when the Scarecrow has been depicted, when he is not so human-like, he can also be depicted as quite clownish, like "Lion of Oz" or the Toho anime (and, I suppose, Michael Jackson's). Blue is my favourite colour, so you can assume I'd keep his colouring description.

Another important notice concerning the Scarecrow, aside from his clothing, is his height.
* he was made by Munchkins
* Munchkins are about the same height as Dorothy

In theory, the Scarecrow should be the same height as Dorothy. But it's understandable that he would be made taller, as it looks better. It's possible that there COULD be normal sized humans living in the Munchkin region, but it's clear that Munchkins occupy this Eastern domain of Oz, and since they are short people their clothes would be short too. Maybe some Munchkins are a bit taller than others, and perhaps the suit used to dress the Scarecrow had its pants unrolled at the hem so that the straw man would be more imposing to the crows rather than being short and no threat.

The Munchkins also have bells on their hats yet the Scarecrow is not mentioned to have any. Perhaps his hat lost its bells, but there's no reason for the Scarecrow not to have bells on his hat if he is to fool the crows into thinking he's a Munchkins and protect the corn.

Some films have forgotten to remember that the Scarecrow is also a (unofficial) member of the Munchkin community, having being made by one of their own farmers, so his appearance is radically (and unfortunately) different to that of the Munchkins as can be seen in the Toho anime, the MGM film (and its live versions), the Korean animated short, possibly the Muppets and the Rankin/Bass series/TV-movie.

So here's the point: although the Scarecrow is a straw stuffed man, he is also designed by Munchkins and not to be depicted too life-like.