Sunday, 31 March 2013

Gustave Doré's Passion of the Christ

In celebration of Easter, the following are a sample of engravings from Gustave Doré's 1866 Bible on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Quotations are from the King James Version.


And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (Matthew 26:26-29)



And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. (Luke 22:39-46)



And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
(Luke 23:33-36)



And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. (Luke 23:44-48)



And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
(John 19:38-42)



In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. (Matthew 28:1-8)



And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him... And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:13-16, 28-32)



Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes... This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. (John 21:3-6, 14)



Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Matthew 28:16-20)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wicked

The following article is a very special guest post by the lovely Ashley, sharing with us one of her favourite musicals. Please enjoy!


Once upon a time and far far away there was a great land with an amazing wizard and a terrible Wicked Witch! She was green from head to toe, no doubt a reflection of the evil within her heart. She spread terror wherever she flew on her broomstick that was obviously missing it’s catalytic converter because it spewed thick dark smoke across the sky, leaving evil messages about the great Wizard and all his friends, even an innocent little girl (who may or may not have stolen some beautiful red or silver shoes from the Wicked Witch’s dead sister). Oh, and they say she could shed her evil green skin as easily as a snake and that "her soul is so unclean pure water can melt her"... Or so they say... But who are they? Who writes the history books?

If this story sounds familiar, that is because it is the premise of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Arguably the 1939 movie version is the most well known, as most people will know exactly who you are for Halloween when you step out in a gingham dress and striking red slippers rather than the silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, via the late Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to see the Wizard of Oz who can send her back to her Kansas home, befriending a Scarecrow who wants a brain, a Tin Man who wants a Heart and a Cowardly Lion who wants to be brave. He sends them to kill the Wicked Witch of the West and then he will grant their desires. When Scarecrow catches on fire and Dorothy tries to save him by dousing him with water she also hits the Witch and melts her with that clear, pure, unique polar molecule that is water. The friends then go back to the Wizard with the Witch’s broom and pointy hat, only to find out the Wizard is a con man with no real amazing powers at all. However, he gives them trinkets to commemorate examples where they showed the exact trait they desired from him. Everyone is happy, the conniving Wizard floats away from Oz in his amazing balloon and Glinda sends Dorothy home by teaching her how to use her Ruby Slippers. "There’s no place like home."

Lovely and sweet story! However, as much as I adore fairy tales, I suppose every child reaches an age where they want more. More complexity in the characters or more characters asking questions like, "how on earth did you run Oz and hoodwink all the people into wearing green glasses to think their city was made out of real emeralds? Isn’t lying supposed to be wrong?" or "Why would you tell an innocent young girl to just run off and kill some lady you don’t like?" or even "Why would a GOOD fairy steal a dead lady’s shoes?" It can become hard to see the magic in tales anymore because all we can see are these questions. Some try to revamp the fairy tales to either hypereroticised or hyperviolent romps with differing levels of success. My absolute favourite of these revisionist fairy tales is based on Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.

Though I personally find Maguire's revisionist style a little bleak, one day I was introduced to the musical Wicked with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Breaking into Broadway with Godspell, Schwartz is probably most familiar to readers – at least in work if not by name – through his compositions for Disney's Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Enchanted and the stage musical Disney's My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto's Musical Tale as well as Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt. His credits include three Oscars, six Tony nominations, one Golden Globe, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and four Grammys, one of which was for the original cast recording of Wicked starring Idina Menzel in the title role. I have seen this musical twice: once in London at West End and a second time in Calgary. Both productions were beautifully presented, complete with fire-breathing dragons and brooms and green ladies defying gravity.

The curtain opens to the chorus singing "No One Mourns the Wicked"... we have entered the world of Oz right after the dreadful Wicked Witch of the West has been killed by the innocent “Farm Girl.” The crowd is ecstatic, and even more so when Glinda comes along in her bubble to give the official statement to all the excited munchkins. Yet as the munchkins sing, the Good Witch can't help but wonder “are people born wicked? Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” We learn that the father of the girl who would become the Wicked Witch was the Mayor of Munchkinland and his wife... Well, she had a tryst with a travelling salesman who had her drink a green elixir as they enjoyed each other’s company. We soon see the birth of Elphaba (named after L. Frank Baum) where she comes out lovely... and with froggy green skin! Her father rejected the child, Glinda says, adding that "it couldn't have been easy." One munchkin asks if the rumours are true that the two witches were once friends, and she reveals that they did know each other in school, a long time ago.


The story that unfolds is full of complex drama as Elphaba deals with life at school, alternating between outcast and Glinda's pet project, her longing to meet both her real father and the Wizard, her search for identity and belonging, embracing the very talents that alienate her from others, finding the possibility of love (and a love triangle), and her discovery that all in Oz is not as well as one might think. The result is a personal drama that make a grown-up fairy tale. Each character grows, not without cause, but for the strong relationships they form with each other.

Another reason to love this musical is the music itself, with complex harmonies that are elegant but not too modern or difficult to sing along with. Duets and trios are not just singers taking turns. The lines in the song “For Good” weave in and out with two different melodies but still blend beautifully together, communicating how Elphaba and Glinda are so different yet still best friends in their final moments together before the climax of the story rips them apart. Because the musical takes place in Oz, the possibilities for creative costuming and silliness is boundless. Wicked is visually stunning no matter which continent you see it on. The number of unique shaped costumes and different striped stockings on each leg was delightful!


I also felt that this was an ode to every girl growing up (I am biased, I am female). From the start, people are polarized as popular and outcast girls. Both need each other to sharpen an area that the other is not good at and both will change over time. Wicked features two very strong female leads but their ambition is never considered to be a bad thing in itself. The point where it becomes bad is when people choose to make cruel choices to hurt each other.

However, what I love most is that it is realistic. Working with the world of history, you always have to look at where the writer was coming from because you will never get an absolutely true account of events. You always get an account of things looked at in one perspective. Rarely do you get a true right or wrong. In my role as a museum educator, I was speaking with children one day about the battle of Crècy during the 100 Years War between the French and the English. I had a girl ask me, "who was the good side and the bad side?" In most things in life it is not about who is Good or Bad. Not about who is Good or Evil but more, who is courageous enough to do the right thing at the right time... And still be labelled "wicked."

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Return to Oz (1985)


Reinvigorating and reinventing classic children's stories is an enterprise that is inevitably fraught with controversy. In the best cases, they can bring a new and stylish perspective to a nostalgic favorite. In the worst, they can be a pointless orgy of violence and iconoclasm.

There are a handful of favorites that, by virtue of expired copyrights or history's common judgment, either enjoy or suffer from frequent reimaginings. Peter Pan edges in at the bottom of the list, and demonstrates the best and at least most indifferent attempts. One short-lived comic called The Lost interpreted Peter and the Lost Boys as vampires, while the live-action film adaptation starring Jason Isaacs gave the story a very dark yet delightfully inspired and enjoyable tone. Another story is Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, which are another mixed bag, the most recent example being Tim Burton's live-action film for Disney, which drew from his later, post-Sleepy Hollow aesthetic milieu for the Hot Topic crowd.

The current crop of post-Lord of the Rings films have looked to fairy tales as a source for violent battles on an epic scale, as in Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Jack the Giant Slayer. Some of the greatest offenses, however, have been done to L. Frank Baum's Oz series. Video game creators, toymakers, comic book writers and many others can't seem to leave poor Dorothy alone. The Oz comic, which plunges a grown Dorothy into an Oz at war, was among the least offensive. Todd McFarlane's Twisted Land of Oz toyline is among the most. The second in a series of classic monsters "updated" by McFarlane's poor standards of decency and taste, Twisted Land mimics the first series' gory reimagining of the classic Universal Monsters. The Lion becomes a feral beast ripping at his own skin, the Tin Woodsman a biomechanical perversity, Toto a slug monster that has little if anything to do with a dog, and Dorothy becomes a leather-clad bondage queen.

What demarcates something like Twisted Land of Oz is the utter lack of innocence and appreciation for the subject matter. Many of these "updates" of classic tales attack the wrong target, divesting the story of any of the properties that made it a classic and imposing upon it a modern cynicism motivated by, at best, consumerist iconoclasm and, at worst, a perverse desire to corrupt innocence simply for the sake of doing so. Something like Twisted Land of Oz is tragically hip, urinating over goodness and good taste for reasons I choose not to debase myself enough to understand.

On the far side of the spectrum from Todd McFarlane's wet dreams is Disney's 1985 film Return to Oz, starring a young Fairuza Balk, Nicol Williamson and Jean Marsh (as well as featuring early credits for Henry "Nightmare Before Christmas" Selick as storyboard artist and Brian Henson as Jack Pumpkinhead). This film was roundly criticized on its release for its dark tone and its choice to adapt later and more unfamiliar Oz stories rather than remake the original Judy Garland musical. However, it is a film that is certainly worth another look.

The plot is based off of the line of Oz sequels written by Baum, and condenses several storylines into one adventure in which, with the assistance of the witch Mombi, the evil Nome King has imprisoned Princess Ozma of Oz and turned the inhabitants of the Emerald City into stone. When Dorothy Gale arrives in Oz after her escape from the mental institution, she finds a ripped-up Yellow Brick Road and a devastated land. As she moves along in her quest to repel the Nome King, Dorothy meets (or makes) a new group of friends, including Jack Pumpkinhead, the clockwork man Tik-Tok and the living flying beast of burden made out of furniture, Gump.

Opposite the Technicolor sensory overload that was the MGM musical, this Oz is subdued, filled with stone rubble and imposing mountains. The characters and visuals are striking in themselves as well. One of the most eerie of the new creations are the Wheelers, a gang of cackling cronies who have squeaky wheels in place of hands and feet. These characters are one part Goth and one part Eighties avant garde, with glittering purple coats, make-up and accessories that look to have been borrowed from Cirque Du Soleil. Though often derided by today's standards, one cannot argue against the fact that the affluence of the 1980's created a unique opportunity for a style of excess that may not have been seen since the Glam era and certainly hasn't been seen since. The Wheelers are perfect specimens of this style.

Another distinct Eightiesism of Return to Oz is the elemental stone Nome King, rendered in Wil Vinton's Claymation medium. The advantage of Claymation, the most notable product of which were the California Rasins, over regular stop motion is the fluidity of the movement. The nature of clay allows for a wider range of emotions and expression which at the same time can be somewhat disturbing. As the Nome King feeds off of the energy of captured souls to become more human, he ebbs disturbingly into and away from increasingly human-like appearance.

Considered relative to Oz the Great and Powerful and other modern films, one is struck by the wonderful practical effects like Claymation. Rather than fake sets and unconvincing CGI characters, Return to Oz has delightful puppetry, copstuming, sets and miniature work. The mix of costumes and puppetry in the protagonists is inspired, especially as their designs pull more closely from the original Edwardian illustrations by John R. Neill. This Oz is a post-apocalyptic landscape but is very much in keeping with other fantasy movies of the Eighties, like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. In the glittering golden halls of Oz's palace, Dorothy also runs afoul of Mombi and her gallery of heads, severed from the bodies of beautiful girls, much to outrage of parents. These examples demonstrate some of the more mature flavour of this film, in keeping with its melieu, which is said to have been ghost directed by Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola.

None of this maturity and style comes at the expense of the child-like (as opposed to childish) adventure and wonder. Children's movies of the decade didn't shy away from frightening imagery, which in turn made the acts of heroism and adventure that much more rewarding. Whether from a dedication to the source material or from the fact that this was still produced by Disney, the air of innocence still abounds. The style is never iconoclastic, and nothing is ripped down simply for the sake of ripping it down. One's appreciation for the style might wane depending on how enamoured one is with the aesthetic values of the Eighties, but Return to Oz fuses style and substance to become an admirable example of what can be done and ought to be done when updating children's stories.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Fathom


A new video game needs your help! From Iron Sun Studios comes Fathom... Or, it will once the finances come together. From the developer:
Fathom is a new 2.5D action adventure game that combines puzzle solving with combat and exploration in a beautiful Steampunk themed adventure. Journey through ancient ruins and beautiful caverns as you delve deeper into the dark waters of the Caribbean Sea, battling long-submerged foes with fiendish intent!
Right now they are attempting to gather funds via Kickstarter, so if you are interested you can lend your support here. For more information visit their official website.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)


Oz the Great and Powerful is the second film by Disney set in the world created by L. Frank Baum, as well as its second entry into the genre of fairy tales reworked into violent fantasy epics. Disney's first venture into this new field that I can recall was Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which was a mess devoid of any of the charm that could have been found from either Lewis Carroll or Tim Burton (circa 1992), nevertheless it turned a profit and the studio was sure to tout that connection. Sam Raimi's Oz could have been a retread of the same motions, but thankfully delivers something a bit more.

The film purports to tell the story of how a carnival magician from Kansas became the mighty Wizard of Oz, sharing not only his origin but that of the land's three witches (as well as hints, references and cameos of the Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman). This might seem an odd choice for a hero's journey, as the Wizard of Oz never was a heroic character. His being a charlatan has always been a fundamental part of who he is. Raimi still finds a way to remain true to this while giving us a story that is relatively satisfying... Not a great work of art and certainly not on par with the 1939 MGM musical, but not nearly as bad as one might expect from being threatened with another Alice in Wonderland.

Its faults are mainly those it shares with current Hollywood trends. The first is that films have started to revert to where they were in the Fifties as television became widespread. Feeling threatened by this new medium, filmmakers resorted to trickery and gimmicks to draw an audience. 3D is the most timely example, because it has once again reared its distorted, Lovecraftian head in our new age of high-definition home theatres. As Red Letter Media's Mike Stoklasa observed, movies have stopped being about the story and have become about the “experience”: a carnival ride. Especially when James Franco's erstwhile wizard enters the land, Oz the Great and Powerful has this tendency. Sitting there in the theatre with my 3D glasses on, I could see doing the exact same thing with the exact same footage in a simulator in Disneyland.

The second is the aforementioned trend towards remaking fairy tales as dark, violent, and sometimes erotic action movies. Alice in Wonderland was Disney's first attempt and their forthcoming Maleficent is another, and there have also been the recent Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Snow White and the Huntsman, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood and arguably the Harry Potter films. I can do no better than refer you to Red Letter Media's own analysis of the trend.

Now Oz the Great and Powerful is not Disney's first attempt at collecting on a current trend in fairy tale movies through use of Baum's novels. In 1985 they released Return to Oz, a sequel of sorts to The Wizard of Oz using lesser known characters like Ozma, Tic-Toc, Jack Pumpkinhead, Mombi and the Gnome King. That same year, Ridley Scott directed Legend. The following year, Jim Henson would release Labyrinth with David Bowie, after already having made The Dark Crystal in 1982. 1984 saw the release of The NeverEnding Story. The Eighties were a golden age for whimsical children's adventure films, from the original Star Wars trilogy to Back to the Future to The Goonies and so on.

When it was released, Return to Oz was criticized for being uncharacteristically “dark” for a Disney film. It was a dark phase for Disney: on the animation side of the ledger, it was the same year as The Black Cauldron. While they did have mature and frightening content (the Gnome King and Mombi still give me the heebeejeebees), their “darkness” did not derive from a kind of violent sadism. They were “dark” because they were stylish and didn't seek to smooth down those scary moments. The effect were films that were stunning to look at – with amazing costumes, sets and puppetry – but which honoured the spirit of the source material and genre. To this day I think they still work and would provide fertile inspiration if they were consulted. The closest in feel to them today would be the ABC television series Once Upon a Time.

Because epic battles with tens of thousands of CGI'd combatants seemed to work so well for Peter Jackson, they are de rigueur for fairy tale films in the 2010's. Oz the Great and Powerful has to have its battle, and its creepy little fairy folk, and its monumental architecture and epic scenery. One scene has the Wizard camping out with Theodora the Good (played by Mila Kunis) beside a waterfall that should have been literally deafening. Everything has to be grandious to warrant its dimensionality.

Thankfully Sam Raimi is able to include his own touches that provide some levity. The Wicked Witch of the West is unconvincing and bears some ham-fisted after-effects of Wicked, but an old hag escaped from the Evil Dead series makes her appearance as well. We also get some psychedelic close-up shots, threatening foliage, and a cameo from Bruce Campbell. I do have to admit that the climactic emergence of the Wizard is a great scene, and suitably twists that epic final conflict trope. I also enjoyed the lampshading on a Munchkin musical number.

Overall, I would still rate Oz the Great and Powerful last in the ranking of the three Oz feature films of the talkie era. The original is a cinema classic and Return to Oz is a stylish cult movie, so a film as obviously telegraphed and commercial as this has a hard time competing. Word has it that a sequel is in the works, but while Oz is more enjoyable than I anticipated, I suspect it will also be forgettable.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Walt Disney and the Rainbow Road to Oz

The Land of Oz is a place that has forever eluded the Magic Kingdom. It was not for lack of trying, as Walt Disney and the company bearing his name have attempted many times, reaching fruition with a few version, including the recent Oz the Great and Powerful directed by Sam Raimi. Yet despite these it has never been able to latch onto L. Frank Baum's illustrious franchise and pull it into its own array of intellectual properties.

Some might argue that it is just as good. Disney has a big enough house at it is, engorged by the acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, that it does not need to subordinate a perfectly good story that stands so well on its own. One could argue that the independence of the Oz franchise is one of the factors keeping it from Disney, and its versatility - The Wizard of Oz is only the first of 14 books written by Baum, not counting the silent era film adaptations and stage shows his and other companies created - is possibly another. Steering clear of that first book itself diminishes the impression left behind on audiences, and overall it is much too huge. It would be like Disney gaining the rights to Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Oz stands alone.

Therein lies the next problem for Mickey and co. The 1939 MGM classic starring Judy Garland as Dorothy has the monopoly on Oz so far as public consciousness goes. It was one of the greatest films of Hollywood's greatest year, alongside such legendary pictures as Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, Dark Victory and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. All versions of Oz will be forever in its emerald shadow.

That 1939 version could just as easily have been Disney's, however. Walt grew up with the story, Baum's book having been published the year before he was born, and adapting it always figured in his plans. Wizard of Oz was one of the possibilities examined for a second animated feature following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Unfortunately for him, Samuel Goldwyn had already snatched up the rights to the book from the Baum family. Walt was foiled and cinematic history was made.

Still Walt stood undaunted, and when the rights to 11 more Oz novels became available in 1954, he purchased them. This time, Oz was to be the destination for the company's entry into full length musicals. Disney and music are practically synonymous, from Steamboat Willie through today. A Disney film without music was unheard of. Even a Jules Verne novel about a mad science pirate couldn't go without a catchy banjo tune. Despite this, he had never tried a full on stage musical production like, say, The Wizard of Oz.

Originally the Oz books had been acquired as content for episodes of the Disneyland television series. These would have aired interspersed with the likes of Davy Crockett, edited films from Disney's catalogue and advertizing pieces for upcoming pictures. Walt was so taken with the scripts being developed that he bumped the production of The Rainbow Road to Oz from television to feature films. Ironically, the only fruit to come of this project aired on TV, on the Disneyland series.

To celebrate the fourth anniversary of Disneyland (the show, not the place), a special episode was produced giving sneak peeks into upcoming projects. There was Zorro, Spin and Marty and The Saga of Andy Burnett, which was meant to fill the gap left by the Davy Crockett craze of a few years before. There was also a preview of songs from Rainbow Road to Oz, centred on the Patchwork Girl of Oz. Notably, the roles in the film were to be allotted to the Mouseketeers, with Darlene Gillespie as Dorothy and Annette Funicello as Ozma.


Excerpt from the Fourth Anniversary Show.

The Rainbow Road to Oz was never to be. Many reasons have been given, one of the most poignant being that the 1939 film was reaching a new audience by TV and thereby extending its shadow even further. No matter how big Disney's name was, it was not bigger than Oz.

It was not a total loss, though. This project morphed over a brief period of time into Babes in Toyland, another piece of musical theatre starring a number of the Mouseketeers and utilizing more than a few of the designs originally conceived for The Rainbow Road to Oz. Curiously enough, besides adapting a book original written by L. Frank Baum, it also stars Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow in 1939.


Excerpts from Babes in Toyland.

Shortly before the Oz books were about to fall out of Disney's hands and the whole lot tumbled into the public domain, production moved ahead on a semi-sequel to The Wizard of Oz. It could not rightly be argued to be a sequel to the 1939 film, for it was to be entirely different in look, scope and tone. Controversially different, in fact, as it was to be much darker, with cackling Wheelers and a Mombi who alternated between the heads kept in her vault. Devoid of the familiar faces of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, Return to Oz opened with Dorothy – played by a young Fairuza Balk – escaping electroshock therapy at a mental institution and thereby trying the patience of most parents in 1986.

Now Disney revisits Oz again, in the mold of their previous success with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Nevertheless, it is still unlikely that Disney will be able to claim as sure an ownership over the works of L. Frank Baum as they have over Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.