Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Russia's CG-Animated 'Magic Land' Adaptation Now Has a Poster, Trailer, & Release Date

Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers (Урфин Джюс и его деревянные солдаты), a CG-animated feature film adaptation of the second book of Alexander Volkov's Magic Land series (which itself is a loose translation/adaptation of the original Oz books), seems to have hit some bumps in the road since I first heard about the production, but we now have a trailer and a release date – well, Russia does, at least.

The film was produced in Russia by Rossiya, CTB Film Company, and Melnitsa Animation Studio, and will be released there on April 20, 2017 (which happens to be my birthday). Even though it's a Russian production, it's pretty common nowadays for foreign films, especially animated films, to be dubbed over in English and eventually released in the U.S. and elsewhere. This is the case with the Indian/Mexican animated film Guardians of Oz (Guardianes de Oz), which has been dubbed in English and picked up by Lionsgate for a home video release in the U.S. next month. (You can read more about that film and its release by clicking here.)

I do hope that Urfin Jus is released in the U.S. at some point, even if not dubbed, because it looks pretty good to me. The animation looks nice, the characters are generally well-designed, and it looks overall like a fun and interesting take on Oz, very different from something like Legends of Oz or even Amazon's just-launched Lost in Oz series. Check out the trailer, synopsis, character posters, and some of the newly released stills below, and feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on it!


The cunning and wicked Urfin Jus decides to become ruler of the Wonderful Land of Oz, take over the Emerald City with his Wooden Soldiers, and rename it to Urfinville. He is all but ready to celebrate victory, when his plans are ruined by Elly — an ordinary girl who ends up in Oz just at the right time. She must return home, but not before she helps her friends — the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion — defeat Urfin. But before they can defeat him, they must find out who he really is.

Update: It looks like the film has already been dubbed in English and is being sold as Fantastic Journey to Oz, a title that could very well change by the time the film reaches us. Animation Magazine's got stills, a trailer, and some more nuggets of information about the film that you can peruse by clicking here.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Little Oz Stories read by Ray Bolger

As a Christmas present, here is the audio of the out of print album Little Oz Stories read by Ray Bolger. The stories are actually from L. Frank Baum's Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, featuring several Oz characters visiting the United States.
  1. The Scarecrow Presents A Magic Automobile To A Little Girl
  2. The Two Wishes
  3. Jack Pumpkinhead Pawns The Sawhorse
  4. The Scarecrow Tells A Fairy Tale To Children And Hears An Equally Marvelous True One
  5. A Magnetic Personality
  6. How The Scarecrow And The Tin Woodman Met Some Old Friends
  7. How The Sawhorse Saved Dorothy's Life
  8. Dorothy Spends an Evening with her Old Friends and is Entertained with Wonderful Exhibitions
  9. How The Woggle-Bug And His Friends Visited Santa Claus
As always, you can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas is Coming . . . Holiday Oz Videos!

In one more week it will be Christmas;
and Oz fans know that the Holiday season has many times crossed over and been combined together with L Frank Baum's fairyland, whether it's his own "origin" of how Santa Claus came to be with his life and adventures, the jolly man coming to Ozma's birthday, new stories in books or videos being written made set during the time ... or even with some fan-made videos.

I made two versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas";

Above is a more "Youtube friendly" version, one that avoids getting into trouble with copyright issues (such as using Judy Garland's voice from "Meet Me in St Louis", or the two animated "Santa Claus" versions; which is what I did for that other version).
 I hope to be able to share my Definitive version with you someday ...

"We Wish You a Merry Christmas";
(I also made an alternate video with the same song, but used my own hand-coloured versions of Eric Shanower illustrations - until further notice I won't share that version) ...

... a Tribute celebrating 110 years of L Frank Baum's "Santa Claus" book;

And then there's this classic;

There are many, many other videos that combine Oz and Christmas, so check them out on Youtube.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Oz Kids Christmas

Jay and Sam talk about the Christmas stories in The Oz Kids series: Who Stole Santa? and Christmas in Oz. What stories are these based on, are they good stories or just saccharine Christmas fluff? Also, did Jay and Sam make a mistake with their chronology for the series?

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Christmas in Kansas

Garrett Kilgore reads a new Christmas story by Jay Davis. Christmas in Kansas tells of how Dorothy Gale, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry celebrated Christmas following the events of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz.

Anyone wishing to read the story instead is welcome to a free PDF or an EPUB (zipped).

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The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Movies of Oz - Virtual Oz

Jay and Sam take a good look at another adventure from The Oz Kids series: Virtual Oz. The Oz Kids wind up trapped in Otto's mysterious computer game. Can they win and get home or are they stuck for good?

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Returning to Oz documentary on Kickstarter

Aaron Pacentine is at it again with a Kickstarter for a documentary dedicated to Disney's Return to Oz. Involved will be director Walter Murch, producer Paul Maslansky, publicist Craig Miller, cast members Emma Ridley (Ozma), Pons Maar (Head Wheeler), Justin Case (Scarecrow), and Sophie Ward (Mombi II/Dancing girl). While I've reviewed productions by Aaron in the past with a rather critical eye, the fact remains that this documentary should provide some good insight into the film.

Now, I'm rather late on sharing this Kickstarter, as it only has less than a week left. (Look, if you've seen my personal Twitter, you know my mind has been in places other than Oz lately...) But they've only got less than a thousand to go before reaching their goal.

Aaron is offering a number of Return to Oz collectibles from custom-made replica OZ keys to DVDs of the documentary and other pieces of Return to Oz merchandise, both vintage and recent (including the Disney Movie Club exclusive Blu-Ray and the 2 CD soundtrack).

If you're so inclined to contribute, go to the Kickstarter to donate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

'Guardianes de Oz' Gets a U.S. Release Date

Guardianes de Oz, an animated film co-produced in India and Mexico, finally has a U.S. release date. The film is designed and executive produced by Jorge Gutierrez, director of Book of Life and creator of Nickelodeon's El Tigre series, and was released theatrically in Mexico (and I believe in some other countries overseas as well) last year. The film previously had the working titles Save Oz! and Wicked Flying Monkeys but will be released on January 24, 2017 on DVD and digital HD in the U.S. as Guardians of Oz under Lionsgate's Grindstone Entertainment banner.

The English-language version of the film features the voices of YouTube "sensation" Jenn McAllister (billed in the trailer and on the DVD cover with her Twitter username), someone named Mikey Bolts, and actress Ambyr Childers. It's not that I dislike any of these people or their performances from what's presented in the trailer, but I do wish that professional voice actors were used instead. Speaking as someone who is bilingual and half-Mexican, I'm disappointed that the home video release will not include the original Spanish-language audio track. (Speaking of disappointments, why isn't this being released on Blu-ray? Ugh.)

Per the press release issued by Lionsgate, the DVD will include a behind-the-scenes featurette, which I am interested in seeing (although I'm not holding my breath for anything too extensive or insightful there), and for some reason, several "episodes" of Minuscle, a series of short, insect-themed animated films produced in France. The press release suggests a $19.98 retail price for the DVD, and that's currently the price listed on Amazon, but I would be shocked if that price didn't come down significantly before the release date.

I've been keeping an eye on this one for awhile, so I'm glad to see that it is being released here, and I'll definitely be reviewing it down the road. I'm thinking about getting a copy of the Mexican home video release of the film as well, which could make for an interesting review comparing the two. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below and, if you're into it, pre-order the DVD on Amazon here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Toto Lost In New York

Jay and Sam talk about the first Oz Kids story arc: Toto Lost in New York. Plus, WHAT WAS THAT YOU SAW ONLINE ABOUT AN OZ KIDS MOVIE? Um... Jay explains.

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"It's Halloween soon."

Around this time of year, I often find myself itching to watch Return to Oz (and listening to its score). I think that's because, even though it isn't a true "Halloween" movie, it does have some themes and visuals that pair up nicely with the holiday.

There's the Jack Pumpkinhead character, whose head is jack-o-lantern (and who bears a pretty strong resemblance to Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas, as many fans have pointed out over the years). 

There's the haunting score and occasionally scary visuals. 

And there's even an odd little scene early on in the film in which Dorothy is given a pumpkin by a little girl at the ward who tells her, "It's Halloween soon." 

Anyway, it seems like I'm not alone in my inclination to sort of pair up Return to Oz with Halloween as I've noticed that this is the time of year that I see more people talking about the movie on social media (usually about how "creepy" or "traumatizing" it is to watch), and it's also the time that there seems to be more fan art being done. 

I've come across some pretty great Return to Oz fan art recently, and I thought I would share some of my favorite work here. 

The following pieces are by Brooklyn-based artist Allison Steinfeld, posted on her Instagram account as part of the "Inktober" challenge. I really enjoy her style and think she does an excellent job capturing different moments from the film, especially the film's more bizarre moments.

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

A photo posted by Allison (@allisonsteinfeld) on

Steinfeld's artwork reminds me of our own Sam Milazzo's. Sam has done a lot of Oz-inspired artwork, as you can see by taking a look at his Deviantart profile, including his very own comic book adaptation of Return to Oz (yes, the entire film). Sam's attention to detail is impressive, and it's a very nice adaptation of the film. I particularly appreciate the little nods to the books and the inclusion of some of the film's deleted scenes. If Return to Oz is your jam, you should definitely take the time to check it out (link here).

Sam has also created a number of Return to Oz videos over the years, my favorite being the "fan trailer" he created for the film's 30th 25th anniversary. I think too many of the "fan trailers" I've seen for Return to Oz present the film to be much more dark and disturbing than it really is, so I like that Sam's provides what I think is a more accurate representation of the film.

I've only scratched the surface of what's out there in terms of Return to Oz fan art, so I encourage you to peruse Instagram, Tumblr, or your social media platform of choice, and feel free to share any great Return to Oz fan art you've come across (or that you've done yourself) in the comments.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

A fun drawing by the one and only Eric Shanower.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Conserving the Ruby Slippers

In the filming of MGM's The Wizard of Oz, several pairs of Ruby Slippers were created for the film. They weren't the Silver Shoes Baum described in his book, but they served the same purpose in the film: taken from the remains of the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy wears them throughout the story until Glinda tells her how she can use the magic power of the shoes to return home. As such, the Ruby Slippers have become an iconic image for The Wizard of Oz as many people know the film.

A screen used pair of the Ruby Slippers was anonymously donated to the Smithsonian Museum, and they became a very popular item, in fact, the Museum would have to often change the carpet under them because it wore out from people frequenting their display case so much.

However, the Smithsonian now has a problem: those shoes weren't made to last forever, and threads are beginning to break on the shoes, the sequins are losing their luster and falling off. However, the Museum's funding doesn't allow for this type of restoration work. So... Kickstarter!

Yeah, the Smithsonian has opened a Kickstarter for conserving the Ruby Slippers for future generations. They started this a couple days ago, and it's already gotten more than half the goal pledged. But even popular Kickstarter campaigns can slump behind, so if you're able to, go ahead and make a pledge to help a piece of Oz history stick around for future generations to enjoy. And there's some specially designed memorabilia being offered for perks, so if you want something nice to add to your collection, here's your chance.

Anyone interested in our historic look at Oz, I'm researching Chittenango and New York at the time of Baum's birth and childhood, so watch this space...

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: How Donald Abbott Came To Oz

Jay talks with Donald Abbott, author/illustrator/cartoonist/screenwriter of How The Wizard Came to Oz and other Oz stories. Donald reveals why his illustrations follow the style of W.W. Denslow, how Books of Wonder came to publish his books, and how How The Wizard Came to Oz has developed over the years.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Oz Kids (Intro)

Jay and Sam prepare for a multi-episode discussion of The Oz Kids video series, starting by giving some general information about the series, including its characters, premise and general availability.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below!

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Monday, September 26, 2016

A couple Ozzy announcements...

So, I've been thinking about what to do at this blog (I've posted a couple entries at my other Blogger blog lately) and I think I've thought of a blogging project. But more on that in a moment.

First off, I got contacted by RAMstar Studios, who says they're producing a live action movie adaptation of Donald Abbott's How The Wizard Came To Oz, set to be released to theaters in 2018, directed by Cole S. McKay. Producers are BJ Plott, Dan Guardino, and Derrick Iloni. The budget is a modest $35 million, but it's not always about how much you have as much as how you use it.

The synopsis provided is as follows...
When a runaway balloon carries Oscar Zoroaster Diggs to the war torn Land of Oz he inadvertently manages to bring peace to its people, and finds himself hailed as a great wizard. Now he has to defeat a vengeful witch to maintain the peace.
That's really all the information I have. You can check out the RAMstar Studios Facebook page (where I stole that graphic from) to check out their other works and see if they have any updates.

Donald Abbott initially wrote How The Wizard Came To Oz as a short story for Oziana before reworking it into a book for Books of Wonder's Emerald City Press in the early 1990s, following it up with a few other Oz books. Recently, he adapted the story into a film script, which is the script RAMstar is using.

They did confirm that Donald Abbott's currently running webcomic adaptation of the story is based on the script, so go ahead and look there if you want to see what you can expect.

 Other news is that another Oz-themed Kickstarter is getting ready to wrap up and has just under $1000 to go before its goal is reached. The Wicked Wizard of Oz is a choose-your-own-adventure style RPG gamebook which is "inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, but with a dark Dieselpunk twist."

THE WICKED WIZARD OF OZ is set after the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Dorothy finds herself transported back to the marvellous Land of Oz and hunted by the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys. But how can the Witch be back? And why has Dorothy been brought back to Oz? There's only one way to find out.
Joined by her friends - the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion - Dorothy sets off for the Emerald City. Surrounded by enemies on all sides, will you uncover the secrets of THE WICKED WIZARD OF OZ?

I was contacted about this just today, so I don't really have any more information than what can be found on the Kickstarter website. But lovers of all things Oz might want to look into supporting this to help it happen and get their hands on some unique Oz collectibles.

So, finally, what to do on the blog after blogging for so long? Aside from blogging about Oz books I've read (which I've even fallen behind on that as I read a new edition of Wonderful Wizard and Marvelous Land on my return from Oz Con I meant to write about), it feels like most of the ideas there would be to write about I have written about!

Well, I had an idea. How about breaking down the history of Oz and our own culture into a timeline and begin going in for indepth looks at the world L. Frank Baum created his stories in, and how his stories later influenced that world? The scope is wide enough to basically include anything related to Oz. A blog about Baum's life might be flanked by examinations of his work at the time or about where he lived and what was going on in the US and the world. I'd certainly welcome guest posts.

I'd like to tie podcasts into this as well, I could certainly see me inviting David Maxine to discuss the 1902 Wizard of Oz musical. "Movies of Oz" would run separately, but blogs about the movies would certainly pop up, perhaps multiple posts.

Basically, whenever we're done, what we'd have would hopefully be a massive body of work about Oz.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Magic of Oz and Other Oz Animation

Jay Davis, Sean Carlson, Jimmy Weinstein and Eric Gjovaag kick back and watch "The Magic of Oz" cartoon, billed as "The Worst Cartoon Ever!" on YouTube. But does it deserve that title? What are the origins of this cartoon? What does our new friend Jimmy think of Oz animation in general? Find out in this episode!

This is the fourth and final of four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

 You can listen, download and subscribe at the Royal Podcast of Oz website or use the player and links below.

Support the Royal Podcast of Oz on Patreon!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Two Royal Historians

Paul Dana, author of new Oz books The Law of Oz and Other Stories and The Magic Umbrella of Oz and Jared "Jay" Davis, author of Outsiders from Oz and The Way of a Lion: A Tale of Oz talk about how they came to write Oz stories and read excerpts from their work.

This is the third in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.
Watch the Costume Parade video.
Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.
Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the Royal Podcast of Oz website or use the player and links below.

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The Birthday Girl of Oz

In writing his 4th Oz adventure, "the Road to Oz", L Frank Baum wrote two passages in the book that gave a specific date for the time the story was set:

"I wish it would snow; don't you?"
" ' Course not, Shaggy Man," replied Dorothy, giving him a severe look.  "If it snowed in August it would spoil the corn and the oats and the wheat; and then Uncle Henry wouldn't have any crops; and that would make him poor; and - "
"Never mind," said the Shaggy man.


"Do you know Ozma?" she asked, wondering.
"I regret to say that I do not," he answered, sadly; "but I hope to meet her soon.  You know the Princess Ozma is to celebrate her birthday on the twenty-first of this month."
"Is she?" said Dorothy.  "I didn't know that."

So ... "August" and "twenty-first".
Ever since then, August 21st has been chosen by Oz fans to be the day they celebrate Ozma's birthday, wherever they are in the world;  and they do so in whatever way they can that plays tribute to the favourite Queen of Oz.

One of the imaginative and creative ways of celebrating her Birthday (last week) is by editing fan videos on Youtube (and elsewhere).

This unique version, starring Shirley Temple and Agnes Moorehead from the 1961 TV Show, combines the two transformation scenes together with some music from Walt Disney's animated classic "Sleeping Beauty".
I made this one a few years ago, before technical and other difficulties prevented me from finishing other videos (including two others for "Patchwork Girl" in 2013; and especially more videos to this Playlist adapting "Wizard" in Music Video form).

(I also made a image that had John Neill's illustrated surrounded by onscreen presentations - that image has yet to be modified for satisfying further viewing)

Of course this isn't the only video to celebrate Ozma, by me or anyone else; each video does something different:
Coloured-in illustrations from the book that act as a showreel for Ozma's Guests, Gifts and Birthday Celebration  . . .

 . . . A selection of clips from the 1999-2000 Russian animated "Adventures in the Emerald City" series . . .

 . . . and finally one that shows the different portrayals she has had onscreen throughout the century!
(these two done by Jay "RoyalKidofOz" Davis)

No matter how often she changes in looks or age, in the books or onscreen, her Birthday will always be celebrated by Oz Fans on the 21st of August.

All Hail Ozma, the Birthday Girl of Oz!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Meet Peter Hanff

Jay interviews Peter Hanff live at Oz Con International 2016. Hear how Peter Hanff discovered the world of Oz for himself, began building an incredible collection and began research into the history of the Oz series.

This is the second in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Oz Con International 2016 Recap

Jay reports live from Oz Con International to let you know what went down in Portland, Oregon. Plus, hear from Sean Carlson about how his setting the songs of Rinkitink in Oz to music became a hit for the attendees.

This will be the first in four podcasts recorded at Oz Con International 2016.

Watch the Costume Parade video.

Watch the OzPrah Winkie show.

Register for next year's Oz Con International!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the player and links below.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Wicked: News, Rumors, and Speculation about the Upcoming Stage-to-Screen Adaptation

For years, Oz fans and musical theatre fans alike have wondered what a film adaptation of the musical Wicked might be like. Jared and I even discussed it, albeit somewhat briefly, in a recent podcast. It wasn't until last month, however, that such a film was formally announced and given a release date. (You can read Jared's thoughts on that announcement here.) Although we're still a ways away from that December 20, 2019 release date (1,242 days as of this posting, but who's counting?), we're starting to learn more about the approach that director Stephen Daldry and company are taking in bringing the beloved stage show to the big screen.

Wicked's composer and
lyricist Stephen Schwartz
Just this past week, composer Stephen Schwartz revealed during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con that the film would have four songs not included in the original musical, one of which is a song that was written for but was ultimately cut from the Broadway production. This could very well be "Making Good," a song that had been written for Elphaba but was replaced by "The Wizard and I." (You can listen to a recording of "Making Good" here.) Schwartz has said that the cut song was "too mild" and that he and the creative team felt that there needed to be a bigger, more compelling (and showstopping) song for Elphaba in its place.

It seems that most people are responding with excitement to the news that the film could include as many as four new songs, but personally, I have more mixed, less enthusiastic feelings about it. I definitely understand that the film will not and should not be a carbon copy of the stage show – one reason being that the clearly defined, two-act structure is different from the more fluid, three-act structure of a film, and another being that it's simply not realistic to expect that everything from the show will be carried over to the film. I feel, however, like there's no need to add to what's already there, and I hope that the final film doesn't diverge too much from the stage show.

Disney's film adaptation of Into the Woods was generally well-received and was mildly successful in terms of box office, but there were many people who were not happy about the changes that were made from the original musical. Not only were nine of the stage show's songs absent, but much of the violent and sexual content was toned down for the film (likely in order to obtain a PG rating and to be able to appeal to a wider audience, as of most Disney's content does). I think it's also relevant to mention the most recent film adaptation of Annie, which was basically "dead on arrival" in terms of the way it was received by critics and many, if not most, moviegoers because of its contemporary approach to the material and its obvious and significant differences from prior adaptations.

I honestly don't think there's much of a chance that the Wicked movie will be so different from the stage production and so harshly-received as the aforementioned Annie adaptation, especially since the screenplay is being written by Winnie Holzman, who also wrote the book for the original musical, but I'm definitely curious to see what changes are made and how those changes are received.

I'm also curious to see how people respond to the casting announcements that will inevitably arrive within the next year or so. It's pretty much a given that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth won't be reprising their roles from the Broadway production, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were cast in other roles or made some sort of cameo appearance in the film. Kristin Chenoweth has said in passing that she'd be up for playing Madame Morrible, and if that were to happen, you wouldn't hear any complaints from me. The bigger question, though, is if not Idina and Kristin as Elphaba and Glinda, then who? Who should take on those now-iconic roles?

Anna Kendrick and Kristin
Chenoweth performing
the song "For Good"
at Trevor Live in 2013.
Well, I think it would be remiss of me to ignore the possibility that Anna Kendrick will be cast as Elphaba, and allow me explain my reasoning for that. The Wicked movie is being produced and distributed by Universal, the studio responsible for Pitch Perfect, the movie that made Kendrick a star and that was successful enough to spawn two sequels (the second of which is expected to arrive late next year). Assuming that a Wicked movie would carry a price tag of at least $100 million, it's unlikely that relatively unknown actors would be cast (although I know some musical theatre fans may not want to believe that). Kendrick has demonstrated her star power with the Pitch Perfect franchise and her ability to work in a musical of this caliber with her role as Cinderella in Into the Woods (which shares a producer with Wicked in Marc Platt), and I can't think of any other actresses (who would be appropriate for the role anyway) of which the same could be said. Aside from that, she's already expressed interest in the role, and she even performed a song from the musical with Kristin Chenoweth at an event in 2013 (video here).

Another name that's come up over the years is Lea Michele, best known for her role as Rachel on the TV show Glee. Like Anna Kendrick, Lea has expressed interest in someday playing Elphaba in a Wicked movie, and she's performed with both Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. Chenoweth even suggested Lea in a recent interview in which she was asked who she'd like to see cast in the film. I've talked to many people who are rooting for Lea to get to the role and who feel like she's better suited to the role than is Anna Kendrick, and while I don't necessarily disagree with that, I think the reality is that Lea hasn't done enough post-Glee. Sure, she's on Fox's Scream Queens, but that show isn't popular and doesn't get very good ratings, and she, aside from a voice-over role in Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, hasn't been given a shot on the big screen since New Year's Eve, which was released almost five years ago. I do think that Lea should and probably will be at least considered for the role of Elphaba, but I don't know if casting her would be in the best interest of the film in terms of its potential to really succeed financially.

Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron as Maleficent and Mal, Maleficent's
daughter, respectively, in Disney Channel's Descendants.

As for who could end up cast as Glinda, I think the possibilities are less clear than they seem to be for Elphaba. Amanda Seyfried has campaigned for the role for some time (and has even named Anna Kendrick as her pick to play Elphaba), and even though I like her and think she's very talented, my concern is that she might be a little too old for the part. Another actress who's thrown her name in the ring is Disney Channel star Dove Cameron, who shared the screen (and a musical number) with Kristin Chenoweth in the hit television film Descendants last year. In the same interview in which Chenoweth suggested that Lea Michele play Elphaba, she said that she'd like to see Dove play Glinda in the film. I'm not convinced that Dove Cameron has the charisma or the singing chops for it, but I'd certainly be open to the idea of her taking on the role.

At the end of the day, it obviously isn't up to me or any of us who will be cast in the Wicked movie or what the movie will be like, but it's fun to think about and speculate while we wait for those decisions to be made and announced and for the film to (finally) be released. As a big fan of the musical and having seen the stage production going on ten times, I'm eager to learn more about the film and to see it come together over the next three years, and I hope that it's as good and as successful as I think it has the potential to be.

Feel free to share your own hopes, ideas, thoughts, or concerns about Wicked's long-awaited move from the stage to the screen in the comments below!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The musical Rinkitink

Last year, Karyl Carlson announced that there would be CDs of her son's efforts to put music to the songs in Rinkitink in Oz. Well, Karyl's son Sean Carlson delivered!

The Songs of L. Frank Baum's Rinkitink in Oz is a 23 minute concept album in which Sean sings as Rinkitink (and speaks as Bilbil on one track), putting all of Rinkitink's ditties and songs from the book to music, reminding us that this was a very musical book.

Sean uses synthesized music as well as his own instruments, and he noted specifically that he used a ukulele and a didgeridoo. Synthesized music can sound good, and it does here. It doesn't feel like you're suddenly listening to a computer game from 1998. In addition to the songs, the album has four instrumental tracks of just music inspired by the story.

It should be noted that this is one interpretation of Rinkitink, not a definitive one. For me, when I read Rinkitink's songs in the book, I imagined Rinkitink having a deep baritone voice, and he'd belt out all his songs. Sean is not a baritone, so his Rinkitink is different with a much more gentle voice, giving more of the idea that Rinkitink is coming up with these songs on the spot and singing to himself and his friends. It's a viable interpretation, and the results are very pleasing.

Sean also doesn't try to keep the music in line with the time it was written. Perhaps I have a bad ear for genre, but the album uses all sorts of song styles for Rinkitink's songs, which lends to the idea that Rinkitink is coming up with these on the spot. Also, it helps with the idea that this story takes place in Fairyland, which has a culture that doesn't always mirror our own.

The CD comes in a digipak case (heavy cardstock with a hard plastic disc holder glued to a fold-out panel), decorated with art by John R. Neill in full color. The fold out panels include lyrics for the songs, and a track list, which reveals some of Sean's inspirations for these songs.

The CD was for sale at Oz Con International for $12 a copy (this is a small run of a concept album by an independent artist, so it will become a collector's item), and several copies will be available at Oz Con Philly next month, so if you're going or know someone who is going, your chance to get one is not far off. All sales will help fund future Oz Con events.

To order online, go to http://Paypal.Me/OzConInternational, enter $17.00 ($5 to cover shipping) and log in.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

John Boorman's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Some time ago, I wrote here about some of the Oz movies that could have been, a subject that, for some reason, I find really fascinating. In that blog entry, I looked at ten projects rather briefly, but now, I'd like to expand on one of them in particular, and that would be John Boorman's animated feature film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

We first caught word of the planned film in late 2008, when reports surfaced online that Boorman, best known for directing such films as Deliverance and Excalibur, would direct a computer-animated feature film based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from a screenplay penned by Boorman and Robots writers Ron Mita and Jim McClain. The film had a planned summer 2010 release date and a $25 million price tag attached to it and would be produced in France by Action Synthese, the animation studio responsible for producing the film The Magic Roundabout, which was released in the United States as Doogal in 2006 by The Weinstein Company. Little was divulged at this time about the approach the film would take to adapting the source material, although it was established that it would not be a musical like the MGM film, would "maintain the main characters and settings" of the book, and would be voiced by English-speaking actors.

Almost immediately after the film was announced to be in pre-production, more information about the film and a couple of images made their way onto the internet via Action Synthese's (now defunct) website, which included a lengthy statement from Boorman on his vision for the film.
Why should we make an animated version of this story at all? Given the technical limitations of the day, and the demands of live action, the iconic MGM film could only engage with a fraction of the novel. Animation will allow up to explore the magical fantasy of the book and bring the array of strange and frightening creatures to life. Therefore my objective in recreating the universe of the land of Oz is to realise the glories of Franck [sic] Baum’s novel. 
Also present on the studio's website was a link to some sort of "teaser," although it was for a long time password protected. The footage, which was more an animation test than a teaser trailer, wasn't made available to the public until almost two years later, when it was discovered by Bleeding Cool. The teaser (which I could not embed here as I normally would because of the video's privacy settings but can be viewed on Vimeo by clicking here) consists of the scene in which Dorothy meets the Scarecrow. The animation was rather impressive for its time and, in my opinion, still stands above most foreign, low-budget animated fare today.

In the two years or so following the film's announcement, many pieces of conceptual artwork circulated online, often being pulled shortly after being posted at the studio's request. An official poster was released to coincide with the Annecy International Film Festival in June 2009, although it was unknown at this point how far the film was from being completed or if it was still on track to make its expected release date.

The production status of the film remained unclear, in fact, until Boorman was asked about it in an interview with Film Ireland in March 2011. Boorman revealed that the film had "stalled" before it ever got into full production. He confirmed that a script had been completed and that the entire film had been laid out in storyboards but stated that unfortunately, "there was no money there to make it." This is the last that was heard of the film, which was, as the Munchkin Coroner would say, "really, most sincerely dead" (along with a planned sequel to The Magic Roundabout) when Action Synthese folded in 2013.

Would John Boorman's film have been one of the most faithful (and even one of the greatest) film adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ever made? While, sadly, we'll never really know the answer to that question, I personally think that, yes, it would have. I don't believe that the screenplay has ever found its way onto the internet, but from what we know, it seems that Boorman and his co-writers were respectful of the source material and were committed to creating a unique, beautiful film that could stand on its own two legs rather than be tied to or heavily influenced by the MGM film or any other Oz adaptation.

I've done some digging around online to find as much artwork and as many renderings created for the film as possible, which you can see below. (These gorgeous images come from artist Robert Nageli, modeling supervisor Ariu Jean-Marc, and art director Florent Cellai, who worked on this film for four years and for Action Synthese in various capacities for more than eleven years.)