Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to ruin Oz?

Whenever a new Oz movie comes out, there is almost always someone who says, "Why can't they just film one of the original books?" Which is a pretty fair wish. A lot of recent Oz films almost seem as if they have no respect for Baum's original text or would rather go in new directions with it that are more in line with currently popular properties. Oz the Great and Powerful probably came the closest of the most recent projects, but you almost feel as if that was more so they wouldn't get sued for cribbing from the MGM film.

So, we're left with the question, why hasn't anyone anyone tried to directly adapt Baum's world for the cinema?

And, after many years of considering this, I have the answer.

You can't.

At least, not if you want to actually have an audience.

In an article I wrote recently for The Baum Bugle, I examined the differences between MGM's The Wizard of Oz and Baum's original book, focusing not on what was dropped or added, but how the storytelling style was quite different for the film. The book has an episodic plot, while the movie has a linear one. When viewed from that angle, the other changes began to make sense.

So therein lies our problem. Most of Baum's books are very episodic. The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz each work fairly well with linear plots, though each have episodes and sometimes characters that could be easily eliminated.

So, I thought, how would a story like The Emerald City of Oz work if you tried to make the plot linear?

And so, I've been puttering at a screenplay for The Emerald City of Oz that tries to do exactly that. I say it's based on Emerald City, but it actually draws from several of the Oz books, actually jettisoning a large part of the original book's middle and reworking part of Tik-Tok of Oz in its place. A song from The Patchwork Girl of Oz has been reworked into a song sequence here, and Ozma has dialogue adapted from a bit in The Road to Oz.

There are a number of pieces in place actually original to this version that would depict Oz not as a place where people stay where they are, but as a living, moving place. And while it's rather different from Baum's original story, I think it's going to be faithful to his world. (And I mainly got the idea when I heard a song I knew would work as a montage to end the movie.)

Basically, you can't take the Oz you find in Baum's books and put it directly to film. It just won't work that well. But you can do some streamlining and wind up with a reimagined version of Oz that feels faithful to the ideas of the books.

You may remember I started this blog discussing how to adapt Oz for film, and while we've certainly moved past that, it's still a subject I think about a lot. I mentioned my own screenplays, but let me tell you, those are probably not going to see the light of day ever. That said, if this screenplay actually got produced, I'm certain that there will be Oz fans who believe I've ruined the story.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Little Dorothy and Toto

Continuing the series of short stories for L. Frank Baum's birthday, the Royal Podcast of Oz presents "Little Dorothy and Toto" from Little Wizard Stories of Oz.

Dorothy and Toto encounter a strange menace while adventuring, but perhaps the situation is easier to deal with than Dorothy thinks.

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz — The Dreamer of Oz

To celebrate L. Frank Baum's 159th birthday, Jared and Sam discuss NBC's The Dreamer of Oz, the first L. Frank Baum biopic. But how factual is it? Jared has a few words... How well done is it? Sam has a few more...

Download this episode (right click and save)

Go to the podcast site and subscribe to the Royal Podcast of Oz!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Oz news!

Some new announcements have come up we can't wait on...

Intrada Records (specializing in film/TV score releases on CD) released a 2-disc soundtrack for Disney's Return to Oz, "including alternate takes, bonus cues, and the original 1985 album presentation." The official track list is shown below.

The title can be ordered from their website, and it can be ordered from Creature Features, who is offering an autographed version. The official release date is the 12th.

(Intrada also released the score CD for Oz the Great and Powerful. Most of their releases eventually pop up at Amazon.)

Creature Features also offers a podcast, and the latest episode interviews Walter Murch, discussing Return to Oz, offering his look at the movie's conception, production, and legacy. If you wanted a director's audio commentary for the movie, this might just be the next-best thing.

Some updates were revealed about NBC's upcoming live production of The Wiz, to air December 3rd. The first bit of promotional artwork was released (above), seemingly promising a lively interpretation of the musical.

Also, the first cast member was announced.

Stephanie Mills, the original Dorothy in the Broadway production, will appear as Aunt Em in the television event, meaning that the show will open with her singing the ballad "The Feeling That We Once Had" to the new Dorothy, seemingly handing over the role 40 years after she first performed "Home" onstage.

They have announced they are seeking a "fresh face" for Dorothy. Hopefully with Stephanie onboard, she really can hand over the role. NBC's official synopsis says that Dorothy is a young woman from Kansas, confirming that they will be sticking with the original play, and not going after the take attempted in the 1978 film version.

Several news articles wind up using pictures from the movie, speculation articles have popped up suggesting how they can work in the movie's ideas, and the public in general is not as familiar with the play as they are with the movie. This is why NBC is doing these plays, people. If you want the movie, you can have it: it's on home video. This is something else.

No other cast members have been announced, but fans are expecting NBC to cast Audra McDonald as Glinda. She played the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music Live two years ago, knocking out "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," so she can probably handle "A Rested Body Is A Rested Mind" and "Believe In Yourself" quite well.

I'm so excited about this, I've actually written Universal Studios Home Entertainment about getting the recording of the live event released on Blu-Ray. (The Sound of Music and Peter Pan were only released on DVD and digital video, and following their format, we should also be getting a new cast album on CD and digital.) If you'd like to write in yourself, here is the link for where to contact them. (Well, follow the appropriate link under "other inquiries.")

Few tips: Say the title you're writing about is "The Wiz Live" and select "Blu-Ray" when selecting which format. Be respectful and write in a way that lets them know you're excited about the production and would love to buy the recording on Blu-Ray. And please be prepared to do exactly that. (I tweeted Disney Movie Club about wanting Return to Oz on Blu-Ray, and we got it! So who knows what a few e-mails might do?)

Finally, Amazon has another Oz-based kids series with a pilot coming soon for free viewing. Titled Lost in Oz (not to be confused with any other project with that title ever), the description is thus:

The show is an animated, action-adventure comedy set in a modern, metropolitan Emerald City. Stranded in this spectacular world, 12-year-old Dorothy Gale befriends West, a young, street-smart witch grappling with dark temptations, and Ojo, a giant munchkin. With Dorothy’s dog Toto, this unlikely crew embarks on an journey, seeking out the magic Dorothy needs to get back to Kansas.

Developed and produced by Bureau of Magic’s Darin Mark, Jared Mark, Abram Makowka, and Mark Warshaw (East Los High, Smallville), this contemporary re-imagining of L. Frank Baum’s universe is designed by Flaunt Productions (Under Siege, Project Spark), animated by Arc Productions (9, Gnomeo & Juliet), scored by Adam Berry (The Penguins of Madagascar) with theme music by Mark Mothersbaugh (The Lego Movie).
Sounds interesting, and a lot more family-friendly than NBC's Emerald City which was recently revived and expected to air either during the winter break or as a midseason replacement during the 2015/2016 season.

A lot of Oz news, people! What a time to be a fan!

Bucketheads in Oz

Bucketheads in Oz has been a long-time project for Chris Dulabone. As one may gather from the title (if they know a little about Dulabone), it started when Dulabone was still issuing books under Buckethead Enterprises of Oz, but as it was, it came out under the Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends imprint.

One might expect the book to be a real mess since it's written not only by Dulabone, but also by Greg Gick, Melody Grandy, Greg Hunter, Phyllis Ann Karr, Chuck Sabatos, Deen Shumate, and Jim Vander Noot. (Shawn Maldonado took the job of illustrating the book.) The book largely tells a nice, cohesive story that only gets a little muddled in switching between plot lines between chapters. (My advice is alternate chapter by chapter.) Early on, there's a little bit of "Cliffhanger for the next writer to figure out!" but that quickly disappears.

The book is a classic travel, multi-plot thread Oz story. Most of the characters are original. Two of them—Kericot the Considerate Kalidah and Terrence Oldshell the Tortise—had previously appeared in Oziana and other books Dulabone published. However, since Kericot's introduction story is found in this book as a chapter, it appears she was created for this book, and the chapter published as a standalone short story in Oziana when the book was delayed.

The book finds several characters heading to get help from Zim Greenleaf, the Wizard of Munchkinland. There's a woman trapped in a ring they found, a strange river serpent that claims to be Professor Nowitall, transformed by Mombi, the Bubble Bird needs to be restored, Tekouri the troll accidentally resurrected Mombi, and on the journey... he ate a little girl...

The story is kind of slow-moving until the travelers meet Zim, who sends them to the Emerald City, where things really pick up! Unfortunately, then the book is over in just a few chapters...

This isn't a book for a newcomer to Dulabone's take on Oz. This is more of a celebration of about 25 years of wacky, humorous additions to the Oz mythos by fans who love it but aren't too serious about it.

You can order your copy here.