Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy X-Mas from Oz!

Here's to having a great holiday season. Stay Emerald!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Video Review: The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus (Rankin-Bass)

In 1902, L. Frank Baum decided to put together one of the first comprehensive origin stories about Mr. Kringle with The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus. This actually tied into the world of Oz, as most of the story takes place in or near the forest of Burzee which is located across the Deadly Desert/Shifting Sands from the southwestern point of Oz(or "southeastern" depending on what map you're using). Burzee was also the setting for other Baum stories such as Queen Xixi Of Ix and Nelebel's Fairyland, plus the Santa from this story appears in The Road To Oz, so there's a regular connection between this and Baum's library. The book spawned a short story sequal titled A Kidnapped Santa Claus which probably had more than a little influence on a certain Tim Burton movie. There has been more than one animated adaptation of the original book, including a one in 2000 by Mike Young, an anime TV series that ran in the mid-90s, and an upcoming fully CGI movie which was supposed to be out this year. Before them all though was the 1985 TV special by Rankin-Bass, who also created several other memorable Christmas specials including Frosty The Snowman and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. This was a little strange considering they had already done a previous original narrative of Santa's history in Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town from 1970, but they thought they'd give another shot at a Baum title as they also produced Tales Of The Wizard Of Oz in the early 60s, as well its sequal special Return To Oz(no relation to Disney's one!). They put this together as their last holiday special one as they were diverting more attention toward doing TV series like their hit Thundercats.

The special opens up with a council of Immortals debating about whether or not to give an aging Santa Claus the Mantle of Immorality. The story then goes back about sixty years where a young baby is found by Ak, head of the Immortals and master of woods. He takes the child to be protected by the lioness Shiegra, but the wood nymph Necile accepts the role as his mother and names him Claus. Claus grows up in the forest learning how to communicate with the animals. When he reaches of age, Ak flies him around the world Superman-style to show him the world of mortals, and the cruelties of mankind. Claus decides to then move to Laughing Valley to be closer to humans, and takes Shiegra and the sound imp Tingler with him. Tingler speaks in nearly every concievable language and sound, but usually in strange synthesizer chords. Some of the fairies and wood nyphs help set up a house for Claus, where he eventually starts creating what he refers to as "toys" for the children in the village near him. This would be all nice, except that an evil tribe of monsterous Agwaws called dibs on the kids to influence them, so they use their invisibility powers to cause all kind of problems for Claus' toy delivery. Ak finally steps in and declares war against the Agwaws. So in a battle scene not totally rivaling Peter Jackson, the Immortals beat the Agwaws, and Claus continues his toy givaways. With help one of the Knooks(a fairy in charge of animals), Claus is allowed to use special flying reindeer once a year on Christmas Eve. As time goes on though, Claus nears the end of days, so the Immortals grant him eternal life so he can continue to do his work bringing joy to the world. Granted, it would've been a little more convenient if they could've turned him into a Highlander when he was a little younger, but anyway...

Unlike most of the other Rankin/Bass holiday TV specials, this one didn't have a beloved old guy doing the narration like Jimmy Durante. There's also only one music number in the entire special, which isn't all that memorable. However, this is a very faithful adaptation of the original story, and there is a real effort to bring in the mythology of Baum's fictional universe in its portrayal of magical beings and the mortal world surrounding them. The special was available on VHS, but is currently on DVD from Warner Bros as a double feature with Rankin/Bass' Nestor special.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Comic Review: Toto! The Wonderful Adventure (Part 2)

I'll be covering Volume #2 & #3 for this review. BTW, I forgot to mention that this series is available from Del Rey. They currently have the entire run in five graphic novels.

Vol. #2 starts out with Kakashi and Dorothy being rescued by the now magically-transformed Toto who has turned into a large dragon-like beast. Toto then merges with Kakashi's left hand, and he now wears the dog bracelet of which Toto's can emerge from in his monster form. He can also eat anything inorganic and reproduce it again like a canon or shield(sorta like Eat-Man). Lt. Vio and is troops are totally overwhelmed by Kakashi's newfound powers, but the sinister Corporal Chopin arrives seemingly to give them backup. He instead uses his own special abilities to kill Vio for his failure. Chopin leaves since he didn't have order to get the collar, and Vio relays Kakashi what he knows about the collar. Its one of twelve accessories that each have their own power, and whichever country can gain the most of them will rule over the rest. Kakashi and Dorothy make their way to Dego City which is a central junction for railroads, althought the Nassau army is tearing down the trains to use for military salvage. Kakashi nearly gets in trouble with some officers, but is rescued Millicia, a local bar owner who claims he's her brother. They then meet Noil, a flaky officer who runs the scrapyard and is a struggling comedian/magician who suffers from stage fright. He takes Kakashi on as his apprentice since he thinks his dog-hand is a magic trick. The military eventually find out Kakashi has the collar, and capture Dorothy to lure him out. Things look bad until a small train engine busts out of Noil's shack.

Vol. 3 opens with the train being run by Noil, that he made it on his own in the scrapyard to one day skip town. He rescues Kakashi and Dorothy as they go down the line called the Yellow Brick Road. They travel through an area called the Witch Forest, and actually encounter a young witch flying in on a broom. She is Paisley, a "good witch", and part of an originization called World Institute of the Twelve Creators' Heritage(or "WITCH" for short)whose main purpose is to locate all the magical accessories. Then the Nassau army shows up with Chopin to collect the collar. Chopin himself has some special rings which are some the accessories(whether they count as seperate accessories or a single one isn't mentioned)which spring out as snakes that turn people to stone. Nassau defeats him, but Noil's train is destroyed by Red, another WITCH agent guarding Paisley. Our heroes head to the local WITCH headquarters where they discover that the one who unintentionally released the accessories out into the world in the first place was Kakashi's father, Nick Q. Kakashi realizes that in order to find his missing father, he must become an agent of WITCH and search for the remaining accessories. In order to join of WITCH, Dorothy must finish her martial arts training to be his partner. She goes to study under the karate master, Kenbi Sow. Kakashi later reveals that Kenbi secretly uses one of the mystical accessories, and team up with one his students to expose this. However, this student is really Major Damda with the Nassau army.

I like how the story is progressing so far. Yuko Osada's style develops as the series goes along. It seems like its one of those shonen titles like Dragonball which hinges on a quest for several magical items, although it doesn't appear they need to find all twelve of the accessories, because that would make for a much longer series.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas In Oz video review

Stumbled upon this review of the Oz Kids Christmas Special by PopArena. There's actually crossovers with a few other animated shows in it!

Book Review: How The Wizard Saved Oz

Donald Abbott followed up his first prequal to the The Wizard Of Oz, How The Wizard Came To Oz, with this second book that also has ties to Land Of Oz and the original 1902 WOZ musical. How The Wizard Saved Oz carries on during the time after Oscar Diggs became established as "the Great and Powerful Oz", but before Dorothy shows up.

In the story, the Wizard takes off with the Queen of the Field Mice to find out what happened to her subjects that have gone missing. They go through the underground passage underneath the Emerald City which was originally the throne room of the former King Pastoria's, and then head through the lands of the Whozis and the Whatzis. The Wizard then happens across the strange pumpkin-shaped house of the witch Mombi, where he makes a hasty retreat after realizing her wicked intents. They finally make it to the city of Lanvendoria, and encounter a rather sizable Wogglebug. However, the Wizard becomes concerned when he spies the evil General Riskitt, who is the evil brother of Pastoria, and rival to the throne of Oz. Riskitt goes to see Mombi who has created a special machine powered by the field mice to give him all the magic in Oz. Mombi betrays him, and uses the machine for herself, but it backfires when the Wizard uses some growth powder to temporarily turn all the field mice larger. The magic returns, and Mombi flees to her cottage in the north(where she is keeping Tip). The mice go back to normal size, and the Mouse Queen helps the Wizard in a final battle with General Riskitt who falls down a crack in the Earth.

I thought this was a little more lighthearted story from the previous chapter Abbott did, although How The Wizard Came To Oz told a slighty better story. The main difference is that the first one skimmed alot through the Wizard's ascension in Oz, while as this one was more of a complete stand-alone story of the Wizard's early days. The book continues some great illustrations by Abbott done in the style of W.W. Denslow. General Riskitt is not shown in the regular Oz books, but was an original character from the first stage play created by Baum himself, although the idea of Riskitt being Pastoria's brother was done exclusively for this book. Check out this and other great Oz books at Books Of Wonder, along with more of Abbott's works.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oz Video Of The Month: Sims In Oz

Since Sims 3 recently came out, I though it would be fitting to showcase this 2-part short from Sims In Oz.