Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman

To celebrate L. Frank Baum's 160th birthday, the Royal Podcast of Oz presents a reading of "The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman" from Little Wizard Stories of Oz.

The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman go boating, but when the Tin Woodman falls over the side, it's up to the Scarecrow to save him! Miles away from the Emerald City, what can a straw man with a good brain do?

The cast features Mike Conway, Zach Allen, and Doug Wall.

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

Download this episode (right click and save)

Anne Hathaway reads "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

Four years ago, Audible released a collection of famous actors reading classic books. One they highlighted—and certainly of interest to Oz fans—was Anne Hathaway (now known for Les Miserables, The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, Interstellar, and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The number of audio book versions of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are not in short supply. Searching Audible reveals several abridged, unabridged and dramatized versions, and there are many more not available through Audible. The book has been public domain for sixty years now, and we've had vinyl records, audio cassettes, compact discs, and now digital audio formats to release recordings of the story to. So, even though I think Anne Hathaway is a great actress and fantastic talent, it wasn't exactly a priority to check out another one of these. (Particularly since Audible's monthly plan can be tricky to get out of, although it's not required to purchase their audiobooks.)

Not long ago, I had an offer for two free Audible titles, and decided to finally get Anne's version of Oz. It took me some time to listen to it, but I finally did.

The recording is simple and straightforward. Unlike other audio books, there aren't attempts to add music or sound effects to liven up the proceedings. It's just Anne reading the book. However, it's a good reading. Anne reads at a gentle pace, running under four hours. (Other unabridged versions run from about three and a half to four and a half hours.) This is absolutely one you could let your kids listen to chapter by chapter for a bedtime story.

Being an actress, Anne puts on a different voice for each character, keeping them charming. Dorothy is a nice sounding child, the Scarecrow is a little gruff, the Tin Woodman sounds calm, while she does a bit of a Bert Lahr tribute for the Cowardly Lion. Her Wicked Witch is wicked, her Glinda is good, her Wizard has a drawl to his voice, Omby Amby sounds like a drill sergeant, while her Jellia Jamb sounds a little German. I liked her Queen of the Field Mice, she sounds posh and trilly.

Overall, Anne does a great job with this, and that is what makes me recommend it if you're looking for an unabridged audio book version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and aren't satisfied with the free versions from sites like Librivox or a previous one you may have heard.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

My thoughts about Disney and Oz

This an op-ed piece. This is solely the opinion of Jared "Jay" Davis, and not necessarily the opinions of Oz fans as a whole or any of the other contributors to the blog.

With the word that Disney has plenty more fantasy movies in the works, some Oz fans have noted that there's no sign of the sequel to 2013's Oz the Great and Powerful. Early word is that a script was commissioned, and it seems it was delivered. But since then, no word except for Disney announcing plenty of other movies. Trailers are already running for Alice Through The Looking-Glass, Pete's Dragon, The BFG, and they're gearing up to release a live-action Beauty and the Beast. In addition, word is we're getting sequels to Maleficent and Mary Poppins, a new version of Peter Pan, and a film version of The Nutcracker. This is in addition to their regular animated fare from their own animation studio and Pixar, other live action films, and output from their acquisitions of Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.

As any longtime reader of the blog knows, Disney has a long history with Oz, and even though there's nothing on the announced schedule yet, it's inevitable that at some point, Disney will make another Oz film. The question is when and what will it be?

Although it might be too early to declare that an Oz the Great and Powerful sequel is dead in the water, honestly, I'm not sure what the sequel would do. Early word from people involved with the movie claimed the sequel would still be set before the events of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But what would the story be?

As a fan of the books, I was disappointed to see the first movie seemingly change important details. Ozma was seemingly written out of the continuity as the previous king of Oz was now Glinda's father with no mention of siblings. Now, there'd be enough wiggle room to establish that Ozma is Glinda's younger sister, but how could a story that ends with Ozma missing or hidden away end satisfactorily enough? How can you believably advanced the shoehorned romance between the Wizard and Glinda? Frankly, these quandaries make me think that we won't be seeing Oz the Great and Powerful 2. It's quite possible that after getting the script, Disney has decided not to move forward with it. This could change, however.

There are other ways Disney could begin an Oz movie franchise. Begin with The Marvelous Land of Oz or a story that establishes a status quo for sequels, such as The Emerald City of Oz. And there's plenty of spin-off possibilities. Imagine if Disney decided to do a direct to video movie featuring Polychrome, reimagining her as a Rainbow princess.

Or, if Disney really wanted to be bold, simply do a new film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, taking nothing from the MGM film, and using the same storytelling sensibilities found in their new movies based on Cinderella and The Jungle Book. With Disney's effective marketing, I'm sure that if any studio could pull it off, it'd be them.

But, that's just my opinion. What do you think? Should another studio—such as Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox, Paramount—attempt an Oz film? Or what Oz-based or inspired film do you think could launch a movie franchise?