08 October 2008

Newly Assembled Wizard of Oz

Today the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London was going to host a panel discussion on this topic:

So many of us find powerful significances and lost worlds within The Wizard of Oz, both the film and the book. Why is this story still so important and so resonant a fable?
Among the scheduled speakers were Graham Rawle, illustrator of a new edition of The Wizard of Oz; Susie Boyt, author of My Judy Garland Life; and Rebecca Loncraine, "author of a forthcoming biography of L Frank Baum." (British style eschews not-absolutely-necessary punctuation, like the period at the end of an abbreviation.)

But that description has disappeared from the museum's website, though related events (a screening of the MGM Wizard of Oz movie and "visuals and music inspired by The Wizard of Oz from Punkvert") are still on. I don't know if that change was a computer glitch or a cancellation. Since I'm three thousand miles away, it doesn't really affect me.

I came across Rawle's edition of Wizard in a bookstore last week. It contains Baum's full text, including (as Soft Skull's cover copy notes) episodes that never made it into the movie.

But the book didn't contain a lot of charm, at least for me. As you see in the cover image, the part of Dorothy is played by a doll with an oversized head, and Toto by a little figurine on a little handcart. Rawle's website offers many images from the book and its making. He's a "collage artist," though these illustrations seem to be a combination of dioramas and collage, with perhaps some digital manipulation as well.

I think that approach works for some of the characters. The Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are already assembled creatures, after all. But seeing Dorothy as a grotesque cutesy doll with an unchanging face erases her charm. Dog Art Today called the result like "The Lonely Doll, crossed with Tim Burton." Which doesn't help if you find The Lonely Doll and many Tim Burton movies creepy.


Jay said...

Yeah, the design of Dorothy really turned me off when I saw the cover. (I posted on the Oz Club's message board that I was going to be sick.) The publisher later sent me a link to a PDF that previewed the book, but trying to open froze up my computer.

Bill S. said...

I found the pictures documenting the process more interesting than the final product, myself.