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

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 . . .

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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

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

 You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Wizard of Oz

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

Facebook Website

Glinda's dress was WONDERFULLY Sparkling from afar!

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

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

View from my seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oz: Broken Kingdom

 Since switching to a more capable smartphone, I decided to install some of the recent Oz mobile games.

One of the more interesting ones is Oz: Broken Kingdom. At first glance, it looks like a standard fighting RPG with some dark Oz theme.



It is.

But, it's a book-based dark Oz theme!

The game's story follows a young woman named Ophelia who washes up on the shores of Oz with her cat, who unfortunately died during the trip, but is revived when she's transformed into a crystal cat by Ozma. Ophelia becomes a freedom fighter for Oz, joining with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and Lion.

A strange darkness has fallen over the Land of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the East has been revived and many creatures and folks have become aggressive, some even reversing their personalities. Dorothy and the Wizard are missing. Ozma has put the magic of Oz into gems to help protect it. It's up to the freedom fighters to travel through Oz and set it free once again.

There are a lot of characters from the books you'll run into during play: Tik-Tok, "Lady" Ann of Oogaboo, Professor Woggle-Bug, Kalidahs, Polychrome, Mrs. Yoop, the three Adepts, the First and Foremost of the Phanfasms, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Nome King. The big bad seems to be an original villain.

The game is played through a series of battles you enter by selecting "nodes" from a map screen. You pick one of the fighters and before you enter, you can choose what abilities you can use during the fight.

Each node enters a battle that could be one to five waves of no more than three bad guys per wave. You can choose from four abilities. One of these is free to use at all times. The others use mana, which if you've played other RPG video games, is your points for special moves. These can be offensive abilities, healing abilities, or abilities that will prepare you for a major attack on your next turn. Each turn gives you two mana to work with, and defeating a bad guy earns you an extra one.

And being an RPG, you also have a health meter that is drained as the bad guys attack you. You can use healing abilities or defense boosts to try to keep it from reaching 0. If it empties, you can use a life potion to continue your fight, but you can only do this once per battle.

Leveling up and "evolving" your heroes are of course included to encourage repeated play. The team levels up together, and experience points are earned by winning battles, completing tasks, opening chests won in the arena and upgrading abilities and companions. To "evolve" your heroes, you have to collect pearls. To upgrade your abilities, you collect cards and use essence to level them up once you have enough. Essence is earned all throughout the game with each battle, redeeming coins at the Well of Wonders, in chests won in the arena, and it's often given freely as a daily gift.

The game gives you free items every day. When you start the game, there's a screen that gives you a free gift each day, and signing in every day eventually gives you an extra one. The Great Tree of Oz gives you 25 free Emeralds every 24 hours, but the countdown to the next one begins when you collect them. Coins for the Well of Wonders in the Emerald City (which serves as the main base for the game) are given freely: a bronze coin is given once every 4 hours, and a silver coin is given once every 24 hours. The countdown to the next free coin begins when you redeem the last one. You can also purchase more coins with emeralds. Also, keep an eye on the mailbox in the Emerald City as it sometimes contains important messages that include free gifts.

The game also features an "arena," where you can fight other players throughout the world live. You pick two companions (who can be leveled up just like your abilities) to fight a randomly selected other player from anywhere in the world. Winning a match earns you trophies, losing a match costs you trophies. The more trophies you have, the higher your league, but if you lose enough matches, you can go back to a previous league. Defeating an opponent or their companion earns you a star, and when you earn 15, you can open a Star Chest which has more free items inside. Defeating your opponent instantly wins the match and earns you three stars and a chest of wood, silver or gold. Wooden chests take two hours to unlock, silver takes four, and gold takes eight, but you can use emeralds to open them right away or watch an advertisement to take an hour off of your wait time, but you can only do this once an hour. Chests contain essence, cards to upgrade your companions, and a few random items depending on what level chest you got: it could be a gem, a pearl or a coin for the Well of Wonders.

It's also possible to bolster your fighters with gems you can craft. Crafting takes essence and either ore or gems that are not equipped. You can craft ore into a common gem, then craft two common gems into an uncommon gem, and you get the idea. The higher evolved your heroes, the more gems can be equipped to them, and the more you're leveled up, the better the gems you can craft.

To encourage you to play every day, the game gives you daily tasks: upgrade three abilities, craft three gems, redeem five coins, win three battles with each fighter (you can go back and replay battles you're now overpowered for and it'll still count) and also purchasing emeralds (which I don't do). You are rewarded with experience points, essence and keys used to unlock certain nodes that'll lead you to special battles and treasures.

There is also a Rainbow Road event where you earn crystals. In Rainbow Road, you fight through increasingly difficult waves of baddies with handicaps: you only recover health after so many fights. (In regular battles, you instantly go back to full health once the battle's done.) There are also other status effects.

This being a mobile game, there's of course an item shop where you can use emeralds, crystals, essence or actual money to make purchases. Among these are pearls, gems, more emeralds and essence, cards and even adding Jack Pumpkinhead to your team of fighters. So far, I've only bought an occasional number of life potions, which are four for $.99, which seems pretty fair considering it's an item in a digital game. Money might not exist in Baum's Oz, but micro transactions keep the development of the game going. So while I'm not a fan of sinking a lot of money into a digital game, consider making an occasional purchase as a tip to the developers.

Playing through battles costs energy, which is replenished one unit every five minutes. The amount of energy you have increases by one unit every time you level up. You can also replenish your energy with an energy potion. Each series of stages generally use progressively more energy, tapping out at 10 per battle.

Leveling up tip: if you perform really well in a battle, it's marked with three stars. You can replay any battle, but if you earned three stars, you can "raid" it instead for the same amount of energy it would take to play it. Raiding gives you all the rewards you would have gotten for playing through. It's a good way to earn more essence and experience points if you have extra energy and aren't ready to progress further into the game's battles. Note that raiding is not counted towards winning a battle with a character for your daily tasks.

For being this type of RPG, the story is fairly well-done and the graphics are quite beautiful and detailed, although some depictions of the Oz characters are rather unique. The sound is also rather immersive, although it can be turned off. The Android version uses your Google login to record your progress, so presumably (but I haven't tested this) you can continue playing if you switch to another device.

If you're a gamer who enjoys Oz, Oz: Broken Kingdom might prove quite a bit of fun. It's available for iOS and Android mobile platforms.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Oz in 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, let's look back on what has happened these last twelve months with Oz:

* We got not one, not two ... but THREE versions of Oz as Series: NBC's "Emerald City" (heavily influenced by MGM and "Game of Thrones"), WB's Boomerang "Dorothy And the Wizard of Oz" (an animated series to MGM, but not quite in canon and lacking exposition and consistency) and Amazon's "Lost in Oz" online series.
Each of these shows has varied degrees of acceptance and response ... but I feel like "Lost in Oz" is the best of the bunch and deserves a second season most of all.

* A date for the "Wicked" movie was announced for December 2019

* L Frank Baum's "Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" story - as well as the short story "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" - was bestowed with a new illustrated book by Eric Shanower and IDW Publishing

* the 1987 PanMedia/Cinar-dubbed anime series for "Wonderful Wizard (and Marvelous Land, Ozma and Emerald City) of Oz" was finally released to DVD and Standard-Blu-ray home video by Discotek Media, coinciding with its 30th Anniversary - so now viewers can finally watch the actual episodes, even if the American quality is not as good as the original Japanese release (but hopefully the original Japanese episodes with be released further down the line with English-subtitles).

* John Fricke made a vague mention of some "jittery" forthcoming news yet to be announced . . .

* the Fan-made documentary "Remembering Return to Oz" with a series of interviews is nearing completion, most of all concluding with an interview on Fairuza Balk - the release should hopefully be in 2018.

* L Frank Baum's Oz books "Ozma of Oz" was one-hundred-and-ten, "Lost Princess" reached its Centennary - which was celebrated at OzCon in Portland, Oregon in June-July this year.

Next year we celebrate the 100th Anniversary for L Frank Baum's "the Tin Woodman of Oz" ... and who knows what else the year will have in store for Oz, planned or surprise?

Thank you for staying tuned to this Blog and the Royal Podcast ... we'll see you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Royal Podcast of Oz: The 2017 Christmas Special

Jay reads two stories from Oziana 2013, "Jinnicky Saves Christmas" by Nathan DeHoff and his own "The Way of A Lion." Afterward, he and Nathan chat about creating their tales.

 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.

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