Showing posts with label Toto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toto. Show all posts

05 February 2013

Parsing the Class Status of Toto and Duke

Dorothy and Toto made a curious cameo appearance in The New Yorker dated 4 February. In a review of books about Richard Nixon, Thomas Mallon judges Kevin Mattson to be looking too hard for reasons to criticize that President in a study of the Checkers speech titled Just Plain Dick. Specifically:

When it comes to Checkers himself, Mattson makes a pronouncement as startling as its grammar is shaky:
By 1952, owning a dog constituted a democratic rite of passage, no longer the exclusive possession of America’s wealthy aristocrats, who were known to prance around with their purebreds in places like the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Who knew that, decades earlier, Penrod and Dorothy Gale had been putting on such airs when they took Duke and Toto out for a walk down the small-town lanes of Indiana and Kansas?
In fact, there is a whiff of aristocracy in naming a dog Toto, as I documented back here—but by 1900 that name was verging on cliché.

Similarly, the name Duke obviously has aristocratic roots, but there’s nothing fancy about Penrod Schofield and even less about Duke:
The dog’s name was undescriptive of his person, which was obviously the result of a singular series of mesalliances. He wore a grizzled moustache and indefinite whiskers; he was small and shabby, and looked like an old postman.
Now that is some fine canine characterization.

23 October 2012

Finally an Explanation for Dorothy’s Strange Dream

Caleb Crain alerted me to the existence of this public safety poster from the Allegheny County (Pennsylvania) Health Department:
Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. Their house was small, for the lumber to build it had to be carried by wagon many miles. There were four walls, a floor, and a roof, which made one room. One day after returning from the outhouse, Aunt Em forgot to wash her hands, which caused a bacterial infection to spread among the whole family, including the dog. In addition to severe stomach cramps and a dreadful fever, Dorothy started to have some really strange dreams.
Okay, there are less appealing Oz stories than Dorothy Return to Oz.

This poster was part of an award-winning public health campaign. There are also germ-driven versions of Treasure Island; Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret; and other classics.

03 July 2012

Nobody Eats Dogs Here!

Artist Billy Nunez shares his concept sketches for “The Wizard of Oz in China” (which include some touches from other parts of the Pacific’s western rim).

(Hat tip to Bookshelves of Doom and io9.)

26 June 2012

Open Heart Surgery on the Yellow Brick Road?

This portrayal of the companions from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is by Sabrina Alberghetti, an artist in Vancouver, via deviantArt. She also shared her sketches for this piece and some other sketches of a hip-hop Scarecrow.

I’m not at all sure what’s going on in this scene, but the characters have a lot of character.

31 January 2012

Never Work with Children or Animals

Terry Byrne at the Boston Globe really liked the Wheelock Family Theater's production of The Wizard of Oz. Of course, that might be an overdose of the cutes:

All four friends are nearly upstaged though, by Toto, played by second-grader Sofia Pilar Villafane with just the right amount of spunk and enthusiasm. Although she is adorable, and just the right size to be picked up by the Commander of the flying monkeys and by the Cowardly Lion, she never overdoes it, punctuating songs with little barks, while understanding her role as loyal friend.
As a corrective dose of reality, the review also includes these comments from the audience:
Dalice Rodriguez, 8, who was there with her brother Johann, 5, tapped along to the beat of “Jitterbug” and later said the dancing in that number was her favorite. Toto, however, was her favorite character, while Johann preferred the Tin Woodman, not because of his sensitive soul, or his dancing, but because “he had an ax.”
Someone needs to discover Axe Cop.

13 September 2011

A View of Oz from Oz

The honored Australian illustrator Robert R. Ingpen created this watercolor for an edition of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz commissioned by Palazzo Editions and published this spring by Templar Editions in the UK and Sterling in the US.

Melaleuca Galleries of Australia offers a page of Ingpen’s artwork for this book, including:
The image above comes via Melaleuca.

19 July 2011

“Follow the Yellow Brick Road” as an Earworm

Conversations at the recent Winkie Convention made me resolve to post something Ozzy on every Tuesday, at least, in order to justify this blog’s name.

So this is a detail from a Malaysian advertisement for Penguin audiobooks, featured at Ads of the World and elsewhere.

The artist got the characters of Dorothy’s companions quite right, though they’re marching toward the Gale farmhouse rather than away. Dorothy looks more like Alice than usual.

As for what this version’s road of yellow brick is made of, I don’t want to think about it. (Simren Deogun saw another part of the human anatomy in this campaign.)

06 June 2011

Too Much Ozziness?

At the Panelists earlier this spring, Charles Hatfield saw a little too much Wonderful Wizard of Oz in Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl:
Zita, after all, is the story of a feisty young girl who passes through an unexplained portal—in this case opened by a videogame-controller-like device discovered in a fallen meteorite—and who undertakes a quest in the company of a growing cast of helpmates, all male, all weird, each with his own tics and challenges.

In this case we get a giant mouse, a couple of dysfunctional robots, a big, strong, childlike monster called simply Strong-Strong, and, for expository purposes, a human: the minstrel-magician Piper, a self-serving rascal, who seems to be the only one who knows what’s going on (and whose Pied Piper-like music echoes Hatke’s self-proclaimed enthusiasm for the tin whistle).
Hatfield laments “the story’s rote, generic setups, its illogical or merely coincidental plotting, and its shopworn characterizations,” but notes that it seems to have a good time in well-traveled territory.

Given its large cast, Betsy Bird proffered Zita as an exception to her “Oz Quest Theory” that stories like The Wizard of Oz regularly involve the hero picking up three companions. (“Mute pet companions of the Toto variety don’t really weigh into all this.”) But perhaps the dynamic works different in comics, where a supporting character can remain a presence in the background without needing to be involved in every conversation.

Incidentally, I’d say that Toto stands out from Dorothy’s companions not because he’s “fairly superfluous,” as Betsy wrote. (Whom, after all, does Dorothy leave the storm cellar and the balloon to retrieve? Whose plight spurs her to slap the Lion? Who knocks over the Wizard’s screen?) Rather, Toto stands out because he was part of Dorothy’s life from the beginning. He’s a symbolic extension of her, not something new she picks up along the way.

03 May 2011

“They looked down and saw a strange sight.”

The New York Public Library has sent me (and several thousand others) an email about its “Celebrating 100 Years” exhibit, due to open on 19 May. Among other treasures to be shown in the system’s century-old main building are “The Wizard of Oz pen and ink illustrations by W.W. Denslow.”

I couldn’t find out which pieces of artwork will be displayed, but I hope they include this image of Dorothy and Toto peering at the China Country, viewable through the Library of Congress’s website.

In the large version (click on the thumbnail) one can see how Denslow originally penciled Toto and the Cowardly Lion peering at the china people from the lower right corner. (There are other penciled figures on the left, but they’re hard to make out.)

Denslow eventually chose to draw Dorothy and Toto alone at a larger scale with a thicker line and hatching, to emphasize how she’s much bigger than the china people. And I like how he sat Toto on the internal frame of the picture itself.

19 April 2011

Oziana 2009 Touches Down at Last

The issue of Oziana cover-dated 2009 is at last on its way to subscribers, and will be available for ordering from the International Wizard of Oz Club. It contains four original Oz stories, all completely illustrated.

The cover is “Lifting the Curtain,” a painting by Charnelle Pinkney, now a student in the School of Visual Arts’ program in Illustration as Visual Essay. That image symbolizes the issue’s theme of “Parodies and Alternative Views” of Oz.

In “Toto Reveals,” Dorothy’s companion shares his view of events in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Brianna Landon’s story won a competition for Oz writing by students in Lawrence, Kansas, a few years ago. It has charming new illustrations by Ben Wood, a picture-book artist from Australia who has illustrated books for Scholastic and other firms.

Playwright Eleanor Kennedy contributed “Barry Porter and the Sorceress of Oz,” which uses parody to explore some differences in tone between L. Frank Baum’s fantasy creation and J. K. Rowling’s. Sheena Hisiro provided stylish portraits of Glinda and a lost young wizard with a scarred forehead.

“The Ransom of Button-Bright” is Oziana’s first story in comics form, I believe. It’s a product of the hard work and good humor of artist S. P. Maldonado, working from a script by me (with plenty of inspiration from O. Henry). Who would dare to kidnap Button-Bright?

Finally, Prof. Stephen Teller’s “The Trouble with the Magic Belt” imagines a narrative fix for the Oz books—what if we simply did away with Ozma’s Magic Belt, and all the easy solutions it provides? John Mundt, Esq., illustrated this counterfactual tale with his usual verve, and provided readers with a puzzle as well.

Every copy of Oziana 2009 comes with a major bonus: Oziana 2010! More about that tomorrow.

02 July 2010

Tigers and Dogs and Blogs, Oh My!

Hungry Tiger Press now has a blog. Of course, the specialized press has been sharing goodies on its website for many years, but this format looks like it will allow publisher David Maxine more flexibility to share announcements of new books, stories behind one of the country’s great Oz collections, and little-known writing and art from Oz creators. Forgive me if I suggest entering by this door.

Eric Gjovaag’s Wonderful Blog of Oz notes that tonight Turner Classic Movies is showing the 1939 Wizard of Oz musical, and that this year the channel focuses on one featured performer: Terry.

Terry? That’s the little Cairn terrier who played Toto. TCM will run two more movies in which she played significant roles, Fury and George Washington Slept Here. See Classic Movie Musicals for more of Terry/Toto’s films.

01 June 2010


Here is artist A. G. Ford’s image of Dorothy Gale and Toto. Page down at Seven Imps for a couple more Ozzy paintings. One also graces the header of Ford’s blog, where he discusses and shows its development. In another posting Ford highlights his character designs, which are clearly inspired by the MGM movie.

Ford has already illustrated Jonah Winter’s Barack and Mina Javaherbin’s Goal! We’ll undoubtedly see more richly illustrated picture books from him.

17 October 2009

Five Observations on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Comic

As Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s comics adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz continues its sojourn on the hardcover “graphic novels” bestseller list, I’m sharing some miscellaneous thoughts on how it retells Dorothy’s first adventure.

  • This comic was originally published as eight issues of a magazine, each of which needed its share of satisfying ups and downs to keep readers coming back for more. I read many such comic-book collections, and usually it’s apparent where one installment ends and the next begins (and not just because of a reprinted cover or placeholder page). There’s a shift in rhythm, and often a few panels to catch readers up with the story. I didn’t have that experience this time: the whole book felt seamless. I’m going to have to reread again to figure out how.

  • The only detail from L. Frank Baum’s book that I missed was how the great and powerful Oz is exposed. In this adaptation, the Lion roars so ferociously he blows open a curtain hiding the little man.

    In the book, the Cowardly Lion’s roar is “so fierce and dreadful that Toto jumped away from him in alarm and tipped over the screen” in front of Oz. (In the MGM movie, Toto deliberately pulls open a curtain. Frank Morgan then yanks it back while delivering his immortal “Pay no attention to the man…” line. You can watch Toto get yanked back as well since the curtain was apparently attached to his collar.)

    It may seem illogical for Oz to protect his vital secret with a screen so light that a startled terrier can knock it over. Nevertheless, I like the symbolic aspect of that moment: Toto makes things happen for Dorothy.

  • I saw one addition to this version which seemed to come from the MGM movie. After the Lion’s earlier, solo interview with the Wizard (appearing as a great ball of fire), the frightened beast runs out of the throne room and breaks through a door (“SCRUNCH”!). Quite reminiscent of the candy-pane window that Bert Lahr’s stunt double jumped through. But the book simply says:
    The Lion was angry at this speech, but could say nothing in reply, and while he stood silently gazing at the Ball of Fire it became so furiously hot that he turned tail and rushed from the room. He was glad to find his friends waiting for him, and told them of his terrible interview with the Wizard.
  • There are two double-page spreads in the book, both meaningful. The first comes when Dorothy and her companions are first allowed inside the Emerald City and take in the marvelous capital. Because it’s a walled city, however, the view feels as hemmed-in as it is expansive.

    The second spread comes toward the end of the book as the party approach Glinda’s castle. The MGM movie leaves out that entire leg of Dorothy’s journey, and many adaptations treat it as an anticlimax. But that trip is a very important part of the story. It allows Dorothy’s companions to prove their new abilities, and it’s important for her to reach a place of real magic, not humbuggery. Shanower knows that Glinda and her castle remain major centers of power in the Oz saga, and he scripted a grand entrance for them.

  • Months back, I wrote about how Oz: The Manga used many variations of word balloons for different characters’ speeches. This adaptation is more restrained in that regard. Each of the Wizard’s disguises has a different style of balloon and typography. And the field mice all speak in little letters.
  • 16 June 2009

    On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog

    Say Goodbye, Toto is a new play by Amy Heidish, in production by the Ark Theatre Company and Playwright 6 and scheduled to premiere in Los Angeles on 29 July. Its preparation is being chronicled on a blog written in Toto's name.

    This play promises a modernized version of the Oz myth. For instance, the Munchkins love too much:

    One of the themes behind Say Goodbye[,] Toto is “What is the true meaning of love?” Because most of the characters have wrong ideas about what love is.

    The Munchkins think love is utter devotion in the form of blind worship. And they think anything new is worthy of their praise. So whenever anything new shows up in Oz – a mild mannered guy in a hot air balloon, a house falling from the sky, a dog – they instantly pledge their utmost devotion to it.

    But since they’re two of them (or there will be, after this last round of auditions) they’ve got a ragingly competitive streak to them. They want to be the BEST worshipper, which results in hopefully amusing ways as they constantly seek to outworship the other one.
    The blog offers an "Ask Toto a Question" feature. One of the earlier questions was "What Do Munchkins Taste Like?" Meanwhile, the troupe has found it difficult to cast Munchkins. I wonder why.

    25 April 2009

    Einstein Was Never in Dorothy’s Unique Position

    In 1921, J. Malcolm Bird, an editor at Scientific American, compiled a book titled Einstein's Theories of Relativity and Gravitation: A Selection of Material from the Essays Submitted in the Competition for the Eugene Higgins Prize of $5,000.

    The chapter “The General Theory: Fragments of Particular Merit on this Phase of the Subject” starts with this passage by Norman E. Gilbert, professor of physics at Dartmouth College:

    When Dorothy was carried by the cyclone from her home in Kansas to the land of Oz, together with her uncle's house and her little dog Toto, she neglected to lower the trap door over the hole in the floor which formerly led to the cyclone cellar and Toto stepped through. Dorothy rushed to the opening expecting to see him dashed onto the rocks below but found him floating just below the floor. She drew him back into the room and closed the trap.

    The author of the chronicle of Dorothy's adventures explains that the same force which held up the house held up Toto, but this explanation is not necessary. Dorothy was now floating through space and house and dog were subject to the same forces of gravitation which gave them identical motions. Dorothy must have pushed the dog down onto the floor and in doing so must herself have floated to the ceiling whence she might have pushed herself back to the floor. In fact gravitation was apparently suspended and Dorothy was in a position to have tried certain experiments which Einstein has never tried because he was never in Dorothy's unique position.
    A poster of W. W. Denslow’s illustration of this moment in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is available as a poster from

    23 April 2009

    Finding a Little Too Much in Oz

    Last fall I met Evan I. Schwartz, whose book Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story has just been published. Schwartz had been researching the historical context which inspired Baum. He's shared some of that on his website for the book.

    The New York Post just ran a review of Finding Oz, focused on the book's suggestions of what inspired various details in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and/or what those details might represent:

    Toto, Dorothy's dog, likely symbolizes the Eastern philosophy of Totality, a component of Theosophy. Schwartz suggests that the name Toto connotes Totality.

    The connection between Toto and Totality is highly plausible. But here lies a quandary: What if Baum intended the name Toto to symbolize the concept of a totem, or animal protector?

    Or what if the name comes from the concept of a tote, or small object that can be carried around?

    For that matter, what if Baum had all of these ideas in mind, or something else entirely?
    For that matter, what if Toto was a very common name for a dog a hundred years ago, on the level of Rover, Spot, or Fido?

    Context is crucial in understanding the roots of a work of fiction. It’s relatively easy to skim through period literature, looking to familiar terms. But we can’t really posit that there’s a connection between those terms and the book we’re studying unless we gauge where else those same terms appear. Are those actual connections or mere coincidences?

    It was once incredibly time-consuming to research such questions as whether it was common for dogs to be named Toto. That's why we invented graduate fellowships. But now Google Books can reduce that searching to seconds. Looking in that database for “Toto” and “dog” produces many examples.

    “Canine Curiosities,” an article in Every Saturday: A Journal of Choice Reading, 19 Oct 1867:
    There are dogs who are almost public characters. Toto, for instance, a white poodle of the purest breed, belonged to a Parisian cafe-keeper. As neat in person as lively in temper, he was the favorite not only of his master and his men but of all the customers who frequented the establishment. But besides his mere external graces the poodle rendered important service by performing errands intrusted to him.
    Home Life on an Ostrich Farm, by Annie Martin (1890):
    We found a comfortable little furnished house at Walmer, in which we spent the first five months after our arrival. It was just a convenient size for our small party, consisting, besides my husband and myself, of our two English servants, and Toto, a beautiful collie.
    The Adventures of François, by Silas Weir Mitchell (1898):
    The dog leaped on to his lap, and the boy, as he lay in the sun, began to think of a name for this new friend. He tried merrily all the dog-names he could think of; but when at last he called, “Toto!” the poodle barked so cordially that François sagaciously inclined to the belief that he must have hit upon the poodle's name. “Toto it shall be,” he cried.
    So in 1898 readers were supposed to expect a French boy to have "Toto" among "all the dog-names he could think of."

    “Toto,” a story in La Strega, and Other Stories, by Ouida (1899):
    They had good health, good appetites, good tempers, good neighbors; and if many would have thought it a hard life to serve in a little dark shop all day, and spend the evenings counting up sous and centimes, they did not think so. They were used to it, and they gained enough by it to keep themselves and to afford one luxury, Toto--Toto, who ate as much as two dragoons, and for whom they were obliged to pay the tax regularly to have civic permission for him to live.
    This passage is particularly notable because, while it becomes clear later in the story that Toto is a large dog, Ouida obviously didn’t think it necessary to spell that out in introducing the character.

    The Fortunes of Fifi, by Molly Elliot Seawell (1903):
    an Italian...was exhibiting the most entirely fascinating little black dog that Fifi had ever seen. He was about as big as a good-sized rabbit, and was trimmed like a lion. Around his neck was tied a card on which was written:
    Toto is my name, and I am a dog of the most aristocratic lineage in France, and I can be bought for twenty francs. See me dance and you will believe that I would be cheap at a hundred francs.
    “As Told by Mrs. Williams,” a story by Emily Wakeman in Cosmopolitan Magazine, 1907:
    She's a beautiful, well-bred dog. Why, she and Toto had the same grandfather.
    And there’s even a Spanish-English Grammar from 1901 which translates “Toto” directly as “dog’s name.”

    Surely not all of these authors were independently naming dogs to symbolize “the Eastern philosophy of Totality.” Toto was simply a common “dog-name” at the last turn of the century. People appear to have thought it particularly appropriate for French dogs, and perhaps for small fancy ones.

    So the real question of why L. Frank Baum named Dorothy’s little dog Toto isn’t whether the dog was meant to symbolize something Theosophical, but why a poor Kansas farmgirl has a little dog with a fancy French name?

    04 April 2008

    It May Sound Harsh

    The first Jack of Fables collection, The (Nearly) Great Escape (script by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges; art by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy) offers a--well, let's say rare picture of the most beloved Oz characters.

    At some point I'll praise Willingham's Fables comics in more detail, but for now I'll just report that this volume is based on the premise that a bunch of characters from fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and fantasy literature are being held captive in a prison camp surrounded by tigers. (Don't you hate when that happens?)

    The title character, Jack--as in Horner, Beanstalk, being nimble, etc.--masterminds a mass escape. And among the characters who make a dash for the fence are Dorothy, her three famous companions from Oz, and her little dog, too.

    Dorothy is pictured as a teenager in cowboy boots, jeans, tight stomach-baring top, and hairband. Such a depiction is only to be expected in the Fables comics, since they're published by the adult division of DC and they show other human fairy-tale characters dressed (or undressed) like pretty young things of today. Plus, we've seen similar Dorothys in many other recent comics.

    As this Dorothy and her friends climb the fence, a tiger roars up. Toto starts to snap and bark at it, just as he barks at the Cowardly Lion when they first meet.

    And the tiger eats Toto. We see this in some detail. It's like a National Geographic special for a couple of panels.

    Then Dorothy tells her other friends, "It may sound harsh, but I'm kind of relieved. That's the first time that flea-bitten mongrel's quit yapping in a hundred years!"

    A couple of pages later, other characters explain, "killed Fables often get magically replaced by new versions of the same Fable." That should reassure us about Toto's ultimate fate, but the same panels offer another look at his half-eaten hindquarters.

    Did I mention that the Fables comics are written for adults?

    18 March 2008

    Toto Talks!

    Here, as promised yesterday, is the scene at the end of Tik-Tok of Oz (1914) in which Dorothy hears Toto speak like a person for the first time. By this point he’s shared several published adventures with her and has never said a word. He's been holding back. That runs the risk of breaking one of Oz and Ends's orts of wisdom: Don't mess with Dorothy Gale.

    As they turned away Betsy said wonderingly:

    "Do all the animals in Oz talk as we do?

    "Almost all," answered Dorothy. "There's a Yellow Hen here, and she can talk, and so can her chickens; and there's a Pink Kitten upstairs in my room who talks very nicely; but I've a little fuzzy black dog, named Toto, who has been with me in Oz a long time, and he's never said a single word but 'Bow-wow!'"

    "Do you know why?" asked Ozma.

    "Why, he's a Kansas dog; so I s'pose he's different from these fairy animals," replied Dorothy.

    "Hank [the Mule] isn't a fairy animal, any more than Toto," said Ozma, "yet as soon as he came under the spell of our fairyland he found he could talk. It was the same way with Billina, the Yellow Hen whom you brought here at one time. The same spell has affected Toto, I assure you; but he's a wise little dog and while he knows everything that is said to him he prefers not to talk."

    "Goodness me!" exclaimed Dorothy. "I never s'pected Toto was fooling me all this time." Then she drew a small silver whistle from her pocket and blew a shrill note upon it. A moment later there was a sound of scurrying foot-steps, and a shaggy black dog came running up the path.

    Dorothy knelt down before him and shaking her finger just above his nose she said:

    "Toto, haven't I always been good to you?"

    Toto looked up at her with his bright black eyes and wagged his tail.

    "Bow-wow!" he said, and Betsy knew at once that meant yes, as well as Dorothy and Ozma knew it, for there was no mistaking the tone of Toto's voice.

    "That's a dog answer," said Dorothy. "How would you like it, Toto, if I said nothing to you but 'bow-wow'?"

    Toto's tail was wagging furiously now, but otherwise he was silent.

    "Really, Dorothy," said Betsy, "he can talk with his bark and his tail just as well as we can. Don't you understand such dog language?"

    "Of course I do," replied Dorothy. "But Toto's got to be more sociable. See here, sir!" she continued, addressing the dog, "I've just learned, for the first time, that you can say words--if you want to. Don't you want to, Toto?"

    "Woof!" said Toto, and that meant no.

    "Not just one word, Toto, to prove you're as any other animal in Oz?"


    "Just one word, Toto--and then you may run away."

    He looked at her steadily a moment.

    "All right. Here I go!" he said, and darted away as swift as an arrow.
    With regret I report that three books later, in The Lost Princess of Oz, Toto talks up a storm. And reveals himself to be as self-centered as any of the other Oz folks proud of their particular makeup and habits. I much prefer to imagine him as quietly devoted to Dorothy.