Friday, September 22, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The New Animated Oz

Jay and Angelo Thomas talk about the new animated Oz series: Boomerang's Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz and Amazon's Lost in Oz!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Lion of Oz discussion

Jay and Sam follow up and supplement their commentary for Lion of Oz with a standard discussion episode.

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Windham Classics' The Wizard of Oz

Sometime back, I talked about the first digital Oz game, Adventure in Oz for the TI-99/4A. In that blog, I mentioned I had previously (erroneously) believed Windham Classics' Wizard of Oz game to be the first. But I haven't blogged about that game before.

So let's fix that.

Windham Classics was a series from Spinnaker Software that presented five games based on literary titles. The first couple were platformer games that had a menu of commands to bring up. These were Alice in Wonderland (based on the two Alice books by Lewis Carroll) and Below the Root (based on the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and actually served as a continuation of the story of the books). There was also Swiss Family Robinson, a real-time text adventure featuring many puzzles. The final pair were a couple of elaborate text adventures with graphics and music to enhance the gameplay. These were Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz.

It's been awhile for some, but I've played and completed all of the games. They were available for several computer systems, including DOS on the IBM PC, the Commodore 64 and the Apple II. I played them through emulators, specifically the Commodore 64 versions.

Loading The Wizard of Oz (and Treasure Island) in the Commodore 64 can be challenging for the novice user. Most emulators let you select the file you need to load ("wind") and enter it automatically. The problem with these games is the long loading time. The emulator CCS64 speeds it up right away and makes the loading time no problem with the default settings. For other emulators, such as Frodo and Vice, you need to ensure the type of drive being emulated is a standard 1541, and that the main drive (Drive 8) is the only one being emulated. You can also select speed up options to help cut down the wait to the Windham Classics loading screen. The game will require you to swap discs, which is possible with emulators, but you might want to make sure you know how to do before settling in to play a game. It's also worth noting that the game does require quotation marks, and on the C64, the equivalent is holding down the shift key and pressing 2.

The DOS version I have played, but the versions online are lacking many of the game's files, so the game can't be completed after you meet the Wizard. The game came on the large floppy discs encased in cardboard, so for someone to get those files, they would not only would need to own that version, they would also need a drive capable of handling those discs. The Apple II version seems to be complete.

My recommendation for which version to play goes to the Commodore 64 version. Not only is it complete, but the graphics are in full color.

The game's story features an expanded version of The Wizard of Oz that can be played through. You play as Dorothy and as you travel around Oz using an interesting parser. In addition to moving by using the commands N, NW, NE, E, W, SE, SW, UP, DOWN, ENTER, EXIT to navigate the game, and the standard "TAKE ITEM" style commands, you can also address characters with commands such as "GLINDA, TALK EVIL WITCH."

The story expansion is several features from The Marvelous Land of Oz. As you head west after meeting the Wizard, you find Mombi's cottage and are joined by Tip when you escape. Along the way to the Witch's castle, you build Jack Pumpkinhead and bring him and the Sawhorse to life. Mombi's attempts to thwart the return of the Scarecrow to the Emerald City in Marvelous Land are now turned into tricks by the Wicked Witch. The Wizard names Jack his successor instead and when you head south, you run into Jinjur and have to head back to the Emerald City and escape by building the Gump. After falling into the Jackdaws' Nest, you have to return to Emerald City once again, this time bringing an army of tin soldiers who chase away Jinjur's army. In addition, the Hammerheads are beaten by putting everyone to sleep with a magic music box and commanding none other than Tiktok to carry your friends over the hill.

Probably the most controversial change made to the game's story is Glinda at the end revealing that Tip is the lost prince of Oz. He's not a transformed Ozma, just a missing prince. It's a little disappointing given the legacy of the Oz characters. Making Tip a girl would have been a bit more palatable.

For anyone who enjoys retro gaming and Oz, it's worth playing once. However, given the linear style of the game, it's unlikely anyone will be playing it many times unless they want to experience it again.

You can watch a playthrough here. has downloads for the partial DOS version as well as the Apple II and C64 versions.

The Classic Adventure Solution Archive has a walkthrough if you need help solving the puzzles as well as links to more information about the game.

Below are pictures of the game's packaging from the Computer Game Museum.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adapting "Return to Oz": from Screen to Page (part 3)

Back in June I started making comparisons of some of the tie-in books for Disney's "Return to Oz", adapting the almost-two-hour long movie into shorter children's books and whether they work well or not.
"Return to Oz" is a very good and fine film (despite its problems), but some of the important and smaller aspects of it don't carry well in condensed form.

Here we are going to look at one of its shorter adaptations, the second Little Golden Book: "Escape from the Witch's Castle".
Dorothy's bad hair;  Billina looks hard;  2 sofas yet everyone crams onto one side ... and where are the safety walls to prevent falling off?!

In this book, the second installment of the four part series, Dorothy and Billina and Tik-Tok are looking "through Oz" for Scarecrow, who is missing.  The first change mentioned is that the Emerald City (no word of it being in ruins is mentioned) and where Princess Mombi lives are separate buildings.

When Mombi (who is already wearing the dark haired head from the film) captures Dorothy, Tik-Tok suddenly winds down, so Billina has to attack Mombi to allow Dorothy to escape, but iron bars block the door; and when Mombi threatens to cook Billina, that's when Dorothy kicks Mombi and is captures again, the girl and the hen taken to the tower.
Fortunately, Jack Pumpkinhead is also in the tower with them, who he mistakes Dorothy for his missing mum, before she sets him straight (he's described as a mess, but he doesn't really look that badly separated).  Jack's story of how he came to live with Mombi's Powder of Life gives Dorothy an idea of how to escape.
  "Soon" they get Tik-Tok upsatirs while Dorothy gets Mombi's (non-ruby) key and the Powder - accidentally waking Mombi's head up in the process!  The other heads wails, Dorothy dodges past Mombi's headless body and rejoins her friends in the Tower room who have finished assembling their flying Gump (Tik-Tok did not seem to wind down this time), which Dorothy sprinkles with the Powder and they "lift" off the floor and through the open window.   Each with their own hopes for the future, Dorothy rests as she and her friends soar off into the night sky.

The story itself is not so bad, but it's the illustrations that are lacking.  Part 1 ("Dorothy Returns to Oz") was painted (with oil?), while "Dorothy in the Ornament Rooms" had inked drawings with painted (watercolour?) illustrations and "Dorothy Saves the Emerald City" having soft airbrush paintings ... this book (which does not have "Dorothy" in the title) has pictures that are done in markers and the lines are thick, thicker than any of the other pictures in the other books.
Billina looks hard and too smooth, like a clay figure, instead of a living moving creature, while Tik-Tok looks ... well, it's hard to say.  He doesn't quite look as easily movable like the film, yet some pictures have him look and glance in a way not possible.   In some pictures Dorothy looks fine, but in others she looks more manly (once or twice she looks like Tobey Maguire in a dress; and another time she bares a strong resemblance to Bruce Timm's Superman).  Dorothy's black Kansas shoes have also acquired a strap, making the pair become "mary janes" (and her hair on the cover is just awful!)
.  Jack's pumpkin head is supposed to be round, yet his face looks flat.  
Possibly the worst change, visually, is the construction of the Gump: in the film the two sofas have backing, to prevent the riders from falling off the sides ... but here both sofas are open and have no walls, which was more a choice of showing the characters in illustrations than being practical storywise.  This presents the threat of the characters actually falling off the sides, especially Dorothy rolling over in her sleep!  And despite being brought to life, he doesn't say anything or really have any personality in the last three pages.
When you look at this book on its own and without the full context of the film, this short story makes absolutely no mention of the real threat to Oz, its people or its capital, the missing monarch or the usurpers and how and where the good characters need to go or what to do.  It is not mentioned HOW Mombi has the beautiful heads or why.  Just that she is "a terrible witch" who collects the heads of beautiful young ladies.  Her own ugly head is never shown (but it is mentioned in that certain scene).  Nor is the exact number of beautiful heads recounted.  And, again, Mombi seems to have no connection to the disappearance of Scarecrow and nowhere is the Nome King mentioned.  Also, no lunch-pail, or Wheelers, or even the "ghost in the mirror/palace".

While the other three Little Golden Books do end with a somewhat happy note of hope, this one doesn't seem as strong.

This book may be the weakest of the set, but it is not the worst adaptation of the movie ...

Sunday, September 03, 2017

A Chapter Closes

A long, long time ago, an Oz fan had a dream of creating a website. After finding free hosting, he tinkered around with HTML and built a small but original content-rich website and titled it "Dorothy and Ozma Productions." The website offered capsule reviews of Oz films, an original biography of L. Frank Baum, e-texts of the Oz books (including the first e-texts of Dot and Tot of Merryland and Queer Vistors from the Marvelous Land of Oz) and original content for free downloads, as well as old digital Oz games for systems no longer made that would have to be emulated to be played. (With a copyright disclaimer, of course.)

The website went through a few iterations, eventually being retitled "The Royal Website of Oz" and getting its own actual domain. Thanks to a generous friend, it was hosted for free and a forum was added when the International Wizard of Oz Club decided to close their forums. An ambitious wiki project was started.

However, the fan who had started the website found other ways to express his love of creating and sharing Oz content. He had begun blogging, which spun off into a podcast and even a series of videos. He even began writing Oz stories and even published a full-length Oz book and attending a regular Oz convention. So progress on maintaining and expanding the website eventually ground to a halt.

If you haven't guessed, of course, I'm talking about my own story here.

About two months ago, the Royal Website of Oz went offline. I still have the domain, but the server is no longer active. My generous friend who had hosted the site has yet to reply as to what happened, but all I can assume is that the free ride the website had is no longer open. The forum is gone, the wiki has some pages archived through Internet Archive, and an older version of the website is still online. A later version of it is also available through Internet Archive as well.

While it's a little sad that this has happened, it's not as if all is lost. I still have that content I had, and I believe I can use the blog to bring some of the best of it back. I had even begun a secondary blog titled The Royal Library of Oz, which managed to present e-texts as blog entries.

If you want an Oz forum, there's a Wizard of Oz subreddit that could use more members.

Why am I not looking to get my own host and revive the site? Well, with writing Oz stories (and now other non-Oz stories) and running a podcast, this blog, helping with "Oz and Ends" for The Baum Bugle and now chairing Oz Con International 2018, I don't feel the drive to pursue such a venture.

So, one chapter closes as others open and continue. See you in Oz, folks.