Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Outsiders from Oz - in layout NOW

I've just got the final illustrations for The Outsiders from Oz from Shawn Maldonado and we are laying out the book right now!

So, very, very soon the book will be ready to order at last!

So, here's one last teaser image:

The Royal Podcast of Oz: MGM's The Wizard of Oz (Part 2)

Jared and Sam conclude their discussion of this classic Oz film and we hear opinions from other Oz fan.

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


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Disneyland Records: The Tin Woodman of Oz

And now for the last Disneyland Oz Story and Songs album: The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I presume the Tin Woodman was the last released of these albums. The Disneyland Wizard, Songs from the Wizard, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Woodman all are copyrighted 1969, but the Songs from the Wizard album doesn't have songs from Tin Woodman on there, suggesting it was released afterward, or they just opted not to include the songs on it. Second is that there's an article in The Baum Bugle about these albums (where I've gotten a lot of information from), and it covered this album last. Finally, the story itself was obviously adapted to conclude this little series of an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz and stories about each of Dorothy's first three friends in Oz.

The story opens with a celebration in the Emerald City, when they overhear a young man singing about how he'll find his true love. He enters and introduces himself as Woot the Wanderer. And yes, it is a young Ron Howard voicing Woot.

Woot tells about how he had a dream about a girl and he intends to find her because she's his true love. This reminds the Tin Woodman of Nimmee Aimee and he tells his origin story (which was skipped in the Wizard adaptation) and decides he will join Woot and they'll look for their true loves together. The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion join to look for their own true loves as well.

The story follows Baum's book rather faithfully with the addition of the Cowardly Lion and the looking for the true love plot for the other characters. We have Loonville, and Mrs. Yoop, who sings "I'm Mrs. Yoop, the Yookoohoo." She has a cat, and she turns the Cowardly Lion into a mouse.

The jaguar and Tommy Kwikstep are not present, and neither are the dragons Woot meets in the book.

When Ozma restores everyone, the Lion's shape of a mouse is transferred to Mrs. Yoop's cat, and Woot discovers that Polychrome is the girl he dreamed of, and they sing a song called "I've Found My True Love." They accompany Ozma back to the Emerald City, leaving the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and Lion. But soon the Lion meets a Lioness and they leave for the Emerald City.

Ku-Klip and Captain Fyter are not encountered on the trip, but the Invisible Country and the Hyp-po-gy-raf are.

The Tin Woodman finds Nimmee Aimee's home guarded by a Tin Soldier, who fights the Tin Woodman, but the Tin Woodman manages to defeat him. Nimmee Aimee reveals that the Tin Soldier was made by "the same tinsmith who helped you" for her as a replacement for the Tin Woodman when he never came back for her. However, the Wicked Witch of the East enchanted him to keep Nimmee Aimee prisoner and fight the Tn Woodman should he return. Since the Tin Soldier is not a love interest here, and there is no Chopfyt, Nimmee Aimee is happy to accept the Tin Woodman's marriage proposal at last.

The Scarecrow decides he will go back to the Emerald City, despite not having found a "Scarecrowess." However, Ozma whips one up for him, and there's a quadruple wedding as Woot, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are all wed.

I love the book The Tin Woodman of Oz, but this adaptation waters the story down. One theme in that book was that sometimes the conventional fairy tale ending isn't the happiest. This is not carried over here, with everyone getting married at the end. But I suppose the ideas of the Tin Woodman talking to his old head, a second man-turned-tin, and the confusing and disturbing Chopfyt were just too heavy for a children's record. Still, I feel like more of Baum's tone could have been retained.

Once again, the album opens into a storybook briefly retelling the story (my copy is an early one that erroneously credited the book to Ruth Plumly Thompson). However, I am disappointed in two areas: the "Scarecrowess" could have easily been Scraps the Patchwork Girl, but the illustrator chose not to do that. And we never see a picture of Nimmee Aimee. The girl by the Tin Woodman in the last picture is Dorothy.

Overall, this Tin Woodman of Oz isn't really bad, but when it's compared to the original version, it lacks in many areas.

And that concludes Disney's audio adventures in Oz. I really wish they'd find some way to re-release the Story and Songs albums.

Nathan's Thoughts on the 2011 Oziana

The theme of the 2011 Oziana is possible explanations for mysteries in the Oz series. We begin with David Tai's "Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought, Alone," which gives the Glass Cat's inner monologue upon having her pink brains replaced with clear ones and then her original brains restored.

Justice C.S. Fischer's "Blinkie of Oz" presents the possibility that Blinkie from The Scarecrow of Oz is a reconstituted Wicked Witch of the West, a theory I'd come across before. Blinkie is an odd character, first appearing in the film His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. Here, her name was Mombi, but her appearance was that of the WWW. When L. Frank Baum made the story into a novel, he renamed the character Blinkie. In my own story "Reddy and Willing," Blinkie was active during the Wicked Witch's lifetime, so I guess I don't go by the theory that they're the same. I do think the two of them might have ended up one-eyed in a similar manner, though. Odin's giving up one eye for wisdom comes to mind here, especially as Odin is mentioned explicitly in another story in this issue.

Kass Stone's "Jenny Everywhere in Oz" introduces a character who can travel between different fictional universes, an idea I've always liked. Xornom, a character who briefly appears in one of my Oz manuscripts, is of the same basic sort, although quite different in personality. "Jenny Everywhere" also deals with the popular subject of alternate versions of Oz, including ones where the Wicked Witch of the East was actually good. It features the Legion of Glindas, made up of Glindas from throughout the Ozziverse.

I've looked at Mycroft Mason's "The Solitary Sorceress of Oz" before, and think it's an interesting origin story for Glinda, although it doesn't fit with everything we've read about the sorceress' past in other tales.

Admittedly, these are apocryphal stories; there's nothing in it that contradicts the canon, as far as I can tell.

Finally, Jeffrey Rester's "Cryptic Conversations in a Cornfield" presents a take on the Scarecrow's origins that fills in some of the gaps in Ruth Plumly Thompson's Royal Book account. According to Rester's narrative, the Wicked Witch of the East used the Powder of Life on the Scarecrow before the spirit of the Emperor entered his body, but he showed no signs of life because he hadn't had his face painted on yet. I'd say this makes more sense than assuming that the spirit entered a totally lifeless body. In order to reconcile different accounts of the straw man's origin, Rester's story has the Scarecrow assembled in stages, which gets a little awkward. I suppose that's what he had to work with, though, and I appreciate the desire for consistency. The tale gives us a look into the character of the Wicked Witch of the East, who hasn't appeared in that many Oz stories due to her having died right when Dorothy first arrived in the magical land. This is also the one in which Odin's ravens Hugin and Munin make an appearance.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Disneyland Records: The Cowardly Lion of Oz

For the uninformed: you might be thinking "Disney adapted a Ruth Plumy Thompson book?" Well... No. It says on the inside "Based on the book by Ruth Plumly Thompson," but there's Notta sign of Thompson's plot anywhere.

So, this album was the only one in which we had an entirely original story by the folks at Disneyland Records. Oz fans also seek this one out because some of the songs were originally intended for The Rainbow Road to Oz. Those wanting just the songs can also look for them on The Songs from the Wizard of Oz (Plus Songs About the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion) album, in which they appear on the B side, albeit in a different order.

This was the hardest of the four Story and Songs albums for me to track down. I'd only once seen it on eBay and had had to pass on it then. Their Wizard of Oz and Tin Woodman (next time!) seem to be easy to find, while Scarecrow (which one fan told me he considered the rarest), I saw a copy at the Winkie Silent Auction last year and found two different copies online when I bought mine. I managed to find Cowardly Lion through an Amazon seller who had a really low price for it. Not only was the low price a draw for me, but I seriously couldn't find it anywhere else. Well, if any are rare, I'm glad to say I own one copy of each in my collection!

Now, onto the story. The Cowardly Lion lives in his palace, which he sings about in "Living A Lovely Life," which seems to have been one of the Rainbow Road songs. Then one day, he hears the Oz-alarm go off, alerting him that there's "Trouble in Oz" (another song), so he heads to Glinda's palace, where she tells him that Duke Grimwald of the Prattling Country (a neighboring country of Oz, I may have gotten the name wrong) has had Prince Paul turned into a puppet by Smarmy the Witch. The prince is prisoner of a puppeteer named Glarm, and Glinda wants the Cowardly Lion to find and rescue the Prince before Grimwald declares war on Oz so he can discredit the Prattling King Maydor and become king himself when he "rescues" Paul.

The Cowardly Lion sets out and meets a girl named Forget-Me-Not who forgets everything, including her own name. She's puzzling over an Ozphabet book, which the Cowardly Lion explains to her in the song "The Ozphabet." H is for Scarecrow, because he's hay-filled (which we know is inaccurate because the Scarecrow thinks hay is an inferior stuffing material); T is for Woodman, because he's made of tin; G is for Tea, because it's green; C is for Lion, because he's cowardly (or cute).

Forget-Me-Not is reminded that she saw a puppet show in a nearby town, so she joins the Cowardly Lion in his search. However, Smarmy pops up and defies the Lion, making him fall into a pit, and she sings "Just Call Smarmy." But Forget-Me-Not helps the Lion out when the witch leaves, and they soon enter the town.

They find the puppet show (which is performing a song called "The Puppet Polka"), and identify the puppeteer as Glarm. They make a tree outside the town their base and sneak back at night to find the Prince. Using a puppet-scope (one of many tools Glinda provided), they are able to identify the Prince and take him back to the tree.

At the tree, Forget-Me-Not discovers the doll she's been carrying with her and left at the tree to mark it as her base has had sap dripping on it. However, the doll begins to talk and says it's an enchanted Princess Flora, Prince Paul's fiancee. She further identifies Forget-Me-Not as a daughter of a Prattling courtier.

So, they decide they need to get the antidote for the enchantments from Smarmy, so they go back to Glarm, who tells them Smarmy is in his wagon. But when they foolishly enter, they are locked in and are told by an outside Smarmy that they will all be turned to puppets. However, the Lion whips out an Ozmagnatron that pulls Smarmy and Glarm through a hole into the wagon, knocking them out cold. A bottle marked "Antidote" falls out of Smarmy's pocket and is used to restore Paul and Flora.

Tying up the two villains, they head to Glinda's. Paul, Flora, and Forget-Me-Not are returned home, but not before King Maydor declares an Oziday, which is a holiday anywhere else. (In the Ozphabet, you find it under J for "joyous.") The Lion tells Glinda he wasn't so sure of himself at times, but she assures him with the song "If You'll Just Believe" (another Rainbow Road song) that she believed in him all the time.

If you remember my blog about Thompson's actual book The Cowardly Lion of Oz, I didn't like it that much. So, I think Disneyland Records did all right by opting not to adapt it.

Still, I do have to wonder if they licensed it as Thompson's name is on the record. While it's true anyone could title a story The Cowardly Lion of Oz, they would have no problems using it as long as they didn't use Thompson's material. But her name is on there! Still, Thompson had long thought Disney would find Oz a perfect venue, so if they did do any rights handling with her, she probably would have been thrilled. However, this is just speculation here.

The songs are pretty fun and enjoyable, but I think Side 1 has too many. "Living a Lovely Life" is too quickly followed by "Trouble in Oz." In fact, Side 1 doesn't have much of the plot, either. In the 11-page picture book the album opens into, the entire plot of the first side is told on the first two pages.

But overall, it's a pretty good story, Disney's The Cowardly Lion of Oz. Though it does beg the question, what on earth is the Cowardly Lion going to do with a lifetime pass to Disneyland?

(Sorry for the image quality. Since my scanner is not large enough to scan a record album, I had to photograph instead.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Inspiring Power of Oz

Of all the fantasy series ever written, it is hard to imagine one that has proved so influential as the Oz books.

First off, the Oz books have something few other books have. C. Warren Hollister described it as a "3-dimensionality." Despite the more modern criticisms of little character development, the characters seem to come to life right off the page because they are so well defined. When Baum finally adopts the title of "Royal Historian of Oz," you don't think twice, you know he deserves it. Many Oz fans cannot bring themselves to truly think Oz does not exist, and the few who do wish it did.

Another exciting element in the Oz books is how the world of Oz develops. In the Oz books, Oz is part of a fantasy world that is explored more and more throughout the series unfolding with new lands, characters, and adventures. When fans of the books discover the existence of Baum's other fantasies that take place in the world of Oz, they often seek them out to see other parts of this world unfold.

Unlike today's fantasies (Harry Potter, I'm looking at you) back stories are not set up in earlier Oz books, instead you're told what you need to know in each book. This isn't something that is done now, as book series are often designed to be developed into multimedia franchises. But back in the early part of the 20th century, it was too pretentious for an author or publisher to expect every reader to have read every book in a series and then keep track of these bits of continuity. The Oz books were designed as standalone stories that were also a series.

To be sure, there are continuity errors in the Oz books, but fans don't mind. It makes them think, and in some cases, it feels like historical documents that contradict each other in small ways.

It is, in fact, the engaging nature of the Oz books which is why they have been adapted so many times and why so many additional Oz books have been written by fans. When one reads the Oz books, they can picture the story in their imagination, and sometimes these depictions are so vivid, the reader cannot help but bring them out in their own way.

Characters, places, and other items stick out from the history of the world of Oz and creative readers will often pick up on these and develop new stories based on them, unfolding the world of Oz even further. Some who read the Oz books notice these and are inspired to redevelop them in ways completely independent of established history with mixed results.

That is why the Oz books are one of the most endearing and longest-lasting series of books ever. The world of Oz and its people appeal to our imaginations so much that they are welcomed eagerly in their many forms.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" Louisville Premiere!

Tonight I attended the Louisville, Kentucky premiere of Leigh Scott's "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz" movie! It was amazing. I had already met Leigh Scott, Al Snow, and Barry Ratcliffe; but today I got to meet Ashe Parker, who has a couple of small parts in the movie. The first thing she said to me was, "do you have an accent? Lemme hear you talk." We are both from Kentucky, and she has a nice little country twang to her voice unlike me. We got our picture taken together... sorry for the blurriness, folks. Taken on a cell phone...

Barry and Al were at a table set up for signing posters and postcards, so my friend and I went over there to get an autograph. Barry immediately recognized me and announced that I had arrived. Then Leigh Scott came over and gave me a copy of the soundtrack for the movie that he had promised me awhile back. We all got our picture taken together, but sadly, I don't have it. There was a photographer there taking photos of everything, but I don't have those yet. So, you'll have to settle for a cell phone picture of just Leigh, Al, and I.

Yeah, no one was really focused on taking the picture... maybe the ones the photographer took will look better?

Anyhoo, after the picture, I talked to Al a bit. Fun fact for you diehard Oz fans, Al has actually read all of the Oz books! He asked me which ones were my favorites, and which ones I've read and haven't read. Really cool guy, but a little intimidating...

By that point, it was 7:15, and the movie was about to start. The movie started a few minutes late, because they had to wait for everyone to get into the theater. Barry gave a nice introduction, and the movie started!

Let me just say without spoiling much, that the beginning blew me (and everyone else in the audience) away completely. It was really an unexpected surprise, and I loved it! I think that Oz fans that get to see the movie will really respond well to that, too. They cut about 20 minutes out since I've seen it, and I really liked seeing the movie on the big screen and the audience's reaction.

The event was pretty successful. The theater was pretty much full, and everyone was excited to see it. There were some great questions in the Q&A, and you could tell a couple people really did their homework. Leigh talked about the sequel a bit, and explained the references in the movie to Wonderland and Neverland.

After the movie, as I was walking out, Leigh stopped me and asked what I thought of the movie. We talked for a bit (and I mean a couple of seconds), and then it was over. An awesome night!

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

From all the comments Eloise McGraw got about this book, I assumed it was a fan favorite.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile was published in 1953 and is one of three books Eloise McGraw wrote that took place in ancient Egypt. (And if you're wondering, no, that's not the first edition cover. That's my copy.)

Mara is a slave girl suddenly bought from her old master and made a spy for the new queen of Egypt. However, on her journey, she meets the young Sheftu and he convinces her to spy for him and Thutmose III, the step-brother of the queen who, Sheftu and a large band of Egyptians feel, should be the Pharaoh.

After settling into the court of Queen Hatshepsut, serving Thutmose's bride-to-be Inanni (who soon befriends Mara), Mara decides to become a double spy. But as she gets tangled up in her spying, she falls in love with Sheftu. But soon Mara's double spying is discovered and her life is at stake!

To be honest, this proved slow reading for me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood, but it didn't really pick up until that part I left off at there in my summary. Or perhaps I'm not extremely fond of McGraw's earliest works. (I've yet to finish Moccasin Trail.) It's a good story and all, but it was just slow reading for me, and I'm normally a voracious reader.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meeting the "Witches" cast!

Wait? Angelo blogging on a Thursday? And doing something other than a "weekly update" blog?

Yeah, you heard right! I'm blogging today because I got to meet a couple people from the new movie "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz"! Al Snow, Barry Ratcliffe, an Leigh Scott are all in town for the premiere of the movie tomorrow night here in Louisville. They stopped by my school today to talk up the movie to the 3rd-7th grade kids.

I'm in 8th grade for those who don't know, so my mom (who happens to be the Spanish teacher) came and bailed me out of class so I could go watch! Let me just say, it was surreal. I'm so used to seeing Barry and Al on screen that it was kind of weird meeting them in person.

As soon as I came in, I was greeted by Al and Barry, who were very nice. Then, Leigh came over. For those who don't know, I talk to Leigh a lot online, and we're pretty good friends. I had a total geek out moment here and was a little overwhelmed. I got a movie poster and a premiere invitation from Leigh, and we even got a photo taken together!

Barry was hysterically funny throughout their little presentation, and he really got the kids into it. They handed out posters, and took questions from kids. All of the kids seemed really excited for the movie, and most had great questions. Others... not so much. Like, "Did you all write the Oz books too?" and "Are there any people from the original Oz movie in this one?"

Tomorrow night, I'll be attending the premiere event here in Louisville. Word is that they've changed and cut some things (and one big difference) since I've seen it, so I will writing another blog on the event, and my thoughts on the final product of the movie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: MGM's The Wizard of Oz (Part 1)

Jared and Sam discuss MGM's technicolor classic The Wizard of Oz! Due to being a super-long talk, it has been split in two parts. Part 2 will be released soon.

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


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Disneyland Records: The Wizard of Oz

1969, Disneyland Records decided to do more Oz records. The big one, right over to the left there, was their first. Yes, this time, they went for the big title: The Story and Songs of The Wizard of Oz.

The record opens with the studio chorus singing "Over The Rainbow," Then a rather... mature-sounding Dorothy introduces and tells the story.

The story adaptation is rather basic, but at times the text closely follows Baum's text. The MGM songs were licensed for the album. When Dorothy lands in Oz, the Munchkins sing "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!" with the additional opening lyrics. Which doesn't make much sense because part of the lyric is "'Till one fine day from Kansas way," but at this time, the Munchkins don't know where the house came from. The Scarecrow and the chorus sing "If I Only Had A Brain," "Follow The Yellow Brick Road/We're Off To See The Wizard" plays during the journey, "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!" is reprised when the Wicked Witch of the West dies, and at the end, "The Merry Old Land of Oz" plays.

The Kalidahs and the river are not included, nor is the Lion falling asleep in the poppy field, so his rescue is also removed. The four friends visit the Wizard in the reverse order from the book with the Lion being first and Dorothy being last. The Wicked Witch's attacks are shortened to just the wolves, crows, and Winged Monkeys. There is also no mention of the Golden Cap. No details are told about the trip to Glinda, just that it was a long journey.

Overall, a really good adaptation. I kind of wish they could have kept Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow for the rest of these records, but I guess he would have been out of the budget. The guy playing him does a really goofy voice.

This album also opened into an 11-page picture book with a brief retelling of the story.

Now, Disney did another album with the MGM songs on it. However, this album, The Songs from The Wizard of Oz (Plus Songs About The Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion), contained the songs exactly as they were heard on the Story and Songs album, just in a different order. Rounding out side one was "Happy Glow" from The Scarecrow of Oz record (too bad they didn't include the "Over The Rainbow" cover from it as well).

Side two features the songs from the next Disneyland Oz story and songs album: The Cowardly Lion of Oz. But you'll hear about those later.

Finally, in 1970, Disney added The Wizard of Oz to their line of Read Along book and record sets. While the art style was the same as the large record, the pictures and story adaptation were completely different. The story is read by Hal Smith (Otis from The Andy Griffith Show).

The story is much more abbreviated. No incidents are noted in between the Cowardly Lion joining the party and arriving at the Emerald City, where the Wizard, depicted as a man, only sees Dorothy. Right away the Wicked Witch of the West calls the Winged Monkeys, and Dorothy very quickly deals with her. And it is the Wizard who tells Dorothy how to get home, so his departure in the balloon is not included, nor is Glinda.

At the end of the story, the songs "Over The Rainbow" and "Follow The Yellow Brick Road/We're Off To See The Wizard" are played.

A very basic, simple adaptation. Worthwhile for the art and for Disney's excellent audio production values.

We Support the Status Quo

The issue of things not changing much in the Oz series has come up a few times recently, with both Gregory Maguire and John Troutman saying they preferred the first two books because there's more of a sense of change and historicity to them. There's really no denying that this is true. After Ozma takes the throne at the end of The Land of Oz, new characters appear and have new adventures, but Oz itself remains largely the same. Ozma is on the throne, and people live forever (well, mostly) and don't age unless they want to. If anything happens to alter the status quo, it's generally restored by the end of the book. Even when it looks like something significant could occur to change a major character or the political situation, it rarely does. Nick Chopper's search for his old love in Tin Woodman could potentially have resulted in a big chance, but he ends the book the same way he started, just with one more issue resolved. Ruth Plumly Thompson played a little bit with the government, but not much. Her Lost King brings back Ozma's father, and Giant Horse removes the Good Witch of the North from power and introduces new rulers for the Munchkin and Gillikin Countries. As it happens, though, Pastoria has no interest in taking back the throne, the Good Witch was largely forgotten after the first book anyway, and the quadrant rulers don't have a whole lot of power.

In a way, the restoration of the status quo is much like in many television shows, where everything is reset between one episode and the next. Remember what Fry said in the Futurama episode "When Aliens Attack"? "Clever things make people feel stupid, and unexpected things make them feel scared." It's kind of a chicken-and-the-egg thing, though. Are TV viewers afraid of the unexpected because that's not generally what TV gives you, or vice versa? Certainly, some shows that have made major changes throughout the course of their run have been successful. I think part of the reason why many shows shy away from this is so it doesn't really matter which episode you watch first, and it's more or less this way with the Oz books as well. Sure, reading the books out of order is going to mean coming across some unfamiliar characters, but for the most part that isn't going to hamper your enjoyment. I certainly didn't read the Oz books in order; with me it was more of a case of reading them in the order I could find them.

Another factor in the unchanging nature of Oz is its utopian nature. In a land where people don't age or die and there are plenty of resources to go around, I don't know that change is all that necessary. That's not to say that nothing happens, because then it would be boring, but adventures in Oz usually come across as more fun than scary. As a reader, I find some of the appeal of Oz to be that so much remains constant. It's easy to imagine going there and meeting the same characters who appear in the books, which would be difficult if they'd all aged and grown tired of adventuring. Mind you, I have to suspect that characters like Dorothy have changed somewhat in a century, even if she remains a perpetual child. It also seems a bit unlikely that Dorothy would keep stumbling upon unexplored parts of Oz. The country isn't that big, and I'd think it would have been fully charted by now. It seems like Oz readers aren't typically that keen on major changes to the status quo, except sometimes ones they make themselves. There's also the consistency issue to think about. I suppose I'd say that Oz not changing much is a mixed blessing, but since I loved the entire series and quite a few apocryphal stories as well, I must have been all right with it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"We're All Together Again!"

You don't see many of Baum's Oz books adapted outside of the first three that often. Well, there was a little odd Oz item from the late 1940s that pops up in Oz record collections.

It's a set of three records that make up a radio drama style adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. You might think "Wow! Three records! They must have been able to dramatize everything!" But no, these records predated the wide use of micro grooves. They turn 78 times a minute, meaning each side runs for about four and half minutes. That's right. This adaptation, despite being one of the heftiest Oz record sets, runs at just under 30 minutes. That means that if it had been re-released on a Long-Playing Record (LP), it would have taken one disc and could have ten minutes left over.

When David Maxine heard I'd ordered a copy on eBay, he was surprised that my copy was "superflex" instead of fragile shellac like most records from the time, and every other copy of the set he'd seen. I don't know how rare a vinyl version of the record is, but we can tell there's at least two different versions of the 78 set out there. And it was also released on a set of 45 rpm records. So there are at least three different editions out there.

There's no date on the set. I found a listing for it on 1948. I had thought it was 1949 as the characters on the front cover are clearly based on the MGM film which was re-released that year. On the cover, you can see "© Maude G. Baum," so apparently, Baum's widow Maud had the production copyrighted in her name. Or, since none of the Oz books had slipped into public domain yet, this was part of her licensing, as she was benefiting from the royalties from the books and wasn't going to let just anybody do what they wanted with them. (That could be a topic all its own...) The inside package blurb suggests they may have wanted to do more of the Oz stories, but it's written vaguely enough so that if they didn't, the set would stand on its own.

The cast consists of Rosemary Rice as Dorothy, Billy Lynn as the Wizard, LeRoi Operti as the Braided Man, and Patricia Jenkins as Ozma and "Cousin Zev." That's a (sic) there... (My brother points out that maybe whoever wrote the blurb wrote it on a typewriter and missed a key.) Ralph Rose wrote the adaptation and Walter Rivers was the producer. Nathaniel Shilkret provided the score.

The story adaptation is rather faithful and straightforward. Like I said, it's only a half hour, so it gets off to a quick start. However, over a dozen characters have been excised. Nine of them are the piglets. There is no mention of the Mangaboos walking in the air, nor their glass houses, nor "planting," nor the Mangaboo Princess, nor Gwig. Instead they are threatened by the Mangaboo Prince, who is cut in half by the Wizard and then each piece grows into a separate Prince. (The Wizard predicts that the Princes will fight and just make more of themselves, "and the Country will go to pot.") Yes, here the Mangaboos reproduce by mitosis. They also make popping noises when they come out of the ground.

Instead of a glass mountain, Dorothy and the Wizard's company flees to a gateway to the Country of the Gargoyles. Yep, the Valley of Voe and Pyramid Mountain have been excised as well. They fight the Gargoyles until the Gargoyles go to sleep, when the Braided Man appears, and in another alteration from the book, he actually manages to help the plot along! In return for one of Dorothy's blue hair ribbons, he tells them how to use the Gargoyle's wings which help them escape.

Dorothy's company is being pursued by the Mangaboos and the Gargoyles, so they hide in a cave. However, the cave is the home of the Dragonettes, and soon the mother Dragon joins the Mangaboos and Gargoyles. But Dorothy remembers about Ozma's promise and makes the signal at four o'clock. (Since the action has been condensed into much less time than in the book, it's less of a "WHY DIDN'T SHE THINK OF THAT BEFORE?" moment.) There's a cheerful bit where the Wizard cheers about their lucky exit as the pursuing baddies enter.

Since the plot is so condensed, the controversial bits of Ozma and the Wizard talking about their pasts are not included, instead we go to Oz with one of the Ozziest songs ever: "We're All Together Again!"
We're all together again!
We're all together again!
Give three hurrahs for the Land of Oz
Where everyone's a friend!
As the piglets are not included, Eureka (who has a really sweet little voice) is not put on trial. However, Jim and the Sawhorse do have a race which is made to sound like coverage of a real horse race. For losing, Jim has to eat a bag of sawdust, as he said he would if he couldn't beat the Sawhorse.

Dorothy tells us how they spent a long time in the Emerald City celebrating. However, when Dorothy sees Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in mourning in the Magic Picture, she, Zeb, Eureka and Jim decide it's time to go home. The Wizard says he wants to stay in Oz and Ozma allows him. So, with one last chorus of "We're All Together Again!" Dorothy returns home.

Overall, this is a fun adaptation of one of Baum's darker Oz books. The songs—"I'm Still The Wizard Of Oz," the Braided Man's song and "We're All Together Again"—are actually really good. I think L. Frank Baum himself would have liked them. While there are many liberties taken and many excisions, the story flows a lot like Baum's book, so I can't complain about it being unfaithful. I'm tempted to say a lot of changes are for the better, but really, I'll have to say it's for the better when giving the story to young children. (Let's face it, the darker aspects of the book are part of what makes Oz cool.) And they even figured out something to do with the Braided Man! You would have thought he'd get the axe!

Overall, a great adaptation of the fourth Oz book!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Wizard of Oz Returns

When The Wonderful Wizard of Oz hit public domain in 1956, people were quick to merchandise it. Producers of records turned out a variety of adaptations of the story. Sometimes they would license the MGM songs, and sometimes they'd create original songs.

The Wizard of Oz Returns was released in the 1960s and surprisingly created a sequel to the story instead of retelling it. Now, Ozma of Oz and up were not public domain at the time, so they only based it on the first book.

The story, punctuated with original songs, finds Dorothy home alone with Toto in Kansas as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry go to look after an ill relative while Dorothy will go stay with the neighbors. The narration stresses how grey Kansas is and how the soil won't raise enough crops. And with that, we can be sure the writer had read up on Wonderful Wizard and The Emerald City of Oz.

A knock at the door reveals the ex-Wizard of Oz who has been looking for Dorothy. He was replaced at the circus, so he wants to go back to Oz and be the Wizard of Oz again. And he's hoping Dorothy can help him find the way. Dorothy practically talks herself into coming, and she packs some food and she and Toto join the Wizard in his balloon.

Toto manages to find the way to Oz and they soon arrive in the Emerald City, where they spot a parade. But everyone ignores the Wizard's balloon: this parade is for the Former Cowardly Lion. (They soon just call him the Lion.) Upon questioning a citizen, Dorothy and the Wizard are told they are not needed in Oz with no more wicked witches.

The Lion has been made head of the Army of Oz, but he doesn't like the job and attempts to pass it to the Wizard, who declines. So they rejoin the Scarecrow, now dean of the University of Oz (the "U of O"), who is hating his new job as he has no room for the thousands of the Winkies and Munchkins and Emerald Citizens who want to attend the University. Tired of writing rejection letters, he offers his post to the Wizard, who declines. (There is no satisfying the Wizard.) So, it's off to the Tin Woodman, who writes a help column for the Emerald City Herald, but dislikes his job because while he helps people he picks up their heartaches. Again, he offers the post to the Wizard, who declines again.

So, they decide to head to the Good Witch of the North (not named). They travel through the China Forest and the Land of the Winged Monkeys, who give them a lift the rest of the way after falling in love with Aunt Em's pickles, or "big green peanuts" as they think they are. (You know, until now, I never thought of the Winged Monkeys liking peanuts.)

The Good Witch of the North muses that if there was a wicked witch to give some scare to the Emerald City, then the people would want the Wizard back. However, she refuses to pretend to be a Wicked Witch as it's against her nature. However, she brings out a bottle of Mean Pills and explains that Wicked Witches take them to make them mean. She takes one and likes the flavor so much she eats all the pills, overdosing and making her think she's the Wicked Witch of the West and heads off to destroy the Emerald City.

The Winged Monkeys take everyone to the Emerald City where the people call for the Wizard to save them. The Wizard and his friends corner the Witch, and Dorothy hesitates about hurling water at her for fear of harming the Good Witch. The Wizard assures her it will be all right, and it is. The water simply removes the effects of the Mean Pills and leaves us a wet Good Witch.

With the Wizard reinstated, Dorothy expresses that she doesn't want to leave Oz, but she can't leave Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, so the Winged Monkeys, excited to bring the woman who made those wonderful pickles, fly to Kansas and carry back Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. The record ends with Uncle Henry singing a song about how they're in Oz.

Fans of the books will spot the major errors with Wonderful Wizard, even ignoring the rest of the books: Oz seems too easy to get to, and the Winged Monkeys shouldn't be able to fly over the desert. (Which is mentioned here.) However, those are really the worst errors in there. The story is simple but entertaining, and the original songs are a little sweet, even if they are forgettable and sometimes unnecessary. (Did we really need songs about the Mean Pills and "Big Green Peanuts"?)

However, the record was only one part of the Wizard of Oz Returns package. The album used the two-disc case design to unfold into a game board for a game called "Emerald City." While one part of the sleeve housed the record, the other held a piece of cardboard with a metal spinner, instructions, and several playing pieces that may be cut out.

I got the record and game over Christmas with some Amazon gift cards and wasn't able to use either for a bit. I just got a turntable to play the record (though it was USB based for recording to mp3, and sadly, I wasn't able to get the full nostalgic experience of listening to a record as I have no speakers for the unit), but about a week ago, I had a day off coinciding with my roommate/brother's day off, and my little brother came over for a visit. We broke out the game, though I didn't cut out the playing pieces (which are just tiny pictures of a man in a stovepipe hat, supposedly representing the Wizard). We used three of my custom Oz action figures instead, though they were mainly too big. (They were Dorothy, Trot, and Toto.)

There are nine large spots on the paths to play the game: the Circus, Dorothy, Toto, the Former Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Leader of the Winged Monkeys, the Good Witch of the North, and the Emerald City.

Between each of the spots are two paths: yellow and blue. You choose which one you'll follow and you can only go if the number you spin is the same color as your path. You can change at each spot, though. (On our playthrough, we simplified it to the color the spinner landed on determined which path.) The point is to get to the Emerald City, but you must have exactly the right number to get there.

Further complicating matters is the Trubbles and Dubbletrubbles. If you land on a Trubble, you have to go back to your last spot ("friend" it says), and if you land on a Dubbletrubble, you go back to the spot before the last one. However, there are helpful counterparts in the Goodluks and the Verygoodluks. (Whoever named these needed more imagination.) They do the opposite: a Goodluck advances you to the next spot, and a Verygoodluck advances you to the one after the next. This means gameplay might take awhile instead of just taking turns and spinning numbers.

My little brother won our playthrough, and I came in second.

Dedicated collectors of Oz records will want this record and game set, while collectors wanting unique Oz records and stories might be satisfied with the re-release from 1965: The Further Adventures of the Wizard of Oz which used different cover art, and did not contain the game. I do not own this one.

Overall, The Wizard of Oz Returns was a nice little package with an original (if not terribly imaginative) Oz story and a fun activity to do while listening.

And the fact that this impresses me so makes me think I was born in the wrong era...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Update: Dorothy and the Witches of Oz!

The much-anticipated Dorothy and the Witches of Oz premieres TONIGHT at Harkins Superstition Springs in Mesa. Arizona! It will be playing at four Harkins Theatre locations in Arizona, and will open in two theaters in Kansas City, Missouri and one in Louisville, Kentucky on February 24th. There's been a ton of press lately surrounding the movie, so I thought I'd just link them all below.

Besides all of the 'Dorothy and the Witches of Oz' news, there isn't much else to blog about. Besides some cheap looking Dorothy of Oz merchandise announced...

I am excited to see 'Dorothy and the Witches of Oz' when it opens in Louisville next weekend! They have made some cuts and tweaked some things and from what I hear, Oz fans should be in for a real treat!

'Till next week...

UPDATE: The 'Dorothy and the Witches of Oz' premiere was SOLD OUT! They added a 10:30 screening, and that was sold out as well. See photos of the event here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mo' Mo

When I got back into Oz, my family got a fancy thing called a computer. It was made by a company called IBM and ran Windows 3.1. We loved it, despite living in the year 2000.

We went to the library and I'd use the internet there to do web searches about things I was interested in. When I got back into Oz, I found a nifty site that had the texts of the Oz books and some of Baum's Oz-related fantasies. I downloaded them onto floppy discs (because back in those days, we used those things) and read them on the home computer.

That computer broke down and died in 2001, but we later upgraded to a new machine running Windows XP. Sadly, that old computer was long gone before I discovered I could have retrieved data from the hard drive on it, including some of my earliest Oz artwork. That's right, in Paintbrush (yes, in 3.1 its name was five letters longer) I'd whip up pictures based on the text files I'd read, often inserting them into .WRI files of the texts.

One picture I drew was for The Magical Monarch of Mo. It was the Monarch standing  by the Milk River. He had a big reddish brown beard and hair and a red royal robe and a crown, while behind him were the lilly pads that grew strawberries. (But remember this was Paintbrush, so they were really ovals of green and red.)

Sometime later, I was looking for Baum books in the library's database and they had a copy of the Dover edition of The Magical Monarch of Mo. I checked it out and eventually got my own copy. More recently, I found a copy of the edition illustrated by Evelyn Copelman on Abebooks and picked it up. It was under $15 with the dustjacket. (I get lucky a lot...)

The Suprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People was first published in 1900 under the title A New Wonderland. It was mainly ignored (there was this book called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that had come out and kinda hogged the spotlight for all things Baum), but in 1903, the book was slightly rewritten and retitled. Originally, it told the adventures of the King of Phunnyland and his subjects. In the new edition, the King became the Monarch and Phunnyland received the snappier name Mo.

The book was illustrated by Frank Ver Beck, who had done a lot of popular illustration work. His comical work complemented Baum's text quite wonderfully, immersing the reader in the Valley of Mo, being detailed and funny. Oh, and his Purple Dragon: Baum's menace might scare children, but Ver Beck's illustration eases up on the terror.
Now to Evelyn Copelman's illustrations. David Maxine posted several images from her edition with his thoughts on his own blog, so if you want examples, check that out. (I could scan mine, but I don't want to risk damaging the book.)

I have to agree on many points. While Copelman's illustrations are excellent and detailed, they don't match Baum's text well. When we see a picture of Zingle pushing the Monarch into a hole, it's a far stretch of imagination to think that Zingle is the Monarch's son as there only appears to be a few years difference in their age, if any.

Also, Copelman provided too few illustrations to immerse us in the Valley of Mo. (She had the same thought about her edition of The Wizard of Oz when it was re-released and added more illustrations.) We are only shown some characters and the scenes around them, but not much there. I wanted to see her take on Maetta, who appears in my book The Outsiders from Oz, but she wasn't there. I also wondered what King Scowleyow would look like and was similarly disappointed.

In addition, her Purple Dragon and Cast Iron Man are far too menacing to really match up with Baum's text. Her Gigaboo is almost too similar to Ver Beck's, but then both do follow Baum's text pretty well.

So, considering that you can't find new editions with Copelman's illustrations but you can get the Dover one with Ver Beck's originals, I'd say you're getting the better illustrator. I kind of wish there was a better edition out there, but until there is, Dover will hold me over.

Thi Master

Cross-posted from VoVatia.

One of the odd communities that seem to show up whenever an Oz book needs a bit of padding is the city of Thi, which appears in The Lost Princess of Oz. Located in the wild part of the Winkie Country, it is a neat and orderly but somewhat dull town, surrounded by an illusory wall. The people, known as Thists, have diamond-shaped bodies and heart-shaped heads and eat thistles, which don't harm them as their throats and stomachs are lined with gold. The thistles grow in the fields surrounding the city, and beyond that is land that turns around on occasion, making it appear to anyone coming toward the city that it is moving around the landscape. It's unclear who put these safeguards in place, but the Thists seem content to remain in their own city, isolated from the rest of Oz. The popular rumor in the area is that the Thists have chariots pulled by dragons, which is true after a fashion. They're actually mechanical auto-dragons, which sound impressive, but move quite slowly.

The High Coco-Lorum is the leader of the city, claiming to be merely a judge, but in reality holding pretty much absolute power. His rationale is that, if he actually declared himself ruler, it could lead to unrest. Hence, he runs things to suit himself without calling attention to the fact. So what is a High Coco-Lorum? Well, "high cockalorum," in addition to being a game, meant someone prideful who put on airs. Sources say it's basically just "cock" with a fake Latin ending, with "cock" used in the sense of a rooster strutting around. According to the Free Dictionary, "kockeloeren" is obscure Flemish onomatopoeia for a rooster's crow. In Rinkitink in Oz, King Rinkitink plans to make the man who wrote his favorite scroll, How to Be Good, a royal hippolorum, another nonsensical Latin-sounding title. "Hippo" does mean "horse," however, so maybe a hippolorum is someone on a high horse? Not that "lorum" means "high," but it still kind of fits.

At the end of David Hulan's The Glass Cat of Oz, Ozma sends Bungle to investigate unrest in Thi. I don't know whether Hulan had any ideas as to what this unrest might entail, but I have to wonder if someone got wise to the Coco-Lorum's posturing. I like to think that the Thists kept him in power anyway, because none of the others wanted to do the job. There's also a brief visit to Thi in Kim McFarland's A Refugee in Oz, and Thists are starring characters in Marin Elizabeth Xiques' The Bouncy Bunnies in Oz. In the latter, at least one Thist has friends outside the city, suggesting that the community is becoming somewhat less isolated.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Fate of a Crown

I've written before about how L. Frank Baum used pen names to write other works. He wrote four novels for adults: Tamawaca Folks as John Estes Cooke, The Last Egyptian anonymously, and Daughters of Destiny and The Fate of a Crown as Schuyler Stanton.

When I began avidly collecting Baum books, there were editions of Tamawaca Folks (a small publisher's version) and The Last Egyptian out. And Daughters of Destiny was in Oz-Story 4 and Hungry Tiger Press brought it out as a standalone volume, and I have both. But no one had a nice version of The Fate of a Crown. David Maxine expressed interest in publishing it, however there were some issues preventing a quick release.

The Fate of a Crown was illustrated twice. Once by John R. Neill for newspaper serialization, and again by Glen C. Sheffer for the book version published by Reilly & Britton. A worthwhile new edition would include both sets of illustrations. David recently mentioned to me that Neill's artwork would take a lot of work to clean up, and the print on demand edition I finally bought from recently shows that. The artwork is obviously from a low-resolution source. At a small size (and some are too small), it looks okay, but when it gets blown up to more than half a page, you can see the pixels. That being said, if a full-scale cleanup can be done, I would be interested in purchasing it.

There's another edition of Lulu, but that one was hardcover only and just used scans of the Reilly & Britton edition (one without the illustrations). The one I bought had the text newly reset and used both sets of illustrations. I like when a new edition takes advantage of today's publishing methods to present a book. Reset text means you don't see a lot of empty space on the page where the original publisher had it, plus even more space to allow for the new page size.

Final notes on the edition I bought: not a fan of having "(Schuyler Staunton)" under Baum's name. Just put Baum's name on it and make a mention of it on the reverse of the title page. And it's kind of pointless noting that the book is copyrighted to the Reilly & Britton Company in 1905 when the copyright has long since expired. Also, the spine and back cover are kind of bland.

All right, onto the story...

It's 1889 and young Robert Harcliffe is off to Brazil to serve as secretary to the elderly Dom Miguel de Pintra. Dom Miguel is for the revolution against the Emperor of Brazil to make the country into the United States of Brazil, and as such, he has many enemies, and as it becomes clear that Robert is working for him, they become Robert's enemies, too.

Robert falls in love with Dom Miguel's daughter Lesba as he becomes embroiled in the rebellion's cause. However, things get complicated when Dom Miguel is locked in an airtight vault and the key is carried away by a spy for the Emperor! With only a few hours of air, it doesn't appear Dom Miguel will survive until Robert can retrieve the key. But can Robert see Dom Miguel's business through? Who are his friends and who are his foes?

The Fate of a Crown is an exciting novel of intrigue and a little dash of underdeveloped romance. And the ending actually surprised me when I considered it was proud American L. Frank Baum writing it. I was also surprised at how quickly Baum would kill or injure characters. I jokingly told David Maxine that his version should have a counter in the margins for the body count.

Baum's fantasies were for children. It is here in his non-fantasy works for adults that Baum shows us how dark his imagination could be. To get a better grasp of who Baum was, his adult novels are essential reading.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Not much going on, so this will likely be short entry!

The trailer for Dorothy and the Witches of Oz is here. The movie will be in select theaters on February 17th. For more information, visit the film's Facebook page. Check out this behind-the-scenes video...

An 'anonymous reader' has submitted a behind-the-scenes photo found on a crew member's Facebook account to Perez Hilton. The photo has a crew member posing with a costumed Flying Monkey at costume designer Howard Berger's Halloween party in Michigan. Read all about that at here.

Told you this would be a short entry. 'Till next week! Or next time there's some news to report.

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Trout Talk

Jared chats with web cartoonist and Royal Explorers of Oz illustrator John Troutman.

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


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Disneyland Records: The Scarecrow of Oz

Oz movie buffs will know that after Maud Baum's death, Walt Disney was quick to buy up the rights to L. Frank Baum's Oz books. (She wasn't a fan of Walt.) He initially planned a cartoon, then a movie to bring the Mousketeers from TV to film. However, The Rainbow Road to Oz never gelled, so despite an exciting peek on the Disneyland Fourth Anniversary show, Walt decided against doing Oz right away.

Most fans skip forward to when Disney's Return to Oz began production, but in 1965, Jimmy Johnson, head of Disneyland records, decided to do something with the rights. An audio production is cheaper to fund than a film. Voice acting (and the best voice actors could perform multiple roles), a bit of music, some sound effects, and you're set. So, Johnson selected The Scarecrow of Oz to be adapted for record.

To bring the story to life (and add a selling edge), Ray Bolger was brought in to narrate the story and perform the voice of the Scarecrow. The MGM film The Wizard of Oz had been airing annually for a few years, so children and their parents would hopefully know Bolger even if the Oz title didn't sell them. (The back cover of early versions of the record had an image of Bolger in makeup as the Scarecrow.) One can almost imagine this as a side piece to his other Oz readings for Caedmon Audio.

Filling out the cast were Robie Lester as Glinda, Gloria, and Button-Bright; Martha Wentworth as Blinkie (Disney fans may recognize her voice as Mad Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone); Dallas McKennon as Cap'n Bill, the Ork, and King Krewl; and actual children (who aren't identified) as Trot and Pon.

The record opens with an original song called "Happy Glow."

Oh, there's a scarecrow that I know
Who always has a happy glow
He's never sad, never feels bad you see

Whenever summer breezes blow
He dances with a happy glow
He's happier far than either you or me

He has the sky, he has the sun,
He has his friends the birds
With all of these he has such fun
He has no need for any words

So you and I can get a glow
Forgetting all our care and woe
If we will take it easy just like him

Have a happy glow
Life can be a sweet thing if you will
Have a happy glow
Life can be a sweet thing for you still

It's a nice song, but taking another look, it could be about any old scarecrow. However, the Scarecrow comes along and says it is by the Official Songwriter of Oz and he agrees with the sentiment that people should enjoy all the things around them and be happy.

Then the Scarecrow reminds us of his brains and begins to tell a story about a time he got to use them. This version of The Scarecrow of Oz begins several chapters into Baum's original book with the Scarecrow going to visit Glinda, who tells him about Trot and Cap'n Bill.

Instead of the automatically updating Book of Records, Glinda now has a Magic Television Set (like the Magic Picture) and she records what she sees in her Books of Records. To be honest, I don't see why they needed to change that part, as the Book of Records could have been simpler to explain, and since it's audio, the description is all we're getting.

Glinda recounts Trot and Cap'n Bill's journey briefly, ending with their arrival on Pessim's Island. No mention of Pessim or how they got to Jinxland (where Glinda says they are) is made, nor how Button-Bright joined them. There are a few head scratching bits here: when Glinda tells them they are on an island, the Scarecrow says that there are no oceans or lakes in Oz, and hence, no islands. This isn't quite accurate, as there is Lake Quad, Lake Orizon, the Ozure Isles, and the island of the Magic Flower. And it makes the jump from the island to Jinxland all the more curious.

Also, the Scarecrow says that Trot and Cap'n Bill are the first to come to Oz since Dorothy's visit, but then says that Button-Bright has been to Oz before. And we also know that in the books, this adventure happens after Betsy Bobbin has come to Oz.

So, after hearing how Trot and Cap'n Bill have been persecuted by King Krewl and Blinkie, the Scarecrow heads to Jinxland in much the same manner as he does in the book. From here on, the story follows the book pretty faithfully. Blinkie wrecks the Scarecrow, but Trot, Pon, and Gloria put him back together. The Ork arrives with Button-Bright and they make a plan on how to conquer King Krewl. The Scarecrow goes to Krewl's palace to command him to surrender, but he is captured and almost burned when the Ork rescues him, throws Krewl in jail, and captures Blinkie, who the Scarecrow makes shrink until she restores Cap'n Bill and Gloria.

Then everyone goes to Oz proper where Trot and Cap'n Bill and Button-Bright (getting lost again) are welcomed. Over the final moments, a children's chorus sings "Over the Rainbow," but they drown out Ray's final lines. He says "That is the end of my story. I hope all of you will visit me in the Land of Oz..." and that's all we can clearly hear. I'll venture to guess the rest is "someday soon."

The production quality is very good, and the songs are nice, though I don't think "Happy Glow" sounds very Ozzy. I also think Button-Bright's voice is too squeaky and the Ork is too deep. Barring those, a solid production, and using only enough MGM touches to try to make it sell.

The record's case also opens into a picture book containing a brief retelling of the story with many wonderful pictures. Many characters have original designs, but some of the more classic Oz characters (Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Woggle-Bug, Tik-Tok) are based on their classic designs. Overall, it's a pleasing package, though dedicated fans of the original Oz books will likely still prefer Neill at the end of the day.

A Review of "Out of Oz"

 Note: this is Nathan DeHoff's review of this book. You can find Jared's here.
Out of Oz, by Gregory Maguire - The fourth and presumably final volume in Maguire's Wicked series ties up many of the loose ends left in the other three. I have somewhat mixed feelings on Maguire's books, due to being a big fan of the original Oz series, and hence feeling a little bitter that Maguire's Oz books have largely overshadowed L. Frank Baum's in recent years. Not that I blame Maguire for this, as he's actually been pretty open about his influences, but the reviews that appear on the backs of these books sometimes give the impression that modern critics think there was only one book and the movie about Oz before Maguire came along. Really, Oz is a rather fully realized magical land, and it sometimes bothers me that Maguire chose to build so much of an already existing imaginary country from the ground up. It seems like his main goal might have been to make his Oz less silly. For instance, he doesn't use very many place names from the original series. If you look at Maguire's map, he does use the names of the four main countries plus Ev and Oogaboo, but even those he alters slightly. Most of the other place names are just ones he made up. As someone who liked the silliness in the original series, Maguire's Oz often comes across as dreadfully mundane. I have to wonder what people who have only read Maguire would think of Baum's Oz books. Would they be disappointed due to the lack of grittiness and such?

Anyway, Out of Oz was a good read, although it got off to a slow start. One thing I've noticed about Maguire's books (and I've only read the Oz material, but I've heard it about some of his other books as well) is that parts of them tend to drag. Here, I thought the part with General Cherrystone slowly taking over Glinda's house went on rather too long. It became more interesting when it started expanding into other parts of Oz. The main focus this time is on Elphaba's granddaughter Rain, and while some elements from The Marvelous Land of Oz are incorporated, they're largely in the background. Dorothy also returns to Oz and is put on trial, something I've heard of many school classes doing to teach kids about the court system. We actually did that in one of my classes, although it turned out rather sloppy. In the book, the trial is part of a political maneuver by Mombey (another name with its spelling slightly changed by Maguire). While Dorothy is also instrumental in the confrontation with the Emperor toward the end, sometimes she doesn't show up for long periods of time, almost making the reader forget she's there. But then, Maguire's Dorothy is based more on Judy Garland's character than on Baum's active and charismatic Dorothy, and is hence a much more passive character than I'm used to seeing. The ending actually resolves quite a bit while still remaining a bit open. A lot of Maguire's original characters make appearances, and I have to admit I'd forgotten who some of them were.

There were quite a few references to the Baum books scattered throughout, although most of them were simply names or brief cameos. Tip plays a significant role, and his story does turn out much like in Land. Items in a junk shop call to mind Jack Pumpkinhead and Tik-Tok, and even Ruth Plumly Thompson's Handy Mandy appears as a character in children's books that Rain reads. It's pretty obvious that Maguire is familiar with many elements of the original series, and picking them out can be fun, if a bit sad at times.

In case you're interested, here are my reviews of Maguire's other Oz books:
Wicked (You might have to scroll down the page a bit, but it's there.)
Son of a Witch
A Lion Among Men

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Seventeenth Swap

And to follow up last night's post, here's The Seventeenth Swap, another book with strong characterization by Eloise McGraw.

Eric Greene lives with his widower father. On Saturday, he spends the day with Jimmy, a crippled boy he babysits. Jimmy has fallen in love with a pair of cowboy boots he's seen for sale in a newspaper ad. Much as he wants them, he knows he'll never have them.

Except, Eric wants to get them for Jimmy now. Just to do something nice for someone. But Eric doesn't make much and by the time he could save up enough from what little he gets from babysitting, the sale would be long over.

However, Eric begins to think. There's things people around town want and things they'd give. Why not start swapping around until he has something he can sell for enough money for the boots?

Eric only has a week. Can he get it done in time?

You know what I was reminded of? The Donald Duck comic story "Maharajah Donald" in which the nephews trade pencil stubs for tickets to India and 500 pounds of cat food. Of course, Eloise's story is a bit more believable and goes through the entire process while Carl Barks made some big skips.

Again, Eloise gets inside Eric's head and lets us in on his frustrations and how he plans the swaps out.

So, The Seventeenth Swap is another excellent work by Eloise McGraw, demonstrating how obstacles can be overcome if you can make a plan and make it work.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A McGraw Quintet

Something that made me like Eloise McGraw: she didn't tell stories about people, she told their stories. Instead of saying, "such and such a character decided to do something" she would get in their heads and explain how they thought. Even in simple stories, this makes the work so much better. The characters are three dimensional and the reader can relate to them.

This is likely one reason why Oz fans enjoyed her Oz books. But I'm not talking about her Oz books right now. In my last blog, I said I had some of her non-Oz books and wanted to write about them.

I have five I've read and not written about. I blogged about The Moorchild, and while I started Moccasin Trail, I've yet to finish it. (For some reason, it was slow going and then I lost my copy. I got another but have yet to finish.) I'm finishing The Seventeenth Swap and am getting Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

Now, enough of that, let's look at some books by the sixth Royal Historian of Oz!

The Golden Goblet was published in 1961 and received a Newberry Honor.

The story is set in ancient Egypt. Ranofer is an orphan boy who works in a gold worker's shop. He lives with his brother Gebu, but as the story opens, he discovers that Gebu is part of a band of thieves who steal gold! Ranofer wants no part of it, but where can he go? Gebu will not let him leave.

Ranofer manages to tip the goldsmith off about Gebu's band's activities, but this only makes them change tactic.

One night, Ranofer finds a golden goblet that must have been stolen from a tomb. It is too beautiful and finely crafted for Ranofer to let Gebu melt down, so he sets out to set things right and expose his brother without getting himself in trouble.

The Golden Goblet immerses itself believably in ancient Egypt and delivers an exciting and satisfying finish.

Joel and the Great Merlini is a short book. Joel wants to do a magic show, but his tricks fail to impress, even when he can make them work. Enter Merlini the magician who makes it look like Joel does amazing feats. However, Joel soon realizes that he is dissatisfied with this arrangement.

Mixing fantasy with reality, Joel and the Great Merlini is an excellent story about the gratification of doing your own work.

The Money Room follows brother and sister Scott and Melinda (or "Lindy") as they've moved to a sleepy little country town in Oregon. While they search for their great-grandpa's legendary "Money Room," they slowly learn about their family history, their new town, and they even create their code for writing to each other.

However, someone else is looking for the "Money Room," too. Can Scott and Lindy find it first? And their mother isn't having a lot of luck with her job. The clock is ticking. What is the Money Room? Where is it? Is it even real?

The Money Room perfectly captures the uneasy feelings of moving to a new home and the simple joys children can find in life.

Hideaway finds a boy named Jerry running away from home. His parents have divorced and he's sick of being ignored. So he runs away to his grandparents' old home by the ocean. At least, he thought it was their home.

Hanna is house-sitting for a couple on vacation. Having bounced from different foster care homes all her life, she's almost too used to new faces. But when she meets Jerry, who broke into the house she's taking care of, she begins to think about what she wants in life.

It is a strange summer as these two decide what they should do with their lives from now on, and Eloise McGraw tells it wonderfully.

The Trouble With Jacob really got me going. Here is a story with an honest-to-goodness ghost!

Andy Peterson and his twin sister Kat are vacationing in the Hidden Creek countryside. While walking through the woods one day, Andy sees a little boy who tells him that somebody's got his bed. No one else seems to see the boy, but Andy sees him every time he walks by this large rock.

It takes some time for Andy to begin piecing things together, much less to convince anyone about the boy, who eventually says his name is Jacob. What Andy and Kat discover leads to the solution of a crime over a hundred years old, but with only conjecture on their part, can they convince anyone that justice must be delivered at last?

With a gentle supernatural spin, The Trouble With Jacob makes for an excellent read.