Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What have you learned from L. Frank Baum?

So, today marks L. Frank Baum's birthday. If by some miracle he was still with us, he'd be 162.

To many people around the world, Baum is a little-noticed credit as they watch some production based on or inspired by his works. A slightly more knowledgeable person may say he wrote The Wizard of Oz or the Oz books.

As for me, I can say L. Frank Baum changed my life, even though he died sixty seven years before I was born.

Baum wrote for a couple reasons: one was of course to provide income for himself and his family, the other was to tell a good story. Even at Baum's worst, he was still very entertaining. And he tried many ways to tell his stories, prose, poetry, songs, stage, and even film. (I'm still surprised that he never attempted to record his voice.)

Baum let his imagination run free in his stories, and in his fantasies, he created a world in which people and creatures of all types live alongside each other. In his pseudonymous works, he created daring adventures and tales of civilian life featuring characters who were at least amusing.

So what do we take away from Baum?

If you're creative, create what you want. Find the right avenue, but know that sometimes the audience isn't there for it yet. But they'll never find it it you don't get it out.

If it wasn't for Baum's works, I wouldn't have met a lot of my current friends. The friends who I'm myself with and don't have to lie to. Friends from across the country and around the world. Now I'm chairing a convention celebrating his legacy that a lot of them are coming to.

Thank you, L. Frank Baum. Thank you.

What are your thoughts about how L. Frank Baum affected you? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

The Royal Podcast of Oz: 100 Years of the Tin Woodman of Oz

To celebrate L. Frank Baum's birthday, the Royal Podcast of Oz presents an excerpt from The Tin Woodman of Oz, celebrating its centennial this year, read by Phil Chenevert.

You can download Phil's complete reading of The Tin Woodman of Oz for free from Librivox.org.

 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.

Register for OzCon International today!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz - OzCon International: James Ortiz

OzCon International Chairman Jay Davis chats with Guest of Honor James Ortiz. Find out why James created the play The Woodsman and what he's looking forward to at OzCon!

 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.

Register for OzCon International today!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Woodsman

When it was announced that I would be chairing OzCon 2018, I knew I wanted to reach out to one potential guest of honor in particular: James Ortiz.

James is the co-creator of the one-act play The Woodsman, a somewhat surreal experience that retells the story of how Nick Chopper came to be the Tin Woodman, based on the account in The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I had to admit, I wasn't familiar with The Woodsman, but I knew about it thanks to editing the Oz and Ends column for The Baum Bugle. A particular contributor sent me several updates about the show, so many that I had to remind him that we couldn't possibly use them all. Just that the show was opening, how long it'd be running, and a broadcast of the recording airing and appearing on BroadwayHD as an exclusive.

Well, now I have seen it. And everything positive I'd heard about the show was true. The show uses mainly music, visuals and human-produced sound effects to tell the story, the most dialogue being in an opening monologue to set the stage of this world. The characters of the Tin Woodman, the Wicked Witch and the animals of Oz are created through puppets, animated by actors onstage dressed as the Munchkins. Being a theatrical production, the audience is to use their imagination to fill in the gaps and pretend those people aren't there.

The show might be considered by some to be dark with the very creepy Wicked Witch and the original story of a man being dismembered being presented faithfully. Yet there's a spirit of whimsy present in the proceedings that feels right for Oz.

Well, luckily for OzCon, James did agree to attend, and he will be talking about some of the creation of the play in addition to screening a video recording of it. So, you can actually see it and learn more about it at OzCon this year if you register for it.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

New OzCon announcements!

There has been some shakeups with OzCon, and we're excited to tell you about it.

First of all, if you wanted to go to OzCon, but can only attend Friday or Saturday instead of the whole weekend, you're in luck! Single day registrations are now available! Check the bottom of the registration page at the OzCon website.

Another thing is we have a new special guest lineup: James Ortiz of The Woodsman, Journey Back to Oz expert Andy Mangels, Royal Historian Rachel Cosgrove Payes' son Robert Payes, and Aljean Harmetz of The Making of the Wizard of Oz are all still coming, but now they're joined by two guests with special connections to MGM's The Wizard of Oz: Barry Bregman, grandson of Tin Man Jack Haley, and Christianna Rickard, niece of Scarecrow Ray Bolger.

Barry is a music producer who helped compile The Heart of the Tin Man: The Collected Writings of Jack Haley, and Christianna is the author of A Legend in Straw: The Spirit of my Uncle Ray Bolger.

There should be opportunities for you to not only purchase copies at OzCon, but get them signed as well, and that's just two of the people who'll be doing signings! More announcements are to follow soon! Keep posted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Read-Along with Return to Oz

We now come to the next section in seeing how "Return to Oz" is adapted from film (back) to book for merchandise tie-in.   Here we have a Read-Along, whether it was with records or tape cassettes.

This is not the only Read-Along treatment, however, considering the scarcity of that other one, I may devote a post to that.  But for for let's focus on this one.

Like many other books that told the film's story, these pages were a condensed version using photographs instead of making new illustrations - which isn't a bad thing because there are some rarely seen images here.

The books are both square shaped with the Tape Cassette being not as wide as the Record, allowing the pictures inside to have a bit more imagery shown and seen on the furthest edge of the pages.
And yes, it's possible the covers have a slightly different tint to their colouring, depending on how they were printed (or exposed to conditions on shelf).

The voices, including a Narrator, are performed by a small cast of British-sounding sound-alikes, the best being a girl who sounds a lot like Fairuza Balk!

This is actually a good and nice short adaptation of the film, but with subtle changes to the context that many people wouldn't notice:
* Billina is described as Dorothy's pet
* Aunt Em does mention taking Dorothy to see a doctor, but Doctor Worley is not mentioned by name or even actually acknowledged (but he is in a photo).  It is Nurse Wilson who gets the attention, who straps Dorothy to a table and "a huge electric machine" - the lightning allows a blonde girl to suddenly free Dorothy and escape with her into the storm.
* No mention of finding the old farmhouse (or a lunch-pail tree, but it its pick is seen in photo), just the broken yellow brick road which leads to the ruined Emerald City - there Dorothy encounters the Wheelers, the Head saying how "the Nome King rules now" and that they should take Dorothy to Mombi because "you know of the Scarecrow" - Dorothy escapes them.
* Tik-Tok is still under His Majesty the Scarecrow's instructions to wait for Dorothy, he somehow knows of Princess Mombi and takes Dorothy to her, without fighting the Wheelers (this moment uses an image of the two characters underground, not in the hidden chamber).  Tik-Tok also knows that the Nome King hates chickens and hides Billina in Jack's head when they arrive on the Mountain later.
* While it is established that the Nome King has the Ruby Slippers ("Things have changed since you were last here, Dorothy.  Did you know you left something behind?"), there is nothing about his transformation - he apparently only offers the game for DOROTHY to play, but if she guesses wrong then she and her friends will be turned into ornaments just like the Scarecrow.
Naturally, Dorothy makes a lucky guess "The pincushion! It's green - like the Emerald City!"
* Oddly, despite the image of a GIANT Mountainous Nome King, he is written to "burst angrily through the door" - there is no mention of Mombi following Dorothy to warn him, being caged or any of her demise/punishment being mentioned.  Only the King's demise is retained and Dorothy reclaiming the Ruby Slippers to make her wishes (which is returning to the Emerald City and "all life to be returned to this land" separately).
* Scarecrow suggests Dorothy to be Queen, which she wants to but can't and wishes, allowing the blonde girl to step out from the glass as Ozma, long lost queen of Oz (again, Tik-Tok knows!).
* Ozma is on the throne (only the image shows her wearing the Ruby Slippers - no confirmation in text) and that allows Dorothy to say good-bye promising to never forget her friends, as a mist carries her back to Aunt Em, worried that Dorothy had drowned but is glad to be safe and welcomes her back, saying she will "never worry about your dreams again!"

So here is an actually decent short retelling of the film, even if it loses some vital key details with some minor bad guys and gives Tik-Tok slightly more of a role.

As good as it is having a book that includes rare photographs from the film, I do now wonder what it would be like if it had been given nice new illustrated paintings, like the Disneyland Records?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Chatting With Walter Krueger

Jay chats with fellow Oz fan and collector Walter Krueger!

 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)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oz Updates

It might be mid to late March, but here we go.

Just yesterday, I finally renewed my membership for The International Wizard of Oz Club. I know we have a picture on the side advertising the Club (and when the blog gets linked to on Facebook, Facebook likes to use it as the thumbnail), but they deserve some extra talk.

The International Wizard of Oz Club has been the main assemblage for Oz fans since 1957. In The Baum Bugle (the club's journal released three times yearly), research about Oz, Baum, etc. not only advanced but was out there for other fans to read and use as a basis for their own research. Today, in addition to research, The Baum Bugle prints interviews of people who create new Oz material and reviews of books and other ways Oz has been presented. For fans of the MGM film The Wizard of Oz, there is often new or rarely seen material about the film.

The Club also promotes interactivity among fans, including at museum exhibits and conventions. It's under their auspices that Oziana was created, the magazine containing some of the earliest fan-created Oz stories and artwork. Oziana continues to this day and is available for all to purchase through its print on demand publisher at Lulu.com.

So, you know, if you're an Oz fan, join the International Wizard of Oz Club!

(And if you don't keep your membership up to date, don't complain when you miss an issue of The Baum Bugle. Due to the limited print run, it's difficult to get previous issues to members when they join after those have been printed.)

Another thing is get yourself going to OzCon International this year! Colin and I are working hard to make it a great time for Oz fans. We're in a great location at Kellogg West on the Cal-Poly campus in Pomona, California on August 10-12.
We're bringing in all the Oz Con favorites:
  • Quizzes - There are four different quizzes for Oz fans. One of them is about the MGM film and general Oz pop culture. The other three are for fans of the books: the junior quiz focuses specifically on the Baum book of the year, in this case, The Tin Woodman of Oz; the standard quiz, covering L. Frank Baum's fourteen novels; and the fiendishly difficult Master's quiz, based on the Famous Forty Oz books. Prizes are awarded for this one.
  • Show and Tell - Bring a special Oz treasure from your collection: a book, a one of a kind piece of memorabilia, something rare, or just something that means something special to you. You can show it off and share why it matters. It's a very open forum program.
  • Costume Contest - Also fondly known as the Masquerade, attendees get into costume (and often into character) as favorite or even—sometimes—original Oz characters. Prizes are awarded for multiple categories: best child's costume, best adult's costume, best group costume, best theme costume.
  • Live Presentations - This will be our fifth year with multi track programming to give attendees more options. Special guests and attendees present talks and panels discussing many different aspects of Oz.
  • Auction - This auction is presented by the International Wizard of Oz Club and offers many highly collectible items from early edition books to rare items. There is both a live auction and a silent auction.
  • In addition, there's the presentation of the Winkie Award and as the board of the International Wizard of Oz Club will be joining us, we will also see the presentation of the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award. In addition, the Club will be presenting awards for the contests. (See below!)
  • Special Guests - Each year we invite notable people with a connection to Oz or fans. This year, our current lineup consists of James Ortiz, the co-creator of the off-Broadway hit The Woodsman; comics writer and historian Andy Mangels; son of The Hidden Valley of Oz author Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Robert Payes; The Making of the Wizard of Oz author Aljean Harmetz will be attending, as will fandom extraordinaries John and Bjo Trimble. We are looking into additional special guests. Other fans of note attending include Sarah Hadley and Nick Campbell, the pair behind the Burzee blog as well as Sarah taking over as editor in chief of The Baum Bugle. Also coming is Dina Schiff Massachi from UNC Charlotte, who will be speaking about various incarnations of the Tin Woodman.
In addition to all the regular Oz Con fun, since Pomona is so close, Oz con attendees are being invited to the spend the day after the convention at Disneyland. It's noted that this is not an official part of the convention, but a separate event.

There is early talk of the day after Disneyland of fans going to some sites of interest to Oz fans. Details on that are pending.

So, go ahead, register for OzCon, book your hotel room, plan your days and make it one pretty awesome summer vacation!

Finally, the International Wizard of Oz Club is sponsoring a few contests with cash prizes! As mentioned above, awards will be presented at OzCon, but it is not required to attend or even be a member of the Club to enter or win.

There are three categories for the contest: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Art. Fiction covers short stories (maximum of 10,000 words), poetry and drama scripts about Oz. I managed to win this one five years ago with The Way of a Lion. Non-fiction is a written piece about Oz. It could be you writing about your own experiences with Oz, or it could be about a specific piece of Oz lore or the Oz phenomenon of your interest. These must be submitted by the deadline (June 15 for hard copy, July 1 for digital) to be eligible. All work must be original and not published before OzCon.

Art is different and a copy of it must be sent to the convention. If you're sending the original piece, you must arrange for it to be returned if you want it back. This could be a painting, a pencil drawing, a watercolor or colored pencil piece, a sculpture, an original doll or plush figure, one year a short original animated video playing on a loop was submitted. The deadline for submitting these is July 15.

For details on submitting pieces, please refer to the rules.

So, between OzCon and the contests, Oz fans could win big this summer! This could very well be a summer for the books!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Jane Albright Tours The Toys of Oz

International Wizard of Oz Club president Jane Albright shared this video online recently. From January 14 to August 20, 2017, Kansas City's National Museum of Toys and Miniatures featured the exhibit Over the Rainbow: Toys from the Land of Oz.

The exhibit mainly featured merchandise and occasional costumes and props. Not everything in the exhibit is exactly a toy, but there's plenty.

Jane provided many pieces seen in the exhibit and contacted other collectors who loaned various pieces for it, in many cases completing collections of rare merchandise.

In this video—initially filmed for Facebook Live, so excuse the portrait mode video—Jane tours the exhibit on its last day and explains what the pieces are. If you couldn't make it to the exhibit, this is a nice alternative. If you did, here's a way to relive it. And the real highlight is Jane's clear and informative narration.

In the video description, Jane provides a list of the collectors who loaned their pieces to the exhibit. I have copied it below:

Jane Albright
Robert Baum
Bill Beem
Dianne Breitenstein
Bill Campbell
Currie Corbin
Scott Cummings
Valerie Dunaway
Billy Ferguson
Atticus Gannaway
Micheal Gessel
Peter Hanff
Edith Hollister
David Kelleher
Walter Krueger
John Masson
Gita Morena
The Oz Museum
Richard Rutter
Aaron Schultz
Bill Thompson
Jan Vanderwall
Chris Warkala

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 . . .