Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ashton-Drake Singing Dorothy Doll Review: False Advertising?

Yesterday, the Ashton-Drake singing Dorothy doll arrived in the mail. When I ordered this doll, I saw on Ashton-Drake's website that it costs $130 (plus shipping), but I thought it would be worth it because in the picture on the site, she looks a lot like Judy, and looks very detailed and accurate over all. But the doll that arrived in the mail yesterday is NOT the doll seen in the picture.

The picture to the right is the only picture of the doll on the company's website. The three pictures on the left are pictures of the actual doll that I received. The actual doll is noticeably less detailed and doesn't look much at all like the one in the picture. For being $130, that is just unacceptable. Nowhere on the website does it say that the actual doll may vary from the picture or description. 

In the picture, Toto is very detailed and realistic. The actual Toto looks cheap and actually much worse than the one that comes with the Dorothy Barbie doll, which I should mention, is less than $50! It's not even physically possible for the actual doll to be in the same pose as the one in the picture. She is awkward to stand and it's almost like the stand that came with the doll doesn't belong with her. The dress is a different shade of blue than in the picture and the top of it isn't right, the hair is not fixed nearly as well, and the face is much less detailed than the doll in the picture. Dorothy's basket is plastic, though it clearly is not in the picture on the left. On the website, it says that it has a "wicker basket and a gingham blanket," but it doesn't!

If I am paying $130 on a doll, I expect it to look like the doll in the picture and match the description, which states that it is a "faithful reproduction" of the costume from the film. I'm very disappointed, and I'm not sure that I'd be willing to buy anything else this expensive from Ashton-Drake.

Thanks to Eric, Amy, and Andrew from the Wizard of Oz Collectors United! group on Facebook for spotting some of the differences between the doll in the picture and the actual doll that I received. 

Rob Roy MacVeigh's "Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz" slideshow

At the 1991 Winkie and Munchkin Conventions, part of the programs was the 1948 Capitol Records adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. But rather than just have people listen to it, Oz artist and animator Rob Roy MacVeigh was asked to provide visual accompaniment. Rather than just provide some art or adapt Neill's illustrations, Rob provided a large number of water color paintings. The effect almost looks like elaborate storyboards for an animated version!

To preserve Rob's wonderful slideshow, the presentation was put on videotape. A number of copies were made, but reportedly were not offered for sale, so as not to infringe on Capitol Records' copyright, if it was still active. As you can see in the above picture, the tape was produced in 1993, after Rob's unfortunate death due to AIDS.

It seems that over the years, the tapes made their way into private collections. At this year's Winkie auction, one was made available and I knew that if I won one thing in the live auction, that was what I wanted. Luckily for me (not exactly wanting to be tied down to the auction waiting for one item), it was one of the first items put up on the block. I eagerly held my bidding number up as auctioneer Bill Thompson was still describing the offered item. He mentioned that this was the next to last copy, the last one set to be auctioned off next year. I wound up bidding against my friend Anthony Tringali before he stopped. The final bid was $60, which also happened to be exactly the amount of cash in my wallet. (I have always told Bill that one day the Winkie auction will leave me bankrupt. This took all my cash, but I still had money in the bank.)

Upon returning home, I realized the VCR I've had under my scanner for awhile no longer worked, and the VHS to digital video capture device I was using had rusted. Fortunately, I found a working VCR at a thrift store and ordered a new device from Amazon. After some frustration in getting it all to work, I sat down not only to watch it, but also video capture it so I could watch it without putting any extra wear on the tape in the future.

The audio, which I'm already quite familiar with, was as delightful as ever, and Rob had based his characters off of John R. Neill's depictions, but was still in his own whimsical style, matching the audio. To be honest, I don't think his characters match the audio perfectly. Ozma sounds much older than the girl ruler of Oz that Rob depicted, and the Wizard's voice sounded like it would fit Skottie Young's Wizard much better. Not to mention that I never thought Eureka would have a big black nose.

For anyone wanting to see it, I am helping prepare some video programs to play at next year's Winkie Convention and Rob's Dorothy and the Wizard slideshow will be among the videos shown. You can find out more information at the link in the sidebar. Until then, here are some screencaps showing Rob's wonderful art.
Dorothy arrives at Hugson's siding as the train departs.
"I'm still the Wizard of Oz! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!"
"All right! You've forced me to do this!"
A wooden gargoyle.
The Braided Man offers to help Dorothy and her friends escape.
"Of course I can see in the dark!"
Dorothy and her friends almost panic when they are
not instantly transported to Oz.
"I was back in the Land of Oz!"
"We're all together again!"
"It's Jim and the Sawhorse! Neck and neck!"
"I want to stay."

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Woggle-Bug

The Scarecrow and his friends were heading back to the Emerald City with his old friend the Tin Woodman in tow. Suddenly, the Sawhorse broke his leg in a gopher hole and everyone stopped to consider what to do next.

As they waited, they spotted a curious person coming towards them. It proved to be a gigantic insect called a Woggle-Bug, who proudly informed them that not only was he highly magnified, he was also thoroughly educated. Thus, he listed his name as Professor H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.

The Woggle-Bug was only too proud to explain himself. As a tiny Woggle-Bug, he took up residence in the school house taught by Professor Nowitall, "the most famous scholar in the land of Oz." After listening for three years to the lectures, he considered himself thoroughly educated.

One day, the Professor noticed the Woggle-Bug and decided to allow his students to examine it by magnifying it upon the screen. But rather than serving as a viewing screen for a microscope, the Woggle-Bug was actually made to grow larger. He made a bow to the class, and a little girl who was sitting with a friend in the window screamed and fell out, dragging the other girl with her. The Professor and the students went out to make sure they were all right, but the Woggle-Bug decided to use this opportunity to escape. (Presuming that the Professor would have restored him to his normal size.)

After saving the life of a tailor, the Woggle-Bug received a suit of clothing and decided to go to the Emerald City to present a series of lectures on the "Advantages of Magnification." The Scarecrow offered to let him join. The Woggle-Bug even suggested using one of Jack's legs to make a new leg for the Sawhorse so they could continue on.

However, on the journey, the Woggle-Bug proved that what he had in educational knowledge, he lacked in tact. (You must remember that he just spent three years with no contact with anyone aside from listening.) He would attempt to make jokes based on the situations which none of his companions found funny. Why? Because often they were the subjects of his jokes. Both Tip and the Tin Woodman had to reprove him and he tried to restrain himself. Tip even went so far to remind him that while an educated Woggle-Bug may be a new thing, his education was not.

The Woggle-Bug assists his new friends throughout the rest of The Marvelous Land of Oz, but aside from being able to use a Wishing Pill to restore the Gump to working condition, he really doesn't do much. At the end of the book, he says he would like to tutor Ozma, and we are told he tried to tutor Jack Pumpkinhead to no avail.

In Ozma of Oz, as Ozma's rescue party returns home, Dorothy notices "a large building that was covered with flags and bunting." Ozma says that it is the College of Art and Athletic Perfection and that the Woggle-Bug is its president.

In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Woggle-Bug meets the Wizard and prosecutes Eureka when she is accused of eating Ozma's piglet. In The Road to Oz, he arrives at Ozma's party with a poem he wrote, titled "Ode to Ozma."

Finally, in The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy and her party of family and friends touring Oz visit the Woggle-Bug's college as the first stop on their trip. There, they find that the Woggle-Bug allows his students to practice sports. The college is now just called an Athletic College. All the students take doses of School Pills, which they take instead of learning lessons. This way, they can devote all their time to Athletic Arts.

Ike Morgan's Woggle-Bug from
The Woggle-Bug Book
Baum doesn't really revisit the Woggle-Bug in his future books, but the Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic page and The Woggle-Bug Book featured adventures for the Woggle-Bug while he visited America. Exclusively in these stories, Baum reveals that the Woggle-Bug has four arms and a pair of wings. The Woggle-Bug does some surprising (but relatively minor) feats in these stories and gets to show off his knowledge. That latter bit was part of a promotion to get people reading the series and in turn, buy The Marvelous Land of Oz. The "What Did The Woggle-Bug Say?" contest ran through the end of 1904, allowing people to match their wit with the Woggle-Bug's. However, these stories' place in continuity is debatable.

The Woggle-Bug reappears in Thompson's The Royal Book of Oz, pulling together records of all the royalty of Oz. The Woggle-Bug snubs the Scarecrow since he doesn't have a family tree, which is what causes the story to get going. The Woggle-Bug also comes up with ways for people to vote based on puns in The Wonder City of Oz, though this is likely the work of the mystery editor and not John R. Neill.

The Woggle-Bug is also one of the lead characters in The Runaway in Oz. He was planning on vacationing in the air castle he dreamed up, but Scraps sets it afloat. He goes off to speak to Ozma, but ends up joining Jenny Jump on her quest to find Scraps. He helps her and Jack Pumpkinhead along and sadly watches his air castle disintegrate. He gets rather angry with Scraps and Alexample (his student), but that's rather understandable.

As such, there hasn't been a lot to do with the Woggle-Bug. He's capable of doing a lot of things, but now that he's tied to the college, he seems rather stuck there. I'd like to think he overcame his social awkwardness, and that seems the case in Queer Visitors, though The Woggle-Bug Book takes his socializing to a new level of awkward. He will certainly always be proud of his education and size, however. And considering that he's the only one of his kind in Oz, he seems to have a right to be.

Some see the Woggle-Bug (which also got spelled "Wogglebug" or "Woggle Bug") as Baum's criticism of the educational system. The Woggle-Bug is just about the only main character who talks about his school days openly. Dorothy mentions that she has a teacher in Kansas, suggesting that she went to school, but in all of Baum's works, few characters talk about their school days. In Mary Louise, the titular character is at a boarding school.

Baum himself was privately tutored at home as a child. When he was twelve, he went to a military academy, but he was very unhappy there and was only there for two years. Instead of college, Baum leapt straight into his many careers. His wife Maud attended Cornell University until she married him. Their sons did attend school and seem to have been allowed to pursue higher education if they wished. However, from Baum's works, it seems clear that he believed that "There's A Lot Of Things You Never Learn At School." (This was a popular song that was at one time in the original Wizard of Oz musical extravanganza. Baum did not write it.)

The Scarecrow, for example, wanted a brain. In the famous MGM film, he is awarded a diploma and a doctorate degree. In Baum's book, he is told that real wisdom comes from experience. Adults from America—Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, the Wizard, the Shaggy Man, Cap'n Bill—never discuss their education. Given that the Shaggy Man is a tramp, Cap'n Bill is a seaman, and the Wizard ran off to join a circus, I doubt any of them went to college. Although it's clear that there are ways to learn in Oz (the School pills and actual schools), we never hear of Dorothy, Trot, Betsy or Button-Bright continuing their education.

Perhaps the reason why the Woggle-Bug is so rarely used is that he almost feels out of place in Oz. Unlike almost everyone else, he finished his education and is quite proud of it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dorothy: Return to Oz

I'm not exactly sure why people set out to write their own original sequels to The Wizard of Oz. Some are unaware that there's a whole series, but the real puzzlers are those who do know that there's a series. Some offer original sequels that seem to retread too much material from The Wizard of Oz (e.g., the animated Return to Oz from 1964), while others hash together a new story based on Oz lore, some even rewriting Baum's own stories, which feels really disrespectful. ("Yes, these stories have been loved by hundreds of people for decades, but I think I can do better!")

And then there are those that are wholly original. Which brings me to Dorothy: Return to Oz by Thomas L. Tedrow. In the foreword, he writes how his father read him all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. So, why, then, does his original sequel completely ignore all of the Oz books after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

There are two Dorothy Gales in the story. The first one we meet is the 12 year old granddaughter of the Dorothy who went to Oz. So, as you can guess, the other IS the original Dorothy. Young Dorothy's parents are having a rough time in Florida as her father has lost his job and they may have to move. Young Dorothy even worries about a divorce. However, she is going to visit her grandmother in Kansas.

Grandma Dorothy is a widow who has been sinking her money into wind inventions that she hopes will get her back to Oz. Although the story of her first adventure in Oz mirrors Baum's original story, Dorothy's shoes were ruby slippers. That's right, it's a sequel to both the MGM movie and the book and neither at the same time. Dorothy has three things from Oz: the Ruby Slippers, a newspaper that changes to reflect the headlines in Oz, and a snowglobe that lets Dorothy look in on the Emerald City. But due to her obsessing over Oz, her house is about to be foreclosed on and auctioned off.

All is not well in Oz as Ima Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West's daughter, has kidnapped Ura Wizard, the Wizard of Oz's son. (When I saw these names, I already knew I was not going to like this story.) She's also taken away the yellow brick road and turned all the Munchkins into witches to help her. The original Wizard, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion have all died of old age. (How do beings made of fabric and tin die of old age?) At first Ima tries to prevent Dorothy's return, but surprise! Young Dorothy goes to Oz herself with her grandmother's dachshund Ozzie when the rubies that fell off from the Ruby Slippers attach themselves to her red sneakers.

Get this, what I just described is covered in no less than seventeen chapters. Seventeen chapters (plus one at the end) are spent in Kansas, while only fourteen are spent in Oz. And one between Kansas and Oz. I can understand establishing your story, but spending that much time doing it is just far too much.

In Oz, Dorothy meets such characters as the news agent Grape Vine, and her companions Paper Boy, Book Worm and Bully Bear. Doing good deeds with the Golden Ruler, Dorothy sets off to restore the joy to Oz, with Ima trying to stop her every step of the way.

Overall, I did not like the book. The title is misleading as Dorothy doesn't return to Oz. It's been suggested that maybe it should be read as a command: "Dorothy, Return to Oz!" As said, too much of the book is spent outside of Kansas, the story lacks vivid imagination, and there is far too much moralizing. No, seriously, there is a moral lesson literally spelled out on the last couple pages. There's even critiques of religion in the story for no actual story purpose at all. This doesn't feel like the Oz you loved in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or its famous MGM film adaptation, but a goofy fantasy world.

This isn't just not a good Oz book, it's just not a good book. It's readable, but Tedrow's storytelling abilities leave much to be desired. I also discovered he wrote the highly criticized Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder series, which took the real-life author of the Little House on the Prairie series (which my family loved) and created wholly fictional (and historically inaccurate) stories for her. Being aware of this, we avoided the series like the plague.

Dorothy Return to Oz was published as the first in a series called "New Classics for the Twenty-First Century." It was also the only book in that series. Tedrow hasn't published a new book in over 10 years. It feels a little cruel, but I'll say it: good riddance!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shanowerthon! The Adventure Of The Cat That Did Not Meow In The Night

Sometime back, I was looking at the Oz stories of Eric Shanower. I promised to look into his prose work, but decided to start with his first. His first Oz story was published in the 1976 issue of Oziana, which I owned, but I thought I'd read Oziana much as I did The Baum Bugle: one issue at a time. Well, it took me awhile to get into reading Oziana, but I finally did recently.

Shanower informs me that his story was very much rewritten by Oziana editor Jay Delkin. However, Delkin seems to have been a very supportive editor. Eric was only 13 at the time, you must remember.
Click any image to see a larger version.
Actually, I think it's pretty cool that Melody Grandy
illustrated this story.
The story itself is rather short, filling five pages, including Melody Grandy's nice illustrations. (They weren't as nice as her work in her Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy, but we all start somewhere.) Ozma notices that Button-Bright has been missing for awhile and that supplies are missing. She calls the Great Detective (basically Sherlock Holmes in Oz, a recurring character in Oziana throughout the years), who deduces from the evidence (which includes a few lines about how Eureka must have seen what happened, but didn't meow, which seems like a stretch to get this Holmes-based title) where Button-Bright is.

As it turns out, Button-Bright has been sneaking supplies to a Nome who's been stationed underground in Oz since the march on Oz in The Emerald City of Oz. Ozma of course sets everything right. For sneaking around instead of telling Ozma the issue, Button-Bright is warned that if he gets up to any such future mischief, he'll have to play checkers with Tollydiggle. (They note that he's not good at checkers.)

The story's okay. I've read a couple other Great Detective stories in Oziana, and I rather dislike how there's basically a Sherlock Holmes clone in Oz rather than having a character like the Scarecrow, the Woggle-Bug, the Wizard or the Shaggy Man turn their mind to detective work. Ignoring that, this is an all right story, but I can see why Shanower has never been keen to revisit it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two More Buckethead Books

There's two more books that I read after getting home from Winkies this year.

I'd actually tried to read The Flying Bus of Oz by Ruth Morris on my trip, but for some reason, I was so tired and groggy that the book made no sense to me whatsoever. However, after I got home, I tried it again in a normal state of mind and found it to be a much better read.

Prince Robin of the Ozian kingdom of the Noyzy Boyz is not interested in being a Noyzy Boy at all! His father has his magician discover what can be done. The solution involves bringing a girl named Joy Morris from the Great Outside World, so when she's picked up by the school bus one day, the bus flies away to Oz! It's up to her sister Corinne, her brothers Doug and Peter and her doll Shrinky to hop on a magic carpet and go to Oz to save her!

The story is actually a lot of fun, even though, you realize, the Morrises are actually the author's family. However, rather than making the family the special people who Oz needs, they just visit Oz and have an adventure like any other visitor in the Oz books.

Get your copy here.

The Crocheted Cat in Oz by Hugh Pendexter III is a follow-up to Pendexter's non-Oz book Tales of the Crocheted Cat. The Wiseman from Crocheted Cat peeks in on Oz and witnesses a Wicked Golden Witch lurking around Oz as Ozma prepares to celebrate another birthday. He sends his Indian assistant boy Badger, Theobald the Crocheted Cat and Hannibal the poodle to Oz to stop her.

Arriving in Oz, the Witch spots them and turns Badger into... a badger. Hurrying to the Emerald City, they witness the Witch stealing one of Ozma's presents, then they chase her as she high-tails it to Ev!

It will take some cunning and some help from Oz (including a now-giant vulture named Yeksh), Theobald and his friend head to Ev themselves to stop the Witch once and for all!

This is a well-written book, and the pictures by Caroline G. Taber are gorgeous! Well-recommended.

Get your copy here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Characters of Oz — Jinjur

So the Sawhorse had run off with Jack and Tip was alone. And he was getting hungry too... Just then, he came across a young woman enjoying a sandwich. She was dressed in an odd costume: a green blouse with a skirt in the four colors of Oz on it.

She introduced herself as General Jinjur, commander of the Army of Revolt "in this war." Jinjur announced that she had assembled an army to conquer the Emerald City and set herself up as the new ruler. Her reasons?
"Because the Emerald City has been ruled by men long enough, for one reason," said the girl.

"Moreover, the City glitters with beautiful gems, which might far better be used for rings, bracelets and necklaces; and there is enough money in the King's treasury to buy every girl in our Army a dozen new gowns. So we intend to conquer the City and run the government to suit ourselves."
As you can see, Jinjur had rather selfish motives in mind. Basically, she wanted to turn the status quo on its ear and have men do what had been usually considered women's work and let the women do as they pleased. According to her own words, she did not enjoy helping her mother with the housework.

And, after she joined her army, she marched to the Emerald City and bloodlessly made her way into it being defiant and out-talking the Guardian of the Gates and Omby Amby.

Despite the Scarecrow managing to escape the Emerald City, Jinjur actually managed to do what she set out to do in conquering the city.

Baum writes that Jinjur sent for Mombi. How Jinjur knew of Mombi is not clear as it seems that Jinjur was of Munchkin origin, but Mombi was a small-time practitioner of magic who didn't exactly make a show of it. Shawn Maldonado suggests that perhaps Mombi gave Jinjur the idea to conquer the Emerald City, which may make some sense.

Although Jinjur doesn't help the Emerald City become a better place, I don't really see her as a villain. She suggests some nasty ends for the Scarecrow and his friends when they return from the Winkie Country, but she says that she'd do this if they became troublesome. Given her nature in later books, I suspect that she hoped it wouldn't have to come to that.

When Glinda arrives to question Mombi, Jinjur wonders if it might not be best to comply with Glinda, but Mombi is the one who convinces her to let her switch forms with Jellia Jamb, giving the maid over to Glinda in place of the sorceress. When Glinda sees through this, Jinjur sends Glinda a message that Baum says the Mombi made her send. Overall, Jinjur's admirable confidence and wit breaks down and she becomes more like a little girl under the pressure from Mombi.

Of course, Ozma is restored to her true form, and in her name, Jinjur is captured by a couple of Glinda's guards and quickly conquered. Ozma doesn't punish Jinjur, but simply sends her home.

Inevitably, Jinjur has been compared to the feminist movement of Baum's day. Some say Baum was even parodying it. However, if one takes the point that Baum took a dim view on the movement (which previous non-fiction writing by him shows that he did not), why is the Emerald City ruled by a girl at the end of The Marvelous Land of Oz? The difference is simply in Jinjur's intentions. She says that she wanted to run things to suit her whims. A wise ruler or leader has to look at what is best for everyone. Characters like Ozma and Glinda do this (though Ozma does have some gaffes on her record). Jinjur did not. In fact, flipping the status quo had a serious downside:
And it is said that the women were so tired eating of their husbands' cooking that they all hailed the conquest of Jinjur with Joy. Certain it is that, rushing one and all to the kitchens of their houses, the good wives prepared so delicious a feast for the weary men that harmony was immediately restored in every family.
Oz is known for people being allowed to do as they please, even if it defies stereotypical roles, but bad cooking was still bad cooking!

In the next book, Ozma of Oz, Ozma and her company briefly stop by a dairy farm. The dairy maid who offers Ozma a drink is none other than Jinjur herself, explaining that she had married a dairy farmer, who was at that moment nursing a black eye. She says he was milking the red cow when she wanted him to milk the white one. Whether the cow or Jinjur administered the black eye is not made clear...

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, it is revealed that Jinjur also has an artistic flair. She doesn't really appear in the book (aside from a Neill illustration, which I have not included), but she repaints the Scarecrow's face, and at one point painted a sack of straw so natural that the Scarecrow was able to restuff himself with the straw in it. Even though she ousted him from the throne, it is clear that they hold no ill will to each other.

Jinjur reappears in The Tin Woodman of Oz when the Tin Woodman and his friends arrive in the forms that Mrs. Yoop gave them. She does not recognize them at first and begins to chase them away with her broom. But when all is explained, she allows them to stay, letting Woot the Wanderer enjoy some cream puffs. She also makes sure Woot has a bath, bathing him herself. When Ozma arrives, Jinjur assists as she can.

Jinjur doesn't make any notable appearances (if any) in Thompson's Oz books, but she reappears in Neill's The Wonder City of Oz, where she helps round up the animals from the Animal Park. She also appears in The Runaway in Oz. Scraps decides she'll stay on Jinjur's ranch (for ranch it became in Tin Woodman), but Jinjur makes it clear that if she is to have a new resident, she will also have a new ranch hand. Needless to say, Scraps doesn't stick around.

Jinjur struck me as being motherly to Woot in The Tin Woodman of Oz, so when Jinjur became part of an online Round Robin story called The Ruby Ring of Oz, she had a son named Perry. (Since he was supposedly Munchkin-born, the name was the first part of periwinkle, a blue flower.) He was very headstrong and smart, but I think upon reflection that with Button-Bright already running around in the story, I didn't really need him. A lot of how I made Perry wound up becoming part of Button-Bright in Outsiders from Oz.

However, I do think I just might revisit Jinjur in future Oz stories, so don't write off her having any offspring...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Winkie Reading 2013 Part 2

Now for the rest of the books I read on my trip. There's a few others I've read since, but we'll get on them soon.

Fwiirp in Oz: An Anthology by Nate Barlow, Jeff Barstock, Ryan Gannaway, Greg Hunter, Phyllis Ann Karr, R. K. Lionel, Marcus Mebes, Hugh Pendexter III, and Chris Dulabone. Surprisingly, this is a collection of non-Oz stories. A freak accident happens in Oz due to some living paper going to the outside world and a poorly-researched Oz story being written on it, the true Oz altering to match it! Many Oz characters wind up outside of Oz, while Fwiirp (a skeezique) and his friends find stories in the Mys-Tree of Oz and have to discover what the stories are telling them to help restore Oz as Jellia Jamb and her friends work towards the same goal.

Seemingly, the book began as Nate Barlow's Jellia Jamb of Oz and the Mys-Tree plot was added to flesh out the book. The main plot is rather thin, but the short stories are rather fine, if a few take some odd turns: a teddy bear who comes to life after being buried with his boy and a vampire who finds religion. Overall, a fun book that shows off many of the writers' strengths by letting them work outside of Oz.

Get your copy here.

A Foolish Fable from Oz by Chris Dulabone and Marin Xiques. Going back to the time when the Wicked Witches of the East and West were still in power, two elephants from the Isle of Kenra are helped by some Orks to get to Oz to find more sugar cane. Meanwhile, the Wicked Witch of the East needs some ivory to finish a nasty spell, but someone has stolen her Silver Shoes! Can she and the Wicked Witch of the West (both sporting some very long names) recover them?

The cover shows photos of Chris and Marin goofing around with a large ceramic elephant who must have inspired the story. As you can guess, they also do not take a serious approach to this story, making for one of many of Chris and Marin's silly but fun Oz stories.

Get your copy here.

The Haunted Castle of Oz by Marcus Mebes. A ghostly knight is spotted in the Emerald City's palace, and Dorothy and her friends investigate and discover Prince Terrence, his page Christian and a magician named Necronominus and a curse that's been placed over these three. Some surprising magic is at play here and our friends in Oz have to help save the day.

Marcus himself informed me that he isn't exactly proud of this book, but the story—though it makes rather a thin book—is very well-written. The pictures are very good as well.

Get your copy here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Random Collection of 'Oz'-Related News From This Week...

I haven't done Friday blogs in awhile now, mostly due to the lack of  news! This week, however, I've got a few random bits of news to talk about.

First up, there's a video on YouTube dubbed The Wizard of Ahhs that, as of this writing, has 1,522,112 views. The video was put together by Todrick Hall, who some people may know from the ninth season of American Idol, and features an acapella group called Pentatonix. The brilliant video tells the story of The Wizard of Oz in just under seven minutes using modern music. Sharp eyed viewers will spot costumes from the 1998 stage adaptation of the film. Watch the video below!

Next, we were contacted earlier this week about a grass roots effort to get an Oz themed LEGO set made. Instead of trying to explain how this all works myself, I will just pass along this message from Jeremiah Boehr:
I am writing to you in seeking support for a grass roots effort to get a Wizard of Oz themed LEGO set to 10,000 votes on a site called LEGO CUUSOO. Basically, a designer (in this case me) submits a concept and has to receive 10,000 votes before LEGO will put the idea under review and consider making it into an official LEGO set. As the Master Model Builder at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City, I have been working with my marketing team and have brought Warner Brothers and LEGO into this venture as well. We are still awaiting final approvals for their public online support, but we have begun to garner votes all the same. I am asking you if you would be willing to blog about this project and help spread the word through the Wizard of Oz fan community. I know there are millions out there who love the films and story and I am certain we can reach our goal of 10,000 supporters in no time through social media. Here is the link for the set I designed:  http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/43978  Fans will have to create a login to vote, but it only takes about 5 minutes to do so. I have also attached images of the set, should you wish to use them for promotion. Thank you for your consideration and support in advance.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? Right. Check out these photos Jeremiah sent in, and vote at the link above!

And, finally, some movie-related news... an announcement is expected to be made at Disney's D23 Expo next month about an Oz area or "land" coming to Disneyland, based on this year's smash hit Oz the Great and Powerful! Disney by Mark reports that it will be located where Big Thunder Ranch currently stands in the park. According to the site, the area will likely have one E-ticket ride and two C-ticket attractions. A restaurant similar to Walt Disney World's Be Our Guest is also being planned, but set in the Emerald City of course! Read more about this exciting news here. 

That's it for this week!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Gita Morena — A Talk With Dorothy

Jared has a quick chat with Gita Morena, L. Frank Baum's great-grandaughter.

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



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Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Well, the mail man just dropped off a box of comics! Let's get to what's inside!

The Emerald City of Oz #1 from Marvel. As mentioned last week, unlike previous titles in the Oz series, this time, Shanower and Young are only allowed five issues to retell Baum's story in. This issue already shows us the compression we can expect, squeezing the first six chapters (of thirty) into one issue.

Most surprising to me was that the first and fourth chapter are told in tandem, thus, one part of the story has been moved out of its original sequence. It flows fine, but for someone who's very familiar with Oz and has been following the Marvel series since its start, it's a little sad to see this have to happen.

Fun little things to spot: Shanower clears up the issue of "How did Eureka get to Oz?" (though he admittedly did that back in The Secret Island of Oz) and Dorothy's arrival in Oz has a Through The Looking-Glass-esque look. Skottie's artwork is as humorous as ever.

The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #9. This issue has us taking a peek into the life of Dr. Nikidik, featuring the return of Scraps, who seems to be his daughter in this version of Oz. Meanwhile, Jack convinces Glinda to check the Book of Records for help deciphering what became of Ozma.

Meantime, we discover that the Wheelers and Mombi aren't finished quite yet. And Jack and the Tin Man aren't exactly the best of friends.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Characters of Oz — The Sawhorse

Tip and Jack journeyed down the road, deciding that soon they'd arrive at the Emerald City. But Jack worried about wearing out his wooden joints. As the two sat down to rest, Tip chose a wooden sawhorse for his resting place. Jack asked what it was, and Tip called it a "horse."

It is noted in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz that the Land of Oz had no horses (no known horses, anyway), so one may well wonder why Tip could describe a regular flesh and blood horse.

Jack at first thought that Tip described the Sawhorse, but Tip corrected him, and noted that it wasn't alive because it was made of wood. Jack reminded Tip that he was also made of wood, and Tip realized the truth and remembered that he had the Powder of Life in his pocket. On Jack's suggestion that he could ride the Sawhorse, Tip brought it to life.

However, the Sawhorse lacked ears, and it ran around deaf as a post until it tripped and fell over. Tip carefully made ears and fitted it to the Sawhorse's head.

At first, the Sawhorse was agreeable, but throughout the course of The Marvelous Land of Oz, he became
a little irritated.  He did not appreciate anyone making jokes about him, and he was less than enthused when he broke a leg and one of Jack's had to be used instead. He went so far as to say "I'll have nothing more to do with that pumpkinhead!"

One thing about the Sawhorse that became clear through the story was that since the Sawhorse was not flesh and blood, he could run very quickly without tiring.

At the end of The Marvelous Land of Oz, the Sawhorse becomes Ozma's Royal Steed. His feet are shod with gold, and Neill gives him a saddle and reins.

A feature that the Sawhorse quickly lost was a post Tip drove into the Sawhorse's back for Jack to hold onto as he rode. John R. Neill drew it on and off throughout The Marvelous Land of Oz, and then he and Baum never used it again afterward. Presumably, Ozma had it removed since he could have reins.

In later Oz books, the Sawhorse rarely plays a large role. He mainly draws Ozma's red wagon, but in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, he races Jim the cab horse, who he became a little infatuated with. The Sawhorse wins, of course, and when Jim tries to retaliate, the Hungry Tiger defends the Sawhorse. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, the Woozy views the Sawhorse as an inferior steed after the Sawhorse kicks him.

Overall, the Sawhorse is an often-used character, but not defined that well. Perhaps he has more to say in the future.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: 'The Wizard of Oz' at Derby Dinner Playhouse

Tonight, I watched a production of The Wizard of Oz at Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Indiana!

From left to right; Paul Kerr as the Cowardly Lion, Tyler Bliss as the Tin Man, Cami Glauser as Dorothy, and Matthew Brennan as the Scarecrow.

The pre-show entertainment was provided by an acapella group called The Footnotes, who, oddly, were also the waiters and waitresses here. They sang three songs from Wicked and The Wiz, and did a nice job.

After a short break, the show began... and it was truly fantastic! The round stage is small, and in the center of the theater, but it never feels crowded. The actors make use of the entire theater, with characters popping up offstage and interacting with those onstage. There really is no bad seat in the theater, and it's a very unique and immersive experience.

Dorothy is played by Cami Glauser, who will surely be on Broadway in the next few years. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow is beautiful, and, having seen this story on stage many times over the years, she is the best Dorothy I've seen. She doesn't try to impersonate Judy Garland; she makes the role her own, and it's clear while watching the show how much fun she is having doing it!

Matthew Brennan (the Scarecrow), Tyler Bliss (the Tin Man), and Paul Kerr (the Cowardly Lion) play the iconic trio, and are really fun to watch. It's almost amazing how Brennan is able to dance around like he is really made of straw. Paul Kerr is brilliantly hilarious as the Cowardly Lion, and is a scene stealer, as Bert Lahr was in the classic movie!

Other standouts in the cast are Jillian Prefach as Aunt Em/Glinda, Lauren Leland as Ms. Gulch/the Witch of the West, and... Reese as Toto! She is amazingly calm and quiet throughout the show, and has some really adorable moments. Though not a black cairn terrier as Toto is normally portrayed, she is a treat!

I have to make a quick mention of the fact that most of the costumes and sets, from the witches' costumes to the Wizard's wig, are very clearly inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber's recent stage adaptation of the movie, though he is given no credit or mention in the show's program.

A publicity photo from Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage adaptation when it opened at the London Palladium.

The buffet isn't anything special, but the desserts are nice and are worth paying the extra few dollars for. If you've got little ones that are picky eaters, I'd say that it may be best to eat at home and go only for the show, as there are not many kid-friendly options.

Overall, I really enjoyed the show, and I have to urge you to see this if you're nearby, because it is a super fun show with some unbelievably talented actors and actresses!

The Wizard of Oz runs at the Derby Dinner Playhouse through August 18th with a performance every night except Monday, and a matinee show on Wednesday and Sunday. Purchase tickets through the theater's website here.

Winkie Reading 2013 Part 1

Huh, I read a number of books on my trip to and from the Winkie Convention this year and have yet to write about any of them, aside from The Law of Oz. Guess I need to get on that...

 Up first is The Three Imps of Oz by Chris Dulabone. The story is based around Ozma and the Little Wizard from Little Wizard Stories of Oz. A slight rewriting of the tale is part of Chapter 1.

This book answers the question of why these were the only Imps we met in the Famous Forty Oz books: Imp Olite, Imp Ertinent and Imp Udent were too much for the King of the Imps (Imp Ossible), so he banished them, telling them that they may return if they found the Enchanted Ruby of the Imps. However, they took to annoying the nearby people in Oz. This led to the events of Ozma and the Little Wizard, which ended with them transformed into buttons by the Wizard, who promised to restore them when they decided to reform.

Chapter 2 has Tik-Tok help the Wizard find the jacket with the buttons on it, and he discovers that the Imps have reformed. Restoring them to Imp form, the Imps take new jobs: Erinent becomes the Wizard's new assistant, Udent becomes a baker, and Olite becomes a gardener. They soon embark on new adventures and misadventures that eventually lead to them on the trail of the Enchanted Ruby!

It's a fun little story. The book is also whimsically illustrated by Kimberley Frodelius.

Get your copy here.

Next is Ridiculous Rivals in Oz by Chris Dulabone and Marin Xiques. An abused hunting dog named Casey winds up in Oz and soon becomes friends with the animals of the Springbok Forest, which is under the thrall of a wicked witch and her panther friend!

A lot of magic, including body-swapping, happens before Casey and his new friends finally deal the Witch and the panther their comeuppance. Luckily, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion arrive on the scene to help out as well.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Randy Clark (whose work does not grace the front cover), but I found the typeface for the text rather distracting. It's in a decorative font, which mainly uses capital letters. Otherwise, it's a fun book, even if they do have to admit that it's a rather silly story.

Get your copy here.

Finally is the sequel to Ridiculous Rivals, I Want To Grow Up In Oz by Chris Dulabone and Marin Xiques.

The story follows Devia, the daughter of the Wicked Witch's panther in Ridiculous Rivals. She wants to grow up into a adult so she can take revenge for her father and take over the Springbok Forest. However, she's been enchanted to not age at all.

Starspoof the Bear Wizard and his little friend Little Bear decide to swap forms, and Devia manages to use this switch to her advantage, and in a little while, she has stolen Starspoof's wand? Can Starspoof and Little Bear manage to stop Devia before she brings serious harm to the Forest?

The story is rather fun, and is comically illustrated by Derek Sullivan.

Get your copy here.

Three books down, four to go!