Sunday, June 30, 2013

Highlights of the 2013 Winkie Convention

In addition to the podcast we posted, here's a video containing most of the footage I filmed at the Winkie Convention this year.

Sam and I just recorded the new Movies of Oz podcast, filling in some foreign language Oz movies that you probably haven't seen, and I'm already editing, but keep an eye out for some book reviews and "The Characters of Oz: Mombi" coming soon.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Songs in the Key of Oz

One of the undisputed highlights of the 2011 Winkie Convention was a concert given on Saturday night by Joe Cascone and David Haines. Called "Songs in the Key of Oz," Joe and David presented a number of Oz songs from the past 109 years. It was delightful, even though it was just two men and a piano.

This year at Winkies, I was helping at at the Swap Shop and Joe and David arrived and set up a table right next to us. They unveiled a "Songs in the Key of Oz" CD and I had to get one! So, I bought two, one for me, and one for Sam, since I knew he'd want one. (He paid me back.)

The CD is quite different from the 2011 Winkies concert. It's from a later performance, as Joe and David have apparently performed this several times since. You can hear David Maxine introduce them at the beginning of track 1, but that's all there is from Winkies.

The first track is a medley of songs about the Emerald City. I remember that it marked the first time I clearly heard the "There's a garden spot I'm told/Where's it's never too hot and it's never too cold" additional opening lyrics for "The Merry Old Land of Oz." Those lyrics open this medley, then slide right into "One Short Day" from Wicked! Also embedded were lyrics from "The Emerald City" from the Happy Time Players/Mr. Pickwick Players Wizard of Oz story album, the "Seen Green" segment from The Wiz Emerald City song sequence, and original to the CD (not at Winkies), some of "The Emerald City" song from Joe and the late J.P. Doyle's musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It makes for a wonderful opening.

Then there's a cover of "The Wonders of Oz," the song from the 1964 Return to Oz. Then, Joe introduces and moves into songs from the original Oz musical extravaganza. The duo perform the Scarecrow's song (which was not performed at Winkies), the quickly-dropped "Guardian of the Gate" song, "When We Get What's A-Coming To Us," and "Hurrah for Baffin's Bay."

Then, there's a lively rendition of "What Did The Woggle Bug Say?" Having once made a MIDI straight from the sheet music, I noted the music was re-orchestrated to be more lively, and sure enough, the reason for that is made clear after they got through all the verses. David got up and held up a banner with the lyrics on it, inviting the audience to sing along!

Next up are songs from The Woggle-Bug ("My Little Maid of Oz"), The Tik-Tok Man of Oz ("The Clockwork Man"), and Baum and Louis F. Gottschalk's abandoned musical adaptation of The Patchwork Girl of Oz ("The Shaggy Man Song"/"A Song of Ozland").

Then, there's "two songs from a movie you may have seen," "Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!" and "The Jitterbug" from the MGM film The Wizard of Oz. "Ding-Dong!" contains the opening lyrics not in the film, "Once there was a wicked witch in the lovely Land of Oz..." "Jitterbug" has a different opening verse than what was intended for the film. ("Listen all you chillun to that voodoo moan/There's a modern villun worser than that old boogie woogie/When that goofy critter spots your fancy clothes/He injects a jitter, Starts you dancing on a thousand toes, There he goes!")

Next up is a medley of songs from the abandoned Disney film, The Rainbow Road to Oz, using two songs from the Disneyland segment ("Patches" and "The Rainbow Road to Oz") and two songs that wound up on The Cowardly Lion of Oz album with some different lyrics ("Living a Lovely Life" and "If You Believe" with different lyrics as "Why Don't They Believe?"). This year at Winkies, Joe and David performed the medley again, but with a new song, "The Lost Princess of Oz," added to the mix. How on earth they turned up all this material is simply astonishing! (To clarify, "Lost Princess" is not on the CD.)

Then comes two songs from one of Joe's favorite Oz films, Journey Back to Oz: "There's a Faraway Land" and "Keep A Happy Thought." These are followed by "The Wonderful Land of Oz," the main song from the Banner Elk "Land of Oz" theme park. Then, there are two songs from The Wiz: "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" and "If You Believe."

Jumping ahead over 20 years, we get to the latest stage versions of Oz with "No One Mourns the Wicked" and "Wonderful" from Wicked, and the original song "Already Home" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. (Trivia: when the song was performed at Winkies, it was actually the first time it was performed in North America.)

The concert on the CD closes out with what Joe and David bill as the quintessential Oz song. What it is, I won't spoil it for you!

A major difference between the concert preserved on CD and the performance at Winkies is that after a break, Joe and David performed several songs from Joe and J.P. Doyle's musical adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, using a bit of narration to tell the familiar story with the songs. Perhaps this was a Winkies exclusive, but at the end of that, they gave an encore piece that mixed several songs to give the performance a grand finish. That finale is not on the CD, so attendees of the 2011 Winkie Convention experienced something that perhaps no other audience has.

The exclusion of the songs from Joe's musical from the CD is all right, considering that there has been two CDs of cast recordings released. The former was for sale by Hungry Tiger Press, the second is available directly from the Civic Light Opera Company. While it's not the same, you can at least hear those wonderful songs at home in some form.

The CD of "Songs in the Key of Oz" contains three bonus tracks: "If I Only Had A Brain," from Joe's CD "Show Tunes I Do," which actually covers the songs of all three of Dorothy's friends from the MGM film, plus those additional opening lyrics! ("Said a scarecrow swinging on a pole/To some blackbirds sittin' on a fence/Oh, the Lord gave me a soul/But, forgot to give me common sense./If I had an ounce of common sense...") The next two tracks are excerpts from the above linked CD of Joe's Wizard of Oz musical, David's Cowardly Lion song "'Fraid Not!" and Joe's L. Frank Baum number, "Just a Touch of Humbug," which is one of the best numbers in the show. (But believe me, picking out a bad number from that one is really tough!)

My only complaint with the CD is that the sound is a little low. I usually rip my CDs, put the files on my mp3 player and listen to it on the go, but unless I was in a quiet place, listening was a little difficult, even with the volume turned all the way up. As such, this is more of an album to sit back and enjoy.

And now you're wondering "How do I get a copy?" Well, Hungry Tiger Press is selling it! You can get your copy here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The 2013 Winkie Convention!

Jared and Sam report live from the 2013 Winkie Convention, celebrating the centennial of The Patchwork Girl of Oz! Plus, some appearances by Eric Gjovaag and Shawn Maldonado.

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



Podcast Powered By Podbean


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some updates!

Well, just back from the Winkie Convention. Sam and I recorded a podcast reporting on it, which will be out soon. I've also uploaded over 300 photos on Facebook.

I got a lot of Oz stuff, some of which I'll be talking about over the coming weeks. But first, let's get some new arrivals out of the way...

 A new little company called Actual Film Votive is selling a unique collectible for film fans using prints from junked film copies made for screening. These cells are not from original negatives or master film copies of the films.

The cells are mounted on a votive candle holder. "But wait!" you might say. "Won't the candle ruin the film?" It might, which is why a tiny LED light is included. It doesn't project the image on a surface, but it does let the light show through, letting you see a tiny image of one of your favorite movies.

At this time, votives are available with film cells from The Bride of Frankenstein, Ben Hur, King Kong, Singin' In The Rain and, of course, The Wizard of Oz. The guys who run the site have nicely sent me a Dorothy cell votive so I can see it for myself to get the word out. And it's a very nice little piece! Rather than trim it, you actually get a whole slice from the film reel, including the spokes that made it turn through the projector and the soundtrack actually on the film. Each one is $12, plus $3 for shipping in the US. (Price subject to change.) To read more and order one (or more) for yourself, go to their website.

 I also came home to issues 7 and 8 of The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, which reveal more about this version of Oz and its take on Tip. Also, we see what might be the Wicked West version of Tik-Tok? The Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead storyline wraps up for now, but there's still quite a bit more story to go on!

Finally, I was surprised to discover that the 1933 Wizard of Oz cartoon by Ted Eshbaugh has been remastered in high definition! The comparison between this new version and the previously available one is amazing! The sharpness and clarity is evident and lets us see what a beautiful cartoon it actually was.

The cartoon will be released on Blu-Ray by year's end with a number of Eshbaugh's shorts in high definition. It's amazing because the cartoon is in public domain, and anyone could do it. I really hope we'll give the restoration folk a big "Thank you!" for this labor of love by buying the Blu-Ray (Region Free) when it's available.

More information and screencaps can be found here.

Now imagine how wonderful it would be if someone gave the silent Oz films the high definition treatment! Winkies featured a screening of The Patchwork Girl of Oz silent film from a real film print, and it looked gorgeous!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Baum's Road to Oz: The Dakota Years

This little book might not look like much, and some casual Oz fans might not be interested at all. What it is a collection of two essays by Michael Patrick Hearn and Nancy Tystad Koupal about Baum's life in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

This time in the frontier is believed to be one of the most critical influences on Baum's later life, and Koupal believes that it is one of the most misunderstood sections of Baum's life due to how under-documented it is.

Hearn takes us to the baseball diamond in "The Wizard Behind The Plate" as he examines the baseball phenomenon during Baum's time in Aberdeen, including Baum's own contribution to it and the earliest connections of Oz and baseball.

Following it is a selected number of verse by Baum about baseball.

Next up is Koupal's extensive essay about Baum's interest in Spiritualism and his writing during Aberdeen, examining the times and Baum's activities extensively, putting it all in context. Following this is a generous selection of Baum's work from The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer.

Mark I. West examines "The Dakota Fairy Tales of L. Frank Baum," looking at stories from Animal Fairy Tales and Twinkle and Chubbins that deal with distinctly Dakota-based settings and themes. Following this is Baum's story "The Discontented Gopher."

Almost a hidden Easter egg in the book is the Appendix. It's listed as an "Appendix" in the table of contents, but when you get to it, it's the essay "What Children Want" by Baum himself, in which he discusses what he believes children ask for in their stories. I think he gets many points right: the blatantly moralized story from childhood is forgotten in the splendid wonder tale they enjoyed.

It dates from November 1902, and contains a good piece of evidence that Baum wasn't really incensed against W.W. Denslow after they parted ways. He writes that "I am not sure that the great modern illustrators of children's books, such as Peter Newell, Oliver Herford, Fanny Y. Cory, and W.W. Denslow, are not worthy as much as much love and reverence as the great story-writers themselves." (Cory also illustrated The Master Key and later The Enchanted Island of Yew for Baum.)

Baum's Road to Oz: The Dakota Years seems to be out of print, and is going for over $30 on any site I can find. However, for anyone wanting to read up on Baum's life, I'd highly recommend this one.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Comic book update! The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West!

 Well, I fell a little behind on this series. I forgot to order the latest issues right away, and when I did remember, I realized I ordered the latest issue without getting the issue just before it.

Issues 4-6 of The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West bring the Tin Man, Lion, Tip, and the mysterious bandit-type Jack Pumpkinhead to the palace of Glinda, where Jack reveals who he is and how the Princess Ozma disappeared from Oz years ago.

Meanwhile, we learn more about Jinjur, why she's revolting, and how she joins forces with the mysterious old witch Mombi. Plus, we get a look at where and who Toto (Dorothy's horse) has gone to.

 Missing from the main series is the enigmatic and mute Scarecrow girl. However, she gets a spin-off two-issue mini-series in Legends of Oz: Scarecrow.

Scarecrow goes to the town of Denslow and gets a less-than-warm welcome, but she soon discovers that the safety of the town may be in her hands.

If you're behind (and it seems I am, since 7 and 8 are already out), get caught up! And if you haven't started, get the trade paperback and get started!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Glinda

Well, the Wizard was not able to grant Dorothy's wish after all. Not only did he not really have magical powers, when he'd tried through humbug and a hot air balloon, he had accidentally left without her. Could anyone help Dorothy?
"This little girl," said the Scarecrow to the soldier, "wishes to cross the desert. How can she do so?"
"I cannot tell," answered the soldier, "for nobody has ever crossed the desert, unless it is Oz himself."
"Is there no one who can help me?" asked Dorothy earnestly.
"Glinda might," he suggested.
"Who is Glinda?" inquired the Scarecrow.
"The Witch of the South. She is the most powerful of all the Witches, and rules over the Quadlings. Besides, her castle stands on the edge of the desert, so she may know a way to cross it."
"Glinda is a Good Witch, isn't she?" asked the child.
"The Quadlings think she is good," said the soldier, "and she is kind to everyone. I have heard that Glinda is a beautiful woman, who knows how to keep young in spite of the many years she has lived."
 So Dorothy and her friends set out south from the Emerald City to find Glinda to ask her for help. After facing fighting trees, a village of china people, a giant spider that the Cowardly Lion had to kill, and an encounter with the Hammerheads that caused Dorothy to use the Golden Cap one last time, they finally arrived at Glinda's palace.
She was both beautiful and young to their eyes. Her hair was a rich red in color and fell in flowing ringlets over her shoulders. Her dress was pure white but her eyes were blue, and they looked kindly upon the little girl.
 Glinda knew the secret of the silver shoes, and told it to Dorothy in exchange for the Golden Cap. According to what she said, she then gave the Golden Cap back to the the king of the Winged Monkeys. (Or, that's what we assume. The Scarecrow says she commands their services later. What this line means, we don't know.)

Glinda is far more instrumental in The Marvelous Land of Oz, enlisting the Scarecrow and his friends to help her find Mombi to compel her to reveal what happened to Ozma. Seeing through Mombi's tricks, Glinda forces the truth out of the old woman.

But more importantly, Marvelous Land makes it clear that Glinda was well around when the Wizard had his reign. She says that she had spies who kept an eye on him, so it's clear that she knew that he wasn't really a Wizard.

The early Oz books make it clear that Glinda is very knowledgeable about magic: not only does she know how the Silver Shoes work, she is also well aware of what would happen to the Magic Belt if Dorothy used it to get home.

The Emerald City of Oz, however, tells us that Glinda has been around for a long time. Perhaps even centuries. Ozma tells this legend:
"It is said that once—long, long ago—a wicked King ruled Oz, and made himself and all his people very miserable and unhappy. So Glinda, the Good Sorceress, placed this fountain here, and the King drank of its water and forgot all his wickedness."
It seems that Glinda rarely acts without being bidden or visited. In Wonderful Wizard, Marvelous Land, Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, Glinda doesn't get involved until she is asked. But in Emerald City, she does act unbidden in a way: she creates the Barrier of Invisibility before Ozma can ask her to. And in the above quote from the same book, she appears to act unbidden as well.

More famously is how in Tik-Tok of Oz, she discovers Queen Ann and her army setting out to conquer the world and sends them outside of Oz. Now, it can be argued that the creation of the Barrier was because she knew this would be what Ozma wanted, but the creation of the Forbidden Fountain containing the Water of Oblivion and sending Ann and her army out of Oz seem a little odd in nature.

One could argue that Glinda created the Water of Oblivion for the good of the people (though I did once reflect that that could be why we have such sketchy stories about the pre-Wizard history of Oz), but we have to wonder, what if Glinda actually used this to make the King of Oz more agreeable so she could take the Quadling Country? If this was the case, then we seem to have a case of Glinda clearly manipulating what goes on in Oz for her benefit. (Though the Quadlings seem to have no complaints about Glinda.)

Some fans note how often Ozma depends on Glinda's advice. Is Glinda using Ozma as a puppet? So far she seems to be operating with everyone's best interest in mind. Maybe some are trying to read sinister characteristics into her. However, I'd like to remind you that Omby Amby only said the Quadlings believe that she's a good witch. If Glinda has some sinister motives, then she either keeps them hidden really well, or she has some great plan that she seems to be waiting for centuries to bring to fruition.

In the later Oz books, Glinda does arrive at the Emerald City unannounced and uncalled for, the one springing to mind first being The Cowardly Lion of Oz. But most of the time, her character is consistent with what Baum established.

But in any case, Glinda seems to be quite trustworthy and a great ally, as well as quite friendly to those who ask for her help.

Even if she is just biding her time.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guess where I am?

As this post goes live, I'm actually on a Greyhound bus on my way to the Winkie Convention! Sam and—for the first time—Shawn Maldonado will be going as well.

To get topics cleared off my head, I wrote some blogs ahead of time and there will be new entries every weekday this week. Next week, Mike Conway says he'll try to come up with something, and I'll be back with audio for a new Winkie report podcast, which will be hopefully better than last year's. (I really buckled down and finished the last podcast because I didn't want an unfinished one waiting for me when I got back.)

Also, I should be able to report about a lot of Oz books after I get back! I'll be proofing my copy of Royal Explorers of Oz: Terra Obscura (I guess it's no longer The Scourge of the Crescent Moon) and I have seven books from Chris Dulabone to enjoy on my trip there, and I'm told there will be new Oz books for sale.

So, I'll be blogging again when I get back, and for those of you going, I'll see you there!

The Non-Fiction of L. Frank Baum

It's no secret that L. Frank Baum is mainly known for his fiction. However, he wrote non-fiction as well. During his early years, he wrote and published a little newspaper for the neighborhood, The Roselawn Home Journal, and later bought a new press and began a new little paper called The Empire and a circular called The Stamp Collector. The three non-fiction books found in Baum's bibliography all take after some of his hobbies or methods which he'd written of before in periodicals.

His first book, Baum's Complete Stamp Dealers Directory (1873, he was about 17 at the time), was the result of The Stamp Collector. Unfortunately, I have not been able to see a copy of any type, so I cannot tell you anything other than it was his first book, intended to aid stamp collectors by listing dealers.

We're more lucky with what is more widely considered his first substantial book: The Book of the Hamburgs. Books of Wonder issued a reprint in hardcover and paperback and a print on demand edition is now available that is seems to be identical to it. also has a complete version scanned available for downloading and viewing online.

The book appeared in 1886, and was a result of Baum's magazine The Poultry Record, which was published during the 1870s. I've seen claims that the book is an edited version of excerpts from the magazine, but I can't attest to that. It does seem to flow very well.

The book focuses on the care and breeding of the hamburg variety of chickens, particularly in efforts to create good-looking fowl to win prizes. This stemmed from Baum's own chicken farming, which many believe is what makes Billina in Ozma of Oz such a successfully executed character.

The final of Baum's non-fiction books is a result of his magazine The Show Window. As part of his brief stint as a traveling salesman, Baum offered advice for decorating windows of dry goods stores. His advice worked, so he created the magazine to assist store owners to decorate their windows quite attractively. The resulting book was titled The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors.

Although the book has not been reprinted, it has gained notoriety because it was published in 1900, the same year The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published. After that, Baum never produced another book of non-fiction, aside from editing his wife's book In Other Lands Than Ours.

In Hamburgs, Baum speaks with a voice of professional, authoritative experience, and I should not be surprised to find the same voice in the other two books. (That is, if Baum's Complete Stamp Dealers Directory isn't just a list of where to get collectible stamps in 1873.) It is a very different voice than we see in his works of fiction, but it is still a friendly one all the same.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz — Toho's The Wizard of Oz

Jared and Sam discuss the classic anime film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz featuring Aileen Quinn and Lorne Greene.

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


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Friday, June 14, 2013

Oz Reimagined

I was at the library, getting ready to make print-outs (I have very bad luck with home printers: they always seem to mess up on me), when I noticed a book on the shelf: Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond. Thanks to John Bell, I'd already heard of the book, but didn't have a huge urge to buy it.

I'm not sure which camp I'm in. While I do feel like shouting "People have 're-imagined' Oz to death already! Why do MORE OF IT???" I often do check these versions out anyway, and sometimes I really enjoy them.

Well, since I wouldn't have to lay down money for this one (as long as I returned it by the due date), I decided to give it a shot.

The book is available as a paperback, an audiobook, a Kindle edition, or you can get each story as an individual Kindle e-book.

A rather nice introduction by Gregory Maguire opens the book, and is followed by fifteen short stories by different authors, each presenting a "re-imagined" version of Oz. As you can already guess, each story needs to be taken on its own. Not every story will be loved by everyone. As such, a number of these stories contain profanity and references to sex, so young readers should steer clear of this one.

The Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz by Rae Carson and C. C. Finlay is almost "Oz canon"-worthy. Aside from having Scraps appear (and a disturbing union of witches at the end), it would work as how the Wizard tried to defy the Wicked Witch of the West shortly after his arrival. A rather good story, anyway.

Emerald to Emerald, Dust to Dust by Seanan McGuire almost works as a follow-up to Oz as we left it with Baum, just kind of ... corrupted. Ozma has turned her priorities to politics rather than friendship, and Dorothy and Jack Pumpkinhead are among the people she's kicked out of the palace because they proved to be too much of a liability. A now adult Dorothy lives with her girlfriend Polychrome and serves as the new Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy and Jack are called to investigate a curious murder. A rather fine story that only made a few disturbing twists on the Oz we all know and love.

The Lost Girls of Oz by Theodora Goss takes a similar route. A young American woman finds her way to Oz, just like a number of other girls who have wanted to run away from home. But Oz is not just a refuge. Ozma has bigger plans now. Think Queen Ann of Oogaboo-type plans... Again, Oz with a disturbing twist.

The Boy Detective of Oz by Tad Williams is almost an Oz story, and would work fine, except they make it clear that it's not actually Oz where the story takes place. It's a simulation where a ghost of a boy detective named Orlando lives. (I think Mr. Williams has been watching a bit of Doctor Who.) Omby Amby is found mysteriously decapitated and it's up to Orlando to find out what happened. A fine story, and would be better if it wasn't for the needless references to how it's all a simulation.

Dorothy Dreams by Simon R. Green finds an elderly Dorothy, who visited Oz only once, in a nursing home when she suddenly finds herself back in Oz, and there is some explaining that needs to be done. It's a sweet story, but not very substantial.

Dead Blue by David Farland is a rather weak re-imagining. The Cyborg Tin Man is smelling his human parts rot as he waits to be rescued by Dorothy, who has just killed the Wicked Witch of the West and decides to take her place. And that's pretty much it.

One Flew Over The Rainbow by Robin Wasserman basically sets the story of The Wizard of Oz into a mental institute. Corrupt caregivers and other unpleasant patients fill the roles. Also includes rape and drug use. Definitely one for the kids to skip over.

The Veiled Shanghai by Ken Liu is a welcome change of pace. Again, it retells The Wizard of Oz, but rather cleverly sets it in Shanghai by offering a fantasy version of the May Fourth Movement. The reworking is quite clever indeed and very charming.

Beyond the Naked Eye by Rachel Swirsky sets the events of The Wizard of Oz as a competition being watched from the Emerald City by a panel of judges. While it's an interesting take, reminiscent of The Hunger Games or Doctor Who's Vengeance on Varos, overall, this one feels rather uninspired.

A Tornado of Dorothys by Kat Howard maintains that the events of The Wizard of Oz are recurring, with a new Dorothy arriving, taking the role of the new Wicked Witch of the East, until one Dorothy decides to change it. Really, I was reminded of the webcomic Namesake, which I much prefer.

Next up is Blown Away by Jane Yolen. I was cynical approaching this one, as I'm rather aware that Yolen has fallen rather out of love with Oz, despite loving it as a child. Told from a farmhand's perspective, there's no Oz here. There are two tornados: the first blows away Dorothy's dog Toto, killing him. A neighboring taxidermist stuffs the dog which Dorothy pulls around after her in a wagon. (Creepy!) Later, Dorothy is caught in the house during another tornado, which blows it and her away, leaving her missing for a long time. However, Dorothy has instead joined with a circus and makes some odd friends.

City So Bright by Dale Bailey offers a cruel vision of the Emerald City after an industrial revolution, the worst aspects of which are made clear when a worker falls to his death, and his friends' first thoughts are that they don't envy who's got to clean that up.

Somewhat controversial is the next story, because it's by Orson Scott Card. He's made it very clear that he's in opposition to efforts for equality for LGBT people, however, the Oz fan base is largely composed of such people, yours truly included.

His story, Off To See The Emperor, is set in Aberdeen during the time the Baum family lived there. Frank Joslyn Baum (the eldest of the Baum boys) is the main character, who meets a girl named Theodora, commonly called "Dotty." She takes him on a mysterious trip into the country to meet the Emperor of the Air—the plot closely mirroring The Wizard of Oz—as she looks for her late mother's missing ring. Frank's recount of the story is supposed to have inspired his father to write the first Oz book. It's actually not too badly done, I must admit.

But since Card made it historical fiction, I was bothered by his making serious errors about Baum's life in Aberdeen. According to his story, Baum wrote the "Our Landlady" column for The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, when in fact, Baum ran the entire paper, which was not—as Card leads us to believe—the town's main paper. Also, he can't help but have Theodora tell Frank that his father hates the Indians, which I've pointed out is not a fair assessment of the situation. (I do not take historical fiction lightly, particularly when it's about people I've researched.)

A Meeting In Oz by Jefferey Ford has Dorothy return to Oz after years of living as an adult, only to find the population nearly decimated because Ozma tied the welfare of her land to Dorothy. A very disturbing story, and as another review notes, all talk, no show.

Finally, the excellent story The Cobbler of Oz by Jonathan Maberry closes out the book. The story tells how the Silver Shoes came to be as a young girl winged monkey named Nyla asks a cobbler for a pair of shoes. Her wings are too small to fly. A very sweet story that can easily work with the Famous Forty with a deliciously wicked twist at the end. (It took me a moment to understand the twist, but that made it all the better.)

Overall, if you're still interested after my review, check the book out. If you like getting stories for your Kindle, you can search "Oz Reimagined" on Amazon to find the stories individually, if you'd prefer to read just a few of them.

Will I get my own copy? Maybe.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Oscar Diggs, the Wizard of Oz

Because the Wizard's story is so complicated (and I've discussed it before), I offer instead: storytime with Jared!
 Once upon a time, a politician had a son. He was so thrilled that he gave the child the longest name imaginable: Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs. It would be a long time before the boy would remember all nine of his names, until he realized that his initials spelled "OZPINHEAD." Oscar knew he wasn't a pinhead, so he decided to just go by "Oscar" or by his first two initials: "OZ."

Oscar became enamored with performing feats of spectacle. His father initially supported this hobby until he thought his son should leave it behind and look into a serious career. But Oscar had no interest in politics: he just wanted to stun people by the masses! So he decided it was time to leave home.

Stunning audiences with sleight of hand, ventriloquism and illusions, Oscar got extra work as a balloonist, going up in a balloon to draw people to the circuses he would find work with.

One day, though, he had an accident with the balloon and got blown away. He was stranded in his balloon for a whole day and night. The next morning, he found himself over the Land of Oz.

When Oscar landed in Oz, things were not going well. The previous king of Oz, Pastoria, was believed to be dead and the wicked witches held their sway over all the people.

The people of Oz and the Wicked Witches had not seen tricks like Oscar's and were fooled into believing that he was a great Wizard, arrived to be their new ruler. He had them begin to build a new capitol city. It would be studded with emeralds. When supplies began to run low, he had green spectacles made to make the people see the entire city as green.

At first, Oscar tried to launch a force to free the Winkies from the Wicked Witch of the West, who had recently enslaved them with the Winged Monkeys. But the Wicked Witch decided to use the Golden Cap again to hold her newly-gained power over the Winkies. The Wizard, fearing for the safety of his forces, withdrew them in defeat.

As Oscar examined the center of the Land of Oz, he discovered the old home of King Pastoria called Morrow. Hiding in it was the surviving nursemaid of Pastoria's children, with a baby she identified as Pastoria's daughter Ozma.

Oscar didn't know what to do with the baby. He was not going to be in a position to care for the baby, particularly with the Wicked Witches liable to attack. Finally, he had an idea: who better to protect the baby from Wicked Witches than someone who understood their ways? He heard of a witch called Mombi who had been conquered by the Good Witch of the North, but was still living in a humble cottage.

Over the course of three visits, Oscar made Mombi promise to care for Ozma in return for allowing her to practice magic that would not be so easy for the Good Witch to trace, rather like his own sleight of hand, teaching her a few tricks himself. As such, Mombi took up the role of sorceress, working with potions instead of heavy enchantments. Oscar promised her that he would be able to detect if Ozma was harmed, and that if that occurred, Mombi would be punished. They agreed that when Ozma came of age, Mombi would take her to the Emerald City to take the throne.

Deciding that sneaking around Oz was inviting danger and exposure, Oscar decided to stay in the palace, only venturing out into the Emerald City in disguise, having only one servant—a Gillikin girl named Jellia Jamb—to care for the palace. The fewer people around, the better. To maintain regal appearances, some well-to-do citizens of the Emerald City were allowed into the courtroom of the palace, but never into the throne room itself.

The scheme worked, and the mysterious nature of the Wizard soon became storied throughout the Land of Oz, the Wicked Witches believing that they lacked enough power to defy him.

Then, one day, about ten years after Oscar arrived in Oz, word reached the Emerald City that a house had fallen from the sky and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. It was said that a new witch had done the deed. Within a week, this "new witch" arrived at the Emerald City, accompanied by a small, black dog, a live Scarecrow, a living man made of tin, and a lion. They requested audiences with the Wizard, which Oscar was cautious about, until he heard the new witch had the mark of the Good Witch of the North.

So it was that Oscar Diggs met Dorothy Gale. Hoping beyond hope that Dorothy could also rid Oz of the Wicked Witch of the West, he granted the audiences. Oscar realized that Dorothy was nothing but a little American girl, but perhaps fortune would find Oz in its favor again. After all, Dorothy was protected by the Good Witch of the North, so nothing bad could happen to her. And if Dorothy would not kill the Wicked Witch, then she would be safe inside the Emerald City at least.

Most curious was Dorothy's desire to return home to Kansas. Oscar had long since given up on leaving Oz, deciding that this was where he was going to end his days, but her request made him realize he'd actually like to see his homeland again before he died. But, aside from a way to leave Oz, he would be leaving the Emerald City vulnerable. Thus, he couldn't leave unless the Wicked Witches were both gone.

Oscar used disguises to see Dorothy and her friends. He was well-versed in stagecraft and illusion by this time, so his guises managed to convince Dorothy and her friends that he was the mighty Wizard.

To Oscar's relief and surprise, Dorothy actually went west with her friends to destroy the Wicked Witch. But after a week went by, Oscar despaired, thinking that he had doomed Dorothy to live as the Wicked Witch's slave.

So imagine his surprise when—much later—Winged Monkeys were spotted over the Emerald City, not attacking, as he would have feared, but bringing Dorothy and her friends back with word that the Wicked Witch of the West was dead. But now that the Wicked Witches were gone, he was not sure how he could send Dorothy back home. If he sought the help of one of the Good Witches, he'd face exposure. As such, he delayed seeing Dorothy again.

Finally, Dorothy threatened to summon the Winged Monkeys if another audience was not granted. Not wanting to be exposed this way, Oscar granted it at last. Seeing all of them at once, he just threw his voice, pretending to be invisible. But when he said he needed more time to think their requests over, they got angry. The Lion roared and caused Toto to tip over the screen that served as Oscar's cover. He was at once exposed to them, so he made his case plain and clear.

The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion were made to believe that they were given what they needed in the form of bran and pin brains, a plush heart, and a drink Oscar would call "Courage." But Dorothy's request needed more thought. Finally, Oscar decided to leave Oz the way he arrived: in a hot air balloon. After building one and naming the Scarecrow as his successor, the balloon left with Oscar, but without Dorothy.

Oscar was sorry that he could not help Dorothy, but he looked forward to going home again. During an unrecorded adventure, the Wizard obtained nine tiny piglets from a pig couple in the Munchkin Country and somehow managed to make his balloon float high and far enough to leave Oz and arrive back in America.

Having little money, Oscar took to doing tricks with the piglets. Deciding not to tell people too much of Oz, he invented the story that they came from the small island of Teenty-Weent. He told this story so much, that he soon began to accept it as the truth in his own mind.

Saving enough to get by, Oscar took up with Barnum and Bailey's Consolidated Shows and joined the circuit, looking to visit with his old friends again. But he discovered something strange: he had not aged much while he lived in Oz. But ten years of hard work had taken their toll on his friends. Some of them had died, some had not aged well. Others he simply could not find. Also puzzling was that the tiny piglets he brought from Oz never grew any larger. But that was fine, as that meant he could keep up his act.

Oscar eventually expanded his repertoire with a collapsible sword act and a pair of revolvers and even began running a hot air balloon again.

While running his balloon in California one night, there was an earthquake. As Oscar descended, he realized he was actually descending into a crack into the ground. Realizing that it must be the end, Oscar decided to face his death bravely...

But we know how the story continues, because from this point on, it is told very well in the Oz books. The above is generally how I've had to work out the Wizard's story in my own mind. (You'll note that I've had to ignore some finely written stories about his early time in Oz: this is so in any future writings, I don't tread on any copyright toes.)

Beginning with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Wizard's story is made clear: he met Dorothy again in the underground land of the Mangaboos, and then helped her, her cat Eureka, her cousin Zeb and his horse Jim through the Valley of Voe, Pyramid Mountain, the Land of Naught, and the Den of the Dragonettes before Ozma brought them all to the Emerald City. (The Wizard asks "Ozma? Who is Ozma?" Apparently, since he thought his dealing with Ozma was done long ago, he'd forgotten about her.)

At the end of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Oscar is allowed to stay in Oz as Ozma's own Wizard. He begins experimenting with gadgets and machinery, and in The Road to Oz, he's able to make large bubbles with a machine. (These bubbles dry quickly with glue, which must be some sort of glue you can only find in Oz.) In The Emerald City of Oz, he reveals that Glinda is teaching him magic, and in Baum's later work, he is able to perform great feats of magic on his own. Eventually, it is revealed that of all the people in Oz, only the Wizard and Glinda are allowed to practice magic.

He is much the same in the books of Ruth Plumly Thompson, coming up with new inventions. In John R. Neill's books, the Wizard seems to go a little more madcap, doing many amazing things that seem to be partly just for show. He also take in an apprentice: Number Nine.

So, Oscar is obviously a clever, enterprising gentleman. But some have wondered as to whether he's ever had a romance, or if he's the eternal bachelor.

Seeing as he's a politician's son who ran away and joined a circus... I'd say yes, yes he has.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Blu-Ray review

Listen up right now... If you are still deciding what edition to get Oz the Great and Powerful in, go for the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack! Even if you don't have a Blu-Ray player! The included DVD is exactly the same as the standalone disc, and if you ever upgrade to a Blu-Ray player, you have the HD version available.

Real quick, if you have a working printer, jump through the hoops to get this coupon, unless you'll be purchasing your copy online or after June 14th.

I bought my copy early this morning at Wal-Mart, where it sold for $19.95 (though the price was listed on the shelf for $10 more). With the above linked coupon, it was $12.95 before taxes. (It can be used at other stores.)

The combo pack also offers additional value if you have a Disney Movie Rewards account (which is part of what the above coupon-getting process requires). Instead of a disc to hold a digital copy, for the first time, Disney is distributing the digital copy for iTunes download, Amazon Instant Video, or (and I was most excited about this) Vudu. I went for Vudu, since I have it available on my Blu-Ray player. This means that instead of grabbing the disc, I can bring it up in Vudu and watch the movie by streaming on my computer or Blu-Ray player (or whatever Vudu-available device I might get in the future).

The additional value includes entering you in the Oz the Great and Powerful sweepstakes (your purchase gets you a free entry with Disney Movie Rewards), where someone will win a trip to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival. 50 first prize winners will get a set of Oz the Great and Powerful toys, and 50 second prize winners will get copies of the soundtrack CD. (For once, the second prize is much more desirable to me.)

Also, the rumored offer to get the 3D version of the film for just $5.99? It's real. I already put in my order (despite lack of a 3D setup, but it's Oz!), and this uses the same code you use for the digital copy. No more clipping a proof of purchase off your copy's sleeve and mailing it in. (There is also no surprise surcharge for shipping.) This offer will end October 31st, so if you plan on waiting to see if the price will go down, don't wait too long.

I'll likely have to get a 3-disc Blu-Ray case to repackage the set, but since I've been doing that recently with other Blu-Ray and DVD titles anyway, I'm not really complaining.

Also some extra value (for me anyway) came with an $8 certificate to put towards Disney's next hopeful blockbuster The Lone Ranger. My dad's always been a Lone Ranger fan, so I managed to give it to him as an early Father's Day present. (If you want to shave that off as a discount, after the coupon, the 3D disc offer, the cost for the set is $10.94.)

As you can expect, the film looks and sounds perfect on Blu-Ray, offering a clear picture. The DVD also looks great, though while I was buying the film, I noticed they were playing it on many TVs on display and the standard definition really suffered on the larger ones. Very much, the DVD will suit you fine if you still have a small screen. (Which I actually do.) The idea that you might eventually upgrade is why I recommend the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack so you don't have to get a Blu-Ray later.

The special features are actually very fun and informative (though I do wonder what book Mila Kunis talks about when she says she read a book as a child called The Return to Oz). However, while they give a nice look at the making of the movie (particularly James Franco's "My Journey in Oz" piece), it seemed that most of them would really be better if they had been part of a larger "making of" feature.

There are also bloopers which are family-friendly and actually rather funny, and a piece about Walt Disney's desire to make Oz into a film, focusing quite a bit on The Rainbow Road to Oz. There's quite a bit of good stuff here, including interviews with Mousketeers Doreen Tracy and Bobby Burgess. Return to Oz does get a nod, though they make it clear that it's not the Oz movie Walt Disney would have made. The Muppets Wizard of Oz does not get a mention at all.

The downside to the special features is the Second Screen experience. There's a couple more features about the making of, and a piece about the characters of the film. The problem is, you can't see these unless you have a second generation or later iPad. Which I don't have. And don't really want. I'd hope that someone could sneak them onto YouTube, except our friend Ryan Jay reports that he can't get his to work. There's also Mariah Carey's "Almost Home" music video, but that is on YouTube.

Despite the Second Screen disappointment, the package is still pretty satisfactory nonetheless. Especially if you can get it at a really good price.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How "Dot and Tot" ended it

In 1901, Baum and Denslow produced their third major collaboration. (I have not counted The Songs of Father Goose as I consider this a spin-off of Father Goose: His Book.) When it came to creating children's books, it was their last collaboration.

If you asked anyone to name Baum's best fantasies, chances are they would not mention Dot and Tot of Merryland. While it's an enjoyable fantasy, its lack of an antagonist and the fact that it's only travelogue are the book's biggest weaknesses.

But in this series of books by Baum and Denslow, it wasn't just Baum's text that made the book, the item that people would buy. While Dot and Tot did sell, it wasn't a comparable success to Father Goose: His Book or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
So, how did the book look? Well, before we begin, I'd better tell you that my copy of the book with Denslow's illustrations is not an original edition. It's an early Bobbs-Merrill reprint that used green ink instead of a light rusty color. It's similar enough, but the printing (look at the Queen's face above) may not have been quite on register. (From what I've seen, George Hill's company was really good about that.) I'm also running these through Photoshop. As such, the colors look bolder than they do in the book.

The above seven pages are typical of the illustrations throughout the book. While Denslow does fine work, the main use of color was printing the illustrations in three colors: black, green (a rusty color in the original edition) and red. There were no color plates.

The main issue is that Father Goose: His Book had an innovative design. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had an innovative design. Both of these books inspired new formats for children's books. Dot and Tot of Merryland did not. The color design was too similar to Oz, and since it used three inks, that made the chance for misalignment of the plates higher than Oz. And it didn't help that Baum was turning out better fantasies in his other two 1901 titles: American Fairy Tales and The Master Key.

The problem with the illustrations is that if they were reproduced in black and white (just about the only way it could be cost-effectively reproduced), the effect of the different colors would be spoiled, and only recently has the technology arrived that could separate the color signatures from each other. However, no one has yet attempted a reprint with the original Denslow illustrations. Books of Wonder issued a new edition in the early 1990s with new illustrations by Donald Abbot, which are all right, but Denslow's are much more attractive. It was much easier to re-illustrate the book than reproduce the original pictures. Google offers an on-demand reprint of the version they have in their system, but I would not expect a very good looking book. Any other editions in print only use the text, unless someone takes the time and effort to make sure the pictures reproduce well.

While Dot and Tot is a fun and handsome book on its own, when compared to the previous books in the Baum/Denslow partnership (and just about all of Baum's other fantasies), it is sadly lacking. And even sadder, that is where the tradition of this legendary author and a fantastic illustrator producing wonderful children's books together ends.

Baum decided to refocus. Putting out multiple books a year was literally competing with himself, so beginning in 1902 and going on through 1910, only one book was published under the name "L. Frank Baum" a year. (The exception being The Woggle-Bug Book and Queen Zixi of Ix in 1905.) Later, Reilly & Britton would afford him the luxury of pseudonyms to sell more books without this issue.

Denslow was also looking into launching a solo career. The two realized that they really didn't need each other. As such, they parted ways, Baum turning out fantasies that would soon become the famous Oz books. Denslow produced a series of picture books that only recently came back into print thanks to Denslow's connection to Oz.

Baum and Denslow would later work together on The Wizard of Oz musical extravaganza, Baum writing the script and Denslow designing the costumes and sets, but the end result of that led to Baum vowing to never work with Denslow again when Denslow asked for a larger portion of the royalties. (To be fair, his production designs were likely used more than Baum's original script and Paul Tietjens' music.)

In 1904, Denslow used the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman of Oz to create a comic strip, Denslow's Scarecrow and Tin-Man, but I've told about that elsewhere. Baum regretted jointly copyrighting his books and characters with Denslow, and made sure to hold the copyright on his future work himself.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — Again!

Jared chats with Clayton Spinney and Sean Gates about the current status of their independent film L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Warning: brief discussion of Doctor Who.

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


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Outsiders from Oz feedback and reviews

Well, over a year ago, I published my first Oz book, Outsiders from Oz. Springing from a few loose ends I spotted in Baum's fantasies, it finally came to life as a 119-page book richly illustrated by a couple of Oz friends.

And of course, I wanted to know what people thought. If it's good, what did I do well? If it wasn't good, what could I work on? While I don't quite have that feedback, I think I have enough feedback to report on here. I've linked to reviews, and quoted some feedback that was either privately sent to me or no longer available to see publicly.
"It is beautiful, and I am enjoying it a lot so far. It reminds of when I read the (original Oz) books as a child, even the map!! Great job!" - Ronpur at the Who North America forums
Review by Nathan DeHoff: "I did quite like the book, which was an adventure of mostly familiar Oz characters in lands outside Oz itself."
Review by Frank Kunze: "Jared... peppers in various pieces of background lore as needed and in an efficient manner which doesn't slow the pacing of the story... I found Outsiders from Oz to be a relaxing and entertaining read. A lighthearted, yet quite interesting and creative fantasy story from a first time author who knows his subject matter well."
"Outsiders really IS one of the best Oz books published in the last several decades!" - Marcus Mebes
Review by Eric Gjovaag:  "'s a good one! Like a lot of good Oz stories, there are multiple story threads that meet together at the end... It's a nicely constructed story, and it all hangs together well. More importantly, all of the old familiar Oz characters act just like they should. I heartily recommend this one!"

Friday, June 07, 2013

'Legends of Oz' Release Date Shuffle? The 1939 Movie in IMAX 3-D?

Whoa, it's been awhile since I've blogged!

Happy Friday (night). I've got a couple of little news bytes to talk about this week...

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return originally announced a release date of May 2, 2014 for the U.S. & Canada. It was announced that the film would show up in at least 3,000 theaters (and in 3-D) shortly after word got out that the film was picked up for distribution by Clarius Entertainment. It now seems like the date has been pushed back a week to May 9, 2014. It's a little unusual that a release shuffle would occur this early in the game... I did attempt to reach out to the producers for a comment on this, but to no avail. Co-producer Buddy Paris reached out to me after I had originally posted this, and said:

We thought May 9 would be a more appropriate date. The movie is now being screened at the Annecy film festival in France after receiving a great reaction at Cannes.

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that Clarius Entertainment has not successfully distributed a film. A CG-animated feature film starring Jane Lynch and Rob Schneider called Dino Time 3-D was set for release on December 7, 2012. Posters were up and trailers were even being shown at theaters. Alas, that advertised date came and went, and Dino Time has still not been released. Will Legends of Oz have a similar fate? Time will tell, but my fingers are crossed because I am still rooting for this film! 

In other news, you've probably heard that the 1939 movie will be re-released in around 400 theaters in IMAX 3-D on September 20, 2013. Press releases talk up the conversion, but I am really nervous about this. The film is 75 years old, and is in a 4:3 aspect ratio. I was not impressed by the 3-D conversion done for the 4-D attraction a couple of years ago, but here's hoping that this conversion will be more successful. Read all about it here.

That's it for this now!

Updated 6/13/13.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Why "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" sold

When we look at The Wonderful Wizard of Oz today, we often look at what made Baum's story work so well. While this is a perfectly valid assessment, it was only part of why the book became such a huge success. A big reason for its success comes from looking at the original edition of the book. (Or a reproduction thereof since not everyone can get their hands on an original.)

The way L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow designed the book was rather elaborate. Since the book was a novel and not a picture book like Father Goose: His Book, they found a new way to mix the text, illustrations and color.

The design involved multiple colored inks as well as black, not to mention twenty four color plates. There would be sections of the illustration printed in black and sections printed in color ink that would appear under the text. Furthermore, the color of the ink would change with each location of the story. A dull brown for Kansas:
Blue for the Munchkin Country:
Bright red for the poppy field:
Green for the Emerald City and the surrounding country:
A dark yellow for the Winkie Country:
A ruddy brown for the south country:
And red again for the domain of Glinda:
Not only was this an inventive use of color, it actually made color work with the storytelling, once again creating a union in color, text and illustration to create a lavish book for children. Not only was the story delightful, the way the book looked made it a popular item.

Denslow's illustrations are also to thank. Although his Dorothy doesn't look quite so girlish, she is not ugly and the rest of the characters are very charming. Denslow also doesn't draw the giant spider or the Wizard's form as a monstrous beast, and the Wicked Witch of the West has been given some comical details to soften her character. (The umbrella, eyepatch and pickaninny pigtails.)

No child would have nightmares from Oz. No chapter ends with a cruel beast or witch coming after Dorothy, and if there is bloodshed, it is not dwelled on. Denslow's pictures only help accentuate Baum's storytelling.

The Hill Company was once again hesitant to publish Oz, but Baum and Denslow decided to put their royalties from Father Goose: His Book into helping defray production costs, a gamble that paid off very well. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz remained in print until the Hill Company closed.

The plates and rights for Baum's books were bought up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company who issued a number of Baum's later books until Reilly & Britton came onto the scene. Following the success of The Wizard of Oz stage extravaganza, Bobbs-Merrill redesigned the book. It still used interior color and Denslow created some new artwork for it, including a new title page and endapers, but it was not quite as lavish as the original edition.

Perhaps the difference in design was why the original Bobbs-Merrill edition was called The New Wizard of Oz. Shortly after, Bobbs-Merrill changed the title to simply The Wizard of Oz, a name the book was published under for a very long time. In fact, it does not appear that the word Wonderful was added back to the title until after the book went into public domain.

Later editions of the Bobbs-Merrill Wizard of Oz became even simpler, interior color quickly being dropped to keep the cost of reprinting it low. Eventually, this led to the first re-illustrating by Evelyn Copelman, which opened the door to other artists creating new illustrations. While many fine artists have put their talents to Oz, none have matched the same charm Denslow produced when he and L. Frank Baum designed a novel for children that would never give them nightmares. Although John R. Neill would later succeed Denslow as illustrator for Oz and created amazing artwork, the fact remains that he never had the same relationship with Baum as Denslow did. While many have wished that Neill had re-illustrated Wizard, sometimes, I feel it is best that he left the book alone.

The original edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is indeed the most lavish the book had ever looked, and it is rather easy to contest that this is how author and illustrator wanted the book to look. The beautiful volume delighted many eyes in 1900 with the colorful pictures and a wonderful story. It was Denslow's success just as much as Baum's for creating such a great book.

The Characters of Oz — The Winged Monkeys

So the Wicked Witch took the Golden Cap from her cupboard and placed it upon her head. Then she stood upon her left foot and said slowly:
"Ep-pe, pep-pe, kak-ke!"
Next she stood upon her right foot and said:
"Hil-lo, hol-lo, hel-lo!"
After this she stood upon both feet and cried in a loud voice:
"Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!"

Thanks to the famous MGM film, the Winged Monkeys of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have become nightmare fuel for children and given birth to many horrific reinterpretations.

Which is very strange, because that's not how they were originally intended at all.

The Winged Monkeys appear in only one of the Famous Forty Oz books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They get a mention in the next book, but we'll get to that.

A long time before Dorothy arrived in Oz, the Winged Monkeys were a happy bunch of winged simians who lived and played in the Gillikin Country. One day, however, they offended a powerful sorceress named Gayelette by throwing her fiance Quelala into a river. Quelala asked her to spare their lives, and instead of killing them, Gayelette enchanted a golden cap studded with rubies and diamonds that the Winged Monkeys would be summoned by. Each wearer of the cap could command their services three times by reciting a charm written inside the cap.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz implies that Quelala used the Golden Cap once to tell the Monkeys to stay away from Gayelette as she didn't like to look at them, a service they were only too happy to render.

Somehow, the Golden Cap fell into the hands of the Wicked Witch of the West, who used it to make the Winkies her slaves and drive the Wizard out of the Winkie Country.

Her final use of the Golden Cap was a last ditch effort to destroy Dorothy and her friends, except the Lion, who would be taken to the Wicked Witch's castle to be made to work like a horse.

The Monkeys were able to do this, pulling out the Scarecrow's straw and hanging his clothes in a tall tree, and dropping the Tin Woodman onto sharp rocks where he became battered and dented. They were also able to subdue the Cowardly Lion and tie him up and carry him to the Witch's castle.

Dorothy, however, they would not harm because of the mark of the Good Witch on her forehead. They recognized it as "protected by the Power of Good, and that is greater than the Power of Evil." They instead took Dorothy and Toto to the Witch, explaining their case before leaving.

After the Wicked Witch's demise, Dorothy happened to find the Golden Cap and was later advised by the Queen of the Field Mice to use it to summon them to take her back to the Emerald City.
While waiting to see the Wizard again, Dorothy had to threaten to use the Cap to defy the Wizard. This threat worked. But Dorothy's second use was to ask them to take her back to Kansas, which they said they could not do. They explained that they did not belong in Kansas and could not cross the desert. This reason becomes quite clear in later Oz books. The Monkeys would have likely suffered from fatigue from flying so far, and the desert would provide no resting place.

Dorothy's last use is to have them carry her and her friends over the Hill of the Hammerheads and into the domain of Glinda. (Some adaptations shorten this easily by having them take them straight to Glinda's palace.)

Dorothy turns the Golden Cap over to Glinda in return for instructions on how to use the Silver Shoes. Glinda says that she'll use it to send the Scarecrow back to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country and the Lion to the forest where he defeated a giant spider. She says that she will give the King of the Winged Monkeys the Golden Cap, ensuring their freedom forever.

Or did she? In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the Scarecrow mentions that Glinda now commands the services of the Winged Monkeys. What?

Perhaps the Scarecrow's mistaken. Or maybe they pledged their services willingly after Glinda freed them. Or maybe after Dorothy went home to Kansas, Glinda realized she could just summon the Winged Monkeys once and tell them to take Dorothy's friends to their homes. Or maybe she even realized that she could have a servant make the wishes and then keep the cap herself, to keep it from falling into evil hands again.

Maybe that's the story behind Glinda's odd crown that Neill drew her with... It's a modified Golden Cap!

There is a point I did realize about the Winged Monkeys. Apparently, only adult male Winged Monkeys were summoned by the cap. The female and child Monkeys are never mentioned, yet they must exist. And considering that the Winged Monkeys are often summoned to perform tasks of strength, children would be excused from such tasks anyway. As for women, while capable of completing these tasks, it seems likely that they were excused in case any or all serving Monkeys would be injured critically. (Someone needs to care for the young. Remember that Gayelette made the charm and likely did not have an advanced way of thinking.) And likely elderly Monkeys are also excused.

The Golden Cap commands the services of the Winged Monkeys, but when the charm is used, do the Monkeys have to fly all the way there or does the cap make them appear? Baum mentions that when the Wicked Witch uses the Cap that "the sky was darkened, and a low rumbling sound was heard in the air." This is not repeated when Dorothy uses the Cap, however.

I would go with the idea that the Cap makes the Monkeys appear close by the summoner. The extra effects of their summoning reflect the nature of the summoner. The Wicked Witch was evil, so her use of the Cap appeared ominous, while Dorothy's use of the Cap was only for innocent tasks. Who knows what happened when Quelala and (presumably) Glinda used the cap?

Extra bit of trivia: in Alexander Volkov's The Wizard of the Emerald City, Elli (his rewrite of Dorothy) and her friends realize that they could use the Golden Cap a dozen times between them. (Totoshka reminds them that the number should be fifteen.) No more than Elli's three uses actually happen, however.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Father Goose: His Book

So, Baum and W.W. Denslow were friends and decided to collaborate on a book of poetry for children. Then they decided not to just make a plain book of verse with illustrations, every page would contain pictures in color, Baum's verse being beautifully hand-lettered by their friend Ralph Fletcher Seymour, who would receive a lump sum for his services.

After assembling a publisher's dummy, the book was a hard sell to publishers. Such a lavish book for children was unheard of. Finally, Baum and Denslow considered publishing the book themselves, when finally the George Hill Company offered to take the project, provided Baum and Denslow help pay for production costs.

The investment was worth it, and Father Goose: His Book became the biggest selling children's book of 1899, going through a second printing by the year's end, making author and illustrator famous.

Father Goose: His Book wasn't just another children's book, it actually changed the concept of children's books. While highly illustrated books for children were not unheard of, such a lavish marriage of text, illustration and color was a new concept, one that would quickly become adopted. Much of Denslow's later output would be such books.

You would think that Father Goose would still be a popular and often reprinted book due to that, but no, after many editions by Hill and later the Bobbs-Merrill Company, the book was not reissued. The high use of color would reproduce badly if, say, Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints had attempted it in black and white. A similar problem prevented smaller companies such as The International Wizard of Oz Club from reprinting it. As for the mainstream market, some of Baum's verse—innocent in its day—was no longer politically correct. As a result, while Father Goose became famous in its day, its verses quickly fell out of popularity and never reached the same classic status as the Mother Goose rhymes.

I once ventured to borrow Father Goose through interlibrary loan and wound up with a second edition for a few weeks. Although the spine was gone, the book still stood up after over a century. (This was about 2002.) I managed to make photocopies of it in black and white for future reference. Although I enjoyed looking at it, I was quite relieved when I returned the book to the library: the valuable old book was out of my hands and on its way back home.

Luckily in 2009, Marcus Mebes was able to use two copies of the book to scan and create a new print-on-demand edition through his Pumpernickel Pickle imprint on Lulu. He made it available in both color and black and white, both versions in hardcover and paperback, as well as a free PDF download. I was one of the first people to buy a copy, going for a color paperback edition.

Having seen an original Hill copy, I can tell that the new edition is reduced in size, but no details seem to be lost. The cover has been recolored to be quite striking, but all of the interior art is still in its original coloring, and there is an additional page showing the original cover and the endpaper artwork.

There are other editions that use only the text of Baum's poems, but as the book is historical for Denslow's work as well, I generally ignore their existence. Denslow was every bit as important to this project as Baum, and viewing it only for Baum's work is unfair.

Baum writes in his introduction:
There is a fascination in the combination of jingling verse and bright pictures that always appeals strongly to children. The ancient "Mother Goose Book" had these qualities, and for nearly two centuries the cadences of its rhymes have lingered in the memories of men and women who learned them in childhood.

The author and illustrator of "Father Goose" have had no intent to imitate or parody the famous verse and pictures of "Mother Goose." They own to having followed, in modern fashion, the plan of the book that pleased children ages ago--and still pleases them. These are newer jingles and pictures for children of to-day, and intended solely to supplement the nursery rhymes of our ancestors.
 But the reason for a Father Goose is made clear in the first verse, dripping with Baum humor:
Old Mother Goose became quite new,
And joined a Woman`s Club;
She left poor Father Goose at home
To care for Sis and Bub.

They called for stories by the score,
And laughed and cried to hear
All of the queer and merry songs
That in this book appear.

When Mother Goose at last returned
For her there was no use;
The goslings much preferred to hear
The tales of FATHER GOOSE.
 Baum introduces many fun characters in his verses: many children, the Goose who lived in Syracuse, Mr. Green, Mr. Jinks, and Mr. Hickory. Writing simple verses for children, Baum is at better form than he was in By the Candelabra's Glare. He even humorously retells the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, ending it with a twist in which young George chops down another cherry tree and admits to it to avoid another spanking, but his father administers it anyway and sells George's hatchet.

As mentioned, some of Baum's verses are not politically correct. Mentions of Aborigines, a Hindu girl, Aunt Dinah's rejection of a sailor because he lived in China once are all at odds with what we would let our children read today. Most infamous is the poem "The Little Nigger Boy." While the term was generally accepted as standard language at the time, it began as—and continues to be—a derogatory term. If it wasn't for the fact that Denslow clearly drew an African-American boy, it could have easily been changed to "The Little Foolish Boy" without harm to the verse. These seven verses, in the eyes of being politically correct, mar an otherwise fine book and were one of the reasons why it was out of print for so long. The odd thing is, it was actually rare for a children's book to depict such characters in 1899.

Denslow is also at fine form here. While Maud Baum once claimed that Denslow could not draw a child-like child, here he draws children much more successfully than he did in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Some aren't as good as others, though. Just about all of his characters seem funny and quaint. Surely not even the imposing Bandit or Captain Bing could give a child nightmares!

Even over a hundred years later, the appeal of Father Goose: His Book is still very evident. And it is very important to the history of Oz, because without it making Baum and Denslow a famous duo, we would probably not have had The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, at least, not as it first appeared.