Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Friends of Dorothy: Why Gay Boys and Gay Men Love The Wizard of Oz

So why do gay men love The Wizard of Ozor more often than not, many different incarnations of Ozso much? Why is the MGM film a gay film classic and why are people dressed as Oz characters a common sight at Pride events?

Dee Michel has been researching this for a very long time. His first panel about it was at the Centennial convention in 2000, and shortly after he penned an article on the topic in The Baum Bugle. Now after sending a questionnaire out to over 100 gay/bisexual/pansexual male Oz fans ("gay" is used as an umbrella term, not strictly homosexuals), he presents a more nuanced and multifaceted approach in his new book.

Over the course of ten chapters and multiple appendixes, Michel details commonalities between many of the narratives he's heard. He talks about many of the ways gay fans have celebrated Oz from drag performances, naming shops and items after Oz, to starting companies named after Oz characters or even just writing Oz books or stories, or blogging.

Michel takes his research seriously and isn't salacious about how he presents his findings. He discusses the cultural connotations of Oz in its various incarnations and how readers and viewers respond to it, pointing to the relevance that gay male audiences latch onto. He also breaks down some gay Oz folklore and questions how relevant Oz will remain in the future.

Michel shares anecdotes based on the stories he collected. I was surprised at how many of these people I've met online or at OzCon International and how relatable I found many stories.

Michel writes in an accessible voice, taking the time to explain his points and how he's approaching the subject. He also offers generous footnotes to fully explain his points and sometimes even pointing out cases that prove generalizations are never the rule.

The book also features a lot of images, from illustrations from the Oz books to various photos of young fans to gay fans celebrating Oz as well as images displaying the cultural significance Oz has in relation to the LGBT community.

Overall, I'm impressed with the book and heartily recommend it.

Dee Michel will be having another panel at OzCon International this year and will also have a book signing where he will sell and sign copies of this book on August 10. If you're coming make sure you're signed up for Friday or the full convention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

OzCon International 2018: Check out our SCHEDULE!

There's a lot more to say about OzCon International this year!

First of all, our schedule is now online! You can download and view a handsome PDF designed by David Maxine, or just read the text below.

Our slate of featured folks at the convention grew with the addition of Kevin Wood of New Vision Music, who will be playing a set during our Friday afternoon reception. Also, Robert Welch, the grandson of MGM's special effects wizard A. Arnold "Buddy" Gillespie" will have a table in the dealer's room, which will feature a photo op with a real Oscar statuette.

Make sure you're registered at the OzCon website and hurry and get your hotel room booked!

If you are arriving at Ontario airport and staying at Kellogg West, if you give the hotel 48 hours notice, they will be able to pick you up in a shuttle free of charge! Call 800-593-7876 to arrange the shuttle.

Directions on how to get to the convention site are online on the Kellogg West website at:
OzCon 2018
August 10th- 12th

(Schedule is subject to possible changes)

Friday, August 10th
10:00 AM
Registration Opens—Baum’s Bazaar
Meet and reunite with fellow Oz fans through introductory games and activities.

10:45 AM
Welcome from the OzCon organizers—Emerald City Room

11:00 AM
Baum’s Bazaar—The Dealers Room opens for business. Add to your collection of Oz books and artifacts.

Oz Animation OdditieZ—Emerald City Room
Pop-culture historian Andy Mangels shares a selection of the quirkiest visits to Oz in cartoons, from The Super Friends to Futurama, Rugrats to The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo to Family Guy, Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse to Robot Chicken, and many more hidden gems!

Encountering The Tin Woodman of Oz—Tin Castle Room
Author J. L. Bell explores the themes of L. Frank Baum’s twelfth Oz novel, which forces Nick Chopper to confront himself over and over.

12:00 noon
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:00 PM
Gay Fans of Oz: The Open Secret—Emerald City Room
Dee Michel, author of the new book Friends of Dorothy, discusses the Oz books’ particular attraction for gay boys and men. What does that phenomenon say about Oz and about American society?

2:00 PM
Strong Women of Oz—Emerald City Room
L. Frank Baum is known for creating strong female characters, from Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma down to unnamed farmwives. Judy Bieber explores this side of the series.

David Montgomery: The First Man to Play Nick Chopper—Tin Castle Room
Portraying the Tin Woodman on Broadway made this comedian a star, but Montgomery died young, leaving no work in the movies or radio like his partner, Fred Stone. David Maxine, compiler of the Grammy-nominated Vintage Recordings from the 1903 Broadway Musical “The Wizard of Oz,” shares what we know about David Montgomery.

3:00 PM
The Woodsman—Emerald City Room
Watch the acclaimed off -Broadway adaptation of the Tin Woodman’s story on video, not yet commercially available. Afterwards, discuss the show with playwright-director James Ortiz.
(This session runs until 5:00.)

What’s Ahead for The Baum Bugle—Tin Castle Room
New editor Sarah Crotzer talks about her plans and hopes for the Oz Club’s flagship magazine of scholarship, criticism, and news. Bring your questions and ideas.

Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Dee Michel, author of Friends of Dorothy

4:00 PM
Finding The Lost Tales of Oz—Tin Castle Room
Author Gina Wickwar moderates a panel of contributors to this collection of new Oz short stories. What’s the state of Oz fanfi ction in our digital world? With more Thompson books starting to enter the public domain, what new opportunities lie ahead?

5:00 PM
Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Paul Dana and other contributors to The Lost Tales of Oz

Opening Reception for All OzCon Attendees—Ozma’s Courtyard
So join us for delightful glass of refreshment or purchase something Ozzier at the bar. Singer-songwriter Kevin Wood will be performing a set, including his original song “The Tinman.”

6:00 PM
Dinner Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

Friday Evening Program
Emerald City Room

7:30 PM
Opening Remarks

7:45 PM
Journey Back to Oz: Filmation’s Animated Oz Feature
Andy Mangels, coauthor of Creating the Filmation Generation and producer of the Journey Back to Oz DVD release, discusses the fi rst ever animated Oz feature film. Find out how this project evolved in its decade of development and creation, and how the all-star cast—including Liza Minnelli and Margaret Hamilton—were brought on board. Learn behind-the-scenes secrets of one of the most famous Oz fi lms ever created!

8:30 PM
100 Years Full Circle: L. Frank Baum, Todrick Hall, and an Emotionally Intelligent Tin Woodman
Dina Schiff Massachi briefly shows the commonalities between L. Frank Baum’s Tin Woodman depiction and Todrick Hall’s, with a focus on how male emotional intelligence and stereotypes play into both.

8:45 PM
Robert Payes: Son of a Royal Historian
Robert Payes is interviewed by Eric Shanower and David Maxine about his mother Rachel Cosgrove and her Oz writings.

9:15 PM

9:30 PM
Puppetry: The CGI of the Stage
The Woodsman’s James Ortiz explains how he uses puppetry to bring fantastic characters and creatures to life before the eyes of a live audience.

10:00 PM
The Tin Woodman of Oz: Ku-Klip’s Workshop
A hilarious reader’s theater adaptation of an episode from the Baum book we’re celebrating.
Narrator: Dina Schiff Massachi
The Tin Woodman: Anil Tambwekar
Polychrome/Scarecrow: Erica Olivera
Nick Chopper/Captain Fyter: Colin Ayres
Woot: Nathan DeHoff
Ku-Klip: Paul Dana

10:30 PM
Closing Statements
Join us for a drink at the OzCon after-party (complete with cash bar).

Saturday, August 11th

8:30 AM
Registration Opens—Baum’s Bazaar

9:00 AM
Welcome to all from the OzCon organizers—Emerald City Room

Baum’s Bazaar—The Dealers Room opens for business. Discover Oz books new and old. Add to your collection of ornaments and artifacts. Have your photo taken with a real Oscar statuette.

9:30 AM
Costume Contest—Emerald City Room
Admire and applaud this year’s Ozzy outfits and vote for your favorites. Prizes awarded to the best children’s, adult, and group costumes.

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10:30 AM
Assembling the Tin Man—Tin Castle Room
Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of “The Wizard of Oz,” looks back on MGM’s twisting path to casting the Tin Man, and how Jack Haley made the part his own.

Collectors’ Show and Tell—Yookoohoo Lounge
Freddy Fogarty hosts a gathering of Oz collectors sharing their unusual fi nds and favorites. Bring your discoveries and questions.

Quiz Time!—Baum’s Bazaar
Test your knowledge of Ozzy trivia by taking one of the annual quizzes. There are separate quizzes, and prizes, for novices, fans of the movie, and trivia masters.

11:30 AM
Auction Preview—Emerald City Room
Check out all the Oz artifacts and collectibles to be sold this afternoon. Sign up for a bidder’s number and start participating in the silent auction.

Digging into Rachel Cosgrove Payes’s Work—Baum’s Bazaar
Enjoy an in-depth conversation about the author of The Hidden Valley of Oz and many other books in different genres between her son Robert Payes and expert collectors David Maxine and Eric Shanower.

12:30 PM
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:30 PM
OzCon Auction—Emerald City Room
Join in the bidding for Oz collectibles of all kinds! Conventions are a great place to find bargains and never-before-seen items to round out your collection. Proceeds benefit the International Wizard of Oz Club. (The auction will last until 4:30.)

Heart over Head: Evolving Views on Male Emotional Intelligence and the Tin Woodman—Tin Castle Room
Dina Schiff Massachi provides an overview of how male emotional intelligence, and acceptance or rejection of stereotypes, play into the character of the Tin Woodman by looking at the character as he’s changed over time.

Signing in the Dealers’ Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Barry Bregman, compiler of Heart of the Tin Man, and Christianna Rickard, author of A Legend in Straw.

2:30 PM
MGM’s Special Effects Magic—Tin Castle Room
Robert A. Welch, co-editor of The Wizard of MGM, reveals how his grandfather A. Arnold “Buddy” Gillespie and his special-effects department brought all the magic of Oz to movie screens in 1939.

Signing in the Dealers’ Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Eric Shanower, Eisner-winning comics creator, illustrator, and author; and singer-songwriter Kevin Wood.

3:30 PM
Memories of Jack Haley—Tin Castle Room
Barry Bregman talks about growing up with his grandfather, the vaudeville and Hollywood trouper who was best known as the Tin Man in the MGM movie, and compiling Heart of the Tin Man: The Collected Writings of Jack Haley.

Signing in the Dealers Room—Baum’s Bazaar
Aljean Harmetz, author of The Making of “The Wizard of Oz”

4:30 PM
Shaping the Tin Woodman—Emerald City Room
Even John R. Neill couldn’t decide on one shape for the Tin Woodman’s head. Artist and collector Eric Shanower explores how illustrators across the decades and around the world have drawn the tin man.

Lessons from Ray Bolger—Tin Castle Room
Christianna Rickard, author of A Legend in Straw: The Spirit of My Uncle Ray Bolger, shares stories about how the famous dancer provided the world with an example of harmony and compassion.

Baum’s Bazaar
Last hour to shop in the Dealers Room!

Auction Settlement—Yookoohoo Lounge
Pay for the items you bought in the Oz Club auction.

6:00 PM
OzCon Saturday Royal Banquet—Emerald Hillside Terrace
Join us on the fabulous shaded Emerald Hillside Terrace for a served meal. It is OzCon tradition that we try to dress up a bit for the Saturday evening dinner. During the meal, the winners of the Treasure Hunt, the Quizzes and the costume contest will be announced as well as the winners of the Winkie Award, the Oz Club Research Table, and the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options fl yer on
the registration desk or in your tote bag.

Saturday Evening Program
Emerald City Room

7:30 PM
Putting the Fun in Fundraising
In which we enrich the OzCon Programming Fund.

7:45 PM
It’s the Baum!
The return of the OzCon game show sensation! Team Chopper and Team Fyter clash as players help their teammates guess Oz-related celebrity names.

8:15 PM
Dear Sarah, Dear Nick: The Long-Distance Friendship of Oz
A long time ago, a ten-year-old in England wrote to a girl in Tennessee, c/o the Oz Pen Pal Association. Twenty-five years later, this unusual friendship is still going strong, based on a shared love of Oz books and other stories—and a nice knock-down argument or two! Since January 2016, these online pals have been reading and discussing the Oz books on their blog, Burzee, to a warm response. They will talk about how a long-distance friendship can endure across the miles and inspire new creative projects in the 21st century.

8:45 PM
A Stroll Through Baum’s Hollywood
Hollywood historian Bill Graff turns back the clock and reveals the Hollywood that L. Frank Baum knew.

9:00 PM

9:15 PM
OzCon 2019
Plans are already underway for the next convention! Meet next year’s Chairman and Vice Chair and listen to some of the early plans.

9:30 PM
MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: Fondly Remembered
Journalist and historian Aljean Harmetz, Barry Bregman (grandson of Jack Haley), Christianna Rickard (niece of Ray Bolger), and Robert A. Welch (grandson of MGM’s Oscar-winning special-effects wizard) engage in a panel discussing the classic film and their personal ties to it.

10:15 PM
MGM’s The Wizard of Oz: A Tribute
Chairman Jay Davis presents a new fan-made music video celebrating the film, closing the program for the evening.
Join us afterward for a drink and Ozzy fellowship at the after-party (complete with a cash bar).

Sunday, August 12th

10:00 AM
Journey Back to Oz—Emerald City Room
Animation historian and DVD producer Andy Mangels provides a special introduction to the 1972 animated movie that featured the voices of Liza Minnelli, Margaret Hamilton, Ethel Merman, Paul Lynde, and other stars. This Filmation cartoon was the fi rst follow-up to the beloved MGM movie—how well did it do? Stay after for a brief Q&A with Mangels about the making of the film and its legacy. (This session runs until noon.)

Marriages in Oz—Tin Castle Room
From the Swynes to the Yoops, The Tin Woodman of Oz portrays couples of many kinds. Baum biographer Angelica Carpenter leads a panel discussion of how the Oz books treat the institution of marriage.

11:00 AM
Contradictions in Oz—Tin Castle Room
Oz novelist and researcher Robin Hess presents a theory about the consistency of Baum’s Oz books certain to stimulate the brains and hearts of Oz fans.

12:00 noon
Lunch Break—Dining Rooms
Join us in the dining rooms for a catered meal.
Advance registration required. If you aren’t able to join us, refer to the dining options flyer on the registration desk or in your tote bag.

1:00 PM
Upcoming Oz Projects—Emerald City Room
A new biography of Matilda Joslyn Gage—Spanish editions of Baum’s books with new Shanower cover art—even a movie of a certain Broadway musical? Freddy Fogarty welcomes guests with news about these projects and more to look for.

Continuity and Consistency in Oz—Tin Castle Room
A panel of Oz fans and scholars responds to the thoughts that Robin Hess shared in his “Contradictions in Oz” presentation. Join in this discussion moderated by Anil Tambwekar about what makes the Oz books real to you.

2:00 PM
Preview and Farewell—Emerald City Room
Hear about plans for OzCon 2019, get involved, and say goodbye to old and new Ozzy friends.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Yookoohoos of Oz by Paul Dana

 Two reviews in one day?

Look, I had a really good weekend.

Yookoohoos of Oz is the third Oz book by Paul Dana, who's now kind of up there as a good friend. That might make me biased, but for what it's worth, I don't read poorly written books very quickly.

Paul's Oz books tend to focus around Ojo and Button-Bright, who L. Frank Baum established as friends in The Lost Princess of Oz. His books have some major developments for the pair, so it's kind of hard to talk about one of the ones after the first without touching on spoilers. The series also builds on the lore of Yookoohoos, the transformation practitioners we first met in The Tin Woodman of Oz and again in Glinda of Oz.

Just to catch up, the first two books are The Law of Oz and Other Stories and The Magic Umbrella of Oz.

Let's try a spoiler-free review: a gathering of Yookoohoos goes completely awry when a surprising new Yookoohoo arrives with a special present. It's up to Ojo, Button-Bright, Grandma Natch and some of their new friends in a mysterious magical adventure.

There really isn't a major villain in the book, and major Oz characters like just about the entire cast of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz don't even appear. Still, Paul writes the story at a good pace and clearly isn't tired of the characters he's invested in during his previous stories. Far more interesting is that the book is written from the first person view of Ojo, instead of from the third person as most Oz books are. While it's a change, it's not unwelcome.

The book is illustrated by Vincent Myrand, who does some dynamic yet somehow also dream-like illustrations that suit Oz so well.

There's a few ways to get a copy. There's a deluxe hardcover edition with some color illustrations, a standard hardcover without color illustrations and also a paperback.

In addition, you can pick up a copy at OzCon International and have Paul sign it right there. Or you can buy a copy ahead of time and he'll happily sign it. He'll also lead a bit of programming discussing Yookoohoos. So, you could just get a book online and read it, or you can come to OzCon, get an autographed copy and the whole Paul Dana experience (patent pending).

Jay watched more Lost in Oz!

Well, Amazon Prime's Lost in Oz Season 1, Part 2 has landed!

I'm not entirely sure why it's considered Part 2 of Season 1 rather than simply Season 2. It does pick up right where the first batch of 13 episodes left off, and has its own brand new story arc that is completed in another 13 episodes.

This time around, Dorothy, Toto and the Scarecrow are stranded in Dorothy's house in the Deadly Desert. Thanks to a magic flying "carpet," they are able to leave the house and try to make their way back to Oz. However, they wind up in the Nome Kingdom, where they meet Roquat, the spoiled young king of the Nomes who has a penchant for turning whoever displeases him into an ornament.

Luckily, Dorothy is able to befriend Roquat and with him, they escape the Nome Kingdom. However, General Guph decides to move in and take over as King of the Nomes and makes plans to invade and take over Oz!

There's a lot going on in this batch of episodes, and I watched it all in a space of 36 hours. I don't want to spoil much as there's a number of twists and turns. I'll tell you that Dorothy's mother does play a big part in this season, and West gets to develop more. The ending is nicely set up to either conclude the show or continue on later.

The show doesn't talk down to kids, it's exciting, it's funny without being crass. It's not a perfect continuation of the Oz Baum wrote about, but when it's this good, I can let that slide. This is a show for kids, families, and adults. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Steam Engines of Oz: The Movie

The Steam Engines of Oz began as a comic book series from Arcana Studios in 2013. Bolstered by a Kickstarter, it ran for three issues (plus a Free Comic Book Day issue), then got a second volume of another three issues, subtitled The Geared Leviathan.

The first volume told of an Oz in the future where the Tin Man rules the Emerald City under an iron grip. Victoria—a mechanic for the machines in the Emerald City—helps free some prisoners and they sneak out to the Munchkin Country to discover how the rest of Oz is coping with the Tin Man's rule and what can be done about it. Perhaps a Wizard can give them the answers they seek.

For what it was, the comics were very visually lush. I can't say I was crazy about the story, but it at least had its own logic and was complete.

So, here we are in 2018 and the first volume is now adapted into an animated movie available on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital services. And how is it?

Well, for plot adaptation, I guess it's great because it's an extremely faithful adaptation of the comic. Dialogue and plot beats are lifted directly from it. It's not quite a 1:1 translation, but it's close.

The voice cast does a good job. It's led by Julianne Hough as Locasta, Ron Perlman as Magnus (the Cowardly Lion's son) and William Shatner as the Wizard. There aren't further notable names in the cast, but no one does a bad job.

The animation, though, is where it gets ugly. Check out the trailer.

As you can see, the visuals are a far cry from the comic's look. The characters are clearly based on the look from the comics, but simplified to be easier to animate. Scenery looks sparse. The opening scene with Victoria where she fixes a pipe goes from a fantastic looking machine in the comic to a pipe along the wall.

The look of the human/humanoid figures is fine, but when we get to the lions, it's weird. They have human bodies and lion faces with hardly any hair. It's more likely these were combined from pre-existing elements rather than designed from the ground up. A lot of the visual appeal of the comic is lost here.

Some of the action is not so great, holding too long on shots of characters fighting, including a bit where the Tin Man jumps into the air and stays there for several seconds before Magnus jumps up and hits him. So what should be dynamic isn't. Common low-budget CG animation "stiffness" pops up.

Then there's a couple shots with a pretty big animation error. To add shadows, a lot of CG animation goes for ambient shadows around their feet that isn't particularly noticeable and doesn't need to be altered very much. However, in these two shots, we have the opposite of a shadow...

When the characters walk across here, their shadows become a glow. And while this is a small studio's effort, surely someone should have picked that out before it got into the final edit and onto the Blu-Ray and DVD copies, and probably the digital version as well.

Finally, as for references to MGM, the movie quotes two lines directly from that film, "I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" and "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others," which it even displays as text and credits to L. Frank Baum. Hardly! Both of these lines were original to the film!

The DVD and Blu-Ray contain English subtitles and the video and quality are great. There are absolutely no bonus features.

My recommendation is that if you're an Oz fan who tends to pick up every version of Oz for film, TV and internet regardless of quality is to go ahead and pick up the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. It's going for about $13 online right now. I don't think it'll go up in price as it gets more scarce, but that's pretty cheap. You might hold out for cheaper, though. If you prefer to just go digital, search your preferred digital video vendor as it's not a Movies Anywhere title. If you want to try it for yourself, give it some time, and maybe it'll pop up on Netflix, Hulu or some such service.

If you're just interested in the story, my big suggestion would be to get the original comic instead. The complete first volume is only $6 whether you buy the collected edition or the individual issues on Comixology. In print, there's a hardcover collecting both volumes and trade paperbacks of each volume.