Friday, September 26, 2014

Images of Oz

I recently placed an order from for Oz or Oz-related books I've been waiting to pick up. It was partly prompted by Shawn Maldonado releasing his book Images of Oz, so here's a review of that. (There were four books in my order.)

Images is actually what it says it is. Subtitled The Oz Art of S.P. Maldonado, it features several pieces of artwork by Shawn, some from published projects (such as my Outsiders from Oz) and some not seen before. Some were online at Shawn's blog, others are totally new to me.

I was a little taken aback opening the book as my introduction that I wrote in 2010 is the first thing you see. I'd almost forgotten I'd written it! (It is not the first time I've forgotten I've written something due to be published...) Upon reading it, I decided I was okay with it.

Opening up, there are due title and copyright pages, acknowledgements, and then the art begins. Kicking it off is at least one piece of artwork for each of the public domain Famous Forty Oz books (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz each get two pieces), each one illustrating a scene either not depicted by Denslow or Neill, or one that Shawn has illustrated in his own style. Then there is cover art for the books that Shawn's illustrated, including the artwork for Outsiders from Oz.

Next is a series of illustrations, pictures of characters, sketches, and then the comic page I wrote (and initially drew) back when Shawn first contacted me, which I mention in the introduction. The rest of the book contains John Bell's "The Ransom of Button-Bright," and portraits and other illustrations, including a black and white rendering of the artwork for the exclusive Outsiders from Oz color plate. This all comes packaged in a nice color cover.

My only complaint might have been to include some text as to what the pictures were. It's not a confusing matter, but might have enhanced the enjoyment of the artwork.

Although I'm likely biased, I enjoyed this book and looking over it, despite its short length of 80 pages.

You can purchase the book on (And if you want a lower price, keep an eye on this page for coupon codes.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Cayke and the Frogman

In a corner of the Winkie Country is the country of the Yips on a high hill surrounded by brambles. Most of the Yips are simple people who live in scattered homes with winding paths between them.

There are—or were—a couple notable citizens among the Yips. There was Cayke the Cookie Cook, who baked cookies for the Yips, but had a secret: her talent for good baking was actually due to her golden, diamond-studded dishpan. So when it was stolen, she had to stop baking cookies. Her first batch without it burned up in the oven, the second one was too tough, and the third one proved edible, but unremarkable.

When the Yips prove to be of no help in finding out who took the dishpan, Cayke goes to the Frogman, who was actually an ordinary frog, but had eaten a magic skosh in his old pond and had grown to man-size. The Yips believed him to be wise, which he decided to maintain. Most of the Yips could be fooled by his talk, but he was no wiser than anyone else.
When Cayke discovered that the Frogman couldn't help her, she decided to set out on her own to find her dishpan. Some Yips (who were quickly dissuaded by the brambles) set out with her, as did the Frogman, who helped her reach Winkie Country proper.

In Winkie Country, the Frogman's pompous nature was soon defeated when he happened to bathe in the Truth Pond and was then compelled to confess to Cayke that his reputation was false.

As they journeyed, the two came to Bear Center, where they discovered that the dishpan was stolen by Ugu the Shoemaker. Being joined by the Big Lavender Bear of Bear Center and the little Pink Bear, they later joined the Wizard's search party for Ozma and assisted them as they could. Finally, Ozma and the stolen items were finally recovered, the dishpan being the last of all.

The Lost Princess of Oz doesn't tell us if Cayke went back to the Yips. It says she was enjoying her visit to the Emerald City and was in no hurry to get back. Perhaps she stayed, the Famous Forty tells us nothing else of her.

Cayke is another strong female character by Baum. She sets out, determining to go alone if she has to. John Bell has pointed out that Neill draws her as rather young, but Baum calls her "dried-up," which suggests that she was older.

The Frogman doesn't have any future Famous Forty roles, but appears in large scenes in the new later Baum books, and Lost Princess says he became a favorite, so perhaps he stayed on still. While outside the Famous Forty, Eric Shanower gives the Frogman a bittersweet tale in "The Final Fate of the Frogman," in which he guards the Truth Pond to prevent anyone who's unaware of what it can do from using it. His reasons are spelled out in the story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Royal Podcast of Oz — Winkie Con 50 Report!

Jared and guest Colin Ayres discuss the 50th Winkie Convention held in San Diego, California and look forward to next year's convention!

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

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Taking Greyhound to Oz

I wrote this post on the bus on the way home from Winkies and saved it to post sometime. At least two other people used Greyhound to get to Winkies this year and I had some suggestions I wish I could have shared with them ahead of time. While it might be awhile before you might be using the advice here, I thought it might be worth posting sooner than later.
I recall that my mother once told me she saw a Greyhound bus with a celebratory Wizard of Oz wrap decorating it. I've never seen further confirmation, but it is true that Greyhound is an option to get you to your favorite Oz events. Perhaps you don't want to drive your car that far, or perhaps you don't want to fly, or maybe you've deemed it the more viable option over Amtrak.

But anyway, whether you're traveling from another city or halfway across the country, having traveled to Winkies by this service for five years, I have some advice.


Greyhound is notorious for running late. Don't aim for a tight arrival and travel to location time. Choose an earlier route so you aren't pressed for time on arrival. I now attempt to arrive at least the day before the event so if I'm late, I'm not missing anything.


The cost of your ticket can be quite nice compared to competitors. However, Greyhound will only get you to your destination. However, you will want a snack or a drink at some point, unless your trip is only a few hours. Greyhound does make stops to allow you to purchase food. Alternatively, you can bring your own snacks, but note that you will have to carry these in your carry on and you're allowed one piece. So, budget for stops or prepare something to take along.


As said, Greyhound is notorious for running late. While sometimes the driver might have gone a different route or made a mistake, more often than not, it's out of their hands. Losing your cool at the driver can have consequences, including being stranded or further delayed.

You are also going to be traveling on a bus with other people. Sometimes you will have to share a seat with someone or be subject to loud passengers or even rowdy children. If you are traveling alone, you might want to bring some headphones and a music player to drown out the sounds a bit.

Always be courteous to other passengers. If they're not so courteous, ignore them and try to enjoy the trip as best as you can. There's no point in starting a war on the bus.


If you're carrying luggage (and you probably are) ALWAYS make sure it's transferred when you change buses. Unless they explicitly tell you they are moving it for you, claim it and carry it to your new bus yourself. Lost luggage from not being claimed usually arrives on the next trip, but they are notorious for not notifying you unless you actually visit. A little vigilance goes a long way towards saving you trouble here.

If you're bringing something for sale and you can't fit it with your luggage, you might arrange to ship it to someone to bring, or Greyhound offers a package service and can ship it with you for a fee. Definitely do not attempt to transport fragile items like this.

Finally, if you have a lot of new treasures to take home, you might consider shipping them through the mail if they can't fit in your luggage.


Greyhound only travels from station to station, so once you arrive, you still have to get to the site of the event yourself. You could get a taxi, or maybe someone else going might help you out, but a cost effective way is to check local public transportation. It's never been easier as Google Maps has the routes of many public transportation systems added to their site and even tells you how much the fare will be.

Most smartphones have Google Maps and other navigation apps to help you find your way using GPS capability. For those without a smartphone, you can look up directions ahead of time and print them out.

Definitely do your research ahead of time. A good number of Greyhound stations are adjacent to public transportation, but this is not a rule. You don't want to get there and wonder what to do next.

If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, then I'd definitely suggest calling a cab. You should research services and prices ahead of time.

Note: if you'd like to try asking a friend who is also attending to pick you up, ask around and make plans quite a bit of time in advance (try a month or two), and it's always nice if you can chip in a little for gas. Don't blame a friend if they can't do it. In many cases, they have their plans, and so do you, and sometimes they don't quite work well with each other.


If you use your phone quite a bit, I would recommend investing in a portable power bank to give it an extra charge. A lot of new Greyhound buses include outlets for charging devices (and so-so WiFi), but not all do and some of these outlets (and WiFi) prove faulty. They do not promise these services, so you really shouldn't complain if you find you can't use these amenities or if they are not available on your bus. A number of stations also offer free WiFi and charging stations, so if you need to watch your data plan, you might want to limit your phone use to when you're at one.

If you often get headaches or nauseous, carry some cheap ibuprofen and bismuth tablets. Some supermarkets and grocery stores sell value brand packages of these for as low as $1 each. (Note: I do not suggest abuse of over-the-counter medication. Use only as directed and if you're not sure if it's safe for you, consult a doctor.)

Enjoy the view of the country!

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Music from Oz: The Wizard of Oz by Toybox

In searching for Oz videos or music, there's a little song that might pop up: "The Wizard of Oz" by a Danish group called Toy-Box.

The song seems to be a fun bubblegum pop song, a little reminiscent of "Barbie Girl." But a closer examination of the lyrics reveals it to be a little less about the classic Oz of Baum and MGM and a little more of something else... Something more adult. (Lyrics in bold indicate a male voice. Otherwise, it is sung by the female lead.)
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
Okay, so far, so good. There's some lyrics that might be interpreted suggestively, but it could be innocent.
Will you take me to the land of Oz
Yes, I will, come on (Let's go then)
But that's your house, and not the land of Oz
But this is much more fun (Really)

You can be my wizard
But don't tell anyone
Wait, he takes her to his house? Seemingly against her will, although he's able to talk her into it?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

I am searching for the magic land
Follow me, my girl (Okay)
Do you have to touch me with your magic hands
It's part of the ritual (Hey, hands off, Mister)
Okay, now he's touching her, and she's not cool about it.
Listen to the wizard
And you'll be magical
Do we want to know what "being magical" means here?
Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?
(Love you)

Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?

Ho ho ho ho ho
Welcome to the land of Oz

Is this the land of Oz?
Wow! It's so beautiful
It's magical
When I showed the lyrics to my sister, she suggested that the song was actually about sex and drug use, so with this interpretation, she might now be on a trip or a high thanks to some drugs he gave her.
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Excuse me, which way to fly?)
Wizard, wizard
Will you be my wizard?
(Shh, it's a secret!)

Just like the story 'bout the Wizard of Oz
I have a wish to be a very special girl
I really really wanna know so much
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz?

Wizard, wizard
I have a wish to be, be, be
Be, be, be
Wizard, wizard
So tell me are you the Wizard of Oz
Tell me are you the Wizard of Oz

(Of course I am)
You know what? Bravo! Here's a song with a working subtext. And if it disturbs you, good.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Music from Oz: Popular Song

This little series will point out the influence of Oz on pop culture specifically by pointing out songs based on Oz in some way. Any suggestions are welcome!
 Earlier this year, I was listening to Mika's album The Origin of Love when a song came on with a familiar beat to it.

At the time, I couldn't quite place it, but when it got to the chorus, I realized that the song was based on the "Popular" number from Wicked. Here's the album version below. (Although this is my preferred version of the song, it does contain a little coarse language.)

The song is dedicated to school bullies of the past, and sung by their past victims, who actually went ahead and did something with their lives, specifically, "putting down my story in a popular song." The bully now works low-level jobs, such as selling popcorn at the movie theater or being a janitor. The chorus suggests that popularity comes from being true to yourself rather than giving in to peer pressure or by the things you own.

The song also got a single version, which reworked the tempo, dropped the bridge, sanitized the language, and had Ariana Grande instead of Priscilla Renea singing the song with Mika. This version got a music video.

The music video seems like it owes a bit to the imagination of Tim Burton or the Addams Family. But perhaps it has a few (likely unintentional) nods to Oz as well? Like Mombi in The Marvelous Land of Oz, Mika and Ariana brew a potion that turns their bullies into stone. And if they're serving the roles of wicked magicians, as suggested by several Oz tales, Ariana turns on Mika at the end.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return Blu-Ray review

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return came out in theaters in May, a little over four months ago. It ran for one or two weeks (depending on the theater), performing very poorly and quickly going to second-run theaters.

And if you missed it then, you can now get the home video release and see what you missed. I reviewed the film after seeing it alone (both that I went alone and was the only person in the theater), so I won't critique the film here. If you want a plot summary, here we go:

With the Land of Oz in the thrall of an evil Jester, Dorothy is summoned to save the day! Joining her are a band of new friends: the candy-loving owl Wiser, Marshal Mallow of Candy County and the Dainty China Princess. But can this little band of friends stop the Jester?

 I will say one critique I didn't say in my previous review... This movie really could have used Ozma.


So, how's the Blu-Ray package?

Well, let me say this, if you're buying any format, you might as well go for the Blu-Ray as it seems to be available for a nice, low price ($15 on Amazon on its day of release). As it comes with a Blu-Ray, DVD and Ultlraviolet copy, you're getting the movie in three formats, and if you can get it for $15, that's $5 each.

The movie looks just fine on all formats. DVD and standard definition Ultraviolet playback will have a minimal blur for folks with larger screens. It's unsurprising as this was a computer-animated film. Why wouldn't a digitally created film look great on digital video?

The main menu on the DVD and Blu-Ray is pretty identical, except that the Blu-Ray main menu branches into every other menu, while the DVD has to use submenus as a limitation of the format. The main menu displays a series of clips from the movie while the overture plays.

The content is exactly the same on both discs, so it's not one of those cases where bonus features were withheld from the DVD version. However, there's not really any substantial bonus features. There's a singalong feature, playing most of the songs from the movie with color-changing lyrics over a yellow brick road over the movie clips. The rest of the features are all EP material. "The Music of Oz" and "The Legacy of Oz" both feature clips from the film as the cast and crew say a little about the movie and their love of Oz and excitement about the project. Then, there's a trailer. All in all, these non-singalong features add up to under 8 minutes of content. Given the under performance of the film, it's easy to imagine why the Blu-Ray did not get more substantial features. The history of this film is quite a thing in and of itself, but it's not documented here at all.

The discs contain subtitles in English, Spanish and French. They only have one English 5.1 audio track, however.

If you have a DVD or Blu-Ray ROM drive on your computer, both discs have printable activity sheets for children.

The Ultraviolet copy gave me a surprise by offering a QR code as well as the typical code to type in to unlock the movie. Using the QR code, I was able to add the movie to my Ultraviolet collection directly from my phone without typing in a code. (It does lead to a browser-based version, so it helps if you have a Flixster account connected to Facebook and have signed into Facebook already.)

Overall, while there are no "gotta have 'em" bonus features to sweeten the package, the value of it is good enough to add it to your collection. Unless you don't want to get the movie at all. And considering how many of us rewatch and even keep home videos of just about every Oz film, chances are good that you'll add it to your collection sometime.