Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Disney's "Return to Oz" Comic

Our next look into the adaptions of the 1985 film "Return to Oz" focuses on one of the more widely seen paperworks, the Comic (and how inferior it actually is).Naturally, it reuses the poster used for most of the advertising.  It is a nice poster, but seeing the same art too often can be tedious, even boring.

There are quite a few things wrong with this telling: there's the art, the printing, the text, the "adjustments" and the overall story.

The art isn't really that impressive, or easy on the eyes.  The most troublesome
thing is the alignment isn't exact or matching up, so different-coloured lines are next to eachother instead of neatly on top, which can cause a slight dizzying glare.  The text is clear and fine to read, but the visuals themselves need much to be desired (so many good characters look ugly or unattractive, especially Dorothy and the Lead Wheeler).
The art is also rather unoriginal, using a majority of stills and photos to be a "model" for the panels, instead of being completely new art with new positions and angles.  This can cause some major errors in timing and context or even story - such as the severe LACK of NOMES the King calls for (none ever appear) to stop Dorothy from finishing his game, most notably the various forms and shapes he goes through (human, then even face on wall).
Now there is nothing wrong with using stills and photographs to tell a story (the "Wonderful World of Reading" Random House book does and it used a few photos not seen anywhere else), but so many of these images are reworked differently to how or when they were originally taken and are out of order and show a severe lack of originality and imagination (Towards there end, there is a photo of Dorothy waving GOOD-BYE to her friends - in this comic, that pose, including her waving hand, is used for when Dorothy enters Mombi's chamber and sees the heads in cabinets).   Only a few panels are entirely newly drawn and actually look good on their own.

Uncle Henry's leg is not broken in this retelling

Because of the (somewhat limited) technology and time of that era, the colours were flat and couldn't be enhanced with lighting and shadow, so Dorothy's dress (and main outfit) is a strong pink, even her Kansas shoes are warm coloured and have little contrast to the Ruby Slippers seen later.  In fact, much of the colouring seems rushed.
Toto is white-haired, however.  And in one panel, Doctor Worley is completely green!  Ozma has blonde hair is Kansas, but as Queen in Oz she has gone brunette.

Each and every word balloon / speech bubble either ends with an exclamation point "!" or a question mark "?", with the exception of a few sentences finishing with triple dots "..." .

One of the strangest, most bizarre and inexplicable things is how, on the way to Dr Worley's clinic, Jack Pumpkinhead (or a strikingly similar figure) can be seen in Kansas.
Why is there a Jack Pumpkinhead in Kansas?
Aunt Em and Dorothy must be so nervous they keep changing places to stand ...
When they do arrive and wait at the door, Aunt Em and Dorothy keep changing which side they are standing (Dorothy mentions hearing a scream, but Aunt Em doesn't).
Upon leaving Dorothy, Aunt Em briefly hears a distant cry (which was one of the victim patients damaged from Dr Worley's "electrical healing"), but thinks she may have imagined it.

Sitting on the corner edge of a coop floating on water is not a good idea ...  
When the storm has caused the procedure to black out, there is an awkwardly placed drawing where it looks like a man is holding a shrunken doctor to access a small intricate system.

When Dorothy and Billina approach land by chicken coop, the edges are rocks and mountains, not sands or grass and trees.

Dorothy and Billina encounter the Wheelers - who taunt with jeers and "Oink! Oink! Oink!" - soon after picking from the lunchpail tree, escape by finding a door in a rock cavern and meeting Tik-Tok who battles the Wheelers and has the Leader guide them to the ruined Emerald City (so here's a good point: it refers slightly more closely to the "Ozma of Oz" book).

Jack repeatedly thinks a talking chicken and a "talking copper kettle" are wonders - "What will they think of next?"

Mombi sleeps without her head, as in the film ... YET, her body is able to talk regardless, calling her Wheelers.  Before that, Dorothy is in a rather dark and gruesome/gloomy panel that strongly resembles the MGM scene when the WWWitch got melted, complete with burning torch and arch wall.
Dorothy, the point of sneaking around is being QUIET.
And really, how is it possible to talk without a proper mouth

When the Gump falls apart, Dorothy is horribly drawn with her legs showing from her dress.  Upon landing on the Mountain, Billina has disappeared (Dorothy also asks why everything is upside down - ?)
What possible is there to see Dorothy's legs from under her dress?It's indecent!

There is no transformation of the Nome King from rock to near-human as he already looks man-like, but he actually walks (showing his skinny little feet - he's not even wearing the Ruby Slippers!) with his visitors, talking about his ornaments, the game he proposes and directly approaches a caged Mombi.

In this comic treatment, Jack Pumpkinhead is the first to take a whack at the Nome King's Guessing Game in the Ornament Room
Apparently Scarecrow can also participate in the game, because he says "Oz" and restores a character.

It turns out that Billina had been in Jack's head and was taking a nap after laying an egg.  She may have fallen into his head when they landed, without him knowing and didn't say anything that whole time.
Anyway, Billina's simple laying of an egg makes the Nome King's mountain crumble (it doesn't poison him) which allows Dorothy to regain the Ruby Slippers and make her wish.
This is possibly the ONLY time a visual reference is made of the Nome King's mountain having a final explosion (it can be heard in the 2-disk Soundtrack from Intrada / Creature Features and is also read in the Novelization). 

Scarecrow found out from his imprisonment about Ozma (his discovery is interrupted briefly by Mombi who's "mind is gone" when the mountain fell) and Dorothy frees her from the mirror.  Another big problem is how Ozma says for Dorothy to click her heels three times and remember "there's no place like home".
It is not explained or even implied that the Ruby Slippers are given to Ozma, where they belong or even if Dorothy is granted the possibility of returning to Oz in the future.
Dorothy wakes up in her room (and their house has already been completely rebuilt by now), surrounded by her family, Aunt Em saying how they found out about the cellar full of past victims.

While I can understand a lot of people like this comic, it is actually not that good as it seems. It suffers from lacklaster quality in art, poor storytelling and abridgements that leave out vital information or expositions.

Fortunately this was not the only comic treatment the movie got ... from April 7 to July 14, it received a weekly Sunday strip printing the year it was released!
Now those pages has yet to be seen more commercially, but hopefully there will be future installments of the "Walt Disney Treasury of Classic Tales" (vols 1 - 3 already exist) that includes these strips.

If that day comes, you can be sure I'll review it!

Still, this good film could certainly do with a nice NEW comic retelling, though . . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Thundertoad's Patchwork Girl of Oz

Jay and Sam start the 2018 episodes with a discussion of Thundertoad Animation's 2005 CGI animated adaptation of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. How faithful is it? How's the visuals? Where can you get a copy? All shall be answered!

 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)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Wizard of Oz

Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage production of the MGM Wizard of Oz finally made its debut in Australia at the beginning of 2018 (Capitol Theatre in Sydney until February 4, before moving onto Adelaide for April 3 and Melbourne May 15).

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Glinda's dress was WONDERFULLY Sparkling from afar!

This is the version of the 1939 take where Andrew Llyod Webber and Tim Rice added new extra songs to the story and a few other changes or revisions (possible SPOILERS):

* Dorothy sings "Nobody Understands Me" first,
* Miss Gulch arrives and leaves before Dorothy sings"Over the Rainbow",
* Professor Marvel sings "Wonders of the World" before the storm hits - it is at this moment Dorothy says she'll give Toto to Hunk to protect him from Miss Gulch
* During the Cyclone (an impressive, loud and thrilling scene) with the family and neighbours looking for Dorothy but also taking shelter from the storm (which was projected onto a screen on stage in front of the characters), the audience "rode" alongside Dorothy (who is not seen getting knocked unconscious by her window) as the house was lifted up into the funnel, up through the clouds with the Wicked Witch of the East flying past the window, as the house ascended into the atmosphere, before slowly heading back down "to earth" before falling into Munchkinland - Dorothy had apparently fallen out of her room and bed, landing on the ground outside her damaged house, with darkness surrounding her until Glinda appeared revealing a bright and colourful landscape ... and the sparkling footwear beside her.
* the Munchkins do wear Blue (and their clothing patterns do look like the blue willow dish), although they are not as funny or dolly or silly as the actual film's look, so characters like the Mayor, the Coroner the Lullaby League (three mothers each with a baby wrapped up) and the Lollipop Guild do not stand out from the crowd until their own musical cues
* in the Emerald City:
 - Dorothy blue-and-white gingham literally changes to GREEN-and-white on stage,
 - the Wicked Witch of the West does not appear to threaten the friends after the Tin man's rescue, nor does she skywrite "Surrender Dorothy" but does stand on a side balcony and uses a loudspeaker to warn the Citizens to spare themselves by surrendering Dorothy to her,
* the Wizard sings "Bring Me the Broomstick", which closes Act 1 (there is no "If I Were King of the Forest" number).

View from my seat

* Act 2 has the WWWitch's "Red Shoes Blues" open in the Haunted Forest
* While searching for the Witch, the signs are not seen, but Lion mentions them; and the "Jitterbug" number is not sung but it is referenced when the Friends feel stings and jolts of dancing before being attacked and (Dorothy is) captured by the flying Monkeys,
* "If We Only Had a Plan" is sung by the three guys in trying to save Dorothy,
* Dorothy reprises "Over the Rainbow" while being held captive, but says more than once "I will not cry",
* A funny scene has Toto find the Scarecrow, Tin (wood)man and Lion after escaping the Witch's castle:  Lion asks Toto where Dorothy is, but Tin man says Toto "can't talk, he's an animal!" to which Lion points to himself (an animal who CAN talk).
* Naturally, "Ding-Dong! Emerald City" is included here as a Triumphant number, although it is only the Winkie Soldiers to dance and sing alongside the friends ("Now she won't hit us with the broom any more!")
* After the Wizard's departure, Glinda reappears and sings "Already Home" to and with Dorothy (and others);  upon saying Good-byes, Dorothy says WHY she'll miss Scarecrow most of all, to console a distraught Tin man and Lion
* just like the tornado scene, the no-place-like-home scene has a moment of animation projected on to the stage screen, taking the audience through a swirling cloud funnel (though not as intense or stormy) and falling back into the Kansas landscape,
* Back in Kansas, reunited with her family (plus Professor Marvel) and left alone to rest - because she has been in a coma for the last few days and Miss Gulch has dropped the charge, a breeze reveals the Ruby Slippers in her closet, before a colourful bright Rainbow appears over her farm house's bedroom.

It was an Impressive Show:  there were screens and lights - both BRIGHT FLASHES and spotlights, use of darkness and even fog effects - projection, as well as animation, but most of all was the use of a revolving section on the stage, to allow for scene changes a rotation of views to help move the story along on a static platform.

In Kansas, the Lion's role was foreshadowed by having Zeke's jacket have a dangling cord on his back.  The farmhands also have a mischievous streak where they once shot Miss Gulch with a hose; when she mentioned this "nearly caught my death" to Em and Henry, Dorothy mutters "I wish you did".  Henry and Em also discuss how they took her in and brought her up.

One of the most interesting things I found while watching this version of the "Famous" adaptation is that, while it doesn't fully imply if it's a dream or really happening (so it very much resembles Disney's "Return to Oz" with the ending and storytelling), I did get the feeling that this had a slight psychological layer, as if Dorothy holding onto the Ruby Slippers against the Wicked Witch was an attempt of her subconscious trying to regain her confidence and become a better more reliant person for herself.  Even so, there is still the moment where Dorothy hears Aunt Em and Uncle Henry trying to call out to her when she is imprisoned by the Witch - that is a somewhat more clearer view of her guardians making contact with her unconscious, possibly comatose, self.

If I had a problem with the show, it was only that Glinda tendered to sound a bit like Karen Walker from "Will & Grace" (or the "Wicked" portrayal of 'Galinda').

Whatever view you choose to take while watching this Musical it is definitely worth a look!  And, on a personal note, much more preferable than "Wicked".
While there are many other stage versions of mGM's the Wizard of Oz, this one in particular is most interesting and refreshing, by adding in extra elements of the play and including a few details from the L Frank Baum book.

Having waited years and YEARS for this performance to finally come to Australia, it was worth the wait and I really enjoyed it!
So much so I wish I could see it again and again!  However, until the day this gets released onto DVD, I will just have to contend with the Program and songs and Youtube videos to relive these memories.