Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful dolls: The Wizard and Glinda

So, with a new Oz movie by a major studio coming out, there's merchandising. Meaning that Oz will be easy to find for awhile! At least, this version of it.

I've picked up the Oz-themed issue of D23 magazine, and the junior novelization, and now two dolls.

"Wait," you might say. "Jared, you're a guy, and you bought dolls?"


"Well, you ordered them online, right? You wouldn't be seen picking them up in a store, right?"

Oh, I did. And my dad was with me when I did. And a guy at the register processed my transaction. He mentioned he wasn't sure about James Franco playing the Wizard. I just replied that it's the first time the young version of the Wizard's appeared in a movie. Let's just say that when it comes to life, there's bigger things to worry about than buying Oz dolls at a store.

I decided to get The Wizard—or, as the box says "Oz (Oscar Diggs)"—and Glinda mainly because they're L. Frank Baum's characters. I could have also picked up Evanora and Theodora, but I am on a budget. Anyway, if I decide I really want them, the way Disney can really saturate the market, I'm sure I could pick them up later after they've been marked down.

It's worth noting that these dolls are by Tollytots, and there's a fifth doll of the China Girl, but she's not in scale. Sadly, there is no toy representation of Finley the Winged Monkey, which is too bad, because he's such a nice-looking Winged Monkey. I wouldn't mind army-building a flock of Finleys. The Disney Store has an exclusive line of dolls, featuring better sculpts and much more elaborate clothing and nicer packaging. However, those dolls are more expensive than these (almost twice the price), and there's no longer a Disney Store in Springfield. (They do, however, also have a Finley plush toy, but he's not in scale, and way too pricey to army build.) Also, the Disney Store line doesn't have Theodora and has the Wicked Witch of the West instead.

That being said, although the Tollytots dolls aren't as nice as the Disney store line, they're not bad. The face sculpts are rather generic doll faces rather than being modeled after James Franco and Michelle Williams.

The quality of the clothing is rather cheap. It's nicely designed, but the material is cheap and looks like that if you tried to modify it, it'd start to unravel quickly. (So don't.) Glinda has a dress that begins thin around her thighs and then fluffs out near the knees. She also has a crown sewn into her hair, which is pretty nicely styled for a doll. She has high-heeled boots that go all the way up to her knees. To help them go on easily, they're slit on the back. For an accessory, she comes with a wand, which you can't keep in her hand without the aid of something else, like glue, blue-tack, or one of the many rubber bands that help package the doll.

Oscar has a suit jacket, striped pants, a bowtie (which makes him cool), and a shirt that has the front of a vest sewn on. He has some nicely detailed boots and a hat which fit on nicely. However, his hair doesn't look so great since it's a short length and can't be styled in many ways. I saw someone say they had styled it with gel, which seemingly worked well. For accessories, he has a bag (which, again, takes an additional substance to make him hold) and...

...China Girl. That's right, one of Oscar's accessories is another character. This tiny version of China Girl is articulated at the shoulders and the legs right under the skirt. It's difficult to make her stand on her own, especially since her legs are made of a less hardy plastic than her body and head. Oscar can hold her, however.

The dolls also come with a charm, which is a piece of plastic on a tiny ring, shaped like the first letter of the accompanying character's name. (Glinda has a G, Oscar has an O, etc.)

The big nightmare here is the packaging. Getting the dolls free requires battling through a mass of tape, ties, and rubber bands. This might make some decide to leave them in the box for collectors, but if you were serious about collecting, the Disney Store versions would likely be what you'd go for. (Though you might pick up the Tollytots Theodora doll, since that character is unrepresented in that line.)

And in the end, don't bother picking these up if collecting Oz dolls or toys isn't your thing. As it is, these are actually the first mass-produced Oz toys in my collection. They're pretty nice, actually.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Winkies again!

Well, if you haven't guessed, I'll be heading back out to California for the Winkie Convention this year. This year, we will be celebrating the centennial of The Patchwork Girl of Oz and the 50th anniversary of Merry-Go-Round in Oz, Eloise Jarvis McGraw's first venture into Oz and the final of the Famous Forty Oz books.

There will, of course, be the welcome return of the Winkie Auction, the Costume Contest, the Quiz, the Treasure Hunt, Show and Tell, and the newly-renamed Winkie Swap Shop. All attendees are welcome to participate, as usual.

We'll also have a delightful return of Joe Cascone and David Haines, who presented a beautiful presentation of Oz songs in 2011. They'll perform the surviving songs from the abandoned Patchwork Girl of Oz musical by Baum and Louis Gottschalk, and in the tradition of Oz conventions from long ago, we'll be screening an actual film copy of The Patchwork Girl of Oz silent film, and like its original release, Joe will be playing the original score for it live. Even if you've seen it many times on its numerous home video releases, you won't be able to match this experience!

Atticus Gannaway will be presenting about the life and career of Dick Martin, illustrator of Merry-Go-Round in Oz, Yankee in Oz, The Enchanted Island of Oz, The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, the original version of The Visitors from Oz and many other Oz books and projects. I'm sure there will be other presentations as well.

Unlike last year, I won't be doing so much. I haven't been asked to present, I'm not presenting a quiz, but I do plan on participating in the Costume Contest, and I think I'll be helping with the Swap Shop.

One thing I will also be participating in is the Oz Research Table. It was brought back last year, and I hope we have many submissions for artwork and works of Oz fiction and non-fiction. I've submitted a story that will also be appearing in Oziana this year, and to be honest, I think it might be one of my best efforts at Oz fiction so far. But we'll see if it's the best at the table! Go here to see the full details for submitting your work. There are cash prizes to be won!

So, want to go? Hurry and get your registration in! Room is filling up fast! (You can stay off-site, but its much easier to stay on the grounds.) Go here for more information and the link for a printable registration form. See you at Oz!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz - Dorothy in the Land of Oz

Sam and Jared discuss the animated special Dorothy in the Land of Oz (also known as Thanksgiving in Oz, Christmas in Oz, Dorothy and the Green Gobbler in Oz, or just Oz) from 1980.

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



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Friday, February 22, 2013

Two Weeks Until 'Oz the Great and Powerful'!


Can you believe that there are only two weeks left until we get to see Oz the Great and Powerful? Pretty awesome. As expected, all of the news bits this week are related to that movie.

First, I wanted to let everyone know, that I will not be seeing the movie when it opens on Friday, March 8th... because I'll be seeing it the night before! Yes, many theaters (in the U.S., at least) will be offering advanced screenings of the film on the night of Thursday, March 7th. You can check if a theater near you will be showing the film on March 7th right here.

We have a bunch of new international Oz TV spots, clips, and promos...
On Sunday, the cast of Oz introduced a brand new TV spot with some nice, new footage during ABC's Revenge.You can watch that spot by clicking the 'Nothing is What it Seems' link above.

This week, a new clip from the film was released online via Yahoo! Movies. Some of this scene was shown when Rachel Weisz was a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week. You can watch the new clip here.

Earlier this week, Prince Michael Jackson, son of the King of Pop, interviewed the cast of the movie on Entertainment Tonight. They didn't show any footage from the movie, and the interview clips were pretty short.

Last night, star Mila Kunis was a guest on Conan O'Brien's talk show on TBS to talk about the movie. A new clip from the movie was aired. You can watch the entire interview and the new clip here.

Mariah Carey's Almost Home, which plays during the credits of the movie, has been officially released online. I'm not really impressed by it, but if you want to give it a listen for a dollar, you can do so right here. Disney has been removing YouTube uploads of the song, so I won't link to any here since there's a risk of them getting deleted...

Speaking of music from the film, you can listen to snippets from Danny Elfman's score right here.

Disney Channel has been airing a new behind-the-scenes look at the film with Mila Kunis, which you can watch here. Lots of cool clips and set footage here.

A 4D sneak preview of the movie is now being shown at the Muppet*Vision Theater at Disney's California Adventure theme park...

Photo courtesy of Kirk Kushin (via Facebook)

Photo courtesy of DCA Today (via Facebook)

 That's it for this week, folks! Have a fantastic weekend...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why Do We Still Have Oz?

Have you ever looked in the back of an old book and seen advertisements for series and books you've never heard of? One thing's for certain, it's most likely that no one's reprinting those.

So, why are the Oz books still being reprinted?

Looking at the Oz books critically, even ardent Baum fans have to admit that the guy wasn't perfect. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz contains what feels like a large anticlimax as Dorothy and her friends have more adventures on their way to Glinda's. While it's a charming piece on its own, the Dainty China Country doesn't even fit with this anticlimax. One can view these adventures as Dorothy's friends having to prove to themselves that they can think, love and have courage, and while the Fighting Trees allow the Tin Woodman to have the heart to fight them so his friends can pass, the Giant Spider gives the Lion a chance to prove his courage and the problem of getting across the Hammerheads' mountain is solved by the Scarecrow (plus, after he got his brains, he acts pompously, and during these adventures, he gets beaten twice by the Trees and the Hammerheads); the China Country offers no such development, other than Dorothy's friends proving their resourcefulness, which has already been done.

I also note that Baum doesn't really do character development, and when he does, it's over the course of several books. Dorothy goes from crying about not being able to return to Kansas in Wizard to basically saying, "Aunt Em and Uncle Henry won't worry if I'm not gone for too long" in The Road to Oz. The Nome King goes from a tricky gambling king with an amiable disposition in Ozma of Oz to a tyrant in Tik-Tok of Oz. The Tin Woodman takes years to remember to find the Munchkin girl who he was going to marry, realizing that his heart is not loving but kind. And some cynics note Ozma's diplomatic acts throughout the series being rather questionable. (Fellow blogger Mari Ness noted this as "Ozma Fail.")

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Baum literally changes the main cast halfway through the book, something that seriously isn't done. And, oddly, while Dorothy refuses to move to Oz until Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are also allowed, no thought is given to the parents of Trot and Button-Bright when they take up residence as well.

Why, when the Oz books have issues, are they still around? There's the popularity of the MGM movie, but a famous film doesn't always assure that the original book will be widely available—at least, not as widely available as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—much less its numerous sequels. (Go to a used DVD store. Locate a copy of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Found it? Now go to a used bookstore and find the book and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Having the same luck?) Of course, Baum's books being public domain is a large factor in their availability, but copies of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia are also just about as easy to come by, and their copyrights are still active.

Actually, it's a good thing I mentioned Tolkien and Lewis there. During the times that their works were first published (particularly Lewis), it was widely believed that children needed to be grounded in reality and thus, fantasy in all its forms was harmful. C.S. Lewis wrote various essays about the need for fantasy, and Tolkien produced a fine piece called "On Fairy Stories."

In the United States, the Oz books were under fire from librarians who felt that fantasy should be avoided. It wasn't just any idea about literary quality, there were financial reasons as well: about the time this began to happen, there were at least 38 books in the main series. Long series were avoided by libraries, and the more popular they were, the worse it was perceived to be. Not only would there be the cost of stocking copies of the book, there would also be the cost of replacing them should they wear out. (Not to mention the possibility of lost or stolen books.)

People like Martin Gardner, C. Warren Hollister and Daniel P. Mannix argued for the value of the Oz books. Despite lacking certain literary qualities that critics deemed important, they argued that the inspiration offered by fantasy was actually quite beneficial to young minds, and that a series like the Oz books that offered a cast of positive and miraculously believable characters were a good influence on children. General opinions changed, and the children who did enjoy the Oz books when they were released eventually took over.

And yes, they have a point. Hollister said the Oz books had a three-dimensionality. Part of this is due to what critics would call errors in the Oz books: the seemingly pointless side adventures helped the stories feel more real rather than a neatly polished narrative. The wide range of characterization helped children believe in them, even if they knew they were just reading a fairy story.

Take this in comparison to J.R.R. Tolkien who also included easily removable adventures (Tom Bombadil, the Barrow-Downs, the Scouring of the Shire), yet his narrative, though quite enjoyable on its own, is not the same as Oz. Oz is joyful, while Middle-Earth can get so gritty, it feels dry at times.

Why are the Oz books still widely available when so many other old series from the beginning of the 20th century are forgotten? They sell. Why do they sell? They have a seductive quality that keeps the reader coming back for more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


So, I did something that sounds impressive until you realize what I did.

I purchased almost half of the Oz titles available on Blu-Ray.

Let's clarify, there are five Oz titles on Blu-Ray: The Wiz, Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz, Tin Man, The Witches of Oz, and of course, MGM's The Wizard of Oz. (The latter was released on various Blu-Ray editions, some including the extant Oz silent movies, the 1933 cartoon, and The Dreamer of Oz. These were standard definition prints, though, and were not released on their own. Hence, I maintain they're only technically on Blu-Ray.)

It took me awhile to get sold on Blu-Ray, and even though I do now own a Blu-Ray player, I can understand people still being satisfied with DVD. What sets Blu-Ray apart from DVD is the fact that it can contain a larger frame size for the video. Anyone familiar with printing can tell you that when it comes to images, bigger means better picture quality in the end product. Thus, a low-resolution scan will look poor when printed, unless you're doing it at a very small size. Market trends towards people buying large flat screen television sets eventually meant that DVD could only go so far before looking blurry. Hence, high definition video. Blu-Ray is now the medium for physical media containing such video. People who don't have large televisions are likely still happy with DVD, and that's fine. Size is relative, after all.

The titles I picked up were The Wiz and Tin Man. I'm not sold on high definition improving any aspect of Tom and Jerry or The Witches of Oz (though I might pick them up eventually), and the MGM film is getting re-released soon, likely with more bonus features, so I'll hold out for that. (And by that time, we'll have Oz the Great and Powerful and possibly Dorothy and the Witches of Oz available as well, I hope.)

The Wiz is a title that I thought probably would benefit from a clearer picture. While high definition helps us see the unattractive production design all the better, it also helps the colors show much brighter. Munchkinland is still dark, thanks to it being night time, but the color is more noticeable, and Lena Horne looks much better now. The movie is still the same movie you've always known, it just looks much better on high definition.

Sam noted that each disc version of The Wiz gets fewer and fewer bonus features. The original DVD release had menu-based production notes and cast biographies that were dropped from the 30th anniversary release. However, that one had a CD of a selection of songs from the movie included. The Blu-Ray doesn't include that. However, a big plus over the DVD releases is that the menu isn't composed of still images, but a series of clips from the film set to "Ease On Down The Road." It says something when the menu has a better pacing than the movie.

While you're watching the movie, you can bring up the menu without interrupting the movie. (The options pop up, the background video and audio don't.) This is not available for bonus features, though. Trying to bring up the menu on those will take you back to the movie or the menu, depending on what you left behind.

As you can imagine, Tin Man doesn't have major visual issues that are improved by high definition, being a recent production. However, the Blu-Ray still improves with a surprisingly sharper and clearer picture than the standard DVD edition and richer colors. This is best appreciated during the fields of the Papay scenes, as the Papay runners definitely benefit from better clarity.

And if you recall the exclusive bonus disc from Borders, all of its features are on the second disc, along with all the other DVD features from the standard version. While some online content (including a charming video of Kathleen Robertson reading the beginning of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to children) never made it to home video, the Blu-Ray is likely going to be the ultimate version of Tin Man for home video, until they come up with ultra-high definition.

The menus are also accessible during the mini-series, but during the special features, it will offer an option to return to the main menu. (Accessing special features will stop the main feature's playback in this case.) Two huge pluses over the DVD is that this version contains subtitles, and there isn't a ton of trailers at the beginning of Disc 1.

Overall, if you make the jump to Blu-Ray and need to replace these titles (or you know, you want it because it's Oz), there's enough good about both of these Blu-Rays to justify a purchase. The better image, more special features on Tin Man, and the fact that with a bit of looking, you can find both for $10 each or less. (Both have been spotted in Wal-Mart bargain bins for less. That's not where I got my copies, though.)

Sorry that I can't provide compare and contrast screenshots. I don't have a Blu-Ray drive, and taking a photo of my TV would not make a convincing image.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Save The Chesterton Oz Festival!

With word that a major backer has dropped out of Chesterton's Wizard of Oz Festival, Jared talks with Zach Allen about the future of the event.

Go to the Facebook Group to see how you can help!

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



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Friday, February 15, 2013

'Oz the Great and Powerful' Premiere & New Clips

Happy Friday! Once again, lots of Oz the Great and Powerful news this week.

First, I'd like to mention that we've added a countdown widget to the blog for the movie. Nothing else to say about that, other than the fact that it looks pretty darn cool over there in the sidebar.

Now for the news...

Disney Channel's Movie Surfers interviewed Oz stars Zach Braff and Joey King and showed off a bunch of new footage from the film. You can watch all of that coolness right here.

Two new TV spots as well as a sixty-second promo for the film have just been released online. You can watch them here, here and here.

An in-depth behind-the-scenes featurette was recently released via Yahoo! Movies. You can watch that here. A shorter version of this was aired on Entertainment Tonight earlier this week.

Mila Kunis was a guest on The Ellen Degeneres Show on Tuesday to chat about Oz. A new clip from the film was shown, but Mila spent most of the time on the show gushing about Ashton Kutcher. The clip has not yet been released or leaked online anywhere, unfortunately.

James Franco was on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday night to talk about the world premiere of the film in Los Angeles. You can watch the entire interview, including a new clip from the film, in three parts: here, here, and here.

You can see pictures from the L.A. premiere here.

Check out some of the premiere interviews below from Popsugar, who streamed the red carpet event online through their Facebook page.
As I mentioned in last week's blog, my friend Ryan Jay, who is a film critic and an avid Oz fan, attended the premiere on Wednesday and got to interview some of the cast and crew. As we wait to see the interviews, here are some pictures that he posted on his Facebook page.

Ryan Jay interviewing composer Danny Elfman

Ryan Jay interviewing actress Joey King, who plays China Girl

Rachel Weisz was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night to talk about the movie, and she brought an awesome new clip from the movie with her. You can watch the interview in three parts, here, here, and here.

Surprisingly, we actually have more news other than just Oz the Great and Powerful stuff this week as well... but, be warned- it's not much to be excited about.

Warner Horizon Television has picked up a new television series called Red Brick Road, which is apparently a dark, edgy sequel to The Wizard of Oz. We don't know much about the plot yet, but the leaked concept art speaks for itself. This looks disastrous. Read more about the planned show at Variety. 

That's all for this week! I'm so thrilled that Oz the Great and Powerful is almost upon us, and there's so much news about it lately.

Enjoy the weekend...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Oz comics!

And now some new Oz comics I just got today...

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #3. I saw the variant cover on eBay and decided to get it instead of the standard cover as a I had all previous issues. Frankly, I liked this one better than the standard cover featuring a Wheeler defying the Field Mice.

In the continuing story of this Old West-themed Oz, Tin Man and Lion meet up with Scarecrow, Tip and the Sawhorse as they head south to see Glinda (so I assume), but along the way, they are ambushed by the Wheelers that Jinjur has sent after them. But never fear! The fierce and fighting Field Mice are here to save the day. Or can they? They are only little creatures after all...

Marvel's The Road to Oz #5 is the penultimate issue, Skottie Young and Eric Shanower bringing us a wonderful interpretation of the fifth Oz book as Dorothy and her friends reach the Emerald City at last.

Although I know the pair is up to the task, I wonder how they'll pull off the final issue, since this ends as the Shaggy Man surrenders the Love Magnet to Ozma. This means the next issue will cover the Scarecrow's arrival in the Emerald City, Dorothy receiving the guests (and since this is a visual medium, this means we should be seeing many of these Baum characters), the birthday party itself and the grand celebration, the Wizard's bubbles, and how Dorothy finally gets home again.

Again, while I appreciate they got Eric Shanower to adapt the story as he's clearly someone who understands comics and Oz, the real star of the Marvel series is Skottie Young, visually depicting Oz moment by moment in his own unique and sometimes bizarre style. (Unless you haven't read the books yet. Then it's all new to you. Lucky...)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oz Magazines!

I did something a little unusual last Sunday for my Oz collecting: I went to a bookstore. Not a used bookstore where one might find delightful rare Oz items, but to Barnes and Noble.

Normally, I buy Oz merchandise online. However, I needed to get out and do something that wasn't going to work, so Barnes and Noble it was.

My main goal was to look for the Spring 2013 issue of Disney Twenty-Three magazine. Walking into the magazine department, I realized my search might prove a little daunting, as there were shelves loaded with periodicals. However, there was a familiar sight waiting for me...
Famous Monsters of Filmland #266, featuring articles on the Wicked Witch of the West (and the Creature from the Black Lagoon). I initially decided not to get it, but then later, I decided to look through it. To my surprise, on page 1 was a picture of none other than L. Frank Baum himself! Opening the series of articles on the Witch was a piece by Robert Baum about the Witch as she appeared in the book vs. her famous green film counterpart.

I had second thoughts and picked it up after all.

A little searching and looking at a bottom shelf all the way to the back finally turned up Disney Twenty-Three. No secret about why I wanted it on the cover either...
It was sealed in a bag, so I had to buy it to read what was inside.

Walking around Barnes and Noble for a bit makes it clear they time merchandise for films tightly. Some books for Oz the Great and Powerful have been released, but I couldn't find any. However, I did pass and notice a shelf featuring the works of Gregory Maguire with paperback editions of the latter three entries of The Wicked Years placed prominently. In the children's section, where a few copies of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have been found by myself (yes, I have the location memorized), there were the first two books of Aladdin Publishing's "The Complete Oz" reprints, containing between them the first six Oz books. (However, looking inside, I could find no illustrations, thus I can't recommend them.)

A bit more hopeful were Disney Press' new editions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz. Unlike a picture Angelo had seen on Facebook, the titles of the book were prominent, and recolored art by Denslow and Neill graced the covers, notice of the film being on the back cover only. Wonderful Wizard contains a new introduction by James Franco, and there is also a new introduction in Marvelous Land, but I failed to notice who it was by. I should like to read Franco's introduction (a salesperson asked if she could help me, so I decided to keep my time in the children's section short), but if I add this edition to my collection, I'll wait until I can get it used and cheaply. The Disney editions contain no interior illustrations.

So, getting home, I was finally able to enjoy my magazines. I decided to start with Monsters.

While Page 1 does feature Baum, I was a little dismayed to see that underneath it, they quoted "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." It is attributed to Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, rather than the MGM film, where it was likely written by Noel Langley. I think Baum would have agreed with the statement, but it is not his work. (In The Road to Oz, Ozma says, "But in Oz we are loved for ourselves alone, and for our kindness to one another, and for our good deeds.") Famous Monsters of Filmland isn't the first to make this error, and I'm sure they won't be the last.

Robert Baum again spins a tale of his great-grandfather inventing the character of the Wicked Witch of the West as he examines how the original Witch from the book differs from Margaret Hamilton's immortal performance in the MGM film.

Next up is John Fricke, profiling Margaret Hamilton's career with an especial focus on her Oz role, even mentioning how they softened the character through editing from the original version. Then Jonathan Shirshekan profiles Oz makeup artist Jack Dawn's work for the film, particularly the Wicked Witch, the Winged Monkeys, and the Winkie Guards. Then Lianne Spiderbaby looks at the legacy Hamilton's Witch left behind.

Rounding out the articles are an article about the infamous synching of MGM's The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon and an interview with Mike Hill, who has sculpted lifelike statues of Hamilton's Wicked Witch and her right-hand Monkey Nikko. On the final page of the issue, there is a picture of an elderly Hamilton with a quote about her reaction to being offered the part of the Wicked Witch.

Disney Twenty-Three's issue devotes a quarter of its 60 pages to Oz, with six pages with an all-too-brief story of the development and production of Oz the Great and Powerful, and then three more pages in which the costuming of the film is covered. Curiously, the MGM film The Wizard of Oz is not mentioned.

These articles do what promotional articles do best: tell a nice, glossy story about the film to make it sound wonderful, but this is an old device: people who've watched the special features on any DVD of The Wiz can point out that the promotional special "Wiz On Down The Road" (a regrettable title nowadays) also talks up the film positively. If we hear anything about the film's production a few years down the line, we might hear different stories altogether...

A reminder of such is present in the remaining six Oz pages, which recounts Disney's previous Oz projects (with no mention of The Muppets' Wizard of Oz), including The Rainbow Road to Oz, the Disneyland Record albums, plans for Oz attractions at Disney parks, and, most of all, Return to Oz, which even mentions how Walter Murch was almost fired from the project. These six pages will prove of great interest to Oz fans, featuring a color photo I've never seen before from The Rainbow Road to Oz set, photos of prototypes of Disneyland attractions, photos of props from Rainbow Road and Return, and some behind the scenes photos, including a very flattering picture of the late Michael Sundin, the man who literally made Tik-Tok walk in the 1985 cult classic.

I know there's quite a bit of overlap between Disney and Oz fans, so I shouldn't be surprised if many Oz fans find interest in this issue as well.

I'm sure hardcore Oz fans will want both of these magazines, but be warned if you run to a shop, after tax, the price for just these two magazines was at just under $28. (The print and paper quality is excellent, though. I suppose that if they have to cut costs, they'll have to justify prices by making sure they use quality materials.) However, considering that these may easily become highly-demanded issues, it might be worth the high price tag now for what may soon become a collector's item.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Making of a Podcast...

Very soon, we'll be releasing the next "Movies of Oz" entry for The Royal Podcast of Oz, and in it, the film of focus is The Wiz from 1978.

A long while back, there was a thread about the movie on Facebook, and many people were discussing the movie, offering opinions of varied knowledge. One guy stood out, though. His name was Garrett Kilgore. He seemed to know quite a bit about the movie and the original play. I remarked that we should have him on the podcast when we discussed the movie.

And that is why we didn't get the podcast out in January. We had to find a time when I could talk to both Sam and Garrett, and when we did, we recorded about three hours of audio. This included a point where we all had to take a break and when we had to stop and restart recording because an odd echo popped up in the audio.

Sam offered to edit this podcast, and having a podcast to edit already, I accepted. He managed to get it down from three hours to two hours and eighteen minutes, four minutes longer than the actual film. (I joked to Garrett that if we sync it up to the movie, we might have some weird moments that match up.) After he sent it to me, I did an editing pass on it, and cut out six minutes.

However, I had to send it to Garrett before I can get it out because while we were recording, his audio would drop out. I had to ask him to repeat many things so we'd have it, but some moments slipped through, and a few couldn't be fixed with just cutting to the next part. He'll re-record some bits on his own, then I'll put it all together and finally get it out.

Which means, yes, we don't mind having a third voice on the podcast, and we are considering inviting third voices for later podcasts. However, before you rush me an e-mail, Facebook message, comment, or whatever, note that the reason why I invited Garrett was because he is very knowledgeable about the film we discussed. (He even knows what was up with the Emerald City song sequence!) We aren't looking for people who are just fans of these films, because that's what Sam and I are. Okay, we do read up on them, but largely, that's what we are.

Friday, February 08, 2013

One Month Until 'Oz the Great and Powerful'!


We are one month away from the release of Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful. I am so excited to see this film! Merchandise is starting to come in, which is very exciting for us Oz fans. Let's get right into the news, shall we?

Photo Courtesy of Zachary Ryan Allen

A new TV spot for Disney's Oz aired during the Super Bowl last weekend. You can watch that here.

In conjunction with Disney, Google Chrome has launched a new, interactive website called Find Your Way to Oz. At the end of the games, users are treated to a brand new look at the film with some unbelievable clips. If you don't want to sort through the games, you can watch the video here.

Mariah Carey has recorded a song for the film called "Almost Home," which is due out February 19th. You can read more about that here.

A bunch of merchandise for the film has been added to Disney Store's website, including pricey replica witch costumes, children's costumes, t-shirts, toys, dolls, and more. Be sure to get this stuff while you can, because they are selling out fast!

Last, but certainly not least, my often-mentioned friend Ryan Jay, who is a film critic, is attending the premiere of the film in Los Angeles next week to interview the stars and director and see the movie! He is thrilled to be able to be a part of that, and I'm sure he will be sharing things from his experience on his website (link above) in the weeks leading up to the release of the film.

That's it for this week!

Are you as excited as I am for Oz the Great and Powerful? Let me know in the comments! 

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

L. Frank Baum's Birthday Podcast 2013

As some of you may know, the Royal Podcast of Oz has presented a special podcast on May 15th every year since it debuted in 2009.

The first year, we invited Oz fans to record their favorite passages from the Oz books, but the next three years we recorded an L. Frank Baum short story with individual voices for each character. (These have been "Aunt Phroney's Boy," "Tik-Tok and the Nome King," and "The Littlest Giant.")

This year, I'm considering something a little different. The first installment of an audio dramatization of The Enchanted Island of Yew, tentatively titled Prince Marvel. I've been considering how to approach an adaptation for years, and this would be quite different from being just an audio book. (Two versions of which can be obtained for free through Uvula Audio and Librivox.) We'd be starting the story a bit later than the book does. Those who have read the book can probably guess why.

Thoughts? Maybe you want to do a voice? Or an idea for a different story entirely? (The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman from Little Wizard Stories of Oz is my second choice.)

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Great and Terrible Humbug

In addition to his other morally questionable actions, we should probably consider his sending off a little girl to what could well be her death. I mean, that's basically the case when he sends Dorothy to kill the Wicked Witch of the West.

The MGM movie has him asking Dorothy and company to bring him the Witch's broomstick, to which the Tin Woodman replies, "We'd have to kill her to get it!" Why he assumes this and whether it's indeed true are never addressed, as Dorothy ends up killing the Witch accidentally.

In the book, though, the Wizard just tells the main characters to straight-up assassinate her. It's certainly possible he thinks they won't even try. Really, sending someone off to do a seemingly impossible task is a pretty typical motif in fairy tales and myths. Take Polydectes telling Perseus to bring back the head of Medusa, for instance. The dispatcher always expects failure, but the hero succeeds anyway.

The Wizard does notice that Dorothy wears the Silver Shoes and bears the kiss of the Good Witch of the North, both of which should provide supernatural protection, so he might be holding out some hope that she'll succeed, even if it's not really conscious hope. He's certainly surprised when the party returns bearing news that the Witch of the West is dead, but he also tells them, "When you came to me, I was willing to promise anything if you would only do away with the other Witch."

Still, there remained the very real possibility that Dorothy (who, after all, is a stranger in Oz) would go up against the Witch and fail miserably, which would have to prey on his conscience, wouldn't it?

Regardless, Dorothy doesn't seem to mind, and when she meets the Wizard again in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz she bears him no ill will. And when the characters recap Dorothy's first adventure at the beginning of Ozoplaning with the Wizard, the Wizard's sheepish response to this part of the tale is simply, "But, you see--I didn't know any real magic then. And besides, I needed more time."

All I can say is that Oscar is lucky Dorothy and Ozma are so forgiving.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Cash Grab Oz DVD Releases Fans WANT

Since Oz is coming back to the big screen next month, there's been announcements of DVD releases that are obvious cash grabs.

The Panmedia anime series The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is being re-released to DVD, but don't get your hopes up, it's the movie cuts again, just now on two discs instead of four, and packaged in a single case. If you don't own them yet, or saving space is that important to you, it might be worth a purchase.

What would Oz fans like? To have the entire English dub of the series on DVD. They watch the episodes on Jaroo and YouTube, enjoying the richer storytelling the full 52 episode version offers. I know some fans want any special features possible (yes, I'm looking at you, Sam), but they'd even jump for a bare-bones release. It could easily be done on six discs.

And speaking of Oz cartoon shows on DVD, isn't about time someone released the entire DiC series The Wizard of Oz on DVD? We've had three DVD releases from this 13-episode series, and they only contained 11 episodes altogether. Couldn't someone just release the entire series on a 2-disc set?

And there's the first Oz cartoon series, Tales of the Wizard of Oz. There's been unofficial (and one that seems to have gotten the "okay" from the people at Rankin-Bass) releases, and a variety of episodes are on YouTube, but it would be wonderful to just have all of the episodes on an official release.

And yes, why not a DVD release of the complete series of The Oz Kids?

Not too long ago, I discovered the Russian animated series Adventures in the Emerald City was indeed redubbed and re-edited into an English film by the British company Poseidon Films, titled The Haunted Journey to Oz. It's available on DVD in the UK, but the price of importing it is a little high. Why not bring it to the US?

Also, there's The Space Adventures of Oz, which was re-edited into a bargain bin DVD movie titled The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz. I, for one, would like to see the entire series.

There's also some direct to video (and sometimes TV) releases that could use a DVD: The Wizard of Oz anime film featuring Aileen Quinn, Dorothy Meets Ozma of Oz, The Wizard of Oz on Ice and its "Making Of," and the Children's Theater of Minneapolis' adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz.

There are also a wide variety of foreign language Oz films and animated pieces. While Oz fans would like to have ready access to them, I can understand why American companies would be hesitant to try to sort out licensing rights for something with such a limited audience. Here's a list of what these are, though:
  • Russian live action and stop-motion animated adaptations of The Wizard of the Emerald City
  • Several anime productions
  • Aysecik and the Bewitched Dwarfs in Dreamland, aka The Turkish Wizard of Oz
  • The Tramps and the Wizard of Oroz, aka The Brazilian Wizard of Oz
  • A Polish stop-motion animated series
  • Fantasia...3
There's also English obscure Oz productions that aren't likely to have a wide mass-market appeal like the pilot for Lost in Oz and the Australian film Oz.

There's also been several Oz documentaries over the years. The Smithsonian Channel's The Origins of Oz is getting a tie-in release for the new movie, and the documentary The Yellow Brick Road and Beyond is being re-released, though I understand it's not very good. Sitting in "No DVD" land, there's The Whimsical World of Oz that was part Oz documentary, part "The Making of Return to Oz." There's also Oz: The American Fairyland and In Search of Oz.

The film Journey Back to Oz isn't in print anymore, and could use a re-release, though I suspect most Oz fans who wanted it have it, but a Blu-Ray upgrade might be nice. It seems the kiddie flick The Wonderful Land of Oz is much in the same boat, though some Oz fans might think the less exposure that one has, the better.

Probably the big title that Oz fans want to see on Blu-Ray is Disney's Return to Oz. I heard a rumor that Walter Murch actually supervised the creation of an HD version, so this one might not be so far off. I did wonder, though, what if Disney decides to release an "Oz Legacy" Blu-Ray collection, featuring Return and their new film, with The Rainbow Road to Oz segment from the Disneyland 4th Anniversary Show as a special feature. (It'd be wonderful if they found a way to release the audio from their Storyteller Records as well, though that's not video.) As there will be an article about these past Oz productions in Disney's Twenty-Three magazine, it doesn't look as if they want people to forget about them entirely.

Anyway, for the companies that release DVDs and Blu-Rays, here's some suggestions from the Oz fandom on how to get more of our money!

Friday, February 01, 2013

'Oz the Great and Powerful' Set Visits & Interactive Website

Happy Friday!

As expected, there's a lot of Oz the Great and Powerful news once again this week.

Entertainment websites like /Film, Just Jared, and Coming Soon have released neat reports from their visits to the set of Oz the Great and Powerful. These reports include on-set cast interviews, some behind-the-scenes pictures, and first impressions. You can navigate through them using the links below.

A new TV spot for the film will air during the Super Bowl this Sunday on CBS. Disney has released an unimpressive sneak peek for the expensive TV spot, which you can watch here.

Next week, an interactive web experience based on the new Disney flick will launch through Google Chrome. You can read more about that here.

The Spring 2013 issue of D23 magazine will feature articles on the making of Oz the Great and Powerful and even Return to Oz and The Rainbow Road to Oz. This Ozzy issue will hit stands February 12th. Check out the cover below, courtesy of Movieweb. 

Beginning in mid-February,  Oz will be taking over the Muppet-Vision 3D Theater at Disney's California Adventure park! A 4-D twenty minute sneak peek of Oz the Great and Powerful will be showing at the theater periodically leading up to the release of the film. How cool!

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