Monday, January 30, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Movies/TV Update

The two-part version of "The Witches of Oz" (previously available on Pay-Per-View in the U.S.) will be out on DVD & Blu-Ray on April 3rd, 2012 from Image Entertainment. You can pre-order it on DVD here or Blu-Ray here.

The much talked about theatrical version of the film, re-titled "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz", will still proceed with a limited U.S. theatrical run in February, and a separate home video release to follow later on in the year.

In other news, I stumbled upon a direct-to-video movie from Fox coming out in March called "Berry Brick Road" in the Strawberry Shortcake line. As you could guess, it's Oz-themed. Doing a bit more research, I found the DVD cover for the movie online. It's out March 6th, so it comes out as a bit of a surprise that there has been no talk about it... lists it for $11.99, so you can pre-order that here.

That's all for this week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian, Aslan tells about "chinks and chasms" in between worlds that allow people to pass from one world to another. In the Oz books, however, traveling to the land of fantasy is very different.

It seems to be Baum's intention that Oz was a hidden place somewhere on Earth. Irregardless of this, some fans consider it to be in another world, or an alternate dimension. Some fans have complicated explanations.

I, however, go for Baum's intention. Saying that dimensional rifts or warps opened up every time someone went to Oz in the books is a bit much. In other works, like Narnia, it is implied there is some force who has allowed the passage to open. With the exception of The Road to Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, no one in Baum's books forces their way into fantasyland, but enters quite by accident. In most cases (such as Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, and The Scarecrow of Oz), somewhat plausible explanations are provided. (Plausible once disbelief in fairyland is suspended.)

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Oz was just an isolated country surrounded by desert. Like Alexander Volkov's Magic Land, it could have been hidden in North America. But as soon as Ozma of Oz, it was made clear this was not the case. Now, past the desert, there are other kingdoms, many of which border the ocean. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the Gump flies over the Deadly Desert, and the Scarecrow fears they're in Dorothy's outside world, but later maps of Oz show us they are simply in bordering countries. (Bordering countries that use paper dollars in money.)

So, how did that cyclone carry Dorothy's house away from Kansas, the continental United States, over the ocean, over the borderlands of Oz, and straight into Munchkin Country, luckily squashing a Wicked Witch?

Some Oz fans suspect the Good Witches may have had a hand in that happenstance. In fact, in Volkov's The Wizard of the Emerald City, the Good Witch of the North (Villina) reveals that the Wicked Witch of the East (Gingemma) was going to have the storm that brought Elli kill all human life on earth. Villina altered it so that a house that should have been abandoned would be dropped on Gingemma. It was a fluke that Elli was there at all.

In the original Wizard of Oz musical, fairies protect Dorothy's house while it is in the air. If this was Baum's intention (the moment is orchestrated wonderfully by Paul Tietjens), it seems these fairies sent Dorothy somewhere safe. Why that's on top of a witch, we don't know. Or perhaps somehow the house entered a rift in space or portal that sent Dorothy to Oz. Or it got hurled through the air. Really, really hard. And the fact that it landed on the Wicked Witch of the East was just coincidence.

None of Baum's other books have travels to fairyland this problematic. In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy is adrift at sea in a chicken coop and awakes off the coast of Ev. In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, most of the action occurs underground (which Baum later revealed in his maps to be under Boboland) which was caused by an earthquake, and later the Magic Belt brings everyone to Oz. In The Road to Oz, Ozma oddly brings Dorothy to a crossroads in a southern borderland of Oz (according to the map). I can only suppose she wanted Dorothy to have an adventure. In The Emerald City to Oz, the Magic Belt again brings Dorothy, Toto, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and (not mentioned but revealed later in the series) Eureka to Oz.

In Tik-Tok of Oz, another storm at sea brings Betsy and Hank to the Rose Kingdom, and they are later brought to Oz with the Wizard's magic. In The Scarecrow of Oz, Trot and Cap'n Bill are sucked into a whirlpool and journey underground before emerging on Pessim's island, where they fly to the Valley of Mo, and from there fly to Oz.

Thompson didn't really deviate too much from the ways to get to Oz that Baum had established. Peter is kidnapped by a balloon bird then travels with Ruggedo, wishes himself to Oz for change, and finally shipwrecked. Speedy flies to Oz but goes underground in a rocket ship first, then later is blown onto Umbrella Island by a geyser. Bob Up and Notta Bit More accidentally stumble on a magic chant that take them to the Munchkin Country of Mudge.

The curious one is the live statue Benny: he falls into Oz. This is problematic as it seemed like Oz was on the surface. We can only assume it must have been a space rift, possibly caused by that magic spell that brought him to life.

In Neill, Jenny Jump jumps high into the air and spies Oz and decides to land there. Lucky Bucky is hurled through the air by an exploding boiler and is rescued by Davy Jones the wooden whale who takes him to Oz. Snow's only case features a television screen turning into a gateway to Conjo's Island for Twink and Tom, who, with the Shaggy Man, make their way to Oz. Cosgrove's Jam flies to Oz by kite, while the McGraws and Merry send Robin and Merry off to Oz by having them fly off a merry go round.

Only two "borderland" books have people going to fairylands that are part of Oz (the two Trot books don't count here): Dot and Tot of Merryland and John Dough and the Cherub. John Dough has John Dough and Chick fly to different islands either by rocket, flying machine, or flamingo.

Merryland is more troublesome. Dot and Tot enter Merryland through a tunnel their boat floats into and are later sent out another tunnel. This would suggest Merryland is hidden in the United States, but when we see a map of Oz's surrounding countries, there's Merryland, bordering the Deadly Desert. There are three explanations: one is that there was a space rift or portal inside the first tunnel at least, and the Queen opened another one to send Dot and Tot home. Second is that Merryland was hidden in the US, but after Dot and Tot left, the Queen's fairy magic moved it to Nonestica. Third is that those tunnels were very, very, long, but Dot and Tot didn't realize it because it was dark. For that to work, the boat would have to have been moving very fast. Or it happened while Dot and Tot were asleep.

In whatever case, I see no reason in the Famous Forty Oz books (and the expanded universe stories) that Oz isn't a hidden country on Earth.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wiki-ed Witches

Recently, I've been puttering at the Royal Wiki of Oz again.

Tonight, I mentioned to Oziana editor Marcus Mebes that I'd like to have a complete index of Oziana on the wiki. He mentioned he had been wanting to compile such a thing. I had the site, so a page about Oziana is up on the wiki, listing every single issue.

Every issue can have a page, every writer can have a page, and every story can have a page.

However, Marcus and I can't do it alone. Marcus, just now, has assembled issue listings for 2005-2011. We'd need some help. This is the page we've set up for the 2011 issue. That gives you an idea of how we'd like the pages to look.

And why a new Oz wiki when there's Wikipedia with an Oz section and an Oz wiki on Wikia? Wikipedia isn't comprehensive in these areas, and won't allow the same scope of articles I want for the wiki. And I don't know who runs the Wikia wiki, which has several strange gaps and incorrect information.

Come on folks, I wanna see some action that isn't an unavoidable spammer or me updating!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

All in the family!

The fun thing about being an older brother and an Oz fan, you have younger siblings to share Oz with. It's more or less because of me that my three youngest siblings, Genevieve, Arthur, and Daniel got to see the MGM Wizard of Oz. And Disney's Return to Oz. And a large number of other Oz films as well.

Since Mom didn't approve of Oz, when she'd go away with Dad for an evening, my Oz tapes got to be watched. In fact, they even really enjoyed the silent Oz films, which I had on videocassette. (I donated them to a church sale after upgrading to DVD. I kinda wish I'd hung onto them and made sure they'd gone to actual Oz fans, but it's not really something I regret.) Along with me reading the title cards to them, we'd often create dialogue for the characters.

One case was a lot of fun. The Wonderful Land of Oz seems to have a low audio volume on video prints, so one time, we just turned the audio all the way down and made up new dialogue and songs, with no care about how well it actually fit the story. When Mombi is about to leave Tip downstairs. My sister Audrey (younger sister, but not little) ad-libbed "I'm going to climb up this ladder and then fall down and break my neck and die! Except... I don't think I want to do that. I'm a chicken. (At this point, Mombi points at Tip.) Just like you."

This was then followed by my ad-libbed song, "This cheese is as hard as a rock." Later, when Tip is holding up the cloth that held their food, saying that was the last of it, it became, "Jack, why did you dump all our food out on the ground?" Jack protests, "I had to sneeze!"

There was one accident, though. For some reason, The Jitterbug video at the end of Warner Brother's Wizard of Oz tape was enough to terrify Gen and Arthur. When they had to go bed one night, they protested they didn't want to because they were afraid of the Jitterbug. Mom told us we weren't allowed to watch fantasy movies then, something that didn't hold. (They didn't have such a bad reaction to anything in Return to Oz, except when Mombi's heads start screaming. Then they covered their eyes.)

But the real fun came when I retold them Oz and Baum stories. I more or less told straight retellings of Baum's Oz books and The Sea Fairies and maybe other fantasies, with few changes. One was that in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, they stumble into the Voe fish market, an alteration made due to the humorous way I'd say "feeesh!"

The most popular stories they'd ask for actually came from Baum's American Fairy Tales, particularly, "The Magic Bon-Bons" (which I just renamed "The Magic Candy" for simplicity's sake) and "The Box of Robbers." (Italian accents are funny!)

They didn't ask to read the Oz books and I never made them, but when I had Oz comics (either from the library or I'd added to my collection), they'd enjoy those with me willingly. When I got a copy of Dick Martin's Cut and Build the Emerald City of Oz, Daniel looked forward to the day when it would be put together, something that didn't happen until 2010.

Today, Gen lives in Texas with Audrey and her husband Shaun, where she enjoys her own interests. Arthur still lives with my parents (-ish, it's complicated) and is a fledgling cartoonist and filmmaker. Daniel lives with my oldest brother Aaron, his wife Jessica, and my niece Amber. Daniel has a shelf of books he's read, including The Chronicles of Narnia and other novels.

As for Amber, last Christmas, I decided it was past time I put some Ozzification in her life, so I gave her a copy of the Del Rey Wizard of Oz paperback and the MGM movie on DVD. Ah, we Oz fans, infecting the next generation...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Audio and Oz

In all my time reading about L. Frank Baum, something has always made me wonder: why didn't he ever make a recording of his voice? In the now long-gone Fairylogue and Radio Plays films, he appeared on film. It's even been suggested he may appear in the existing Oz Film Manufacturing Company films, although no one's been able to definitely spot him.

Baum, being an actor, merchant, and newspaper man before turning to writing for children must have had no reservations about his voice. And we know he was fascinated by new technology. There's even a phonograph in his Oz stories. So, why did he never commit his voice to phonograph? And if he ever did, why has it not turned up?

I am also unaware of any available recordings of Ruth Plumly Thompson. She was on television for an interview in 1963, and I read in The Baum Bugle how a tape of it was played at an Oz convention. It's debatable if it was video tape or audio tape, and goodness knows if it yet exists or where it is. (In fact, was that interview—which was filmed ahead of time according to another article—just junked after it aired, or has it been lost?)

I would be expecting less to find audio of John R. Neill or W.W. Denslow. But another lack of audio that has really puzzled me is Jack Snow. I mean, the guy worked for a radio station. Surely his voice had gone out on the airwaves. Who knows, there may be recorded audio of Jack Snow somewhere and we don't know it's him.

When it comes to the last two Royal Historians, we've had better luck. As I linked to over the weekend, Rachel Cosgrove Payes appeared in the documentary Oz: The American Fairyland, preserving a glimpse at her personality. In addition, David Maxine has informed me has an audio tape of Rachel at a convention he intends to transfer to digital audio and eventually share. (Or so I think. Hope I'm not misunderstanding.)

As for Eloise McGraw, David Maxine again helped out by recording a talk she gave at a Winkie Convention and has had it online for quite awhile! I find it odd I can't find video of her, though. Ah, well. That talk really gives you a look at her personality.

Other people associated with Oz have been luckier. Again with David Maxine, his 2-CD set Vintage Recordings From The 1903 Broadway Musical The Wizard Of Oz includes songs not from the show that feature some of the stars, including the original Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, Fred Stone and David Montgomery. Some of their recording include their corny jokes and give a peek at the humor of the day.

Fred Stone later appeared on the Maxwell House radio show in 1939, as part of the promotion for MGM's film version of The Wizard of Oz. He got to talk to Ray Bolger, and said Bolger would have been his choice to play the Scarecrow, more or less giving his blessing. Frank Morgan butts in, and makes the ridiculous claim to have starred in the original Broadway Wizard of Oz, but he doesn't know who Fred Stone is. He tells a ridiculous story, and Fred says it's very interesting. When Frank is finally caught in his lie, Fred leaves, giving a little laugh, saying, "That's not static, folks, it's the old, old Scarecrow!" (This has been an audio feature on Warner Brother's Wizard of Oz DVDs since 1999.)

Such delightful gems from the past could easily have been lost to us if people had not taken the trouble to preserve it. To me, preserving the past is important. New technologies arise helping to do this easily. Old books, photos and documents may be viewed easily by a good scan, meaning they only need to be put through one more use before being able to be preserved themselves. Video and audio were once expensive mediums but now can be enjoyed for free online. By these mediums, items that would once be rare and difficult to find and use in research may be used by all.

The internet has made research so easy in the past several years. Even if you can't find what you're looking for online in a digital form, you can find where to find it, whether in a library or where you can buy it. Thanks to the internet, my Oz collection has grown vastly over the past couple years. I recently began adding vinyl records to my collection. To be sure, I don't currently have a way to use them, but I think I can take care of that soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another peek at Outsiders

This was in another batch of illustrations Shawn Maldonado sent in for Outsiders last night. Yes, that is a Rubik's Cube. (Except I just call it "puzzle cube.")

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rachel Cosgrove Payes in "Oz: The American Fairyland"

In June, 2008, I got a message from a YouTube user. They've since closed their account, so there's no point in saying their screen name, the only name I knew. By this time, my Wonders of Oz and other Oz videos had kind of made me a go-to-Oz guy on YouTube. I've more or less relaxed since.

Anyway, this is what they said:
A cousin and I have been researching or family tree and we just found out that we are related to Rachel C. Payes. I thought let me give it a shot and type the name in youtube...this is you have any other info on her?
Also do you know where I can find the film OZ: The American Fairyland? 
 Unfortunately, I didn't know more about Rachel Cosgrove Payes at the time. I do now, however. And I didn't own Oz: The American Fairyland, either. However, I looked for the videotape and eventually purchased it.

Oz: The American Fairyland was an excellent (if a little dull) documentary about the origins of Oz and a look at the phenomenon as a whole. There was an odd focus on Oz dolls in the second half, and I've spotted one factual inaccuracy.

Since it was 2008 and VHS was getting harder to use, I needed to convert it to a digital version quickly. Fortunately, I had a couple other Oz transfers I needed to do so I already had most of the stuff I needed. I needed to upgrade my system, which I did in early 2009, and finally got a transfer finished.

The user contacted me again and I said I could try to get a DVD to them, but they never contacted me with their address.

Well, instead of putting it on a regular DVD myself, I burned the video file to a DVD-R as a data disc with some other things and then put it away.

However, as my family will tell you, I have THOUSANDS of DVD-Rs of data on them. And I'm VERY bad at labeling. (In fact, my brother says that is "extraordinarily true.") So, when I was re-reading Rachel Cosgrove Payes' Oz stuff for my FF+ blogs, I did want to see her interview again, but I couldn't find my video transfer. I had the VHS, but I'd upgraded my computer again and my old transfer hardware was incompatible.

Finally I managed to recover the file earlier this week and watched it again. I don't know if that person who'd contacted me is still looking for this, even if they were for real. I edited the clips of Rachel into a single video, though cutting it with VirtualDub was a little rough.

The factual inaccuracy was in that clip. John R. Neill's last Oz book was Lucky Bucky in Oz, not The Scalawagons of Oz.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting an Illustrator

So, how did I get Shawn Maldonado to illustrate The Outsiders from Oz?

To be honest, he offered. A long time ago, he tweeted on Twitter that if Nathan DeHoff or I had something to be illustrated, he'd do it. And I warned him I might take him up on it.

Not that he was actually my first choice. I asked my Scottish friend Al Cook if he'd be interested, and he was, since he enjoys drawing Oz characters but rarely has a reason for it. However, we had a snag: I was still writing the book and didn't want an illustrator to draw something I might change or remove later, thus wasting their effort. Since he was unable to schedule it and had other illustration jobs coming (plus concepts for a morbid webcomic in his head), Al eventually declined.

I also asked Sam if he'd be interested, but since he hadn't done any professional art, he wasn't sure he could do it. However, I later asked him to do "decorations," so he provided chapter headings and a design for the table of contents.

But that came after Shawn agreed to do it. I had just about always had him in mind, but considering his cartoony style for Oz, I wasn't sure if he'd be appropriate for my story, which, while it isn't a dark story, does have some heavy stuff in it. (Or at least, I think so.)

The first completed picture for the book I saw Shawn posted on his blog. I had to ask him to revise how the Wizard looked, but it looked all right. Still, it was the first chapter, which set up the two alternating plots throughout most of the book. I wasn't really sure if Shawn's work matched the tone.

In late May (Shawn was working on two other illustration jobs at the time, and I know he just finished one of them, not sure about the other one), I saw another picture. This one featured Button-Bright, who was one of the principal characters. I had previously indicated to Shawn that I wanted an "older" Button-Bright from what he'd drawn for other projects, such as "The Ransom of Button-Bright" in the 2009/2010 Oziana. I'd expected Shawn would have Button-Bright based on his look in Sky Island and The Lost Princess of Oz.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a boy with neat but shaggy hair, a t-shirt, and khaki shorts. But, for some reason, I liked it. Yes, the classic Button-Bright was a favorite of mine, but I was able to embrace this new version as well. In my writing, I was not specific as to when the story took place, willing to let the reader make up their own mind about that, if they so chose. It was definitely post-Baum. Shawn's illustrations put it in more modern times.

So, I like where Shawn is going with the illustrations, but at the time, I didn't know if he could pull off the tone I needed.

Some of my story was derived from plot elements in Baum's Oz-related The Magical Monarch of Mo, which had been illustrated by Frank Ver Beck. In fact, the Monarch of Mo himself does appear in the story. Ver Beck's illustrations showed the Monarch as a dumpy silly character. One of the next illustrations Shawn showed was the Monarch, based on his appearance in Mo, but he was tall and stout rather than squat and dumpy. It was a excellent mesh between the Mo Ver Beck showed us, while working within the world we know from John R. Neill's illustrations.

Still, the tone. Early in the story, the Wizard and Button-Bright find themselves among some ruins. On June 17, my birthday, I got an illustration of this part of the book. Shawn's picture presented a gloomy landscape with Button-Bright and the Wizard looking for a way to leave it. Perfection!

As I've assured folks, Shawn is working hard on the illustrations and he wants to complete it soon. He's been busy and 2011 wasn't kind to him at all. Unlike John R. Neill who didn't take more than a month to illustrate an Oz book, he doesn't get paid that type of salary. While I intend to compensate Shawn for his amazing art somehow (in fact, there's a few pieces of art I may offer to buy from him), it's fact that we Oz fans write our stories and create pieces of art out of a love for Oz rather than a desire to make money from it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wizard of Oz — Seta's Super NES game

The Seta Corporation got the license to make video games based on the MGM Wizard of Oz film in the early 1990s. However, only one game was created for the Super NES in 1993.

A book from the period that the game was in production actually featured the game's development, revealing that Seta was taking suggestions from players for the game. One feature they showed was changing the color of the landscape in the game. The Baum Bugle mentioned Seta was also taking suggestions for future games.

The game features music from the MGM film and some new pieces of score, digitized and rearranged into looping music. It's a little grating however. There's only so many times you can listen to 16-bit versions of "We're Off To See The Wizard," "If I Only Had A...," "Optimistic Voices," and yes, even "Over The Rainbow." As for the other pieces of music, they're not memorable.

In this game, Dorothy and Toto have been blown to Oz, where Dorothy is suddenly given the Ruby Slippers. The Wicked Witch takes Toto away, and Dorothy has to go through Oz to the Emerald City. Along the way, she is joined by a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion.

The graphics for the opening cutscenes are pretty flat. While Toto, the Tornado, and everything else moves, Dorothy is a static sprite. Other reviewers say she looks dead. That's actually pretty accurate.

The in-game sprite is an improvement, though instead of her braids and pigtails, Dorothy has her bob from her appearance from after the Wash & Brush Up scene in the film. (Other reviewers have stupidly claimed that this means she's not based on the movie.)

The appearances of Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are weird. They're both bubbles! Glinda's shows her from the shoulders up, while the Wicked Witch is just the head.

The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion have okay sprites, though none of them really call to mind Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, or Bert Lahr. (The Cowardly Lion actually looks more like a giant teddy bear with a lion's tail and mane.)

Each character has a different move set. Dorothy can kick, duck, jump, and shoot bubbles and stars that she can pick up. She can also float if you pick up a winged slipper. The Scarecrow stabs with his pitchfork, duck, and jump. The Tin Woodman uses his axe and kicks (his lack of jumping has been criticized as a flaw in a platformer game). The Cowardly Lion can slash with his claws, jump, duck, and climb trees. All characters can throw yellow gems.

Each character has their own health rate and set of lives. You can switch between characters immediately with the "select" button. You can find items to increase health and lives. For health, Dorothy has a purple bubble, the Scarecrow has tiny haystacks, the Tin Woodman has oil cans, and the Cowardly Lion has tofu. (The manual says he's a vegetarian.) For lives, Dorothy has a blue bow, the Scarecrow has a mortarboard, the Tin Woodman has a heart, and the Cowardly Lion has a badge.

Some reviewers claim that once the Cowardly Lion "dies," he doesn't come back. This is because when you get the Lion, he only has one life and if all lives for a character are depleted, they are unavailable. Permanently. I have played the game, attained extra lives for the Lion, had him die on me, and he was still available. If Dorothy loses all her lives, the game is over.

As I just said, this is a platformer game. You jump through obstacles and fight enemies to get through levels through four (yes, four!) countries in Oz before reaching the Emerald City. And book fans will likely be glad to hear that the countries do have defining colors: yellow, red, blue, and purple. However, don't get your hopes up too high, because the Munchkin Country is defined by yellow, while the Wicked Witch's land is in the purple country.

The levels are rather difficult, actually. There are barrages of enemies in virtually every level, and the few that don't have them have many pitfalls that are easy to fall prey to. Villains include giant frogs, lemon drops that drop on you, live chairs, jumping little men, guards, flying monkeys, crabs, fish, jumping dentures, cats, buzzards, and even bluebirds. Yes, even the "happy little bluebirds" want to kill you.

Each country has a "boss." In the first three countries, defeating the boss gets you your companion. To get the Scarecrow, you must defeat a giant crow. The Tin Woodman, a locomotive. The Cowardly Lion, a giant mouse with a crown. ... If they had the Queen of the Field Mice in mind, I don't know what they were thinking. The final boss is the Wicked Witch of the West, but you don't see Dorothy get Toto back for some reason.

Each country has different colored bricks to complete a road to finish the last level of each country safely. About 99 bricks does it. However, to get them all requires replaying levels. Fortunately, each one can be ended early by walking back to the beginning.

In addition, to get to the Emerald City, you have to have six tickets from each country, a fact you don't learn if you don't have the manual until you get to the Emerald City! These can be found hidden away (or just lying there) or by playing a mini-game where you play as Toto. Most of these are easy to complete, though some are tricky. They are accessed by touching a dog bone you see hanging around.

The most difficult mini-game involves clearing off numbers that you get by rolling dice. Why this is so difficult is that as you go on, you run out of numbers to clear, and if you get a number that's already been cleared off, you have to find the dog bone again and start over. If you're playing the game on a real Super NES, this would be extremely frustrating. I've played it on an emulator, and fortunately, that lets you save and restore states so you can try again without the hassle. Still, it is frustrating because it takes awhile before you get a number you can clear off.

After beating a boss or completing a country, you're given a password you can enter when you start the game so you can start from that part again.

In the Emerald City, you must find keys to go through giant emeralds that don't look like doors. Finally, you meet the Wizard, who appears in a globe and tells you that the magic of the Ruby Slippers has been depleted and now "neither witch will want them." (WHICH other witch?) Dorothy and Toto are sent home in a balloon.

The game has a lot of great ideas for a Wizard of Oz-based action platform game, but the overflow of enemies feels un-Ozzy. In addition, the difficulty is just too difficult when you start. My first attempt, I had only beaten the first level before all my lives were depleted. The game is not intuitive at all. So, this is not a game for someone who isn't a seasoned gamer. And the seasoned gamer will likely not be interested. It is a case where it failed to find an appropriate audience. The difficulty and repetitiveness required to finish the game will turn off anyone who isn't determined to complete it.

And I never figured out how to change color. There was nothing about it in the manual. (Maybe that feature was dropped before release.)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Oz News - January 2012

Jared reports Oz news, including the first Oz book of 2012, and talks to Cindy Ragni about her new site and to Peter Hanff about the origins of the Winkie Convention.

As always you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below.


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Friday, January 06, 2012

Movies/TV Update

It feels like it has been quite a while since I've typed up a movies/TV blog update! There hasn't been much to report lately. Let's get right on to it then...

A U.S. release date for Dorothy and the Witches of Oz (formerly titled The Witches of Oz) has been locked and will be announced next week along some other neat things that will go on on the website including a new trailer. You can follow @TheWitchesofOz on Twitter for the latest. By the way... I will be in the 'Special Thanks' area in the end credits of the movie! How cool is that?

Have any questions to ask director/writer Leigh Scott or producer/star/composer Eliza Swenson? The Dorothy and the Witches of Oz blog is hosting a Q & A with them! Get your questions in by January 13th and keep them appropriate. More on that here.

Our friends over at L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have put out some new desktop wallpapers on their website. For those who don't know, it's a faithful adaption of the book that they're hoping to release by the end of this year, or if not, early next.

The Dorothy of Oz Facebook page has put out a new still from the movie as a special holiday treat for the fans. You can check that out here.

Last August, actor Bruce Campbell announced that he was given a surprise role in next year's Oz, the Great and Powerful, directed by his friend Sam Raimi. Then, in November, Campbell tweeted, saying that his role was cut out of the film before filming. Now, we're hearing that he's BACK in the movie! Read more about that here.

Director Pearry Teo (who was originally said to be directed a film based on the 'Dark Oz' comics) is set to put a sinister twist on characters from Wonderland and Oz, specifically Dorothy and Alice. The project is called Bedlam Stories and is a fantasy/horror project that involves Dorothy and Alice being brought into the asylum to treat their fantasy land delusions. Two pieces of concept art for the movie as well as a poster have been released, and it definitely looks to be creepy. Teo plans to do all of the visual effects practically, so you may kill me for saying this, but I think this could have potential to be cool if done right. Check out the announcement, poster, and concept art for the movie here.

That's it for now! Enjoy your first weekend of 2012.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Wizard of Oz, 1925 and 1933

Jared and Sam painfully discuss the 1925 silent comedy film based on The Wizard of Oz then get back into Ozzy spirit by discussing the very first Oz cartoon. And they get ready for the next movie...

As always you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below:

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The Tik-Tok Man of Oz

If you've read Tik-Tok of Oz, you may have noticed that a good portion of the plot seems recycled. Basically, the main reason for this is that the book is largely the novelization of a stage play, which in turn was based on elements from earlier Oz books. From Ozma of Oz came the character of Tik-Tok as well as the basic plot structure, with a girl washing up on shore after a shipwreck and trying to rescue a prisoner of the Nome King, and the small army with only one private. Not much of Dorothy and the Wizard appears in it, but that is the source for a princess being picked from a bush. And from Road came the Shaggy Man, the Love Magnet, and Polychrome. Since the stage play wasn't intended to be part of the continuity of the books, L. Frank Baum was free to mix up earlier plots and characters. The result was Ozma of Oz, with the title later changed to The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, possibly because Tik-Tok was a more interesting character to put in the title. Also, while there is AN Ozma in the play, it isn't THE Ozma. Anyway, a draft of the libretto from when it was still called Ozma has been put up on the Internet, and in many ways it is quite close to what would eventually become the book Tik-Tok. As many people have suspected, the rather direct transition from play to novel explains many of the oddities in the book, like why the Shaggy Man doesn't immediately recognize Polychrome and Tik-Tok. Similarly, it's likely why the Nome King has a different name and title this time, Ruggedo the Metal Monarch. Perhaps because it became the third book with the Nome King as the villain, his defeat was considerably grander in the book. There's no trace of the Great Jinjin or the dragon Quox in the play, but I've seen it proposed that he was likely inspired by the mechanical dragon in stage performances of Wagner's Ring Cycle. It's certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Baum wanted to put a dragon in the play but lacked the budget, and therefore stuck him into the novel instead.

Tik-Tok is also particularly heavy on vaudeville-style humor, much of which also comes from the script. I did notice that, while Baum kept in a lot of the puns, he left out many of the topical references, possibly because he realized the play could be changed while the book was likely to remain the same way after those references were no longer relevant. What's kind of odd is how many lines of dialogue come from the play, but with a cheap joke omitted. For instance, in Act I, Scene 3 of the script, Shaggy informs Queen Ann that the Metal Monarch "[o]wns all the metal in the world--gold, silver, copper, iron, politicians, radium, tin, life-insurance agents and brass." In the book, he has a similar line: "He owns all the metal that lies underground—gold, silver, copper, brass and tin." And speaking of jokes being removed, Tik-Tok comes across as much more comically clunky in the play. In the books, he is a bit jerky and has to be wound up to function, but he doesn't run down anywhere nearly as often as in the play. The script also has a running gag where Tik-Tok misquotes a common phrase, and when corrected, says to "blame the patentee." The book of Tik-Tok presents a more consistent characterization with what we'd seen in previous volumes. It does, however, incorporate the stage Tik-Tok's habit of repeating "Pick-me-up!" after falling down, which interestingly also appeared in the movie Return to Oz. I suspect the screenwriter for the film must have read Tik-Tok, and the reference to Tik-Tok as "Royal Army of Oz" adds credence to this. Tik-Tok is never the Army of Oz (that's the job of the Soldier with Green Whiskers), but he IS the Army of Oogaboo in Tik-Tok. Another strange scene from the play involves Betsy (known as Betsy Baker in this draft of the script, but later called Betsy Bobbin, which is actually a name from a nursery rhyme) getting hold of the Love Magnet and Shaggy and Tik-Tok getting into a duel over her, during which Shaggy presses the mechanical man's self-destruct button. Ruggedo eventually puts Tik-Tok back together again. Obviously this bit didn't appear in the book, but there is a similar occurrence in the Little Wizard Story "Tik-Tok and the Nome King," in which Ruggedo breaks Tik-Tok and Kaliko reassembles him. The King's reaction to seeing the restored copper man is much the same as Shaggy's in the play.

If I may mention one final oddity about the script, it's that Betsy initially arrives in the Rose Kingdom with both Hank the Mule and a chicken named Baden-Baden, but after the first scene the chicken disappears entirely. I have to wonder if Baum introduced the chicken with the intention of incorporating the Nome King's fear of eggs into the plot, but later decided against it, and forgot to edit out the mentions of Baden-Baden in the first scene. Eggs do come into Ruggedo's defeat in the book, but a chicken doesn't. I have no idea whether Baden-Baden made it into any actual performances of the Tik-Tok Man play, but I suspect she didn't.

Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad

Well, I'm done with the second Aunt Jane's Nieces book.

Oh, the worries of the rich! Uncle John bought a business out of mercy, as it was failing and the eventual failure wouldn't ruin him, and somehow it flourished again. So, he has a lot of money to get rid of suddenly. So, what does he do? Go to Europe with the nieces!

Patsy and Beth are glad to get the trip, but Louise's mother has an ulterior motive: a young man is courting Louise, but he has been disinherited. Louise loves him, but as her mother wants her to marry into wealth, this is disapproved of.

On their way to Italy, they witness Mount Vesuvius erupting and meet the young Count Ferralti. During their travels in Italy, Uncle John and Ferralti are kidnapped by a brigand named Il Duca who wants them to buy ancient jewelery from him at exorbitant prices, or they will be killed. Ferralti is revealed to be Arthur Weldon, the young man who was courting Louise.

While Uncle John is kidnapped, he discovers that Arthur is of Sicilian descent by his mother, and his father has recently been killed in a railway accident before his son could be removed from the will. In fact, Arthur's mother was the sister of Il Duca, who is keeping them hostage, and Il Duca's mother is Arthur's grandmother, and Il Duca's little daughter Tato is his cousin.

When Uncle John understands the money for the jewelery is to be used to raise Tato, he would prefer to donate it instead. This suggestion is not approved of. The brigand's mother tries to throw Tato into a pit, but falls in herself and dies.

Finally, Uncle John and Arthur arrange for the money to be sent to them, but the nieces (who have been joined by Kenneth and Silas Watson) arrange it so they can rescue Uncle John and Arthur without turning over the money.

Arthur makes his case plain to the nieces, and it is revealed that Louise knew who he was the whole time. Il Duca and Tato come out of hiding and apologize and Il Duca announces he's turning over a new leaf and wants to get a new, honest home set up for him and his daughter. So he asks if Tato may accompany them on their travels until he sends for her. This, they agree to.

One day, after traveling other countries, Tato vanishes. She leaves a note stating it was a trick to get the ransom money. She had stolen the key to Uncle John's trunk where he kept his money and waited until he gave it up for lost, and found where Arthur had his money hidden. She writes that they will never see her again, she and her father will change names and live off their stolen money until she marries.

Although they are dismayed that their friend betrayed them, they write the money off as a loss and conclude their travels.

What I find a little off about Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad is that the most exciting part of the story doesn't involve the nieces. We have a travelogue, then an exciting visit to the hidden valley where Il Duca keeps hostages. But this mainly focuses on Uncle John and Arthur. The nieces do get to be heroines by scheming with Kenneth and Silas on how to rescue Uncle John without turning over the money, but in the end, they get tricked most wickedly.

Baum is often at his best when he has his characters' lives hanging in the balance, and this spurs on the part of the book where Uncle John and Arthur are held hostage. He didn't do this in the Oz books, or at least, not for a long period of time. (An exception is in Glinda of Oz, in which a similar plot, not involving death, is explored in how to rescue the people from the submerged Skeezer Island.) These types of plots also drive plots in books like The Flying Girl and Her Chum, The Boy Fortune Hunters series, and some scenes in The Last Egyptian and Daughters of Destiny.

Also, Baum turns to a favorite theme of deception. It comes up quite often in his work, whether the deceiver's intent is malicious or not. The Wizard has successfully deceived the entire land of Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and later tricks the Mangaboos in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. The Nome King in Ozma of Oz traps Ozma's rescue party under a guise of good nature and later lies to Kiki Aru to win his help. Queen Zixi of Ix finds the titular character hiding her age in a magical manner, while Prince Marvel in The Enchanted Island of Yew hides his true identity from almost the entire island. In Daughters of Destiny, the Khan of Baluchistan dies and as the rightful heir doesn't want the throne, someone else assumes his identity. And, as my final example (but by no means the last in Baum), Sam Steele's Adventures on Land and Sea (or The Boy Fortune Hunters in Alaska) and Annabel both involve a would-be benefactor hiding a fortune from the rightful owners.

Finally, Baum exhibits his fascination with other cultures. While he was a proud American, he had to respect other gorgeous countries, even though many times the characters encountered are dishonest and not completely good-natured. Baum reassures us that not everyone abroad is bad, and in his defense, if there weren't disagreeable characters in the lands his main characters visit, it would be a rather dull story. Baum's international characters also sound different, even though sometimes his depiction of their dialect isn't flattering. That doesn't really happen here, though.

However, a lot of Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad is just travelogue. Better examples of Baum's plots may be found elsewhere. Still, as a work of Baum, the first Royal Historian of Oz, it shouldn't be passed up.

I'm rotating my reading between my Baum Bugle backlog and also started reading Oziana from the beginning, so I'm not jumping into Aunt Jane's Nieces at Millville quite yet. And I also have The Fate of a Crown and some Thompson works as well. So, these Aunt Jane's Nieces blogs might not quite be so regular. Keep reading, folks!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Royal Explorers of Oz: The Voyage of 'The Crescent Moon' — Now on sale!

As promised, the first Oz book of 2012 is now on sale!

Prince Bobo of Boboland is on a mighty quest: to unify the Nonestic nations against such threats as the Phanfasms and the Mimics! But with his ego, can he successfully carry it out?

Captain Salt is exploring the Nonestic Ocean once more with his faithful crew, Ato, Tandy, Roger the Read Bird, and Nikobo the hippopotamus. They soon gain a few extra members for their crew in Arko and Orpa the mer-folk couple, and Sally the Sea Fairy.

Little do any of them realize that they are setting out for an adventure that will change all of them forever.

The Royal Explorers of Oz is a trilogy based on the fantasies of L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson.

The Voyage of The Crescent Moon
by Marcus Mebes, Jared Davis, and Jeff Rester
Illustrations by John Troutman and Alejandro Garcia
Available now

Order before January 7th and use the coupon code ONEMORETHING for 25% off

Coming soon
The Outsiders from Oz
by Jared Davis
Illustrations by S.P. Maldonado with decorations by Sam Milazzo

 The Crescent Moon Over Tarara
 The Scourge of The Crescent Moon
by Marcus Mebes, Jared Davis, and Jeff Rester
Illustrations by John Troutman and Alejandro Garcia