Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Adventure of Santa Boy

Through a happy set of circumstances, I was able to get my hands on a copy of the elusive Japanese anime series, Shonen Santa no Daibouken, or, literally translated (according to Google), The Adventure of Santa Boy. This is a twenty-four episode adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, and I found it to be utterly charming. I'd love to see a subtitled version so that I can figure out exactly what's going on, but thanks to knowing the book I got the general idea. It opens with Claus as a boy in Burzee, but we do get some flashbacks throughout the series of him as a baby and how he was adopted by Necile. But this being a series, portions of the story were greatly expanded. Most of the animals appear to be immortal, as they're still there in the end when Santa looks more like how we expect to see him today. Blinkie the cat shows up much earlier, and he and Claus can talk to each other. However, none of the other mortals can understand what Blinkie is saying. Glossie and Flossie the reindeer also are there from the start, and they make for an amusing double act. Several other animals who weren't in the book also appear throughout the series. One of the biggest deviations, however, is the character of Mari, who appears to be a yellow ryl. She is pretty much the co-lead character, especially once Claus leaves Burzee and strikes out on his own. (Claus, by the way, is still a boy throughout the series, until the very end. He is never shown making or delivering toys as a young man, as he was in the book.) Mari is a great character, with lots of enthusiasm and a bit of a temper and probably a crush on Claus. She helps Claus on many of his adventures, and colors the toys. The battle with the Awgwas has been expanded, crossing over several episodes, and it appears to feature several different levels of bad guys, all of whom are very Japanese.

I hope someone can figure out a way that this can get wider distribution, with English subtitles or dubbing. I doubt it would ever become a hit, but I could see a small but devoted following popping up around this show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oz in Jeopardy!

Another Oz clue on a recent episode of Jeopardy!, plus one qu-Oz-i-related clue. Going back to last Thursday's episode, one of the categories in the Jeopardy! round was A Killee's Heels, about the feet of characters who were killed in movies. (Why, no, this category doesn't come up very often, why do you ask?) The $400 clue proved to be:

Katie, the challenger in the middle, rang in first and responded, "Who is the Wicked Witch?" Alex asked, "Which one?" and Katie clarified her response with, "Who is the Wicked Witch of the East?"

After the break, the first category in the Double Jeopardy! round was Country Music Movers & Shakers, which had this clue for $1200:

This time it was Megan, the challenger on the right and a big country music fan, who rang in first, and she said, "Who is Carrie Underwood?" That may not sound very Ozzy, but have you seen the video for "Blown Away" recently? Here, let me remind you:
In the end, Katie won the game. Poor Jerome, the defending champion, didn't stand a chance against those two.

Jeopardy! is running its annual Teen Tournament right now, and then that's it for the season, as it takes a few weeks off to show some reruns. This could, therefore, be the last Oz clue of the year. But it shows up often enough, you never know!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Today's Oz Comic Redux

Hey, remember the other day when I told you about the cartoon in The New Yorker with no caption, and you could send one in? Well, they've now narrowed it down to three finalists, and you can go and vote! Take a look right here, but I suspect you don't have much time to do so.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No Lions, No Tigers, Just Bears!

Over at his blog, Bully the Little Stuffed Bull is celebrating Bear Attack Month. And sure enough, he found not one, but two bear attacks in Oz comics. Go take a look!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Latest Oz Short Story

Yes, it's another one from the Oz Reimagined anthology, this one "A Meeting in Oz" by Jeffrey Ford. Dorothy, all grown up and working in a Kansas City shoe store, finds the silver shoes in the back room. Well, what do you think she did with them? Once she gets to Oz, she finds a lot has changed. It turns out that she lived in Oz for many years before returning to Kansas, and when she find the Wizard, he explains how she was so much more an integrated part of the country than anyone imagined at the time. Her leaving was the catalyst that started many things to change, and how events in her life in Kansas continued to affect Oz. This is another story of an old, embittered Dorothy never quite being right or happy after her adventures in Oz, but there are some interesting little twists here. I appreciate all of the nods to the later books, such as Jack Pumpkinhead, Ozma, and Aunt Em coming to Oz to see her. It's too bad that this one is such a downer.

There is only one story left in this collection, but I doubt I'll get to it next weekend as I have a big event going on. After I'm done with this collection, I know of one other short story collection that I don't have, and I have another that I want to reread. Then there's always online fanfiction...

Friday, July 18, 2014

The (Second) Coming of the Queen

Way back in 1993, a little book called Queen Ann in Oz came out. The writers were my long-time Oz friend and second mom, Karyl Carlson, and Karyl's Ozzy bonus fifth son, me. It did well, it had its fans, but it went out of print a few years ago. Karyl and I got the rights back, and then we were approached by a new outfit, The Royal Publisher of Oz about putting out a new edition. Karyl and I jumped at the chance, and we've been working hard the last few months to not only whip it into shape, but also provide some extra material. Karyl had already been at work on a sequel novella, which is in the new edition, and we also uncovered the script for a little skit, "Another Adventure with Ann", which we performed at the 1988 Winkie Convention. Our editor and publisher, Joe Bongiorno, even got the original illustrators, WIlliam Campbell and Irwin Terry, to create new illustrations. Well, guess what? The new, expanded second edition of Queen Ann in Oz is now available for you to buy at Lulu.com. You can buy it in a standard paperback edition or a deluxe hardcover edition with color plates.

But if you're going to be at the Winkie Convention — which starts only three weeks from today! — I would advise you not to get it yet. Karyl and I will be selling copies at the convention, and of course we'll autograph them. But the best part is that William and Irwin will also be there, and they can autograph books, too. This will actually be the first time Karyl and I have met them, at least in person, and we're doing a four-headed presentation during the convention. So get a fresh copy at the convention, then have four people deface it. (Of course, if you do decide to buy a copy ahead of time, or have the earlier edition, and bring it to the convention, we'll sign that, too.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Latest Oz Comic

Not only is Fables #141 my latest Oz comic book read, it will likely be the last for a while, since there were no other Oz comics in this month's shipment. Fortunately, I can say that this month, Fables is an Oz comic, as the 13th Floor are having a meeting, to discuss coming events and possibly recruit new members. The 13th Floor is a council of good magic workers in Fabletown, and they do their best to keep things working. Their current leader is Ozma, so naturally there is a lot of focus on her. I think I finally nailed down what bugs me about the Fables version of Ozma, and it's not the blonde hair (although I thought it was at first). It's her apparent age! She's extremely young. I've always envisioned Ozma as being a little older, maybe in her early teens. But I guess that's all a matter of interpretation, I guess. I am glad that she has such a prominent role in Fables.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Another Movies for Kids List

Yet another publication has put out a list of movies kids should see. This one is from Entertainment Weekly, and it's entitled "55 Movies Every Kid Should See". Of course The Wizard of Oz is on it (otherwise, why would I be writing about it here?), but the interesting part, in my opinion, is the order it's presented: They should be watched in (roughly) the order the list is presented, at the appropriate ages. Interestingly, The Wizard of Oz is not in the first All Ages group, but the second group, for ages 8 and up, between The Lion King and Singin' in the Rain. I guess the Wicked Witch is a little too intense for the very youngest budding cinephiles. There are lots of other interesting choices as well, like Yellow Submarine, Titanic, and even one R-rated movie, Stand By Me (and I think that's actually a pretty good choice). I've seen most of them, and can't argue with their inclusion for what they're trying to accomplish, but of course there are lots of other movies that got left off, and could easily replace something else on the list — or the list could have just been made longer.

If you're intrigued so far, and want to see the whole list, take a look at EW's website.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Today's Oz Comic

It seems two citizens of the Illumi Nation (as seen in chapter 11 of Kabumpo in Oz) went to see a certain "Popular" show. You can see their reaction in today's edition of Brevity.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Latest Oz Short Story

Yup, another one from Oz Reimagined. This one was "Off to See the Emperor" by Orson Scott Card. Yes, that Orson Scott Card. He may have been in the news not so long ago for some of his current sociopolitical views in the shadow of the movie version of Ender's Game, but the man can write! This is a story about an adventure Frank Joslyn Baum, L. Frank Baum's oldest son, had while the Baums were living in Aberdeen, then part of the Dakota Territory, in the 1890s. Frank has just started first grade, and one of the older girls takes a shine to him because L. Frank Baum, when he ran Baum's Bazaar, extended credit to her aunt, keeping the family going through the winter. She also likes the "Our Landlady" column. (Clearly, Card has done his research!) Oh, and Frank's classmate's name? Dotty. Well, actually, it's Theodora (which makes me wonder if Card was tapping into the pre-production publicity about Oz the Great and Powerful), but because she's poor and has her own ways of looking at things, folks call her Dotty. Anyway, Dotty ends up taking Frank on a trip to the Empire of the Air, which is a fantastic land sort of occupying the same space as Aberdeen, but totally different. There are yellow brick roads, a scarecrow, a mechanical man whose mouth Dotty has to oil so he can talk, a cowardly lion, a beautiful city, and the Emperor who helps Dotty find what she's looking for. Sound familiar? Normally I wouldn't give away the ending, but you can probably figure out that, once he got back to Aberdeen, Frank told the story to his family, which passed into family lore, and a few years later Frank's father eventually wrote down a version of it, corrupted by time and no firsthand knowledge. No, the surprising bits that I'm leaving out are all the bits in the middle, about Frank and Dotty and what happens to them. This is a great story, even if it turns out that the Oz of the books isn't real. But for this one adventure, this place was certainly real to Frank!

The Latest Oz Comic Book

My comics reading reached the actual copy of Warlord of Oz #2, which I first reviewed last month when Zenescope sent me an electronic preview.

I ended up talking a little about it last time, and now I'm convinced as to what's really bugging me about Zenescope's version of Oz: It doesn't touch upon the rest of the Oz mythos at all. They go by a bare outline of The Wizard of Oz, but then go in completely different directions. They've even created their own map of Oz, which looks nothing like the endpapers of Tik-Tok of Oz.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wow, that soon?

Whoa! I just noticed on the calendar earlier today that this year's Winkie Convention starts a mere four weeks from now! How did that sneak up so quickly? It looks like it will be the biggest Winkies ever, and maybe the biggest Oz convention ever (yes, even bigger than the centennial convention in 2000). I'll probably tell you more about what I'll be doing there in the next twenty-seven or so days.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Today's Oz Cartoon

Here's something a little different: The New Yorker has a cartoon with no caption every week, and the readers get to provide the text. Well, this week there's definitely something in it that may be of interest to Oz fans. So go check it out and provide a caption if you can. But you only have until the end of the day on July 13, so hurry! And yes, I'll try to remember to put up the winners when they're announced.

(Special thanks to the great Ruth Berman for pointing this out.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Movies Update

A quick follow up to yesterday's post about Zardoz: Now there's a way to make it a lot funnier. Rifftrax, which is a little company run by some of the guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater 3000, has a fan-made soundtrack for Zardoz. You can buy it (for about the same price you'd probably pay for a used copy of the DVD) and see a preview right here. WARNING: Both the clip used and the riffers have some words in them you probably don't want your grandmother to hear, if you know what I mean. Plus, Connery's costume/lack of manscaping combination.

Also, take a look at rocketdave's comment in response to yesterday's post. Trust me, you're really not missing much if you never see all of Zardoz all the way through. I watch these things so you don't have to! But in response to John Boorman's other Oz-themed movie, it seems his computer animated version of The Wizard of Oz hit a major wall in terms of financing, and it's pretty much dead. I wouldn't put a lot of trust into those internet forums that say it's still ongoing. There were some legitimate news sources that were touting Drew Barrymore's Surrender Dorothy a few years ago as an active project, based on older news sources they uncovered. However, Barrymore herself says that the project is dead. The same may be true of the Boorman animated version, and all of the more recent news is just echoes of older, out-of-date sources. Still, if you want to see some of the test footage of that version, here it is:


LE MAGICIEN D'OZ - TEST DE RENDU VO by Mister3ZE

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

My Latest Oz Movie Rewatch

I've been a little lax on watching Oz movies lately, but that's because I've been pretty busy and/or stressed out, or had other priorities. I also have to squeeze my movie watching in around when Laura's home, in case she wants to see it with me — or when she's out if she doesn't want to. Such was the case last night, when I finally plugged in the DVD that I've had for a few years now of Zardoz.

Um...

Look, I get that the early '70s was one of the most explosive, experimental eras in movie history. The new ratings systems and new technologies meant that filmmakers could experiment more and really push the envelope in ways that had never been permitted before. But just because you can make a movie doesn't mean you should. Actually, I suspect Zardoz was a pretty wild, cutting edge movie in its day. But it just hasn't held up very well. It's wild visuals and not-so-linear storytelling just make for a confusing mess. Here, take a look at the trailer and see if this is something you'd actually want to see, even in 1974 (good grief, this film is now forty years old!):

It doesn't get much clearer than that! The R rating also meant lots of bare breasts (and I don't mean just Sean Connery's) and strongly implied sex, which may have been a big draw in its day, but now it just doesn't seem to be that big of a deal.

Now, if you haven't seen the movie, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with Oz? To spare you having to watch it, I'll reveal one of the big secrets of the movie: Zardoz, the big floating god head thing, takes its name from The Wizard of Oz, with a few letters crossed off, like this: The Wizard of Oz. See? As Sean Connery's Zed puts it, "A story about a man hiding behind a big head and making a lot of noise" (or words to that affect, I'm sure not going to go back and look up the exact quote). Kudos to the props department for using an edition of the book with W. W. Denslow illustrations, at least, although it's not one that I recognize. Maybe it hasn't been published yet.

I have a few extras I want to watch on it. The filmmakers' commentary ought to be interesting. I wonder how much of it will be John Boorman apologizing for this and that?

Monday, July 07, 2014

Oz in Jeopardy!

I had a couple of episodes of Jeopardy! reserved, thinking I'd write about some of the clues here, because they talked about Idina Menzel and Dan Aykroyd. Both have been in Oz productions (yes, Aykroyd was the voice of te Tin Woodman in The Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, which you'd know if anybody had actually seen the movie), so I figured they were fair game. But I've now decided that I'm not going to include clues about actors just because they've been in Oz. (Clues about them being in Oz is another story, of course.) But this clue, from the game for July 2? Oh, yeah, that's fair game, as you will soon see. In the category Literary Quotes, under the very first clue for $400:

Christi, the challenger on the right, rang in first and correctly responded, "What is The Wizard of Oz?" She then went on to win the game and become the new champion, so in this case, at least, knowing your Oz paid off.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

This Week's Oz Short Story

After a very busy weekend last weekend, I'm back to reading Oz short stories again. This time around, it was "City So Bright" by Dale Bailey, another selection from Oz Reimagined. I'm not sure if this is an evil, mirror universe style of Oz, or just one with a rewritten history. But it seems that Dorothy, on her first trip to Oz, killed the Good Witch of the East (Dorothy's house fell on her) and the Good Witch of the West. This allowed the Wizard to pretty much dispose of magic and introduce the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, it's all of the worst of the early industrial age, with class striation and worker exploitation. So when a group of emerald polishers begin to agitate about organizing, one suffers an "accident", and the others suffer consequences as well. This is a very short story, thank goodness, because it's not at all pleasant. It's also got a lot of swearing, so definitely keep this one away from the kids (if that's what you want for your kids, that is). I couldn't help thinking about some of the "guest workers" in oil rich Middle Eastern countries who are essentially wage slaves, even though they now make up a huge majority in some of those countries. I'm afraid we're never going to figure out how to make division of labor and resources fair and beneficial to everyone.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Today's Oz Comic

Today, The Argyle Sweater shows us shopping in Oz. Um, okay...

Happy Birthday, John Dough!

Created as a giant gingerbread man as part of an Independence Day celebration, John Dough is one half of the title characters in L. Frank Baum's 1906 novel John Dough and the Cherub. He hitched a ride on a giant firecracker and ended up on the Island of Phreex, somewhere out in the Nonestic Ocean. Through a series of adventures, he finally ended up as the king of the twin kingdoms of Hiland and Loland. He showed up a few years later in Oz as the first foreign guest at Ozma's birthday party in The Road to Oz. So, here's a little video to celebrate the legacy of King John Dough and how he got there in the first place:

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Today's Classic Oz Comic

It's a rerun — I think this may now be the third time I've gone through this particular storyline — but today's classic episode of Boomerangs has some major (and pretty self-explanatory) Oz references.