Monday, 6 January 2014

In at 7! Rachel Cosgrove Payes - The Wicked Witch of Oz.

My top favourites are back!

It's a somewhat challenging to stick firmly to a definitive top 10 Oz books in this instance I struggled to commit to my favourite number 7, between both of Rachel Cosgrove Payes Oz books after much internal debate The Wicked Witch of Oz (WWOO) wins out. I read this before reading The Hidden Valley of Oz although I do like both of Rachel's entries into the Oz series.
The reason I bought this book first before Hidden Valley was because of Eric Shanower's illustration's like when I first saw Neill's illustrations I knew I needed to collect only Neill! When I first saw Eric's art in The Paradox of Oz, I again had to have more Shanower!
Another reason I chose WWOO is it feels more like an original story than Hidden Valley although I like both books, Singra with Witch is a great stand out villainess, secondly the illustration in this Oz book far exceed those of Dirk Gringus.

Rachel Cosgrove Payes wrote two Oz books one the Hidden Valley in Oz 1951 published as an official Famous forty Oz book and the sequel written and submitted but not accepted by Reilly and Lee was published by the International Wizard of Oz (IWOC) in 1993. Rachel interestingly also authored several erotic books as well two Oz books which I find delightfully amusingly, fortunately Oz is a clean fairyland book.

The Story in a nut shell, Singra Wicked Witch of the South awakes from a 100 year old sleep and is hell bent on revenge, in particular against Dorothy Gale for destroying her Cousin the Wicked Witch of the West
Plotting her revenge she turns Trot, believing this to be Dorothy into a piece of cheese, Dorothy in toe with Percy and Leon the Neon to rescue trot. Leon doesnt really impact me as memorable character, Percy whilst other Oz fans may not like Percy and his characterisation I enjoy him even the slang talk.

Eventually Singra is caught and drinks from water of oblivion, which turn hers good for now I suppose like the Ruggedo the Nome king she will undoubtedly become wicked again over time.

For Rachel Cosgrove Payes the land of Oz and her Oz characterisation's fit in with Baums Oz more than Thompson's. This is always a winner for me although I do love how Eloise McGraw used both authors visions of Oz.

The Book design at least compared to the previous disappointing white oversized paper backs Oz books from IWOC, WWOZ is a nice hardback that fits in with my Oz collection, hooray!
It also fit in nicely with my Hungry Tiger Oz books as well.

The Illustration's

After previously owning one other Oz book with Eric Shanower's  Oz illustrations I was excited when I ordered this book from the International Wizard of Oz club.
Fortunately Eric did not disappoint his work and line art in this book is lavishly detailed something that was missing from Oz illustrations since Jon R. Neill died in the 1940s.
Eric stamps his own style into Oz whist paying a loving tribute to John R. Neill's Oz character illustrations, Shanower's character design are more 3 dimensional than Neill's.

Its Eric attention to detail for example his Percy, a criticism of many an Oz fans from Gringus's take on Percy was unattractive and drawn in different sizes and odd perspective by Gringus.
Eric has told me in Conversation that he kept a live rat as pet to study and draw Percy, the results are superb and Percy looks adorable.
This detailing of Percy is beautiful and naturally drawn and at his most adorable on this two page insert which happens to be my favourite illustration in the whole book!

If my memory is correct Eric stated that he put a little ink on the real life Percys feet to help in the design of this beautiful illustration.

I found Dorothy drawn with modern shorts a little jarring at first until Eric explained this to me. That Neill drew Dorothy and others in modern dress at this point in time, I never knew that about Neill but then looking back Neills illustrations all look old fashioned to me. Not being a follower of vintage fashion it is not something that ever occurred to me. With this in mind and re-examining Neil illustrations I see Eric's point. On a personal note I do prefer to see Dorothy in a summer dress of sorts but it doesn't jar with me the same since being made aware of this. Although thinking about it I would much rather see Dorothy in a T-shirt and shorts than a boob tube and mini skirt!

I think this was Erics first official released book of an author who is one the official Famous Forty authors, you can see that Erics passion for conducting an exemplary piece of work, the detailing is wonderful. The illustration fit with my vision of Oz, the only colour plates but that is more to do printing cost limitation of our time. I'd love to see Eric illustrated Oz with 12 colour plates like the earlier Oz work at the moment Erics Adventures in Oz is the closest I will get to this.

Rachel Cosgrove Payes is most definitely a worthy Royal Historian of Oz. 
Eric Shanower for me is the current Illustrious Illustrator of Oz and the best thing about this is he is very much alive and will happily sign your books and chat about Oz.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Across the Pond

Today Jared Davis has posted a podcast interview he recorded with me a few weeks ago.

Jared operates and is the lead writer at the Royal Blog of Oz

Jared also operates the Royal Website of Oz

Finally Jared is the interviewer and editor for the Royal Podcast of Oz

Jared's interview in the main is specific to Oz collecting in the UK, there is several other Oz references throughout.
Jared has been an online Oz friend for some years, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the last two Winkie Conventions.

You can use the link to the Royal Podcast site or use the player below to listen.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

It would be somewhat lazy of me not to report from the British Blog of Oz, of a controversial Oz connection that is happening right now in the UK.
It would seem rather odd that I find myself writing about Margaret Thatcher and Oz in the same sentence Blog! 

However I now find the two subjects linked in a very British way, Margaret Thatcher divides opinion in the UK and the world,  to the point where some mourn the death of a great powerful Woman and are thus preparing a lavish 10 million Pound funeral and out pouring of respect for a strong formidable political woman.

Others have taken a different view and in protest at the out pouring of respect given to the Iron lady that there is a large group of people dedicated to ensuring that The MGM Musical  "Ding, Dong the Witch is dead" is currently going strong at number one in the UK charts. In defiance of the such a lavish funeral when the British country again is being made to tighten it's belt! Also to signify as a loud shout against what Margaret Thatcher and her politics stood for.

It's to an extent distasteful, however I can understand why there is a venom against old Maggie Thatcher, I can't say I was a fan, although I find her persona fascinating, perhaps this is due to the fact I am an 80’s child I lived in the shadow of Thatcher Premiership as I was born in 1979 the year she was elected Prime Minister.
Here was the first woman in British Politic's to take on a man's role, showing a country of women that they could do this to! Only this woman was completing lack in any compassion, she did a lot to change England and help businesses and the well off the working class and poor had to scrape along the bottom for 11 eleven years. 

distinctly remember growing up in the 80's and we did not have much money neither did most of the rest of the working class I also distinctly remember my Mum having to hold down three jobs to keep 3 children, one full time job and two part time jobs I really don't know how she did it. Once Thatcher and the conservative were out in the 90's Money looked up for most of us.

Thatcher did nothing positive for Gay Rights in-fact she set Gay rights back years by bringing in Section 28 which prevented any intentional promotion of homosexuality in Education Thatcher said "That said this Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay". 

"And children who need encouragement—and children do so much need encouragement—so many children—they are being taught that our society offers them no future. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life—yes cheated.Of course—in the country as a whole—there are plenty of excellent teachers and successful schools.And in every good school, and every good teacher, is a reminder of what too many young people are denied."

Her comparison with a Wicked Witch are not for many of us without merit, Thatcher had a very totalitarian approach and was with out compassion for the common and the last remaining product of high class boys club style  establishment. 
For a woman who self promoted herself by saying she loved a debate and democracy, many saw her as I do as a dictatorship particularly toward the end of her reign.

I shall not miss Margaret Thatcher's Polictics, on the women I didn't know her so I cannot possiblly miss her. One thing is for sure and has been quoted frequently in the Margaret Thatcher will never be forgot. Was she like Elphaba in Wicked miss understood? Or Like the Real Wicked Witch of the West, an unsympathetic dictator? History will tell.

When Great Britain next Elect's a female Prime Minster, lets hope that it is some one with kindness and warmth for the common person! Someone who is steely in face adversity but never forgets who put them there and that they are there to serve everyone in their country and don't forget to listen to those who matter most.

That enough politics for this blog in a while altough Oz has been linked to poltics several times before.

I am still part through writing my Oz: The Great and POwerful Review and the Oz book favourite number 7, although this comes at a time when I am very busy and preparing a presentation for Winkies which will affect the blog posts,

Sunday, 17 February 2013

From Paris to ....Oz!

In November last year the Husband I took a 6 day holiday in France we stayed at Disneyland Paris as I found a very good hotel deal to stay on site. Furthermore Paris was only a 35 minute train journey from Disneyland.
Unfortunately we never made it to Paris as we were both frustratingly unwell two days into our holiday.

I love Disney and Oz equally! All my other loves are secondary...apart from the other half of course!! This was my first time at Disneyland Paris, and second time to any of the Disney Parks. I always wanted to go to one of the American Disney Parks first and finally got the chance to go to Disneyland California and Disney California Adventure last year, we both fell in love with the place and were now ready to go to a Disneyland a little closer to home.

So hey where does the Oz reference come into this! Well, I was set a secret Oz mission by another Oz friend Freddy Fogarty.... Ok maybe not so secret but I enjoyed being sent on an Oz mission no less.

The mission was to go to Fantasyland and take a ride on "Les Pays Des Contes De Fees" or the Storybook Land ride as there is the Emerald City and some characters from Disney’s Return to Oz on the stairs, Freddy wanted me to take some  close up pictures of the Emerald City and of the Oz character on the Stairs.
If it wasn't for Freddy I would have missed the Return to Oz themes altogether as we would have considered this ride a little to twee for us.

So here we go there is indeed an Emerald City, which uses some of the Return to Oz characters but only those that would have been in the Wizard of Oz i.e. Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion are all straight out of the character designs from 1985 movie, Dorothy however is definitely more of a hint of Garland than Fairuza Balk.

Don't forget you can click the photo to enlarge!

Take a look at this Emerald City something we don't really get to see in the Return to Oz, I did wonder if this is how we were meant to see the Emerald City in the movie? Notice that they get the Oz insignia back to front on top of the palace!

I think not as I have a Return to Oz  book with an unused shot of the Emerald City, check out this image from one of Return to Oz book you can clearly see shots of the Emerald City that were never used and are more of Neill design than this current design, it also does  not resemble the new Oz: The Great and Powerful Emerald City either. 

So now we have three takes by Disney of the Emerald City, it’s still a frustration that we never really get to see the outside of the restored Emerald City in Return to Oz.

That's not all the Oz we got to see on this trip, there is a show over in second paris Disney park The Walt Disney Studios  called Cinemagic, which is a mixture of live action FX and film effects toward the end of the show you see two main characters walk along the MGM Wizard of Oz yellow brick road toward the Emerald City unfortunately I don’t have a shot of this!

I love that Disney and Oz share several relationships lets hope the new Disney movie Oz: The Great and Powerful bring forth Baum’s Oz canon to receiving the film attention it deserves!

As for Disneyland Paris, the Park itself is very beautiful and stylised even more so than the Disneyland California park, The Walt Disney Studio's was tiny and not a patch on the Disney California Adventure park, both however were missing much of the charm and energy of the California parks. This In part I believe to be because it was not in  
America!  The French cast just did not have the drive and enthusiasm of the American counter parts which is what makes Disneyland so magical! The Park it self was a little tired in a few place whereas the California Parks were spotless! We will go back as it is only a couple hours journey to get there but what I really can’t wait for now is to venture to Walt Disney World in Florida hope fully in 2014.

I’ll be back with my Oz book favourite number 7, this time it’s the first of several Baum Oz books.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Very Occasional Blogging: In at 8……

The Forbidden Fountain of Oz by Eloise Mcgraw & Lauren Lynn McGraw.

This is the first of the McGraw books in my top 10 and number 8 out of my favourite Oz books.
There is just something about Eloise writing style that I really enjoy, I think she is actually the most accomplished and skilled writer out of all of famous forty Oz writers. 
Baum has to the most imaginative and descriptive. Although sometimes the way he writes could was little unusual it his bristling of imagination that carries you off not his use of word play.I don’t think any of the other famous Forty authors had quite same level of fantastical imagination as Baum, although Eloise comes close, and add that with her wonderful writing skills you have some great Oz books as a result. You also get an Oz that is good mix of Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson's Oz, as I believe Eloise was a fan of the Thompson Oz books.
Eloise is a master at description and writes in a way that you can see the Oz she is describing something that only Baum was capable of for me. Thompson never manages to conjure images in my mind as she lacks the detail and description that make you believe in the characters or Oz. Thompson was strong for writing brisk jolly plots and creating lots of new characters, but the often lacked the depth of description that made her characters as enjoyable as Baum or Eloise's characterisation. I refer to Eloise often as I believe that she wrote the story in the main with assistance from her daughter.

This description has always stayed with me are little nuggets like " The small rough emeralds in the gravel of the street of the Emerald City and the streets are surfaced with crushed beryl", I love these tiny little details in the Mcgraw Oz work.

The Plot  –

Ozma whilst attending an Oz festival is innocently given a glass of lemonade using the water of Oblivion from the Forbidden Fountain of Oz that was introduced in Baum's The Emerald City of Oz. 
As a result Ozma goes missing and is assumed kidnapped! (Well why wouldn't her Oz courtiers think she was kidnapped it happened so many times before!)
Actually Ozma wearing her magic belt loses her memory completely and believes herself to be a girl called Poppy who has run away from the Emerald City, as she must have done something dreadful to be cast out helped to come to this conclusion by a rather peppery and  judgemental butterfly king. Ozma has a few adventures with new Friends Lambert the white lamb a cast out from his flock as he is not purple! As well a highway man called Toby, who isn't really a highway man but is trying to hold up a family tradition instead who decide to befriend Ozma and Lambert. Eventually they bump into haughty and frustrated Kabumpo who is searching for missing Ozma alone after becoming somewhat exasperated that  the Emerald City Courtiers will not listen where he believes Ozma is. 
Kabumpo in a vain hope of hero worship and self importance, steals off with Ozma and Co back to the Emerald City so that everyone can see how wonderful and heroic he is, unfortunately for Kabumpo this doesn’t go quite accordingly to plan as he also believes Ozma was kidnapped by the Toby. Kabumpo is well realised and affectionately written by the Mcgraw's as written in Tribute to Thompson's character, there is as magic box as well which now gives more than a few nods to Thompson's Kabumpo in Oz.

Interestingly Ozma is disguised as a boy which the Mcgraws use as a plot device throughout the book and this leads to great meeting with Jack Pumpkinhead where he mistakes Ozma for Tip his father of course. This scene and illustration of the Scarecrow Drawn like J R Neill’s Scarecrow from the Marvelous land of Oz are nicely little references to the book of the same name.

Of course Ozma memory is restored and all is right again in the end but it was fun getting there.

At first it easy for an Oz reader to think that the Mcgraw's are treading an all to familiar Oz story there are elements that would appear to be familiar with Baum’s Lost Princess of Oz.  For a refreshing change Ozma is not kidnapped or imprisoned she has simply forgotten everyone after drinking from the Water of Oblivion which wipes her memory and then she goes on her own adventures. 
There is even a funny scene at the end where Ozma’s court friends cannot quite believe that she wasn’t kidnapped or enchanted by by Toby. The only other story that Ozma is a central lead isthe Marvelous Land of Oz although she is Tip throughout, and Glinda of Oz is probably one of the last Oz book to have Ozma as a central role although this is still from the point of view of Dorothy! Ozma is barely used in the Thompson books and certainly never as a central role although this is probably for the best as her Ozma is not very well characterised and lacks the compassion of Baum's Ozma.. As a result we get  a short but refreshing Oz story! Ozma does not get such a central role again in the books in my collection until Edward Einhorn’s brilliant Paradox in Oz.

The illustration’s & Book format.
I have declare I am not a great fan of Dick Martin illustration’s that not to say I hate them, as they can be whimsical and pretty when he put his mind to it his illustration's as in the Mcgraw's Merry go round in Oz are much better. I feel his style is a little lacking in detail and to cartoony for me especially the meat “human” characters. This is probably as I love Jon R Neill’s fine illustration’s the most and  his human looked very human. 
Martin's illustration's are certainly far superior to Frank Kramer or Dirk Gringhaus, but not at the level I feel that John R Neill, Eric Shanower or Denslow.
It is clear that he has not taken much time on the illustration in this book when you compare the illustration to his work on Merry Go Round in Oz and I believe from conversation with other Oz fans he is responsible for the books odd formatting. Which oversized so that he didn’t have to draw many illustrations. 
This is my biggest gripe with the book The McGraw's story is wonderful, the book format is truly awful. It is just a little large than A4 sized paper back with no printing on the spine. It looks bland and does not match any of the rest of the book in my Oz collection! Well apart form other three international  Wizard of Oz books I own in the same format. I know there is a hardback out there but I am curious is this an improvement does this match other Oz books more? I'm an obsessive Oz collector and like some nice stylised uniformity in my collection.

So to finish of this Eloise Wrote three Oz books in her life time two with her Daughter Lynn Mcgraw. Although I believe that Eloise herself was the main writer, She could of wrote another 20 for me it is clearly evident why she was nominated for Newberry Honour Award. Out of all the famous forty I feel she is the most skillful writer.
I haven’t yet read any of her non Oz, but do intend to so if any of you have any recommendation on some of her other work particularly fantasy can any of you let me know in the comments pages.
I’ll be back with another Eloise’s Oz books in due course, as she has two in my top ten and the third was not far off in reaching the top 10 either!

On my next post I have a report from Disneyland Paris which has both an MGM Wizard of Oz connection and a Disney Return to Oz connection. Which I promise will come much sooner!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rainbow Connections - 1903 Musical & 1939 MGM

This 1960's The Wizard of Oz LP happens to be the first Oz item to start my collection! 
I've had it since I was about 5, my Mum bought it for me from a charity shop, or Goodwill store in the US. It is much loved and careworn! You can see a little nibble at the top right corner courtesy of my dog "Ozzy" who I had when I was 19.

I remember being fascinated with the way Dorothy's apron sits on her dress! 
I didn't realise when I was that young that it wasn't Judy Garland singing but a Roberta Rex there  are no original casts member singing from the movie.

This is actually a budget 1960's release after a little hunting around apparently this EMI label was an easy listening budget label which churned out lots of cover version with Geoff Love and his Orchestra there is even a Star Wars and space themes LP around.

Now take a good close look at the back cover, come on you know the story just by looking at the cover right?
You know the one where Dorothy Dale is swept away with her pet Cow Imogene to the land of Oz and kills a witch. Dorothy is given a magical Ring at which she brings the Scarecrow to life who then has his brain stolen, and meets up with Tin Man whose heart is stolen by Cynthia........
That's right now take a look at the third image if you click it will on it will expand, at first I thought this was some bizarre stage production in UK that had used the MGM songs but the story of the 1903 Musical. 

After telling David Maxine about this LP on his UK visit. I went into my collection and had a look again, after finding out this is a budget release, it definitely was not part of a 1960's London play shame that would of been a cool and bizarre mis-mash to research!
I can only think that the sleeve writer was very sloppy I mean Dorothy Dale? It would appear that the writer has never seen the MGM Wizard of Oz musical (is that even possible?) but might have had  access to part of the story the 1903 Musical?
Or as it was a budget release did the company not have the rights to the musical so avoided referencing the MGM story due to copyright issues, it an unusual although interesting anomaly. I do wonder how much of story background this is actually direct from the 1903 musical as it certainly isn't from the MGM story!

I'll be back next time with Oz book Favourite number 8!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

In at 9 - The Magical Mimics of Oz by Jack Snow 1946.

In at personal chart favourite number 9 The Magical Mimics of Oz by Jack Snow 1946.

My appreciation of Jack Snow's Magical Mimics of Oz has grown on me somewhat since I first read it! I cannot remember when exactly I read this book, it was as an adult and at the time I had only read a few Thompson books and Edward Einhorn's Paradox of Oz so it is most likely the early 00’s. My edition’s is the Books of Wonder paperback, although I did nearly purchase a first edition at the Winkie convention.

I had read online that Snow was a big fan of Baum's and that he also wrote his Oz solely on Baum's vision ignoring the Thompson and Neil  Oz book edition. 
I recall enjoying the book, but finding its writing style a little to simplistic at the time and devoid of humour and whimsy or mystery of previous Oz books.

I have taken a little longer in writing about this book as I took the time to read it before this post, something that I cannot promise of the other 8 favourites in the chart left to go, I will try where I can.

Since now having read all but one of famous forty Oz books I have a greater appreciation of Magical Mimic's and still rate it above any of Thompson Oz books. Although Thompson does still get some kudos for continuing and often exceeding Baum on puns in Oz!

Snow writes a somewhat dark Oz book that does feel that little bit darker even than Baum solely due to its lack of humour, it is however one of the tightest plotted of all the Oz books the story is direct and there are no real side line adventures along the way apart from maybe Story blossom garden although even this serves a purpose to the plot.

Ozana, Pineville and Story Blossom garden are great addition’s to Oz, the Magical Mimic's the most fearful conquerors since the Nome King and his cronies in Baum’s Emerald City of Oz. 
Dorothy and the Wizard are central to the plot and Baum's Oz citizens although mainly focused upon Scraps, Scarecrow and Toto Aunt Em Uncle Henry are welcome refresh back to long list of Baum’s Oz citizen in Ozma’s court. I noted that Ojo was back to just Ojo the Lucky.

The references to Lurline and some of the early Baum mythology, shows a real passion for Baum's Oz you do really feel that Oz exist! Something that with Thompson carefree writing style and Neill's hap-hazard writing style is lost, as I always got the impression that neither to of the authors believed in Baum's Oz as a real place, as  readers you want to believe in Oz this Baum did understand. Snow as both a fan of Oz and Baum himself writes an Oz you feel exists and does feel like Baum’s Oz for the first time since Glinda of Oz.

I think the area that is lacking hen I say simple style is you know exactly what will happen from the start when Ozma oddly drops in the Magical Mimics to Dorothy into conversation causally, you know what is coming next although the title also gives that away. He tries very hard to get Baum’s tone in his narration and on occasion I felt you little talked down to which is some Baum was a master at avoiding in his writing.

The story is resolved satisfactorily and all is well in the end of course. I would have liked for Jack Snow to have been able to write more about Oz, I think he had a lot more to offer but sadly other than The Shaggy Man of Oz and a character compendium of Who's who in Oz and one short story a Murder in Oz that is all he was able to add to the series, there is fabled manuscript Over the Rainbow to Oz but most Oz fans I have spoken do not believe this exists. 

I think another thing that jarred me the first time is Frank Kramers illustration's they are not even half way as brilliant as John R. Neill's at his most tired illustrations which is a shame after he had held the Royal illustrator mantle so beautifully for forty years. There is the odd glimmer of a great illustration but sadly in the main are all lacking that something special and his version of Dorothy is one of the worst.

It’s a shame that Jack couldn’t have continued the series for a few more years as it would have been interesting to see what he could have added to the series.

It is also a great shame that he lived with such a lack of support from his family and couldn’t deal with his own homosexuality, in time when this was still taboo.

However many of us Oz fans do appreciate his Oz book addition’s and his shift in tone back to Baum’s vision of Oz.

Favourite Oz book personal Chart so far -

10) The Wishing Horse of Oz - Ruth Plumly Thompson
9) The Magical Mimics of Oz - Jack Snow

I'll be back next time with a Rainbow connection that links the 1903 Wizard of Oz play and the MGM Wizard of Oz technicolor musical.