Friday, May 31, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz — CTC's Marvelous Land of Oz

Jared and Sam discuss the Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis' stage adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz as it as presented on home video.
Watch it on YouTube.

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



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Mother Goose in Prose

I once tried to preserve the covers
on my paperbacks by taping the
corners and spines. This is an
example of when that didn't work.
 In the late 1890s, Matilda Gage was visiting her daughter and son-in-law in Chicago. As part of the evening rituals, her son-in-law would tell stories to his four sons.

One night, she listened in astonishment as he told a Mother Goose rhyme, and then when the boys asked about the meaning of the rhyme, he told a fanciful story explaining the rhyme in full detail.

After the story concluded, Matilda exclaimed, "Frank Baum, you're a darned fool if you don't write those stories down!"

And, according to Baum family tradition, that is how L. Frank Baum came to write children's books, which proved to be his biggest success, particularly with Oz.

Baum was set to have two books published by Way & Williams of Chicago: Mother Goose in Prose and The King of Phunnyland. They took the more marketable title and published it in 1897, but just a bit too late for the Christmas rush, though the book was otherwise well-received. (Phunnyland, considered to be the first children's book that Baum wrote, did not see print until 1900 as A New Wonderland, and was later revised into The Magical Monarch of Mo in 1903.)

Also having his first time on a children's book was artist Maxfield Parrish. Unlike many of Baum's later illustrators, Parrish was much more sparing in the number of illustrations. Baum has twenty-two stories in the book, Parrish has twelve full-page illustrations, in addition to the title page, a chapter heading design, and the cover design. Parrish's work is whimsical when needed (check out out Humpty Dumpty and the little man with the little gun), but his attempts to make people look funny seem at odds with his normal style. His depictions of Little Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue, and the Black Sheep and the little boy who lived down the lane are likely his best works in the book.

Unusual for Baum is a very informative foreword about where the name "Mother Goose" came from. It's very interesting stuff, but has little relevance to the book at hand. Baum's later introductions usually got the reader ready for the story.

In most editions in print, the introduction carries the date 1899. I am informed that this corresponds to the first British edition and later American printings. The correct date of 1897 appeared in the original edition.

I have three versions of Mother Goose in Prose in hard copy in my collection. The first I acquired was the 2002 reprint by Dover Publications (top), while the second is just Baum's stories and Parrish's illustrations in the International Wizard of Oz Club's The Collected Short Stories of L. Frank Baum. The third is an earlier hardcover reprint by Bounty Books which I acquired last year. It was this same edition (but not the same copy, of course) that I checked out through interlibrary loan and first read probably eleven or twelve years ago.

Both the Bounty and Dover editions are pretty much the same inside, both photo facsimiles of the second edition by the George M. Hill Company from 1901. After the success of Father Goose: His Book and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Hill brought Baum's first children's book back into print. As a result, it says 1899 on the introduction. After the Hill Company went bankrupt, the Bobbs-Merill Company bought the plates and issued new editions as well. Since the book is now public domain, there's a wealth of plain-text print on demand editions available. Don't worry, I always try to point out the good ones.

The presentation of the stories in the Club's edition actually matches how I thought the stories should look if they were reset in new type. On the Hill edition, two to three pages extra are used for each story. A leaf just before the story has a design of two jesters holding a board with the story's title on it. The reverse side of the leaf is blank. If the story ahead of it ended on the right hand page, an additional blank page appears before the next chapter. The Club wisely used the jester design as a chapter heading instead. Thus, I'd almost recommend just getting the Club's book if all you want is Baum's works, if it wasn't for the fact that it drops Baum's introduction.

Most of Baum's stories seem to have a distinct European setting. Some of the stories could have just as easily been set in America, but Baum decided to remain with the stories' origin, with one notable exception.

Each story has the Mother Goose rhyme that it's based on at the beginning. If the rhyme has several verses (like "Little Bo Peep"), just the most famous verse is used, though Baum deftly uses the rest in the story itself.

The stories are quite delightful on their own. We discover what was up with a song of sixpence and a handful of rye and how twenty four blackbirds were baked into a pie but were still able to sing once the pie was opened. (The later verses were not explained, so luckily, no one loses their nose.) Why was Little Boy Blue asleep? How did a cow jump over the moon? What was the story of Mistress Mary's flower garden?

Even when the verse seems to tell a complete story, Baum manages to flesh the characters out enough. Some of the best are "Sing a Song o' Sixpence," "The Story of Little Boy Blue," "The Black Sheep," "Mistress Mary," "The Jolly Miller," and "The Three Wise Men of Gotham."

One of the most inventive is the story of the Little Old Woman who lived in a shoe. In a rare case, Baum actually draws how her house looked.

Probably the funniest story is also the zaniest: "The Man in the Moon" features the Man in the Moon leaving his home to visit Norwich and burning his mouth by eating cold pease porridge, because what is hot to us is cold to him and what is cold to us is hot to him. As a forerunner to Oz, the Man returns to the Moon in a hot-air balloon.

The story "Old King Cole" tells how King Cole became king, and those familiar with Queen Zixi of Ix will recognize the plot device of the next king being chosen almost at random.

The biggest nod to Baum's future writings is in the last story: "Little Bun Rabbit." I am unfamiliar with the verse, but the biggest part of it is that it features a little girl on a farm named Dorothy. Some fans go so far as to consider this Dorothy to be the Dorothy, and I admit, I have thought of how it could work. I discussed the story in further detail here. This is also the story that seems to be the most American in its setting. (The image of a young Dorothy lying in the grass carefully watching a rabbit seems to be one that I just can't shake from my mind.)

At any rate, Mother Goose in Prose was a safe start for Baum in the children's book market, though not a successful one. The book itself is worth reading for Baum's first book of fiction and a wonderful little piece on its own.

The Dover edition appears to be out of print, but here is its listing on Amazon. If you want to try searching elsewhere, its ISBN is 0-486-42086-8.
The Bounty Books edition. Its ISBN is 0-517-519046
Amazon will link you to other editions, but I cannot attest to those.
The Collected Short Stories of L. Frank Baum from the International Wizard of Oz Club (remember, the introduction has been omitted)
A free ebook version is available from Project Gutenberg, while has two different scans available in a variety of forms. Version 1Version 2

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Emerald City Staff

Finally, Dorothy reached the Emerald City, she was allowed in to see the Wizard with her friends. And in her stay in the Emerald City, she met three people who would become staples throughout the Oz series.

First was the Guardian of the Gates. While he never got a name in the Famous Forty Oz books, Alexander Volkov called him Faramant, but again, that's not canonical.

The Guardian of the Gates would keep watch on who was entering the Emerald City. During the Wizard's reign, I can imagine this was actually quite an important job, more important than even the Guardian knew. He also had to lock on the green spectacles that made the Emerald City appear to be green, helping keep the Wizard's charade up and the Wicked Witches out.

If the Guardian was privy to the Wizard's great secret, he never spilled the beans, even after the Wizard left Oz.

After Ozma took the throne, the Guardian's role seems to be less important, being just a formality. A comics story in Oz-Story Magazine 1 shows him having to turn some people away from the Emerald City so it doesn't become crowded. The Road to Oz mentions that he wears the Green Spectacles still, but they seem to have fallen out of fashion at the time. (I theorize that extensive renovations were done to the Emerald City when Ozma took the throne.)

Another person that Dorothy met was a little green girl who worked in the palace. While she was never named in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a green girl who works in the palace in The Marvelous Land of Oz was named Jellia Jamb, and Oz fans assume that the two girls are one and the same.

Jellia served the Wizard, the Scarecrow and Ozma faithfully. And in Oz, being the Palace Housekeeper is quite the distinguished role.

However, Jellia has a mischievous streak that we learn about just after her name: a memorable scene in The Marvelous Land of Oz features Jack Pumpkinhead believing that Gillikins speak a different language than that of the Emerald City. Telling the Scarecrow this, Jellia is sent for to interpret. (Jellia reveals here that she is a Gillikin by birth.) She pretends that they are making unkind statements until the Scarecrow realizes that she's pulling their legs.

Later in The Marvelous Land of Oz, she is made to switch forms with Mombi to trick Glinda, a ruse Glinda sees through.

In the later books, Jellia's job is to make sure the palace stays clean and organized, and she does a fine job of it as well.

In Ozoplaning With The Wizard of Oz (Thompson's last Famous Forty book), Jellia is aboard the runaway Ozoplane the Oztober and is later offered the position of Starina, queen of Stratovania. After assisting as she can as the Oz people head back to earth, she refuses the offer.

In The Wonder City of Oz, Jellia's mouth is accidentally sewn closed, and Ozma is unable to undo it, so she makes Jellia able to talk out of her ears and not need to eat until the stitches come undone. Jenny Jump is able to set Jellia to rights, earning Jellia's vote in the Ozlection. (However, as Neill doesn't illustrate any of Jellia's plight here, it is entirely possible that it was the work of the infamous editor.)

Sometimes I wonder if Jellia knew the Wizard's secret. She worked in the palace all that time and she probably brought him his food and washed his laundry, plus—even though the Oz books never mention this activity—he would need to use the bathroom sometime. Of all the people in the Emerald City, it seems that she would be the safest person for the Wizard to confide in.

Before we get to the biggest character, I feel I should make mention of Tollydiggle, the Emerald City's jailer. She does not appear in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but rather only in The Patchwork Girl of Oz (and also in Edward Einhorn's The Living House of Oz, though that is outside of the Famous Forty).

Tollydiggle runs a unique jail: there are no locks or bars, and it is actually quite a comfortable place. The reasoning is that reformation will happen faster and better with kindness rather than cruelty. It's bad enough that the prisoner must be excluded from their friends and society.

In the Famous Forty, she gets one prisoner: Ojo. Not only is he given a choice between two delicious dinners, but he plays games with Tollydiggle and she reads him a story.

 The final character that Dorothy met in the Emerald City on her first visit is the Soldier With The Green Whiskers. Unusual for Baum, this fellow got a surprisingly consistent story arc in the first six books.

The Emerald City has rarely needed more than this one green-bearded soldier for protection. When the Wizard ruled, people were afraid of him, so just one soldier was needed for formality's sake.

When the Scarecrow took the throne, no other soldiers were added, but he was no match for the Army of Revolt in The Marvelous Land of Oz. When the Scarecrow prepares to flee, the soldier says that he will cut off his green beard to disguise himself.

And in Ozma of Oz, sure enough, he appears without his green beard! He is now the sole private of Ozma's army of many officers rather than being the sole Army. However, even though he isn't much of a fighter, he manages to fight many of the Nomes bravely. At the story's close, Ozma discovers that his name is Omby Amby and she promotes him to captain general of all her armies.

Later, Omby Amby accompanies Dorothy and her family on their tour around Oz in The Emerald City of Oz. By the time of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, his beard has grown back.

In Thompson's Ozoplaning With The Wizard of Oz, Omby suddenly has the name Wantowin Battles. It's been noted that perhaps the name was an invention of the same infamous editor who worked on The Wonder City of Oz, who finished Thompson's book in time for publication. But if it was Thompson's invention, then it must be remembered that Omby's name hadn't been mentioned much (if at all) since The Emerald City of Oz and never in her own books. Thus, most fans chalk this up to a Historian's error rather than working out how Omby Amby has two names.

Another case of "Historian's error" occurs in The Magical Mimics in Oz when Omby Amby suddenly has the post of Guardian of the Gates and the Army of Oz. Quite a gaffe, Mr. Snow.

The Marvelous Land of Oz has Jinjur mention that Omby Amby is "old and feeble" and that his wife has a terrible temper. Whoever Omby Amby's wife was, we have never seen her.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Queen of the Field Mice

Living scarecrows and metal men, talking lions and storks, and now kalidahs. Dorothy's first adventure in Oz was introducing her to some very unusual beings indeed.

However, Dorothy was seemingly protected from any being hurting her, thanks to the mark of the Good Witch of the North. However, other things could: a field of spicy red poppies put Dorothy, Toto and the Cowardly Lion to sleep with their pollen. While the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman could lift her and Toto, the Lion (a well-fed lion can weigh about 500 pounds) was far too heavy. However, help came in a very small form.

The Tin Woodman saved the Queen of all the Field Mice from a wildcat and as thanks, she agreed to do whatever she could to help him in the future. The Scarecrow called for a favor right away: if she could summon her people to come with string, the Tin Woodman could build a cart and they could hoist the Lion onto it and the mice could help them pull him out of the poppy field.

The Queen of the Field Mice doesn't appear often in the Oz books. She gives Dorothy a whistle to call for her aid. Dorothy uses this once after they've defeated the Wicked Witch of the West, to help them find their way back to the Emerald City. The Queen, however, recognizes the Golden Cap and advises Dorothy to use it, but she runs away before Dorothy does so the Winged Monkeys can't do mischief to her people.

You know, I once read a draft of a book that would reveal that the Queen of the Field Mice was none other than a transformed Gayelette, who made the Golden Cap and enchanted and also did not like the Winged Monkeys. Considering that Gayelette is never seen again in the Famous Forty Oz books, it does make some sense. Also consider that the Queen must have some magic, because how else could she happen to have a whistle that an average human could use on her person? (When I adapted the book as a screenplay, I had the Queen take the whistle from her neck, and as Dorothy took it, it grew to a size for her to use.)

The Queen of the Field Mice appears again in The Marvelous Land of Oz. Apparently, Dorothy gave the whistle to the Tin Woodman before she left Oz, because he uses it in the story to summon the Queen. In this book, she is able to see through the magic of Mombi and guide the Scarecrow and his friends back to the Emerald City, as well as allowing him to carry some of her mice to the Emerald City.

Baum doesn't mention her in future books, though John R. Neill has her reappear in The Road to Oz. Not only is she in a corner of the endpapers, she appears on the full-page illustration "Drinking the health of Princess Ozma," perched on the table.
When Alexander Volkov wrote his The Wizard of the Emerald City, the Queen of the Field Mice was named Ramina and reappeared in each of the original sequels. However, I don't consider that canonical at all.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Daring Twins

After The Emerald City of Oz, L. Frank Baum did a surprising turn in 1911: alongside The Sea Fairies was a non-fantasy book titled The Daring Twins. Baum had turned out non-fantasy juvenile novels before, but they had been under pseudonyms. The Daring Twins was the first to be released under his own name.

Baum did not want to be known just for Oz, so he decided to expand his output, but his audience preferred his fantasies, especially Oz. The Daring Twins and its sequel Phoebe Daring did not prove popular enough to continue the series for a third volume, despite Baum beginning a third one.

Hungry Tiger Press reprinted The Daring Twins as one of the first entries in its Pawprint Adventure Series. Apparently, interest in the title wasn't high enough to spur the reprint of the sequel. David Maxine plans to do it, eventually, but as a business owner, he does have to give a thought as to what it is selling. As a result, Phoebe Daring is the only published Baum novel I haven't yet read.

Along with a handsome repackaging, the book got a new title: The Secret of the Lost Fortune: A Daring Twins Mystery. The retitling was done to make the title sound more appealing to new readers, and I agree that it does tease the story better. The text also saw a small, very minor revision which was noted on the copyright page. A re-occurrence of "the N-word" (which was regrettably too common in Baum's day) appeared in the original edition when talking about native African tribes. In the Hungry Tiger Press edition, it was replaced by "savages." The statement it is used in is not a pretty one, but now it's just a little more racially sensitive. It is not used by any of the protagonists, but rather secondary characters, particularly a couple who clearly need a lesson in humility, though the story doesn't offer it.

The orphaned Daring children—twins Phoebe and Phil, Don, Sue, and Becky—have a curious living arrangement. They live in the same house as their grandfather Jonathan Eliot, but due to his wishes (he had quarreled with their father), half of the house is sealed off from them and reserved for his use. He is paralyzed and is tended by his longtime servant Elaine Halliday.

The children have no guardian aside from their "black mammy" Aunt Hyacinth, who at first seems like a regrettable stereotype. (Baum has her speak in stereotypical dialect, spelled phonetically.) In the seventh chapter, their cousin Judith Eliot arrives and they mutually adopt each other as "little mother" and children.

The first six chapters find Phil Daring realizing that the family has little to no means of support, and inquiring with his father's lawyer, discovers that their inheritance was long since spent. The lawyer encourages him to finish school, though Phil thinks it better to find a job right away. Inquiring further, he discovers that Aunt Hyacinth has been using her savings from her pay to support the children: she is actually under no obligation to do so aside from the love she has for the children. And then Phil discovers that Phoebe has been renting a typewriter to do copying to earn money. After he graduates, he manages to fill a position at the local bank. By chapter eight, they manage to support the family very well between the three of them.

Judith has to demand an additional room from Elaine, and her grandfather seems aware enough of her presence to allow it. However, Phoebe suggests they exchange rooms, and realizes that her new room is right next to Elaine's room. On certain nights, Phoebe hears odd sounds coming from Elaine's room. What is going on?

At the bank, Phil notices that Eric Spaythe, a superior to him and son of the bank's owner, appears to be altering deposits for customers, apparently embezzling the money. Eric soon realizes that Phil is looking over his shoulder and when he needs to repay some gambling debts, Phil realizes that Eric is scheming to steal some money and pin the blame on him!

And finally, the young Daring children meet the new neighbors, the Randolphs, who have moved into their old house not far from where they live.

And surprisingly, Baum takes all three of these storylines and wraps them into one of his most satisfying conclusions.

Honestly, The Daring Twins is one of Baum's best non-fantasy books. There is plenty of intrigue, though no exactly high adventure and life-threatening stakes. But that's just fine, because we don't need "Our heroes face certain death!" all the time to have a good story. It comes from a great time in Baum's writing career when he wanted to be decidedly different, and this was one case where he definitely rose to the occasion.

Get your copy from Hungry Tiger Press.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The original Wiz

You know, I really, really hope that 2015 sees at least some small scale revival of the original musical version of The Wiz for its 40th anniversary. (Or maybe I could write to the Little Theater down the street.) I have not been able to see the show live. A few years ago, I got a DVD of a videorecording of the 1985 revival, and there's the Original Cast Recording, and recently, a musical buff sent me an audio recording of the opening night from 1975. And I also have a script book.

As the Original Cast Recording and the script book are the only items available through legitimate means, and I've talked about the Original Cast Recording before, so I'll focus on the script book. (There is a karaoke album available, I should get that eventually.)

Recently, I listened to that audio recording of the opening night of The Wiz and because it was recorded in the audience, sometimes the dialogue is muffled by applause and an enthusiastic woman shouting "Bravo!" So, I decided to listen again and follow along in the script book. Hearing actual audio would enhance my reading of the script book, while seeing the dialogue written would help my mind process what I was hearing better.

The script book is a plain affair. It was printed quite cheaply, likely so it'd be cost effective to buy them in bulk and give them to each performer in a production. In fact, that is exactly what happened to my copy, which I purchased used.
As you can see, in the production my copy had been purchased for, they decided to omit the sequence in which Dorothy and her friends encounter the Kalidah people, so it has been crossed out. When the book was offered for resale, the revision lines were erased. However, the rubbing of the eraser made parts of the text go from black to gray.

Other revisions are made as well. In the poppy field scene, some of the Lion's dialogue is reassigned to the Tinman, and probably most surprising of all is that the Wiz's story was mainly dropped (likely they inserted newly written dialogue), and later... well...
If you look closely, the word "balloon" had been crossed out and the words "space pod" had been written above it.

I recall reading in Allen Eyle's The World of Oz that the play had the Scarecrow on a billboard, the Lion was a football player, and the Wiz had a helicopter. None of these are in the script, but perhaps Mr. Eyles was going off a production he'd seen that had made these alterations.

Of course, a huge part of what made the musical work is the script's humor and the energy that the cast gave their roles. Admittedly, a lot of it is still markedly 70s humor, but there wasn't really anything I didn't understand, except for when the Lion says he's feeling like "Gunga Din." While a film and songs based on a Rudyard Kipling poem must have been somewhat popular about that time, today, they're largely forgotten.

Reading over the script book, I noticed lines missing from songs, and sometimes lyrics were different from what I remember hearing on the Original Cast Recording, or even on the bootleg audio. Perhaps it was a faulty transcription or earlier versions of the lyrics. A major difference is in "What Would I Do If I Could Feel?"
As you can see, in the script book, the Tin Man sings about meeting a baby, while in every other version I've heard or seen, he sings:
What would I do if I could reach inside of me
And know how it feels to say I like what I see?
Then I'd be more than glad to share
All that I have inside of here
And the songs my heart might bring
You'd be more than glad to sing
And if tears should fall from my eyes
Just think of all the wounds they could mend
And just think of all the time I could spend
Just being vulnerable again
 That does make me think that these were earlier versions of the lyrics. There's a book of the vocal and piano score which I don't own (yet) that likely has the more familiar ones.

Even though the book was designed to aid theater companies, as it is the only commercially available edition of the script available, for a look at what The Wiz originally was, I'd suggest fans pick it up.

Buy the script book on Amazon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Characters of Oz - The Cowardly Lion

So, Oz wasn't such a normal place at all, Dorothy found. Not only were there witches both Wicked and Good and Wizards, she was accompanied by a live Scarecrow and a man whose body was replaced by tin. So, when a lion leaped onto the road and threatened her and her friends, was it really any surprise that it could talk?

Of course, everyone expects lions to be brave and fearless, but the Lion Dorothy met revealed that he was the exception to this. He willingly called himself a coward, explaining, "whenever there is danger, my heart begins to beat fast."

He also explains how he's gotten through life: "I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way.  Whenever I've met a man I've been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has always run away as fast as he could go."

However, the thing the Lion doesn't realize (and sometimes readers miss this) is that this is what male lions actually do. The female lionesses are actually far more fierce and male lions will generally just roar at intruders and not attack unless they actually have to. Which is exactly what the Cowardly Lion does! He's just very self-conscious about this.

What makes the Lion different from the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman is that what he wants—courage—is not represented in a physical item. The Scarecrow wants a brain so he can think and store knowledge, the Tin Woodman wants a heart so he can love and be compassionate, but the Lion wants courage so he won't ever feel afraid.

However, what also makes him different is that the Lion actually realizes what his problem is. His problem wasn't that he lacked courage, he just didn't understand what courage actually was. It is not the absence of fear but the ability to face it. The Wizard tells him so after being exposed:
"You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz.  "All you need is confidence in yourself.  There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty."
The Lion asks for courage anyway (which the Wizard gives him in the form of a liquid which many Oz fans suspect to be liquor), but unlike the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman who place their newfound capabilities to be wise and love in their gifts, the Lion seems to have actually taken the Wizard's advice to heart. When Dorothy meets him again in Ozma of Oz, this exchange occurs:
"I am also glad to see you, Dorothy," said the Lion. "We've had some fine adventures together, haven't we?"

"Yes, indeed," she replied. "How are you?"

"As cowardly as ever," the beast answered in a meek voice. "Every little thing scares me and makes my heart beat fast."
The Lion did not take part in the events of The Marvelous Land of Oz, so if he took it to heart due to experience, Baum did not record it. Whatever happened, the Lion now happily lives his life facing his fears, still identifying as the Cowardly Lion.

The Cowardly Lion holds the office of King of the Forests of Oz, and anyone familiar with how lions live know that forests are not a lion's usual habitat. Typically, they live in groups in plains. Thus, we see that lives for lions in Oz are very different from our own world as the Lion lived alone. However, one can easily say that he adopts Dorothy and her friends as his "pride" after he met them.

The Lion came to have the title of King of the Forests by defeating a monstrous spider near the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, showing him facing his fears once and for all. However, in Ozma of Oz and throughout the rest of the Oz books, he serves as Ozma's bodyguard with his friend the Hungry Tiger (who seems to suffer a similar delusion as the Lion, if more humorous in nature).

The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman became inseparable friends, and in a similar vein, so did the Lion and Tiger, though Baum never depicted their first meeting. (There's a theory Jack Snow put forward that many fans subscribe to, but I'll save that for the Tiger's entry.) Although some have interpreted the Lion (particularly Bert Lahr's campy interpretation) to be gay, his relationship with the Hungry Tiger does not really have such a feeling to it. They do everything together, but their relationship never goes above a close friendship level.

The Lion and Tiger do part ways in Glinda of Oz, for reasons unexplained. Perhaps the Tiger is part of an unmentioned task force governing the Emerald City while Ozma and Dorothy are trapped on the Skeezers' island. In The Royal Book of Oz, Thompson has the Lion accompany Dorothy without the Tiger, and in The Cowardly Lion of Oz, he wanders off alone, suddenly believing he lacks courage again. Thompson also gave him the nickname "Cowy" in The Enchanted Island of Oz.

The Lion is different from the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in one more way: he doesn't reveal a backstory in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He does tell about his life, but we are never told why he doesn't have a family of any sort: no mate, no cubs, no siblings or parents.

Some have come up with backstories for the Lion. Roger S. Baum's Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage has the Lion as an ex-circus lion who traveled with Oscar Diggs. This strikes me as wrong on so many levels. If the Lion is confused about things like courage, it would make more sense to me if he was a lion who had just recently reached full maturity when Dorothy met him. Others want to come up with fanciful reasons for the Lion's lack of courage, which, as I pointed out, was entirely in his mind.

However, I did come up with a backstory about the Cowardly Lion myself. I won't go into the details, because I wrote it as a short story that will be appearing in Oziana this year. While my view of Oz is still based on the entire series, I mainly wrote the story to dovetail with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz so that if you read my story and then Baum's original book, a character arc becomes clear. I also did research about real lions, but wound up having to mainly ignore that as it is clear that Oz lions live quite differently. Still, there are some elements from fact that found their way in. I hope people will enjoy the story, and the amazing illustrations that will accompany it.

Overall, with some anthropomorphizing, the Cowardly Lion of Oz is really one of the first very solidly written characters in the Oz series, and was really much more like real lions than many other literary lions. (Just, don't put him next to Aslan. That really isn't fair to either of them!)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hard Road

This was one of several books that I'd brought to the first Winkie Con swap meet, and when Eric Gjovaag saw it, he literally started gushing about it. When I came across another copy of it, I decided to keep it to read later.

Well, it actually sat in a plastic tub for quite a few months, but remembering it and needing something to read, I went ahead and grabbed it.

Taking a look inside, I knew this was a book I needed to read from the front all the way to the back. The author ensures us that she's an Oz fan, having picked up the love from her father. In turn, she passed it to her son, who provides an essay on the concept of evil in the Oz books at the end of the book.

Hard Road is a book in the Cat Marsala Mystery series, and is the only one I've read. Thus, I was jumping into a series that had already established itself. Fortunately, the author doesn't leave newcomers clueless. Rather like the Oz books, relevant details from previous books are revealed in a matter of fact fashion.

The story finds Cat in her hometown of Chicago, where she is enjoying the Grant Park Oz Festival with her nephew Jeremy. Turns out, this detective and her nephew are huge fans of the Oz books. However tragedy strikes when another fan of the Oz books who helped run the Festival is mysteriously stabbed and dies. And it looks as if the killer is... Cat's brother?

But suddenly, shots take the life of one of Cat's dear friends, and soon, attempt for either Cat or Jeremy! They race underground to get to safety, reminding Cat of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Will she and Jeremy get back out alive, and furthermore, can they find the killer, or will he try to find them?

Although I had some qualms about the writing style (many times, sentences begin with "___ said,"), I fully enjoyed this one. Barbara D'Amato writes with an active style, drawing the reader in. I was really excited to read the next part.

D'Amato has a couple Oz factual errors. One is the surprisingly common misconception that any part of The Royal Book of Oz was by Baum. The other might be intentional, as it appears in a print article Cat reads: that Baum wrote thirteen Oz books. However, fun for Baum buffs is spotting where she takes names from people in Baum's life with a few twists.

Her son Brian D'Amato's essay The Wooden Gargoyles: Evil in Oz focuses on a variety of Baum's works (though he only ever references the Oz books, Tamawaca Folks, Dot and Tot of Merryland and those unfortunate editorials about the Sioux) to point out how Oz is not quite the sanitized Utopia some critics claim it is. Given he goes so far as to mention wooden Indians when making comparisons between the Wooden Gargoyles to the Sioux, I found it grating that the appearance of a live wooden Indian in John Dough and the Cherub was not mentioned at all. While Brian wrote very well, I felt that Baum was being painted in quite the wrong color, and certainly familiarity with more of Baum's work would have helped.

At the end of the book, there is a surprise in a 20 question Oz quiz. I did solve the questions easily enough, though a couple about the MGM film did have slightly inaccurate wordings: again, it is repeated that Shirley Temple was being considered for the role of Dorothy (they only considered her briefly due to popular demand and decided she wasn't their Dorothy), and it asks how the Kansas scenes were filmed, the correct answer being given as sepia. The actual truth was that the Kansas scenes were filmed in black and white, processed as sepia, and then until 1989, most TV airings, VHS releases and theatrical reissues showed those scenes in black and white.

Anyway, Hard Road can be recommended for a great Oz-themed read, as well as an essay featuring a viewpoint on Oz worthy of consideration, and a fun little quiz.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' Gets A New Trailer

L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which has recently been picked up for distribution by Fantastic Films International LLC, has a brand new trailer! This is actually the first trailer with completed footage from the film, and we see all different parts of the movie here.

For those not in-the-know, I have two tiny voice-over roles in this movie, so that is one more reason that you should watch it!

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse

To celebrate L. Frank Baum's birthday, the Royal Podcast of Oz presents "Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse" from Little Wizard Stories of Oz. Featuring Mike Conway as the narrator and the Sawhorse, Sam Milazzo as the little boy and the Squirrel King, Kim McFarland as Ozma, Doug Wall as the Wizard, and Jared Davis as Jack Pumpkinhead.

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



Podcast Powered By Podbean

And here's our previous L. Frank Baum birthday specials!

The Littlest Giant: An Oz Story and The Box of Robbers short film
Tik-Tok and the Nome King
Aunt 'Phroney's Boy
Readings from the Oz books by Oz fans

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Some new Oz merchandise

I'm very pleased to say that Colonial Radio Theater will be releasing all six of their Oz dramatizations in one package at a very affordable price next month. I was sent a couple CDs to review, and bought The Emerald City of Oz, but I went ahead and preordered this set. At about $17, it costs less than buying two sets individually, so it's a really good deal! And if you want to get it purely digital, you can knock off $3. As I've said, these are some of the best Oz adaptations out there period, and with The Patchwork Girl of Oz expected to be recorded this summer, it's a good way to catch up on the collection. (I also like this cover art better than the individual sets, except for The Emerald City of Oz.) The set is released June 28.
Also, we mentioned that Oz the Great and Powerful will be released on home video in four physical editions June 11th. Due to the outcry against a 3D Blu-Ray solo release, Disney will be offering buyers of that edition to send off for a regular Blu-Ray for $6. This means that if you want all three disc versions, you'll have to buy the 3D Blu-Ray and the DVD and send off for the Blu-Ray. Disney will likely use this title to decide if they should do more 3D Blu-Ray solo releases in the future or continue with combo packs. (And if you really want to save, wait for sales or used copies.)
Also, while Warner Brothers has yet to release a press release for their new editions of MGM's The Wizard of Oz, rumor has it that this will be a new print. And thanks to a press release our friend Ryan Jay shared about a new John Fricke book, we have a release date of October 1st announced. That means you have time to save up for the big box release.
And speaking of that new John Fricke book... It's called The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic. The book's press release says: "The deluxe pictorial chronologically travels through more than eleven decades of Oz books, productions, and memorabilia." John Fricke, being a former International Wizard of Oz Club president and editor of The Baum Bugle, knows Oz quite well (finding his 100 Years of Oz at a bookstore helped get me back to Oz after the first time I read Wicked), so we can likely expect quite a good book here. The press release says it will be published October 1st, but Amazon is saying October 7th.
Other Oz books are expected soon. Chris Dulabone will be releasing a new book soon, I hear, and Marcus Mebes expects to release the third volume of The Royal Explorers of Oz this summer.
All images are for illustration purposes only and may not reflect the final products offered for sale.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Characters of Oz - Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodman

 Of the three friends Dorothy met on the Yellow Brick Road, the most relatable was the Tin Woodman. While we could relate to all three, what set this one apart was that he was once human. The Scarecrow was not human, while the Cowardly Lion was an animal.

The Tin Woodman quickly makes his past clear: he was once a woodcutter named Nick Chopper. His name was not revealed until The Marvelous Land of Oz, and it came from the original musical extravaganza version of The Wizard of Oz, in which he was named Niccolo Chopper. In his own words, after his parents died, "I made up my mind that instead of living alone I would marry, so that I might not become lonely."

He was engaged to a Munchkin girl that The Tin Woodman of Oz reveals to be named Nimmie Amee. The two accounts in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Tin Woodman of Oz differ: Wizard tells us that Nimmie lived with an old woman who didn't want Nimmie to marry Nick, so she went to the Wicked Witch of the East and paid to have the marriage stopped. Tin Woodman simplifies it by having Nimmie as the slave of the Wicked Witch of the East who didn't want to lose her.

In both books, generally the same thing happens (though the two accounts differ in details): the Wicked Witch enchanted Nick's axe so it cut off parts of him. But each time this happened, he saw Ku-Klip the tinsmith who made a replacement part for him out of tin. This continued until his body was entirely replaced with tin. Now having no heart, he believed he no longer had the capacity to love.

Eventually, he got caught in the rain while chopping a tree and rusted stiff and stood there until Dorothy and the Scarecrow found him. (Never mind that tin doesn't actually rust...) The Wizard later presented him with a plush heart, although it was already clear that he could love without one. Again, he takes the placebo.

The people of the Winkie Country became fond of the Tin Woodman and invited him to be their ruler. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, he has become their Emperor and has had himself nickel-plated. In Ozma of Oz, he serves as the chief commander of Ozma's army, while in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, he defends Eureka when it is believed that she killed Ozma's piglet. In The Emerald City of Oz, he tries to be proactive in helping Ozma. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he refuses to sacrifice a yellow butterfly to revive Unc Nunkie and Margolotte. In The Lost Princess of Oz, he and the Scarecrow have their own search for Ozma, finding the magic dishpan.

The book The Tin Woodman of Oz calls many things about the character into question, and modern readers have more conclusions than ever. Why didn't the Tin Woodman go find Nimmie Amee after he got his heart? The answer is that he got a "kind" heart, not a "loving" heart. Or is it? Who's been almost constantly at the Tin Woodman's side all along?
The first American Fairy Tale Bromance?
That's right, the Scarecrow! Seeing as both of these characters identify as male, some fans have ventured to call them Oz's premiere gay couple. Although I find this fun, I do have an alternate viewpoint. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are not exactly human in their construction. As such, their bodies do not contain hormones, endorphins, chromosomes, or genitals. Thus, the relationships they form might mimic those of regular relationships, but their relationships might be of a different non-human nature entirely.

Complicating this is how smitten the Scarecrow appears to be with Scraps when she arrives on the scene, and then in The Runaway in Oz, Scraps becomes devoted to Popla, a shrub.

But further complicating the matter is that the Tin Woodman was human. Perhaps this is why these non-human people's relationships mimic human relationships? And if he has this understanding, why is he in such a close relationship with another male when he was in one with a woman? Perhaps Nick Chopper was a closeted gay man or bisexual? I mean, he loved Nimmie Amee, right?

Well, did he? After all, in Tin Woodman, he says he was in love with her, but in Wonderful Wizard, he said that he would marry so he would not be lonely. He found a likely desperate girl who was made to work for someone else. Such an arrangement would seem quite agreeable to both people.

And then, as readers of Tin Woodman know, she eventually married a man made of parts of Nick Chopper's human body and that of Captain Fyter, another tin man who had very much the same experience as Nick. After the Tin Woodman can takes all of this in, he gladly accepts this turn of events and goes home with "his chosen comrade," the Scarecrow. He even goes so far as to say "I'm not sure the Winkies would care to have an Empress."

"Wives. Who needs 'em?"
Whatever this means for the character is open for individual interpretation. But The Tin Woodman of Oz makes a further suggestion about the character.

During the book, the Tin Woodman finds his old human head still alive in a cabinet in Ku-Klip's shop. It appears to have a very different attitude from himself, posing this question: has either the old head or the Tin Woodman changed in nature since he became tin? The head has been in a cabinet for years, and that's enough to make anyone disagreeable. On the other hand, no one can deny that the Tin Woodman's experiences could have changed him. Which is the real Nick Chopper? The head in the cabinet or the Tin Woodman?
Will the real Nick Chopper please stand up?
"Oh, not cool..."
So, maybe we feel the need for love like the Tin Woodman, but when you really look at the character, he gets really complicated.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Characters of Oz - The Scarecrow

This post contains spoilers for The Royal Book of Oz.
As Dorothy set off down the yellow brick road, aside from the existence of witches and wizards, Oz seemed like a pretty normal place. Then she noticed a Scarecrow in a cornfield that winked at her, and Oz would never, ever be just a pretty normal place again.

Made of old clothes and a burlap sack and stuffed with straw, the Scarecrow managed to go from creepy to endearing with his gentle nature and his earnest desire to have a brain so he could think and store knowledge.

Of course, the message Baum sends is that the Scarecrow didn't need a brain to think, he just believed he did because he didn't have one. The pins and bran that the Wizard gave him were nothing but a placebo to keep him happy.

Throughout the Oz books, the Scarecrow goes from having the intelligence of a child to being the King of Oz, to being a respected gentleman who lives in the Winkie Country who sometimes heads out on adventures when not visiting the Emerald City or his dear friend the Tin Woodman.

While W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill both had their own styles (Neill's evolving over time), they generally maintained the same design for the Scarecrow: a pointed Munchkin hat (with no bells, presumably the bells were removed to use on another hat), a burlap sack with a painted face for a head, gloves for hands, boots, and pants and button-up shirt. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Scarecrow couldn't scare crows is because he just looks too charming!

Which brings us to a point: his kind appearance is part of what makes him who he is. This is something that people sometimes forget when they decide to redesign the character and make him look menacing: that's not him!

However, the big thing about the Scarecrow is we are never told exactly how he came to life. He mentions that he was able to see and hear as soon as his eyes and ears were painted on, so presumably, he's always been alive. But how? Baum doesn't explicitly answer in his books. In a story from Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, the Scarecrow retells his origin story and says:
"You must know, my dears, that in the Land of Oz everything has life that can become of any use by living. Now, I do not know of what use a live Scarecrow can be unless he serves to amuse children; but it is a fact that, as soon as the farmer had stuffed me into the shape of a man, and made me a head by using this excellent cotton sack, I began to realize that I was a part of the big world and had come to life."
In the silent film His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, written by Baum, cornfield spirits (or fairies, more likely) bring the Scarecrow to life after he is created.

When the Powder of Life was introduced, some fans began to theorize that somehow some of the magic powder made its way to the Scarecrow and brought him to life. Another explanation has been that, like the original musical extravaganza, Dorothy brought him to life unwittingly. While Baum doesn't mention that she wanted a friend, readers presume that she wished she did and the Silver Shoes brought the Scarecrow to life and his pre-life memories were a side effect of that.

Apparently, one Oz fan who noticed that this critical element was missing from the Scarecrow's origin was Ruth Plumly Thompson, and she decided to offer her own explanation in her first Oz book, The Royal Book of Oz.

In the story, the Scarecrow goes back to the cornfield he came from and finds the pole Dorothy found him on. He winds up sliding down it to the underground Silver Islands where he is hailed as the reincarnated Emperor Chang Wang Woe.

It is eventually explained that the Emperor was transformed into a crocus (a flower), and after three days, it became beanpole that grew out of the Silver Islands into the Land of Oz. An accompanying parchment read "Into the first being who touches this magic pole—on the other side of the world—the spirit of Emperor Chang Wang Woe will enter. And fifty years from this day, he will return—to save his people."

Throughout the rest of Thompson's books, this is maintained as the Scarecrow's origin, though I can only specifically recall it being referred to in The Giant Horse of Oz. The other writers of the Famous Forty did not return to this topic.

The thing I don't buy is that the Scarecrow doesn't seem to have the memories or personality of the old Emperor. All this did was bring him to life. Or did it? After all, the parchment said that the first "being" who touched the magic pole would have the Emperor's spirit enter it. A being, as a noun, is generally considered to be a living thing. We are not told that it would bring to life a non-living thing. Thus, we may assume that Chang Wang Woe is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Or is he? After all, Thompson says that the bean pole sprouted 50 years before the events of Royal Book. Presumably, the Scarecrow has existed for no more than the last twenty of those years. Are you going to tell me that that bean pole went untouched for thirty years when it was in a farmer's cornfield?

So, this brings me to an abandoned Oz story that happened during the writing of Outsiders from Oz. In the original version of that book, the story focused only on the Wizard and Button-Bright while Ozma, we were told, went off to do something else. I decided it might be fun to explain what exactly she did, and the Scarecrow would go with her.

She would meet two feuding farmers, and discover that one of them has actually had the spirit of Chang Wang Woe in him as well, creating two personalities sharing one body. Rather than treat it as a disorder, the man has actually found ways to have two personalities work in his favor, though everyone assumes he's talking to himself all the time.

My editor suggested I tell Ozma's story in tandem with Button-Bright and the Wizard, and in the final book, all that is left of that plot is Ozma taking the Red Wagon and leaving the Emerald City. Perhaps it will be told someday.
"Back on topic, Jared. This is really getting confusing."

Whether or not the Scarecrow has some of Chang Wang Woe, I think all I've pointed out is that this still does not explain why the Scarecrow is alive. There are many stories that do go back and have the Scarecrow sprinkled with the Powder of Life, but probably one of the best of these is "Cryptic Conversations in a Cornfield," a short story by Jeff Rester that appeared in Oziana 2011.

All we know is that despite how he came to life, the Scarecrow created his own personality (something even Thompson makes clear), made his own friends, and thought his own thoughts. No matter what he was or wasn't, he's the Scarecrow, the most popular man in all the Land of Oz.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Characters of Oz - The Munchkins

The first inhabitants of Oz that we meet in the Oz book are called the Munchkins. As becomes clear through the books, the Munchkins are not a race, this is the collective name for the people who live in the east quadrant of Oz. As such, there appears to be some variance among them.

In their first appearance, we meet three old Munchkin men, who seem to be diminutive in stature:
They were not as big as the grown folk she had always been used to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, although they were, so far as looks go, many years older.
Three were men and ... were oddly dressed. They wore round hats that rose to a small point a foot above their heads, with little bells around the brims that tinkled sweetly as they moved. The hats of the men were blue... The men were dressed in blue, of the same shade as their hats, and wore well-polished boots with a deep roll of blue at the tops. 
Baum decided to define each of the cultures of the sections of Oz by color. The Munchkins prefer blue in their dress and decoration. It also appears that blue flowers grow in the Munchkin country. Depending on the interpretation at the time, Munchkins may have blue-tinted skin, and sometimes even the ground or grass might be blue.

Personally, I stick with the color of clothing, decor and flora.

The Munchkins appear to be be mainly farmers, though there are also woodmen and at least one tinsmith among them, as well as the quirky countries Ruth Plumly Thompson introduced.

W.W. Denslow drew all the Munchkins as diminutive people, and then he appears to draw all the other people of Oz at about the same height. When John R. Neill took over as illustrator, there was more variance in height in Oz. However, he didn't draw the Munchkins until The Patchwork Girl of Oz when he presents Ojo and Unc Nunkie as normal-sized people. I personally prefer this look of diversity for Oz. Perhaps the first ones that Dorothy met were very short, but not all of the Munchkins are that short.

Of course, when the MGM film created their Munchkins, they based their look partly on the Dainty China Country and had all of the Munchkins played by little people and a few children. These diminutive Munchkins were so charming that "Munchkin" has become slang for little people or children. Similarly sized Munchkins have made their way into Disney's Return to Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful.

Still, I prefer the idea that Munchkins could be three feet high or six feet high. The only thing that makes them Munchkins is that they live in the east part of Oz.

The Munchkins have different names as well. The names we were given by Baum were Boq, Nimee Amee, Ojo, Unc Nunkie, Bini Aru and Kiki Aru.

Monday, May 06, 2013

'Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return' Gets A Release Date

That's right, kids!

The long-awaited Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is officially on its way, and is set to bow in at least 3,000 theaters in the U.S. & Canada through distributor Clarius Entertainment on Friday, May 2, 2014 Friday, May 9, 2014.

20th Century Fox will handle home entertainment for the 3-D flick, and Columbia Records will release the soundtrack, as previously announced.

Updated June 7, 2013. Read about the release date shuffle here.

Early word on the 75th Anniversary Home Video releases of The Wizard of Oz

DVD release
Hot on the heels of the details of Oz the Great and Powerful's home video release, we get the first word on the next home video iteration of MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

While we only have a list of available editions right now, it appears that the only new thing when it comes to image is the new 3D version. It seems there is some reauthoring done on the discs, but the Blu-Ray will be the same print from 2009. There has yet to be a press release, so we may be in for a surprise.

However, if you preorder now, it appears you can get the new DVD and Blu-Ray editions for some rather nice prices! (Prices listed reflect the prices on as of this posting and are subject to change. They are also rounded to the nearest dollar.)

The solo DVD release (it appears the 2009 Ultimate Collector's Edition/Emerald Edition will be the last multi-disc release of the movie on DVD) is available on Amazon right now for $12. This could be a 2-disc set, but it's more likely to be a single disc release.

Blu-Ray release
The Blu-Ray release is available just now for $14. I would think this is more of a re-release of the 2009 edition. There seems to be new content, but we'll get there in a bit.

3D Blu-Ray release
Unlike the unpopular move Disney made, the 3D Blu-Ray will come bundled with the standard Blu-Ray release with a new cover. As it's now selling for $25, even if you don't have a 3D Blu-Ray player and a 3D TV, this might be an okay price to purchase your first 3D Blu-Ray at.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a Warner Brothers release if there wasn't a big box release. This is the only picture we have of it so far.
The "Big Box" release
It will contain the 3D Blu-Ray, two Blu-Ray discs, and two DVDs. Perhaps that is confirmation the DVD will be 2 discs, but one might actually be a digital copy disc. This big box is selling for $74.

Amazon actually has some details here:
Hours of extra content including:
  • Sing-a-long feature with the film
  • Complete Magic Cloak of Oz silent shorts (60 min)
  • All-new making-of Documentary
  • The Dreamer of Oz TV Special (101 min)
  • Munchkins at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Featurette (20 min)
  • Patchwork Girl of Oz (60 min)
  • 6 hr. MGM Documentary When the Lion Roars (exclusive to Blu-Ray)
Exclusive Promotional Items:
  • 48 pg Hardcover Photo Book
  • Ruby Slippers Sparkle Globe
  • Collectible Award Pin Set by The Noble Collection
  • Journal
  • Frameable Map of Oz
Amazon exclusive Promotional Item:
  • 4 GB "Wicked Witch of the East" flash drive
 These details are sketchy. Hopefully mentioning The Magic Cloak of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and The Dreamer of Oz means that they've changed those titles from the 2009 release. (The 1914 silents had no score and could have used some trimming of film reel footage, unlike the other silent films, and Dreamer had a pretty poor quality print.) There's a "All-new making-of Documentary" listed, meaning we'll get some sort of new content, and the six hour documentary When the Lion Roars will also be included, though whether it's been authored onto one of the Blu-Rays or it's the second DVD is not clear. (It was included as a double-sided DVD on the Blu-Ray Emerald Edition and Ultimate Collector's Edition in 2009.)

And as you can see, driving the price up are some non-disc goodies. Unlike the 2005 and 2009 releases, there are no reproductions of 1939 memorabilia. There are two books, a "sparkle globe" featuring the Ruby Slippers, and a Map of Oz that looks like it's based on the books. And if you get this set from Amazon, they'll include a flash drive that will look like the Wicked Witch of the East's feet are sticking out of your USB port.

I've preordered the Blu-Ray edition and the Big Box to lock in the prices, but I'll be cancelling one or the other before they're released. (Though I actually like all of the covers!) I'll also be keeping an eye open for the press release for more details. Remember, with Amazon, you'll always pay the lowest price they had available if your preorder.

(Thanks to Wayne Anthony Miller for alerting Oz collectors to the listings!)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Characters of Oz - The Good Witch of the North

This post contains spoilers for The Giant Horse of Oz.
The Good Witch of the North is a rather enigmatic character because she rarely appears in the Oz series. She is the first person to speak to Dorothy when she arrives in Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Her appearance is limited to the second chapter of the book, and then she never makes a major appearance in Baum's Oz books again. Taking this into consideration, it's little wonder why the MGM film adaptation of the book combined her with Glinda (though that did cause a bit of a storytelling snarl of its own).

What we do know about her is that she was a little old woman who dressed in white and wore a peaked hat. I've also concluded that because she sends Dorothy to see the Wizard that she—unlike Glinda—was unaware that the Wizard wasn't actually what he seemed to be.

The Good Witch of the North, from her one chapter in Baum's work, appears to be level-headed and very wise, though she never suspected the Wizard of being a fraud. Still, it's proved difficult for people adapting the story to not give her a few quirks. MGM had her giggle and admit to being "a little muddled." The original stage version of The Wiz reinvented her as the hilarious Addaperle the Feel Good Girl, while the film made her a bag lady called Miss One.

In the original musical extravaganza adaptation of the story, she appears to be not quite so old and quite a bit more like Glinda (who I understand was mentioned in some versions of the play, but not seen). She has the name Locosta (or Locousta), and she gives Dorothy a ruby ring that will grant her three wishes while in Oz. (It can't take her out of Oz, so this was rather like the Silver Shoes and the Golden Cap combined into one item.) Some fans have adopted "Locosta" as her name in their works or personal preferred version of Oz continuity. I personally like the name myself.

The Good Witch of the North, no matter how sweet or gentle she may appear to be, is not someone to offend. She gives Dorothy a kiss that marks her as being under her protection. (This kiss surprisingly never leaves Dorothy, Thompson reveals in The Wishing Horse of Oz, though Dorothy had been in plenty of trouble many times before with it playing no role.) This mark saves Dorothy from being abused by the Winged Monkeys, and perhaps would have kept the kalidahs, wolves, crows, bees, the Winkies, the Fighting Trees, the Hammerheads and the Great Spider away if they had actually been able to try to harm her.

Unlike Glinda, who holds transformations to be dishonest, the Good Witch of the North isn't so scrupulous, though she only transforms non-living things. She transforms her hat into a slate that gives advice, and in her brief and only Baum-penned reappearance in The Road to Oz, she performs a spectacle at Ozma's birthday party:
The Good Witch of the North amused the people by transforming ten stones into ten birds, the ten birds into ten lambs, and the ten lambs into ten little girls, who gave a pretty dance and were then transformed into ten stones again, just as they were in the beginning.
The Marvelous Land of Oz mentions her, but only that the Good Witch who ruled the Gillikins forbade any other witches in her domain. (Which Mombi tries to get around due to a technicality.) Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz tells us that she actually conquered Mombi.

The Good Witch of the North doesn't reappear until Thompson's The Giant Horse of Oz when Prince Philador of the Ozure Islands goes to see her for help, but when he arrives, she has had a sudden thought and jumped through the Witch Window. Her slate says that she will never return. She also has the odd name Tattypoo. However, it's revealed that she's actually been the missing Queen Orin of the Ozure Islands all this time. Mombi tried to turn her into a witch, but her inner goodness was too great to turn wicked, so she was a good witch and conquered Mombi.

Neither Orin nor the Good Witch of the North really has a role in the rest of the Famous Forty Oz books, though Orin is one of the guests during the grand celebration in The Wishing Horse of Oz, but in Jack Snow's The Magical Mimics of Oz, the Good Witch of the North is mentioned as attending a celebration at the end of that book. Jack Snow very much ignored Thompson's additions to Oz, and except for this (and a couple hiccups in The Shaggy Man of Oz), his "back to Baum" approach didn't really cause any issues.

Not all Oz fans have been fans of the fact that Thompson did away with one of Baum's characters and didn't really do anything with her. Some have specifically disagreed with the view that you had to be young and pretty to be happy. (There are Oz fans who are getting along in their years who are very happy, thank you very much!)

Oz fan David Hardenbrook wrote a book titled Locosta and the Unknown Witches of Oz that offered a reconciliation. Basically, rather than turning Orin into a witch, Mombi used the same "switching" spell that Baum describes Mombi using on Jellia Jamb and herself in The Marvelous Land of Oz. The real Locosta was in the Great Outside World with Orin's looks and soon became a movie star. When the spell was broken, she resumed her old form and became a librarian. Eventually, she met hero Dan and returned to Oz. If this had been the story, it could have fit into Oz continuity just fine. Unfortunately, Hardenbrook included many new details for his version of Oz that are contrary to other fan's ideas. While the story is entertaining on its own, it's difficult to fit peacefully into Oz canon.

It's also problematic that Giant Horse says that Orin has been missing for twenty-five years. Unless the previous 21 Oz books took place in at least the last 15 of those years (which is possible, do you really think only one adventure a year happens in Oz?), then Mombi must have enchanted Orin after Dorothy arrived in Oz the first time. That's a little too close to The Marvelous Land of Oz, particularly after the timeline I set up in my blog about Dorothy.

Jack Snow may have had an answer to the Tattypoo/Orin/Good Witch of the North debacle. In Who's Who in Oz, he claimed that Tattypoo only thought that she was the Good Witch of the North. The Good Witch is listed separately, and her entry says:
Dorothy says that some pretty important things have transpired involving the Good Witch of the North, but the story is just too long to crowd into a small space. It would take a whole book, Dorothy tells us.
Perhaps his lost or unfinished or unwritten third Oz book may have included the Good Witch of the North, and he may have taken a jab at explaining how she was still around despite Giant Horse. If the book ever turns up, Oz fans will be only too glad to see it.

So, what about you? In your personal view of Oz continuity, does the Good Witch of the North still exist? Is she Tattypoo or Locosta or another name entirely?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Home Video Release

Get a little Wicked with the Blu-Ray 3D
Disney has announced the details for the home video releases of Oz the Great and Powerful. For physical media, you have four choices: Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and a DVD. All will also contain access to a Digital Copy version. The sets will all be available June 11.

Some have been upset that if you want to have all of the available formats, you'll need to purchase two sets: the Blu-Ray 3D and the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. I personally am not too worried because I don't plan to purchase the 3D version, although I did enjoy seeing the film in 3D. However, given that most other films released in 3D get a combo pack containing three versions on disc, this move for Disney proves odd. Even odder: the Blu-Ray 3D has no special features and has the same suggested retail price as the Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack.

The whole cast graces the combo pack
The movie will likely look as good as it did in theaters, the resolution depending on what edition you're viewing.

The Blu-Ray will contain a number of bonus features, but no deleted scenes, which we were hoping for since Sam Raimi mentioned that there were quite a few that he had to cut that explained more about the characters.

There is a feature called The Magic of “Oz The Great and Powerful”,  which is billed as a Second Screen Experience. It appears that it requires a Smart Phone to use an app to access certain bonus features while the movie plays. It could be possible that these are also accessible through the menu.
Get very Wicked and just go HD

The features listed for this in the press release are:
  • The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz - From Munchkins and Tinkers to good witches, bad witches, and flying baboons, this piece follows each character and creature of the Land of Oz from inspiration to final outcome.
  • The Sounds of Magical Oz - What adds fragility to the sounds of China Girl's footsteps; ferocity to the tornado; or weight to the flutter of Finley's flapping wings?
  • Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater - Actor, and voice of Finley, Zach Braff introduces viewers to the Finley mockup.
  • Mariah Carey Music Video
 There are other bonus features as well. We get a blooper reel, an interview with Danny Elfman, featurettes about the making of China Girl, Mila Kunis' makeup in the latter half of the movie, and the designs of Kansas and the Land of Oz.

Get the basics on just DVD
A couple other fascinating sounding features don't deal with the making of the film. The first is a piece titled My Journey in Oz, produced and directed by James Franco, who has said that he was a big fan of the Oz books as a child, one of the reasons why he wanted the role of the Wizard. This will likely touch on that, but the preview video seen at the press release page on DVDizzy shows behind-the-scenes footage that it appears James had shot himself.

The other one sounds quite fascinating: Walt Disney and the Road to Oz. The press release reads "It is well known that Walt Disney had a fascination with the Land of Oz since he was a child. See how that fascination grew into inspiration as he began planning for his own adaptation of the stories in the classic Baum books." So, sounds like we'll get a bit of The Rainbow Road to Oz here. I wouldn't hope to see the entire teaser piece from the Disneyland Fourth Anniversary Show, though. It'd be nice if they'll give a nod to Return to Oz on here.

On the DVD edition, you'll get just the blooper reel and "Walt Disney and the Road to Oz."

You can preorder (or order) your copy from Amazon here:
DVD edition
Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack
Blu-Ray edition
Blu-Ray 3D