Friday, November 30, 2012

Wait, is the MGM movie really getting a remake?

Happy Friday!

Earlier this week, an item posted to Examiner set Oz fans abuzz with the question, "is the MGM movie really getting a remake?" Well, not exactly. The only source listed in this post is an article from Deadline that was published two years ago.

"Well, that makes a difference!"

Indeed, Frank Morgan... Indeed. The Examiner post offers no more details or information about a remake of the MGM film, and the site does not appear to be affiliated with Warner Bros. or anything. So, no, the beloved 1939 musical is NOT getting a remake. Not for now, at least.

The Land of Oz is coming to Disney theme parks at last!

Guests visiting the 2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World this spring can enter the Land of Oz in the form of an original interactive play area that will be one of the festival’s newest additions. The circus-themed area, inspired by Disney’s upcoming fantastical adventure, Oz The Great and Powerful, will offer carnival-style midway games and a “Land of Oz Play Area” where The Great and Powerful Oz’s crashed hot-air balloon can be found. Guests will also be able to wander through the “Oz Movie Garden,” which will feature lush, unusual plants inspired by the Land of Oz.

Well, sort of. Check out the Disney Parks blog for more details!

Speaking of Disney, just announced is an Oz-themed episode of Disney Junior's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The episode is dubbed Minnie's The Wizard of Dizz and will be released on its own DVD with two other episodes of the show on February 5, 2013 just before the release of the much-anticipated Oz the Great and Powerful. Check out a few clips and more details about the episode here.

The Dorothy and the Witches of Oz page has recently received a makeover, and an announcement on further release of the film is scheduled for early January. Check out the new design!

A new poster for Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful is being spotted in theater lobbies! Check out a photo, courtesy of Ryan Jay...

That's it for this week. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Master Key

If there's one L. Frank Baum book that people pick up due to its synopsis, it is definitely The Master Key. Baum never tied the story to Oz, so it's not as well known as his other fantasies, but I've yet to speak to anyone about the book who's read it who hasn't enjoyed it.

Of course, that's only two people...

The Master Key is also notable for being the only L. Frank Baum fantasy that was clearly based on his own life. His son Robert experimented with electric gadgets and rigged up devices in the home. While the family noted how useful these experiments could be, they were annoyed by them.

Baum decided to adapt this into The Master Key: we meet the Joslyn family. The father (who is not named), mother Belinda, son Rob, and the daughters Helen and Mabel. Here's Baum's own Gary Stu with a father and son based on himself and daughters, which we understand he would have liked to have had.

The story kicks in when Rob's experiments strike the Master Key of Electricity, summoning the Demon of Electricity. Yes, Baum's works contain good witches and Demons who do not do evil. What a controversial guy...

The definition of Baum's demon is actually found in the World English Dictionary: "an attendant or ministering spirit; genius." And the term "genius" here: "the guardian spirit of a place, group of people, or institution."

So don't worry, The Master Key won't turn people to Satanism.

The Demon gives Rob three gifts a week. The ones featured in the story are a wrist watch-like device that repulses force from its wearer so they may "fly," food tablets that nourish a human body for twenty-four hours, an electric tube (a lot like the weapons in The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan) that paralyzes whoever is shot with it for an hour, a garment that repels any attack, spectacles that reveal anyone's true character, and the "Record" which shows notable events that have happened.

We have things like a couple of the Demon's gifts today: the electric tube is like a taser, though Baum's device is much more benign. The Record of Events we basically have thanks to the Internet, and its portability is similar to tablet devices. Baum even foretells the doom and gloom side of Internet piracy:
During the evening he found that an "important event" was Madame Bernhardt's production of a new play, and Rob followed it from beginning to end with great enjoyment, although he felt a bit guilty at not having purchased a ticket.

"But it's a crowded house, anyway," he reflected, "and I'm not taking up a reserved seat or keeping any one else from seeing the show. So where's the harm? Yet it seems to me if these Records get to be common, as the Demon wishes, people will all stay at home and see the shows, and the poor actors 'll starve to death."
 That last bit also foretells television, though, as we know, it was discovered how to make it profitable.

Rob's adventures take him from American cities to a cannibal island, to England, to France, to the Middle East, to a deserted island, and even a pirate ship. Along the way, Rob is forced to see the good and evil in humanity and reconsider what technological advances the human race is ready for. Baum wraps together fantasy, adventure, technological speculation and morality to create one of his best and most unique tales.

Quite possibly the most memorable part of the story for Oz buffs is the Demon of Electricity. In John Troutman's Delusionary State, the Demon is accidentally summoned, tying him to Troutman's take on Oz. In an unpublished manuscript I was asked to give feedback on years ago, he is summoned at Smith & Tinker's shop in Ev. Apparently, Oz fans would like to tie this story to Oz for no other reason than to have the Demon of Electricity as an Oz character.

While the Demon is proud and haughty, he's also kind of a jerk. Rob himself points out how fallible the Demon is, but I'm not going to spoil that since I want you to read it for yourself.

The edition I have is a Dover edition that is now out of print. A friend showed me her copy that looks to have been published in 2001 that also reproduced the original edition, just now in hardcover. Also, Books of Wonder published a new edition with new illustrations. However, if you don't mind just going digital (the Demon might prefer that), it's available on and Project Gutenberg for free.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Colonial Radio Theater's The Emerald City of Oz

After 12 years, Colonial Radio Theater finally returns to Oz with The Emerald City of Oz. Their adaptation of The Road to Oz ended with a hint at Emerald City, yet it took some time for it to come out. Last year, CRT writer Jerry Robbins was interviewed on the Royal Podcast of Oz and gave us the scoop.

As it's twelve years later, there is not a perfect audio continuity for CRT's Oz. Right off, the wonderful "From Boston, it's the Colonial Radio Players!" opening is missing, and neither is the ending featuring a suite of the wonderful music. I guess these things happen.

Much more notable is the cast. Much of it has changed! Kerry Donovan replaces Amy Strack as Dorothy, bringing her own interpretation of the character. Mark McGillivray and Joe Caliendo Jr. take over as the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Woodman, respectively. Hugh Metzler plays the Wizard instead of Robert Mackey, though the CRT Facebook page noted that this is "one of his final roles with CRT," so they may have to get a third voice for the character. Also changed are the voice actors for the Nome King, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry.

Returning are Tom Berry as the Scarecrow, Joseph Zamparelli as the Shaggy Man and Jerry Robbins reprises his take on L. Frank Baum. Leigh Ann Price is also back as Ozma, except she is now credited as Leigh Berry. I guess Ozma married the Scarecrow!

The new voices, though notably different, are not jarringly different. I really enjoyed Kerry's interpretation of Dorothy, and Hugh's take on the Wizard was excellent. Also, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry now really sound like a Kansas farmer and his wife. The Nome King's voice is much improved over Ozma of Oz. That voice, though warm yet menacing, was much better suited for King Dox when it was reused for that character in The Road to Oz. Now, he's suitably grumpy!

If you've heard any of CRT's Oz adaptations, you probably know to expect a faithful adaptation that uses much of the original dialogue from the book with some of the prose adapted into dialogue to eliminate the need of a narrator. So, there isn't much need to cover the story as it is the same one from the book, just with some omissions to make it fit into two hours.

The omissions of course aren't major enough to alter the story. Guph's visit to the Whimsies is not included, but he tells the Nome King he's enlisting them and they briefly discuss them. Also missing is Guph encountering the Scarlet Alligator on Mount Phantistico. I can only assume these scenes didn't carry over to audio that well, particularly since they'd be better as visuals than audio.

Some elements from Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's tour of Oz are excised. Gone is the Woggle-Bug's college, the kangaroo outside Fuddlecumjig (don't worry, the Fuddles are still there) and Grandmother Gnit, the arguing zebra and crab, and Bunnybury. The history of the Forbidden Fountain is not discussed either.

So this means that you will hear the delightfully absurd towns of Utensia, Rigamarole, and Flutterbudget Center.

Something odd I noticed was that when Ozma discovers the Nome King's plot, the Magic Picture is referred to as a mirror. But later, it is the Magic Picture once again. Maybe some magic went awry...

Overall though, with the voice changes, omissions, and an odd change for one scene, this proved to be every bit as delightful as the original five audio adaptations of the Oz books from CRT. I look forward to more!

Read my review of the first five.
Order The Emerald City of Oz on CD.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's Black Friday, Relax

While everyone else is out shopping and hopefully not killing each other, you're apparently checking the blog. To that we say, thank you!

Now here's a Friday video for you: this is the Children's Theater Company musical adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz, hailed by some Oz fans to be the best adaptation of the second Oz book.

And if you want something shorter, or just something else, here's Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man by Whitestone Motion Pictures.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Oz 101

With new Oz movies coming out, some new fans might be curious as to the origins and basics of the franchise. Here, I hope to answer a few questions and offer some information.

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published as a standalone novel in 1900. Eventual sequels were made due to popular demand and a publisher's agreement before becoming an annual tradition in 1913. Annual Oz books were turned out by three different authors—L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill—through 1942. Additional titles were occasionally added to the series by four other authors until 1963, bringing the total to 40 novels.

2. In addition, all of the writers wrote other Oz stories that were not part of the main series. Series creator L. Frank Baum tied Oz to other fantasy stories he wrote, creating one of the earliest examples of an expanded universe for fantasy or sci-fi.

3. Oz fans also create their own Oz stories, some written to dovetail with the original series, some taking a divergent continuity, others wholly re-imagining the series (that's Wicked for you). Others even use Oz as a basis for completely new story, even if it's not a work of fantasy.

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz went into the public domain in 1956, allowing anyone to adapt or borrow from it freely without fear of legal prosecution. Many of the sequels—including all of L. Frank Baum's books—are now public domain as well.

5. Musical adaptations of Oz are rather common, as the first adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a musical extravaganza, hitting Broadway in 1903. It was the first of various stage adaptations of the Oz stories, which would later include the all-black musical The Wiz and popular musical Wicked.

6. Oz was adapted to film for the first time in 1908, then again in 1910, 1914, 1925, 1932, 1933, as well as a few unofficial shorts before the MGM musical film adaptation in 1939. Not all of these films received wide release, the 1933 production being a cartoon that actually saw its debut on VHS decades later.

7. The MGM musical film The Wizard of Oz is on the National Film Registry and is one of the most popular films of all time, its rights currently owned by Warner Brothers. It is believed that its popularity overshadows the original book. The film was a very costly but prestigious endeavor and was unable to recoup all its costs until a re-release, leading to the erroneous conclusion that it was a flop.

8. Oz has been adapted for stage, comics, film, television, home video, internet content and other media countless times, some of the most notable adaptations being the film version of The Wiz, Walt Disney Pictures' Return to Oz, the animated Journey Back to Oz featuring Liza Minelli and Tin Man, a miniseries that premiered on the Sci Fi Channel in 2007. 

9. The International Wizard of Oz Club was founded in 1957 and remains the main society for Oz fans, encouraging research into the Oz phenomenon and providing reprints and new material for fans. Memberships are available for as low as $25 a year.

10. Oz events are held across the United States. At this time, the International Wizard of Oz Club sponsors the Winkie Convention and a National Convention, held during the summer. Non-Club sponsored events are held in Chittenango, New York (Oz-stravaganza), Wamego, Kansas (Oztoberfest), and a defunct Oz theme park in Banner Elk, North Carolina reopens once a year for a weekend event called "Autumn at Oz."

11. Urban legends and myths have risen over the Oz phenomenon. Despite it being a functional interpretation, it is not true that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written as a Populist allegory, particularly as its author just didn't have those political beliefs, being a Republican. The MGM film has its own wide share of myths, the most popular being that the hanging body of an on-set suicide can be seen in the film. Rest assured, this is not true and any video claiming to show it has been altered. Also, the matching of the timing of the film and Dark Side of the Moon is pure coincidence.

12. Oz's popularity is not limited to the United States: fans also hail from countries all over the world, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Canada. In Russia, the original book was rewritten as the first book of a new series, which has branched off into its own franchise, which recently inspired a shopping center called the Emerald City. The original Oz books have since been more properly translated and fans in both Russia and the United States have been able to embrace both series on their own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Legend of Oz — The Wicked West

Jared discusses the comic book series The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West with its writer Tom Hutchinson.

You can listen and download at the podcast site, or use the player below:


Podcast Powered By Podbean

The Big Dog Ink website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Policeman Bluejay

In 1907, the Twinkle Tales got a sequel: a 22-chapter book titled Policeman Bluejay, and it was this book that eventually led to the true identity of "Laura Bancroft" being revealed. It was reissued in 1911 as Babes in Birdland (alongside the collected edition of Twinkle and Chubbins), and was reissued again in 1918 under that title, but now with Baum's name on it.

Baum had suggested it be subtitled "An Oz Book," but the publishers decided not to. Perhaps Baum saw "Oz" as a way to help the book sell more strongly rather than suggest it be included as part of the expanded universe of Oz. There's not really a reason why this and the Twinkle Tales couldn't take place in the same universe as the Oz series, however, there are no ties to connect it to the Oz books either. Clearly, Baum was so resigned to being "The Oz Man" by this time, he saw it as his brand.

The story opens with Twinkle and Chubbins walking into a forest with a picnic basket, and when I read it recently, I realized it could easily be picking up directly after Sugar Loaf Mountain, which ends with them leaving the mountain with a picnic basket they haven't eaten from yet.

Suddenly, the trees seem to close in around them, and a spiny-shelled turtle enters, begging to be petted, saying that it was once "a beautiful maiden," enchanted by a cruel tuxix, which is "a magician, a sorcerer, a wizard, and a witch all rolled into one." However, none other than Policeman Bluejay from Bandit Jim Crow flies in and warns them that it is the tuxix herself, trying to trap them. Since the plot is spoiled, the tuxix turns Twinkle and Chubbins into larks, except for their heads, which become small enough to match their bodies.

Policeman Bluejay befriends the two children, leading them to an abandoned nest, and he brings an eagle who brings the basket along so they may eat the food from it. (Since they are now smaller, the food will last longer.)

Twinkle and Chubbins meet their neighbors: the squirrel Wisk who lives in a hollow near the nest, Mrs. Possum, who lives in a hollow at the base of the tree with her four children, and Mrs. Hootaway the grey Owl, who lives in a hollow at the top of the tree. The child-larks (an improvised name for what Twinkle and Chubbins have become) also are visited by many birds who offer stories about how mankind and animals can be so cruel to birds. One of the birds mentions Jim Crow, though Twinkle doesn't seem to think that it was, in fact, her old pet.

The next morning, the child-larks are rudely awakened by hunters who kill all their neighbors (Mrs. Hootaway's dying words are especially poignant: "Remember that—all—is love; all is—love!"), and the child-larks escape with the help of the eagle, whose home they briefly visit.

Policeman Bluejay lets Twinkle and Chubbins take care of orphaned hatchlings, which they find quite tiresome, until he finds another substitute parent.

Then Twinkle and Chubbins are allowed to visit the Paradise of Birds in the middle of the forest, a splendid haven for birds where everything a bird could wish for is instantly provided if it is not already at hand. Music plays always, so there is no need for birds to sing, and there is even a pool of dry water for birds to play in. However, this is quite an exclusive utopia: Twinkle and Chubbins are only allowed entrance because they are not forest birds. However, while there, they are told they may be restored to their true forms if they eat a tingleberry.

Upon leaving, Policeman Bluejay finds his position usurped by the Rooks, and he gathers his friends to fight the Rooks into submission. Then, he helps Twinkle and Chubbins find the tingleberry bush.

Twinkle is restored, but the berry Chubbins ate was partly withered, and he retains his bird's wings. Policeman Bluejay finds another tingleberry, which completes the restoration. And then, as the children leave the forest, they have something surprising for Baum: disorientation at resuming their true forms.
"Don't your legs feel heavy, Twink?"
"Yes," said she; "do yours?"
"Awful," said he.
 The book takes a few steps forward for the Twinkle Tales. Death is directly addressed as a large number of Twinkle and Chubbins' friends are killed in front of them. While it's sad, it is not written in a way to disturb children.

As a 21st century reader, I can appreciate this. Baum clearly understood that while children shouldn't be terrified, not exposing them to such topics would be a bad thing. For a series aimed at young readers, Baum never talks down to them.

Policeman Bluejay offers an open-ended conclusion to the Twinkle Tales. Baum could have continued with the series, but abstained. He did consider the series some of his best work at one point and even suggested that Twinkle and Chubbins and Policeman Bluejay be reissued in an omnibus edition titled Baum's Wonder Book.

Baum's idea was finally carried out when the book The Twinkle Tales was issued in 2005. Sadly, this edition left out many of the illustrations from the books, only selecting a small few. Twinkle and Chubbins' reprint by the International Wizard of Oz Club included all the illustrations, and Policeman Bluejay was available in a photo-reproduction by Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints, an edition I do not own. It was also reprinted as the Baum novel in Oz-Story 2, but all of the colored illustrations (I can assume it would have been too much work to remove the color) were dropped there.

The downside to these reprints is that they are generally not available to children, Baum's intended audience, and the design of them is not entirely child-friendly either. Perhaps this will be rectified someday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Twinkle Tales

As part of L. Frank Baum's bumper crop of literature in 1906, he released six little chapter books under the pseudonym "Laura Bancroft."

The books were published by Reilly & Britton in small volumes, broken into very short chapters. They were the right size for small hands to handle and Baum kept the stories very light so young readers wouldn't be bogged down or scared.

In 1911, the books were reissued in a collected book titled Twinkle and Chubbins. This book was later reprinted by the International Wizard of Oz Club in 1987, and in 2005, the book and its sequel (for a sequel it had, next blog) were collected into a volume titled The Twinkle Tales. (Which sadly didn't include all of Maginel Wright Enright's illustrations.)

The Twinkle Tales was the name of the series in its original book series form, and as I'll reveal, it actually makes a better title than Twinkle and Chubbins.

The series follows a little girl called Twinkle, who lives near the town of Edgeley, which is in North Dakota. Yes, Baum culls from his time in Aberdeen, but don't look for any autobiographical basis here.

In Mister Woodchuck, which the book edition places as the first story, Twinkle's father sets a trap for woodchucks. Twinkle watches it to see the woodchuck get caught. Instead, she finds herself outside of the Woodchuck's home, where he introduces her to his family and Judge Stoneyheart. To punish Twinkle's father, she is made to step into a trap, when she wakes up. She asks her father not to set out any more traps because the woodchucks have a right to life.

Mister Woodchuck shows Baum's love for animals quite clearly, making a touching yet humorous story about how mankind should respect animal life. Twinkle herself is a dear little girl, though I realized that with a few alterations, she could easily be a young Dorothy.

Bandit Jim Crow is second. The title would be offensive today, but I'm not convinced that Baum intended the title character to be anything but a crow. It is also the oddball of the series as Twinkle is only briefly in the story when she finds a wounded crow and bandages its wing. However, Jim Crow is very cruel and after he heals, he escapes, kills some newborn chicks, then goes to the forest.

In the forest, Jim Crow is regarded with caution by the other birds, but he remains scornful of them and causes trouble, including eating their eggs. Policeman Bluejay is called in and he keeps an eye on Jim Crow and stops him for a time, until the crow realizes he can disguise himself as a white bird in a chalk pit. When Policeman Bluejay grows wise, he gets many birds to assist him in pecking Jim Crow's eyes out.

The final chapter features the kind birds of the forest bringing food and water to Jim Crow, forgiving him of his past transgressions as he is now disabled and can do them no further harm. "And I wonder what his thoughts were—don't you?" Baum asks the reader, implying that Jim Crow is repenting of his wrongdoing.

While Jim Crow is a fine tale, it's curious as it feels more like Bambi than Oz. It's more in the vein of Baum's Animal Fairy Tales, except that there is no magic involved. It was also the most popular of the Twinkle Tales. I guess people really love stories about animals.

Third in the series is Prarie Dog Town, in which we meet Twinkle's friend, the school teacher's son Chubbins. Chubbins is a classic Baum little boy companion, like a midway point between Tot from Dot and Tot of Merryland and Button-Bright as he appeared in The Road to Oz. He's cleverer than those two, though he is not as well defined as Twinkle, a recurring feature of Baum's boy characters who accompany girls. (Though Sky Island has Button-Bright defy it suddenly.)

Twinkle and Chubbins go watch prarie dogs, who invite them into their town. This involves being shrunk down by magician Presto Digi, and the two children get to see that these animals have a little civilization of their own. After a lunch with the mayor, the two children leave the town and are restored to their size.

Baum suggests it may have been a dream:
"Do you think we've been asleep, Chub?" asked the girl.
"'Course not," replied Chubbins, with a big yawn. "It's easy 'nough to know that, Twink, 'cause I'm sleepy now!"
 Again, we see a common theme here in the Twinkle stories: animals. However, the remaining stories go for more traditional Baum fantasies.

Prince Mud-Turtle is the fourth story. In it, Twinkle finds a pretty mud-turtle that she makes a pet. (First Jim Crow, then a mud turtle...) On Saturday, it begins speaking to her and tells her that it is the enchanted fairy Prince Melga, transformed by the Corrugated Giant. He enlists Twinkle's help in defeating the giant and breaking the enchantment.

The next week (the turtle can only speak on Saturdays), Melga whisks Twinkle to the Black Mountains, where he instructs her to rub her eyes with a magic maita-leaf so she can see the fairy land. He shows her the way to the Corrugated Giant's castle, who makes her his slave, and puts her to work tending his kitchen fire.

Obeying Melga's instruction, the turtle is thrown into the cook pot, restoring him to his true form (in some traditional fairy tales, enchantments were broken by killing the animal a person had been transformed into in a specific way, this is a less grim version), and the giant is quickly dispatched. Twinkle joins a celebration before she's sent back home, where her mother tells her the mud-turtle has run away.

Baum also seems to set up future possibilities for the series. Before she goes home, Twinkle is told by Melga, "as your eyes have been rubbed with the magic maita-leaf, you will doubtless always see many strange sights that are hidden from other mortals."

This is probably the most Oz-like of the Twinkle Tales: a journey to a land of fantasy where a wrong must be righted. However, it skews a bit more toward the traditional fairy tale, and calls to mind Baum's short story "The Witchcraft of Mary-Marie." Overall, likely one of the best of the series.

Fifth is Twinkle's Enchantment, very much a travelogue in which Twinkle goes berry-picking and crosses a line of enchantment, entering a magic land where she meets the rolling stone that gathers no moss, a dancing bear, birds of a feather, a green monkey (predating Woot's transformation in The Tin Woodman of Oz), and Prince Nimble of the grasshoppers, as well as other strange and wondrous sights.

It is again suggested that the adventure was a dream, because while the dancing bear fills Twinkle's bucket of berries, Twinkle's mother finds her asleep in the grass with an empty bucket.

The story is charming and pun-filled, and is one of Baum's more whimsical stories.

Finally, we have Sugar Loaf Mountain. Chubbins has moved to Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains. (Finally! Baum takes it to my home area!) Twinkle is visiting, and they climb a mountain called Sugar Loaf Mountain. They find a locked door and key and enter, finding a land consisting entirely of sugar.

Baum notes that there are three types of people. People of white sugar seem to be in the highest class, a darker sugar makes up "more humble" citizens, while people of the darkest sugar seem to be of "less account," being servants.

The king of Sugar Loaf Mountain is courteous to the visitors, but a couple people in his court share daring secrets with Twinkle and Chubbins: Lord Cloy says he is not pure sugar, but only frosted. Princess Sakareen believes she is hollow. After a ride in a carriage and an accident, it is revealed that Cloy is actually made of a marshmallow-like substance, but Sakareen is not hollow. Cloy is disgraced.

Twinkle and Chubbins decide to leave (they are getting thirsty as there is no water in the kingdom), but after they are out, they realize they left the key inside: Sugar Loaf Mountain is now cut off from being discovered ever again.

This one offers some commentary on ethnic social class in the United States at the time. Baum refrains from actually depicting anyone negatively on the color of their sugar, and I felt that Cloy's disgrace was depicted negatively: he is shunned not because of his character but his constitution, which he can't help.

And of course, this story brings to mind the Candy Valley from Dot and Tot of Merryland, particularly Cloy's marshmallow construction.

While reading the series again recently, I couldn't help but think that they might make for a great basis for some animated shorts. Maybe someday, someone will.

The Twinkle Tales are some rather nicely written Baum tales, though I can think of other Baum stories I prefer, so I'm not quick to call them his best. Baum managed to differ enough from his regular style so the "Laura Bancroft" persona seems quite convincing. Overall, this is a great choice if you want Baum at his lightest.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oziana 2012 is out!

After a long wait, Oziana 2012 is finally here!

Normally, Oziana consists of short pieces of work by members of the International Wizard of Oz Club. This year, editor Marcus Mebes decided to do something a little different: do an issue-length Oz story, Round Robin style. Appropriately enough, the person starting the story would be none other than L. Frank Baum himself!

You remember the unfinished Oz story fragment (which might not be by Baum) that features Ozma ice-skating? That was the launching point. And to further help, Robert Baum supplied an introduction and afterword, in which he supplies all the information he knows about the fragment.

Fifteen Oz fans wrote fourteen new chapters: Marcus Mebes, S.P. Maldonado, Jared Davis (yours truly), Kim McFarland, Sam Milazzo, Chris Dulabone, Jeff Rester, Dennis Anfuso, Mycroft Mason, Nathan DeHoff, Paul Ritz, Mike Conway and Nicki Haladay, Paul Dana, and Atticus Gannaway. In addition, S.P. Maldonado, Dennis Anfuso and Kim McFarland all provided artwork to illustrate the story.

Ozma's outing to go ice-skating is interrupted by the appearance of two visitors from Hiland and the Nome Kingdom, who tell her how their respective kings have been acting strangely. Glinda soon discovers that a cruel and powerful witch is at work, making people all over Oz do and believe peculiar things. Can our friends in Oz (including the Wizard, Scraps, Percy, Kabumpo, Jinnicky, the Scarecrow, and of course Dorothy) discover the witch's plot and stop her, or has she sunk her claws into Oz too deeply?

I was one of the early writers who helped the story get rolling by setting up the villain, allowing the remaining writers to work with and deal with her. (My chapter is also the shortest.) While the story didn't reach its fullest possible potential, the story does not disappoint in the least! And also, almost everyone in the blog team contributed to it as well.

One might think the nature of the story's writing might lead to an uneven pace and jarring writing styles, but while some writers can't help but put on their little flourishes, the editors made sure the narrative flowed very well.

This one's an exciting story with some great twists and turns and quite a formidable new foe! Add it to your collection!

Your traditional-style Oziana will resume in 2013.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Oz the Great and Powerful" Trailer, Posters, & Stills

Yes, I was just so darn excited about the new Oz the Great and Powerful goodies that I couldn't wait until Friday to blog about it!

Earlier this week, the House of Mouse revealed the third and final panel of the official poster for the film... and the three of them together look awesome if you ask me.

 Also released is a brand new trailer for the film!

The more I see from this film, the more excited I am to see it. Certainly looks promising...

In other news, The Courier-Journal, which is my local newspaper, published on article on Wednesday about me and my work on Dorothy and the Witches of Oz and my acting debut in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Also included are pictures of my Oz collection. Check that out here.

Speaking of Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, advanced tickets are still available for the red carpet screenings of the film in Boone, North Carolina this weekend. Proceeds will benefit the Brady Bakken Cancer Benefit. Contact April Smith at or visit the film's official Facebook page for details. Don't miss your chance to see the film!

Also, the role of the Wizard was recently cast in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. See behind-the-scenes pictures and all that here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Comics!

 Some new Oz comics in! Let's take a look

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1 The first issue of an ongoing series following up from the successful miniseries.

With "Gale" and the Wicked Witch gone, there's uncertainty and unrest in the Land of Oz. Tin Man's now being forced to take orders from General Jinjur (who's taking control of the Emerald City) while Scarecrow and Lion are in prison.

The comic has some really great dialogue and shows a few scenes that we missed in the beginning of the miniseries. This first issues serves as a transition between this old west take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and now The Marvelous Land of Oz. It looks to be quite worth sticking around for!

In other comics, Marvel's series of adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz books continues with The Road to Oz #3. There's been a few changes in how the series has been put out: Road is only six issues, and according to an interview with Shanower, it seems this will be a new norm for the series, meaning that the stories will be squeezed into fewer issues. This doesn't really pose much of a problem for Road, since a quick pace helps the story, but with stories like The Patchwork Girl of Oz, there might be more concerns on how to condense it.

I haven't commented on the series much (despite buying each issue and the hardcover collections), because I'm rather loathe to admit that while Shanower adapts the story well and occasionally adds nice additional dialogue (issue #1 of Road had the Shaggy Man quip "Unusual weather we're having" when it begins to snow outside Foxville), the real star of the series has been Skottie Young.

Skottie's unorthodox and cartoonish (sometimes bordering on bizarre) take on Oz has proved a refreshing look at our favorite fairyland. While I still picture Neill's depictions when I think of Oz, Skottie's interpretations are charming in their own whimsical way. It offers more fun to these wonderful stories, though he can't break entirely away from Neill (e.g.: Ozma). I really enjoyed his new look at Allegro DaCapo (aka The Musicker) in this issue, and the Scoodlers are appropriately menacing.

Hey, next issue, Johnny Dooit and the Sand Boat! I wonder how Skottie will depict the visiting dignitaries...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lather, rinse, repeat

So, with less than five months from the premiere, Disney has begun a new wave of promotion for Oz: The Great and Powerful.

In an article for USA Today, director Sam Raimi drops a few hints about the plot: "(Oscar Diggs is) mistaken for Oz the Great and Powerful, destined to be the next king of Emerald City. But he's only to receive that title if he can defeat the Wicked Witch."

Sounds really good, right?

Yeah, except we've seen that done at least twice by Disney in the past eight years.

The film is already being compared with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which, I won't lie, I wasn't a fan of. This sequel to Lewis Carroll's nonsensical satire took a dark and serious approach to the material: the Red Queen (the Queen of Hearts with a name change) has taken over Underland (supposedly, Alice got the name wrong, never mind that no one in those stories named their country) and the White Queen and a rag tag band of misfits wait for the return of Alice to slay the Jabberwocky so they can take back their country. Except Alice doesn't believe that she is who they're waiting for.

I'll cut straight to it, I'm practically seeing the same story set to unfold in this new Oz film. However, I'm not despairing, perhaps this idea will work out better with Glinda and the Wizard fighting the Wicked Witches of the East and West. I'm not expecting it to fully blend with Baum's books, but we'll see where they go with it.

But where did they get this plot from?


Now, note, Walden Media was the actual production company behind The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but Disney did work on it with them.

In the film, the plot deviates slightly from the book, placing the hope for the land of Narnia to be delivered from the icy grip of the White Witch into the hands of the four Pevensie children. Eldest brother Peter, who's unsure if they're really able to help the land. (In the original book, more emphasis is placed on the involvement of Aslan, the titular lion, though the film doesn't ignore him.) The plot worked well there because it was derived from the book with a gentle reworking.

Now, you can't blame Disney for sticking with a great-selling plot (Narnia made over $745 million, Alice walked off with over $1,024 million), but honestly, I wish they'd at least come up with something new, or wait ten years before trotting it out again.

Well, we'll see how it works.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Landlady

During L. Frank Baum's time in Aberdeen, South Dakota, he ran a lavish store called Baum's Bazaar. Unfortunately, the store was too lavish to run for long and he had to close it. Not quite ready to quit Aberdeen, he started the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, a weekly newspaper.

Baum would editorialize about local and national news, but he had a fun way of treating some topics. In addition to poetry, he wrote a series of stories about Sairy Ann Bilkins, landlady of the cheapest boarding house in the United States, located in Aberdeen. She would discuss matters, sometimes relating odd stories. Her boarders—young Tom, the doctor, and the colonel (who she has a crush on)—offer commentary, usually over dinner, which the boarders occasionally find foreign objects in.

Baum is witty and humorous here, but admittedly, this book is greatly helped by Nancy Tystad Koupal's annotations and notes, helping us understand the appropriate context for it. This is not a fault of Baum, because he didn't write to have it read about 120 years later, but for his friends and neighbors at the time they were living in.

That being said though, readers fresh off the Oz books might be surprised by the Baum they find here. Instead of rollicking adventures, they get a plain country woman's view of her home and world. Baum does venture into fancy in a few strips, such as an underground ride and an idea of the future of Aberdeen, but one that really gets to Oz fans is an early one where Mrs. Bilkins tells about how the local farmers are dealing with hard times. She tells how one farmer makes his horses wear green goggles so he can trick them into thinking shavings are grass so they'll eat them, "but they ain't gittin' fat on it." This, of course, brings to mind how the Wizard makes the people of the Emerald City wear green spectacles in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Koupal notes how Baum's work for the Pioneer is actually very critical to understanding how his mind worked, noting that those who believe he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a Populist allegory are actually completely ignoring his entire work for the paper. This work reveals his actual political stances, which stand at odds with the Populism interpretation.

While Baum fans may get a chuckle from Mrs. Bilkins, Our Landlady is definitely more for those who want to know more about who L. Frank Baum was and what he believed. Those who simply want to enjoy a work of fiction might look to his other works.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Another 'Oz the Great and Powerful' poster and 'Dorothy of Oz' stills

Happy Friday, everyone!

Disney just released the second of the three panels of the Oz the Great and Powerful, set to be released in 3-D on March 8th. It's said that the three images together will make one, big connected image like they did with the Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland posters a couple years back. 

Also to be released at some point next year is Summertime Entertainment's animated kid's flick Dorothy of Oz. Just Jared released new stills from the film earlier today. Check all of 'em out right here.
There will be two screenings of Dorothy and the Witches of Oz in Boone, North Carolina on November 18th at the Watauga County High School. The screenings will be at 3pm & 7pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ten and under; proceeds will benefit the Brady Bakken Cancer Benefit. Stars Barry Ratcliffe, Eliza Swenson, Al Snow, and director Leigh Scott are all set to attend. A great movie, and a great cause! Contact April Smith at to purchase advanced tickets, as seating is limited. 

I think that's just about it for this week... 'till next time! 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Oz goes Social

I tend to stay away from Facebook games, however, a few get me, but only if they're based on stuff I care about.

SO, there's a game based on the MGM film The Wizard of Oz. It uses some nicely done 3D recreations of the places and characters along with film clips and vocal imitations of the film's cast (though the Dorothy voice leaves a little to be desired).

The game focuses on Munchkinland and the Yellow Brick Road. The tiny Munchkin town you land in starts off with only four little huts and the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road.

The Yellow Brick Road is incomplete, so you need bricks to finish it. To get bricks, you make them. To make bricks, you need ore, which must be mined. To do this, you set up factories that the Munchkins will work. To keep the Munchkins happy, you can build more homes, shops, restaurants, and a grain mill to keep a food supply ready. In addition, you can control Munchkins who can chop down trees and mine rocks for more wood and ore, and an easy to control fishing game to earn more food.

When you've made enough bricks to complete a new section of the Road, you can head down it and get a series of bonuses and mini-games. Additional items can also be made by "Ozifying" with Professor Levram (clearly Professor Marvel). You can also pick up shards of Glinda's old wand and summon her when you get five of them.

From time to time, the Wicked Witch of the West pops up and has her Winged Monkeys attack. You fend them off from damaging your buildings by clicking on them.

There's also a social element to the game. You can connect with Facebook friends playing the game by adding them as neighbors and helping in their own "Munchkinland." They can also staff buildings like Town Hall, the Bank, the Lollipop Guild and the Lullaby League. You can also send them items and other things they might need, probably the Ozziest aspect of the game.

What you can do is limited by energy. Most actions take up one unit of it, then it takes about four minutes (or a power-up) to recover a point. You get a higher energy level each time you level up. Possibly the wait time to replenish energy goes down with each level up, but in my time playing, it hasn't gone down noticeably, if at all.

There are also quests you can do that will reward you with more coins, energy, and items once completed.

You can also use Facebook credits (bought with real money) or do offers to earn Emeralds which can unlock or purchase items you couldn't without them. Emeralds can also be acquired without a purchase, but you'll get them slowly. Of course, this is one of the ways the developers intend to make a profit from the game, so if you really enjoy the game, you might consider an occasional purchase to show appreciation.

The game is, of course, based on the film and generally ignores the book, but I did get a surprise when Professor Levram mentions a hy-po-gy-raf, and a trivia question on the Yellow Brick Road asks what color Dorothy's shoes were in the book.

Overall, the game seems to owe origins to Sim City, but the bonus games and actual interaction take it to another level. Facebook games are usually pretty simple, so there's not much else to this that I've discovered yet.

Still, I've yet to get to the Scarecrow. Will he join Dorothy in Munchkinland or just be along the Yellow Brick Road? There's likely more to discover as you keep playing.

Play The Wizard of Oz on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Winged Monkeys of Oz

Here's the first Oz book by Dennis Anfuso. Before this book—published in 1996—Anfuso was mainly known for artwork, including a humorous "What if?" panel on the back of Oziana 1979 showing Dorothy's house being carried away by the cyclone, with her and Toto peeking with Aunt Em out of the cellar, Dorothy noting how she and Toto had made it just in time. He has since illustrated books for Chris Dulabone and even written another Oz book.

The Winged Monkeys of Oz introduces us to a little girl named Melanie who finds a Winged Monkey on the beach in Tacoma, Washington. She befriends it and it is joined by another: they are named Nikko and Breeka. They carry her to the neighboring countries of Oz, where they have a series of strange adventures on Symma Island, Anna Mile Island, and Artisand Island.

Meanwhile, Ozma would like to do something for someone for her birthday. Eventually, it's decided to invite the Winged Monkeys to live in the Palace, so Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, the Lion, and Toto go to see the Monkeys and invite them. The Monkeys accept, but soon their mischievous nature rise and cause trouble. What is the solution, and can Breeka, Nikko and Melanie get back to Oz and Tacoma?

The plot in Oz is nicely done, but while the travels of Nikko, Breeka and Melanie are spiced with conflict, I actually had trouble noting where one island ended and the next began. It wasn't bad, but it was jarring.

Dennis writes charmingly and humorously and includes a good number of in-jokes for Oz fans (there's a painting competition by an artist named Dean Slow and Kneel). Overall, I rather did like this one.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Oz (1976)

Sam looks homeward as he and Jared briefly discuss Oz, a rock and roll movie, the first film version of Oz from down under!

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


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Friday, November 02, 2012

'Oz the Great and Powerful' poster & other things

If you didn't know... IT'S FRIDAY! I hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween and ate a bunch of candy and all that jazz. Let's get right into the news today, shall we? I think we shall.

The House of Mouse has released a witchy new poster for Oz the Great and Powerful, set to hit the big screen on March 8th. Word on the street is this is the first of three panels that will make up one, glorious image. See the full poster and press release here. Cool beans, right?

In other news, a company called Spooky Cool Labs recently launched (with sort of random timing) a licensed Facebook game based on the 1939 film. I played it for about an hour when it was in beta last week, and I enjoyed it. You can play the game with your friends (or by yourself) here.

My friend Ryan Jay is a nationally-syndicated film critic and huge Oz fanatic. He recently interviewed legendary director Robert Zemeckis (who, by the way, was rumored to be directing a live-action remake of the '39 movie for Warner Bros...), and asked him if he would be interested in directing the long-rumored film adaptation of the musical Wicked for Universal.  Watch his response here.

After the Wizard recently had a red carpet fundraiser event in Memphis, Tennessee. See all the pictures from that event here!

  That's it for this week, children!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Barnstormer in Oz

Every time a new look at Oz that dares to re-envision it pops up, Oz fans either accept it or protest it.

Face it, we love Oz, and some of us can get really protective.

It started with The Oz Encounter, which lightly tread the beloved ground of Oz. Later came Was, giving us the "true story" of "Dorothy Gael." And of course, there was Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series, and virtually no end of "dark re-imagining" comics based on Oz.

But really, the first, really controversial book inspired by Oz is right here: A Barnstormer in Oz by big time science fiction writer Philip José Farmer.

To be honest, I wasn't taken by Barnstormer. While it was a story I enjoyed enough to keep coming back to, at the end of it, I wasn't thinking, "My, what a great story!"

Hank Stover has flown his barnstormer plane into a green cloud and emerged in a strange land, full of pygmies and a beautiful auburn-haired maiden. He eventually learns the language and discovers he's in the land his mother Dorothy visited when she was a little girl: what she called Oz. Specifically, he's in the Quadling Country, and he has met Glinda the Good.

The story that Farmer lays out is that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a true story. The sequels were made due to public demand. There were some details changed, elaborated, or sanitized by Baum, but it did happen.

Hank almost immediately decides to stay in Oz, but there are two problems: one is that the Good Witch of the North has been replaced by a Wicked Witch named Erakna. She has the Golden Cap and is invading the other parts of Oz.

The other is that the US Army is largely responsible for Hank going to Oz: they have managed to break the dimensional barrier (the green clouds are the portals) and send him supplies to report on Oz and later send troops across into Oz. But Glinda cannot risk people from Earth coming to Oz. The wealth in Oz would inspire greed and possibly an interdimensional war. Also, any disease from Earth could be fatal to the people of Oz, and vice versa could also be the case.

Joined by many friends in Oz (including the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman) and his barnstormer Jenny (who comes to life), Hank takes it upon himself to help Glinda take care of both threats.

Farmer's Oz is very different from Baum's. He reminds us that Baum got many details wrong many, many times. Basically, he explains how the magic in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz works by explaining it as science fiction. He also explains that Oz has rules to prevent overpopulation: each couple is only allowed two children, and then the men must drink a potion that will keep them sterile. Basically, you are only allowed have enough children to replace you.

The problem is, a lot of plot pieces are set up just to address these differences. They aren't really essential to the plot, so why do we need so much of it? It's especially sad that in the Author's Notes that Farmer cut a really interesting scene I would have enjoyed due to length.

While Barnstomer is not really bad and provides an intriguing alternate version of Oz, the over-exposition can just get to be a bit much. It's worth a read for the mature Oz fan, but the younger should stay away. And if you're not interested, don't bother.