Kirby and the Dreamstalk

I like Kirby, but I haven’t actually played that many Kirby games. I remember seeing my brother play Kirby’s Adventure for the NES some years ago. I got Kirby: Triple Deluxe for the 3DS for Christmas, and started playing it about two weeks or so ago. It’s pretty easy to get into, with Kirby games being made so they can be enjoyed for inexperienced players. I’m experienced in that I’ve been playing video games since I was a kid, but I’ve never been that good at them, so it’s kind of a relief to play something where I don’t die pretty much immediately. I am having some trouble in Level 5, but I don’t know that it’s insurmountable. You’re able to float over many (but not all) obstacles, you can take several hits before dying, health-restoring items are pretty common, you start with a good number of lives, and there isn’t much of a penalty for a game over. It seems like a lot of games are heading in that basic direction; I understand Super Mario Odyssey doesn’t even have a lives mechanic. As is typical of Kirby games (except the first one), Kirby is able to obtain various powers by inhaling enemies. I understand the Beetle ability, which lets you fly and sting adversaries, is new in this game.

There’s also Hypernova, obtained from fruits in certain levels, which lets you inhale much larger objects and creatures. It’s pretty fun to use.

Sabin can Suplex a train, but Kirby can suck it up.
The style of the game is what I’ve seen called 2.5D, in that it’s a side-scroller, but there are still elements in the background and foreground that can affect you.

You can also switch between them at certain points by riding floating Warpstars. There’s a bit of puzzle-solving involved with this, but generally nothing all that difficult. On some occasions, you have to tilt the 3DS itself in order to move things. Some of the bosses are pretty annoying, though, especially Coily Rattler, the snake who’s only vulnerable on his head.

Boss fights are often preceded by a room where you can choose from a few different abilities, although you can lose these by getting hit.

The plot of this one has a giant Dreamstalk growing in Dream Land and lifting buildings and inhabitants into the air, and a spider monster kidnapping King Dedede.

Kirby has to chase the monster through several stages in the clouds. In order to reach the final boss of a level, you need to collect a certain number of Sun Stones, some of which are obvious and others hidden. For every final boss battle, Dedede’s captor, Taranza, will work some kind of magic to either create or enhance an enemy, in much the same manner as Kamek in some of the Mario games.

There are two other modes accessible from the beginning, which I guess is why it’s Triple Deluxe, but I really only took a cursory glance at them. Kirby Fighters is a fighting game similar to Super Smash Bros., pitting Kirby against one or more enemies in a variety of battlefields. You choose one ability to use, and there are items in the stages that both you and your opponents can use.

Dedede’s Drum Dash is a side-scrolling game where Dedede bounces on drums, with timing and combinations being crucial to making the jumps properly. I tried it once, but I was terrible at it.

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Tin Hands Are Ku-Klip’s Workshop

So, I’m back from OzCon International, which was pretty Oz-some. It’s kind of disappointing that it’s over, but nice to get home again. When I first started going to Oz conventions, it was often one of the few chances I got to socialize with anyone outside my immediate family, so I was kind of depressed at the end. That’s less common now, probably mitigated somewhat by: 1) being married, and 2) having the Internet, and even keeping in touch with other Oz fans. Still, I feel like I probably talked some people’s ears off (I wonder if that ever literally happens in Oz), both as a panelist and otherwise, so I apologize if that’s the case. I’m really shy, but once I start talking I tend to monopolize the conversation. Anyway, this year’s convention was in Pomona, California, a state to which I’d never been before. I tried to count, and it’s the nineteenth state I’ve been in, which averages out to less than one state for every two years of my life. If I keep this up, I’ll have to live past one hundred to visit all of them. I hate travel, but I like to have been places, if that makes any sense. The little I saw of California was pretty fascinating, and I wouldn’t mind going back there sometime when I’m not as busy and it isn’t one hundred degrees outside. The hotel was on the Cal Poly Pomona campus, on a hill that was confusing to get down from. Fortunately, I didn’t often need to, but when I was really hungry and there was nothing available at the hotel, it took me forever just to find a place that sold muffins (the campus bookstore).

Anyway, I got in Thursday evening, and the programs started at 11 AM on Friday. There were often two programs going on at the same time, and this meant there were a few I was interested in that I had to miss, but I’m mostly satisfied. J.L. Bell discussed what he saw as the main themes of The Tin Woodman of Oz, the main focus for this convention. Then I saw Raymond Wohl do a shortened version of his one-man show as L. Frank Baum. It seemed basically accurate to what I knew of Baum’s life, although he did stick in quite a few jokey references, many to the MGM film. He’s a very engaging performer.

Judy Bieber did a talk on the strong women of Oz and how some of them were…not necessarily weakened, but had their strengths de-emphasized over time. I’ve written before about how there are occasions when Baum DID reinforce traditional gender roles in his Oz books (not in a prescriptive manner, just in making the male characters more active and forthright), with Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz being particularly notable in that respect. The first panel I was on was about The Lost Tales of Oz, a new anthology of Oz stories to which I contributed. After that, the contributors who were there signed some copies, so that was the first time I’ve ever autographed anything. The official release date is the twenty-first, but there were advance copies there. The evening program had Andy Mangels discussing Filmation’s Journey Back to Oz, which had some big-name voice actors but wasn’t ultimately that successful.

Dina Schiff Massachi, with whom I shared a shuttle from the airport, previewed her talk on the Tin Woodman and emotional intelligence. Then Eric Shanower and David Maxine interviewed Robert Payes about his mother, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, in a session that became very emotional in spots.

James Ortiz talked about the puppetry in his work The Woodsman (which was performed twice at the convention, but not at times convenient for me; I believe it’s on Amazon Prime, however), and demonstrated how complicated the process of working puppets can be.

The last bit of the night was “Ku-Klip’s Workshop,” a skit based on that episode of Tin Woodman with added jokes, in which I played Woot the Wanderer. I hope someone has pictures of that.

Saturday’s program opened with the costume contest. I used to dress up pretty much every year back in the day, usually getting my mom to help me make the outfits, but I haven’t been in recent years. I should probably get something together for next year, but I say that every year. There were some great costumes this year, including Susan Hall as Tommy Kwikstep being gradually disenchanted by Polychrome, Colin Ayres as a clumsy Scarecrow, Caitlin Masters as Mrs. Yoop complete with birdcage and stuffed bear, Erica Olivera as Jellia Jamb, and people whose names I can’t remember (you can help me out if you know them) as Til Loon, a gender-bent Dorian Gale, and an original character from Loonville. After that came the quizzes, and I did not win this time, although I think I did get a few answers no one else did. I DID, however, win second place in the fiction contest for a story I submitted. Opposite the auction, Dina did her full talk.

Eric Shanower later discussed how different artists drew Nick Chopper, including how John R. Neill’s take was less realistic than W.W. Denslow’s, but became more iconic.

The evening program ran a bit late, but we did get to see an interview with Ray Bolger’s niece and Jack Haley’s grandson and an exploration of Hollywood as it looked when Baum lived there.

I participated in a game where contestants had to guess the names of Oz-related characters from hints, and some of those names were incredibly obscure. I think Prissy Pingle might have been from the stage play The Woggle-Bug; and the audience was particularly amused by Lesba, who’s apparently a Brazilian character in Baum’s The Fate of a Crown. I don’t know that this was ever a real name; and while I get that “gay” and “queer” (both words Baum used a lot) have changed in common meaning over time, but “lesbian” (to mean a gay woman rather than a resident of Lesbos) appears to date back to 1870. There was a karaoke session after that, and I joined in on performances of “The Jitterbug” and the Munchkin segment from the MGM movie.

On Sunday morning, Angelica Carpenter and a few others did a panel discussion of marriages in Oz, a pretty interesting topic, and one that post-Baum authors sometimes treated a bit differently. Robin Hess did a talk on resolving contradictions in the Oz series.

After lunch, I was on a panel responding to that and talking about other continuity issues, along with J.L. Bell, Anil Tambwekar, and Judy Bieber. I had to leave soon after that. They’re actually doing an unofficial Disney Day at Disneyland today, but while I’d like to go there, I didn’t think I could swing the cost, and didn’t want to go alone. (Yeah, I know I’d know other people there, but I mean in terms of having someone to ride the rides with. If Beth had gone, I might well have attended this.) I hope to make it again next year, but it’s too soon to tell.

Posted in Art, Cartoons, Characters, Eric Shanower, Feminism, Games, History, Humor, John R. Neill, L. Frank Baum, Live Shows, Music, Oz, Oz Authors, Rachel Cosgrove Payes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ding Dong, the Demon Is Dead

Hey, I finally beat Rhapthorne in Dragon Quest VIII! I leveled up a little more, but I think a lot of it was luck. After you kill the Dark Lord (SPOILERS, obviously), there’s an ending sequence where Empyrea takes you back to Trodain Castle, reveals that her real name is Ramia (the phoenix from DQ3), and departs for another world.

The curse on King Trode and Princess Medea is broken, and Trode looks pretty much the same except not green. The party splits up, and a few months later, Medea’s arranged marriage to Prince Charmles of Argonia is set to take place.

The Prince is an all-around unpleasant character, rude, condescending, cowardly, and childish, with an Elmer Fudd speech impediment. Pretty much everyone calls him “Charmless,” and he insists it’s pronounced “Charm-LAY,” but it’s really just Charles with an M. The initiation for Princes of Argonia is to kill an Argon Lizard and bring back its heart, but Charmles is so terrified of this that the party has to do it for him, then he just goes and buys a bigger Argon heart anyway. He’s also abusive to Medea in horse form (without knowing who she is, but still, dick move). In the ending, Medea tires of Charmles’ pushiness and runs away from her wedding, assisted by the hero and her father. Then the credits roll for a long time, and that’s it for the main game. As is typical for reissued role-playing games, however, there’s some post-game content that includes even harder bosses. Although I did save after the credits, I don’t think I’m going to try this right away. I remember attempting the post-game in the Game Boy Advance version of Final Fantasy II (the original II, not the one that used to be IV in the States), and dying pretty much immediately. From what I’ve heard, though, it’s the post-game that really goes into the hero’s origins; the main game just says he was a lost boy who showed up in Trodain, grew up with the Princess, and became a guard. DQ heroes are often lost royalty or of supernatural descent, and I believe it’s eventually revealed that both are true for this guy, and that his pet mouse has a secret identity as well. He can also marry either Medea or Jessica, although the latter requires you to do something before beating Rhapthorne that I didn’t do. I don’t think there was any real chemistry between the hero and Jessica anyway, but I guess it’s a fanservice thing. And Lorenzo, son of the Chancellor of Argonia, who at least claimed to be engaged to Jessica, doesn’t seem interested in her anymore for some reason. There are hints that she and Angelo have feelings for each other, but getting him to settle down would be a real challenge.

I’ve already given my general thoughts on the game, but I figured I should address some of its additional aspects. One is the alchemy pot, which combines two of more items into something new.

From what I’ve heard, this was more of a pain in the PlayStation version, as it took a while to work. In the 3DS version, it’s instant from when you first get it, although it takes some time before King Trode can successfully upgrade it to combine three items instead of just two. Recipes are in books scattered throughout the world, or you can experiment on your own; the game will let you know whether it’s possible to use certain items together, although it won’t tell you what the result will be unless you’ve either done it before or found a recipe. You can get some rare items that way. What’s kind of annoying is that it often means you can’t sell your excess stuff, because you might be able to use it for alchemy when you’ve found other required items. At least, that’s how it worked out for me.

Another significant but optional part of the game is the Monster Arena. Monster fights as a sport have been a part of the series since DQ3, and you were able to recruit monsters to fight alongside your party in 5 and 6, with the Monsters games based pretty much entirely around this mechanic. In 8, the owner of the arena, the rich, eccentric Italian (or whatever the equivalent of Italian is in this world; I don’t think you ever find out his origins) Morrie Mozzarella, sees promise in you and tasks you with finding certain monsters throughout the world to build your own team.

You can only recruit certain monsters, which are stronger than others of their kind and indicated with a special cursor when you see them on the map screen.

You then can enter them in matches in order to increase your rank, which also comes with additional prizes from Morrie. The battles are automatic; you can’t tell the monsters what to do, and they’re not always that smart. Fortunately, this is the case for your opponents as well. Once you reach a certain rank, you can also call your monster team to help you in battle. Since Morrie revives and heals the monsters after every challenge, it is perhaps a little less barbaric than it seems at first. In the 3DS version, if you become the champion, Morrie will join you as a permanent party member, but I never got that far.

Something new to the 3DS version is the ability to take pictures of what’s on the screen, even giving you a certain amount of control over what the results will look like. You can choose whether or not your party is in the picture, which raises the question of who’s holding the camera, since it’s explicitly mentioned in-game and not just a player mechanic. Maybe it can float or something. There’s never any indication that you have to develop the film either, so I’m guessing it’s magical. In the town of Port Prospect, there’s a guy named Cameron Obscura who will reward you if you take pictures of certain things, with the list growing as you visit new places.

How Cameron finds out about these things is never stated, although the descriptions suggest he’s visited some of them himself. The instructions are a little vague sometimes, like when it doesn’t specify WHICH casino sign in Baccarat you’re supposed to photograph. And you can’t take pictures in battle, so if the challenge specifies a monster doing something, like a cat washing its face or a Khalamari Kid doodling, you have to catch them doing that on the map screen.

So that’s DQ8, at least until I pluck up the courage to try the post-game. I had kind of wanted to get back to DQ5 after this, but I don’t have it on hand, so maybe 6 instead. I’ve actually gotten pretty far in that one, but I can’t remember much of it. 5 was a lot more memorable, even though I think I last played that even longer ago. I’ve also been playing Kirby Triple Deluxe, and was going to write about that today, but defeating Rhapthorne made this seem more urgent. By the way, is he called Rhapthorne because one of his powers is wrapping thorns around people, particularly when he’s still trapped in the scepter? I understand his Japanese name is Rapuson, and I don’t know if that means anything.

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A Koschei Deal

Her Majesty’s Wizard, by Christopher Stasheff – I saw this book on a list of recommendations somewhere, and I didn’t realize at the time that the author had just died in June. This is the first book of the Wizard in Rhyme series, about a doctoral student named Matthew Mantrell who finds himself transported to an alternate medieval Europe where magic is real. He figures out how magic operates and becomes a wizard, casting spells through the use of verses, either famous poems that are relevant to his situation or ones he makes up on the fly. The idea of someone from our world scientifically determining the laws of magic in a fantastic world reminds me of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Harold Shea stories, and it turns out he actually collaborated on a few of those after Pratt’s death (and after this book). It’s also clear that medieval Catholicism is not only completely true in this world, but in its simplest form, with the Devil directly interfering in daily events and priests having a lot of power. Stasheff was himself Catholic, and said that it bothered him that fantasy set in the medieval world tended to ignore religion, when it was such a significant part of life then. I’m sure part of that is because taking a stand on such things, whether for or against, can potentially offend readers, not to mention that it can often be more fun for authors to make up their own religions. But I think that, although the Christianity in this alternate world likely reflected Stasheff’s own views in many ways, he did take it to extremes with how literal everyone was about it. Divine right is also a wholly accurate philosophy there, although it does depend on whether a royal is doing something political or personal; if the latter, they’re still fallible. Anyway, the plot concerns Matt’s adventures in Merovence, the equivalent of France, which has been taken over by a sorcerer in league with Hell who has installed a puppet king and locked up the rightful heir to the throne, Princess Alisande. Matt rescues her and also teams up with a knight, a reformed seductress, a werewolf priest, and a dragon who gets drunk on his own flame to take back the kingdom. While the action isn’t as interesting as the philosophy, it’s a pretty good story. I’ve started on the sequel, The Oathbound Wizard. I’ve seen the cover from the edition I checked out from the library, illustrated by Daniel Horne, on at least one list of bad fantasy covers. The weird thing is that Matt reminds me of an old picture of my dad.

Deathless, by Catherynne Valente – Based on the old Russian folk tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, it takes the story into twentieth-century history with the Russian Revolution and World War II. It’s fantastic but bleak, mixing beings from folklore into the harsh realities of life in the Soviet Union. After being educated by various magical creatures, Marya marries Koschei, and comes to live on the magical island of Buyan. Baba Yaga, who here drives a car on chicken legs, tells Marya that Koschei has been lying to her and he’d had many lovers in the past, reliving the same basic story over and over again. While Marya tries to turn against the narrative, she ends up being caught up in it, falling in love with a soldier named Ivan Nikolayevich and returning to her old home in Leningrad with him, while still retaining feelings for Koschei. The narrative is confusing in spots, but there are a lot of interesting aspects to it, including the interpretation of some of the main mythical figures as mystical tsars who battle for control of the world. Some others have adjusted to the changing times, like a dragon who does execution paperwork for the Communist Party. There’s a part where Marya spends time in an unchanging village created by a magic bird, along with alternate versions of Tsar Nicholas II, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and Rasputin, all of whom get along. Finally, Baba Yaga insists that the Tsar of Death has won, and magic has died out, but there’s still a certain amount of ambiguity.

An Artificial Night, by Seanan McGuire – The third October Daye novel has Toby investigating missing children and entering the domain of Blind Michael, leader of the Wild Hunt, who kidnaps kids to make them join in the ride. In the case of mortals, they become the horses. The rules of his realm are childish in nature, and Toby uses the “how many miles to Babylon” rhyme to reach it, with help from the Luidaeg. The verse also features in Diana Wynne Jones’s Deep Secret. Also featured is Toby’s Fetch, a duplicate of someone who comes into existence when that person is about to die. Toby doesn’t die, however, and instead makes friends with the Fetch, whose name is May. As with other books in the series, McGuire mixes actual fairy lore with her own inventions, with Blind Michael resembling Herne the Hunter in leading the Wild Hunt and having antlers.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, Catholicism, Christianity, Diana Wynne Jones, Fairy Tales, History, Magic, Mythology, Nursery Rhymes, october daye, Religion, Russian, seanan mcguire, Slavic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhapthorne Session

I’ve tried several times, but still haven’t managed to beat Rhapthorne, the final boss in Dragon Quest VIII. At least I’m pretty sure this is the final battle (not counting post-game bonus content); I already beat him once in the Black Citadel. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do differently. I did a bit of leveling up, but that seems to be of limited use once you reach a certain point. I get the impression a lot of it is luck, because if he pulls out the meteors or the heavenly attack, those do a LOT of damage. I’m especially screwed if Angelo dies, because he’s the only one who has a guaranteed way to revive the dead. The thing is, once you get to the final boss in a game like this, there’s not much else you can do instead. There is the monster arena, but again, I’m not sure how I can beat a Class A battle. I figure you need to do that in order to recruit Morrie, so I still haven’t done that. I do have Red in my party, but I haven’t really used her because I’m so accustomed to the original quartet. I do like her voice, though; it’s hard to go wrong with sassy English accents.

I’m sure I’ll get back to it eventually, but for now I’m taking a break. Still, since I’ve played through most of the game, I might as well write a bit about it. If you want to see what I wrote when I’d just started playing, it’s here.

One thing I noticed is that, in some ways, the game is actually more forgiving than others in the series. Usually, when your party is wiped out, the leader will be resurrected, but it’s up to you to revive the others. While generally just a nuisance, it can be a real hassle early on when you have little money and no reviving spells. In this one, your entire party comes back with full hit points. You still lose half your gold, though; and while there are banks where you can store money, you don’t come across one until after you get a ship. Also, while the Zoom spell usually only takes you to towns you’ve visited before, in 8 it can take you back to dungeons as well, which means you don’t have to walk there multiple times. And when you level up, you’re also restored to full hit points, not something that happens in other DQ games. I don’t know whether these changes appeared in the original PlayStation version, but they’re in the 3DS one, and they make things easier. And there are roads to most significant locations, so it’s less difficult to find your way around or figure out where to go next.

It’s typical in the DQ games for the main boss to not really do much until later on, and they’re often not even mentioned for some time. There’s no mention at all of Malroth in DQ2 until you fight him, but that’s immediately after fighting the boss you know about from the beginning. Well, there’s an item called the Eye of Malroth, but that’s only in the NES version; it’s called the False Idol or Evil Statue otherwise. DQ3 sets up Baramos at the main boss, but it turns out there’s a greater villain in Zoma. DQ6 does kind of the same thing with Murdaw, although so much of the world is left unexplored when you beat him that you know you’re nowhere near the end of the game. In 3, you go to an entirely different world after beating Baramos, so it’s a more effective surprise (although I already knew about it from Nintendo Power). 8 is more like 6 in that respect, in that you spend the first part of it chasing after Dhoulmagus, but you kill him before you’ve seen the whole world.

It turns out that he’s under the control of Rhapthorne, who was sealed inside a staff that the jester steals from Trodain Castle. After you defeat Dhoulmagus, you find out that the only way Rhapthorne can be released is to trap the spirits of the descendants of the seven sages who originally sealed him away in the staff. So you seek out the other descendants, but they all end up being killed anyway. It’s one of those situations where you know from early on that the villain is going to temporarily succeed, like how there’s no way to stop Golbez from gathering all the crystals in Final Fantasy IV, or how it was pretty obvious throughout Infinity War that Thanos would obtain all the Infinity Stones. It makes that part of the game a bit frustrating, but role-playing video games always have to give you some reason to explore the entire world. An interesting aspect is that Rhapthorne possesses anyone who holds the staff. After you defeat Dhoulmagus, he takes over Jessica, and you have to fight her with your remaining party members.

As is typical, she has a lot more hit points than when you’re controlling her. Then the dog Sir Leopold takes it and becomes a flying hellhound.

Finally, before Rhapthorne shows his true form, Angelo’s even more arrogant brother Marcello is controlled by him for a while, although he’s willful enough to stave off the possession for longer than the others.

This scene was actually censored a bit for the 3DS version, due to standards having changed in the intervening years.
Dhoulmagus is said to have already been pretty nasty before being possessed, but he didn’t start murdering people until Rhapthorne took control.

Several of the places appearing in this game are pretty typical of the series and the genre in general. You have your town of thieves, a casino town, a place with friendly monsters, a pirate hideout, and a frozen tundra. There’s no desert town this time, although you find a ship in a desert.

And while there are churches throughout the series, the church organization is more significant and more corrupt this time around. Members of the clergy sell indulgences, betray each other in order to gain power, torture prisoners, and maintain a brutal penal colony.

That’s not to say all the priests are bad by any means, just that the more sinister aspects of religion are somewhat in play here. The tundra area is Russian-themed, while the people in the casino town of Baccarat have American accents, and the hidden land of Empycchu seems somewhat South American (although I don’t know that their greeting “Gojoshar!” resembles any real language). There’s also a parallel dark world, although you explore only a small part of it, unless it features again in the post-game.

As usual, you get your own ship partway through the game, and flying transportation much later on. In this case, the latter is a sacred bird, much like in DQ3 (in fact, I think it’s eventually revealed that it’s the same bird).

The flight controls are a little more realistic than usual, and I have some trouble with them, especially as the map never seems to really show where you are while you’re in the air. Unlike in the previous few games, there’s no intermediate transportation with limited powers of flight. You can also summon and ride sabrecats after befriending the cat-loving Felix.

Some of the more notable sub-quests include visiting the mystical Moonshadow Realm, chasing thieving moles who mostly just say “Dig Dug” and have a ruler who fancies himself a hip musician, and helping a spoiled prince fulfill his rite of passage by killing giant lizards.

There are also a lot of different sorts of monsters, most of the familiar ones plus some amusing new ones, even fairly early on: cats based on the Cheshire one, puppeteers who put on shows to affect your party’s mood, satyrs who play pipes, cute little squid who sometimes draw instead of attacking.

The world doesn’t seem as big as it does in previous games, particularly DQ7, but there are more distinctive characters. It’s also kind of darker than many, what with all the people who die for good. Then again, DQ5 has your father brutally killed right in front of you.

There are a few other things I wanted to mention, like the alchemy pot, the camera challenge, and some more detail on the monster arena, but I think I’ll save them for a later post.

Posted in Animals, Dragon Quest, Focus on the Foes, Magic, Monsters, Religion, Video Games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

As Many Questions As I Dare

It’s only a little over a week before I leave for OzCon, and the theme this year is The Tin Woodman of Oz. I took another look at the book a few months ago, and here I’m just going to look at a few loose ends the tale leaves.

The story Nick Chopper tells about becoming tin is somewhat different from the original one in Wizard. The earlier version says he lost his head first, and the later one that he had his flesh head on top of an entirely tin body for a while. Since both end with him being entirely tin, it doesn’t matter much in the long run, but it’s weird. I think part of it was L. Frank Baum trying to update the story to better match what he’d since established about Oz and near-immortality. He tells Woot that he didn’t die when cut to pieces because no one in Oz can ever be killed, which he hadn’t decided yet when he wrote Wizard, and the detail about Nimmie Amee taking his old head helps to set up the conversation with it later on. That Nimmie Amee is now working for the Wicked Witch of the East herself instead of an unidentified old woman who pays the Witch might be something Nick came to realize later on.

Perhaps the Witch was living incognito, or he just didn’t know what she looked like. That does, however, raise the question as to how Nimmie came to be living with the self-styled ruler of the Munchkin Country. While the Good Witch of the North says the Witch kept the Munchkins in bondage, we’re never told of any others who work specifically in her household.

Woot seems strangely ignorant of his own homeland. He doesn’t know who the ruler of one of the quadrants is (not HIS home quadrant, but still) or that nobody dies in Oz. He does say that a lot of people he’s met don’t like to answer questions, but he’s unaware of some very basic things. How isolated is his homeland? He says it’s “in a far corner of the Gillikin Country of Oz” (why does he need to specify the “Oz” part when he’s still there?), and later that it’s “in one of the top corners of the Gillikin Country, near to Oogaboo.” According to the map, Oogaboo is in the Winkie Country, and there’s a bit more Winkie land to the east of it (where Ruth Plumly Thompson would later place Corumbia, Corabia, and Samandra). As such, Woot’s home is probably near the Skeezers‘ lake, which is pretty far out, although both the Skeezers and Flatheads seem better informed.

Atticus Gannaway mentioned that on the first page of the handwritten manuscript are written, “Vooles of Voobrille, Kraux, Divus.” None of these names appear in the finished draft. The Vooles might have become the Loons, but I have no idea about the other two. “Dives” can mean “rich man” and has been misinterpreted as the name of a character in one of Jesus’ parables, but I don’t know if that’s relevant.

Also, Til Loon was originally Sal Loon, which makes more sense but was presumably considered inappropriate for children.

The idea that the dragons are only allowed to come to surface to feed once per century is an intriguing one, but as I explained before, the details are remarkably unclear. Roger Baum has Dorothy and company meet dragons who are presumably the same ones in his Dorothy, and she convinces Gayelette to give them a home. Did Roger forget that his book was taking place BEFORE Tin Woodman? We do know Gayelette has a temper, though, so she could possibly have banished them back underground after they offended her in some way.

Tommy Kwikstep identifies his twenty legs as the result of a foolish wish granted to him by “an old lady who was a fairy, or a witch, or something of the sort.” He delivers magic medicine to another old woman, and the wish is actually granted before he makes the delivery. Maybe it would have been rescinded if he hadn’t fulfilled his mission, but he was presumably too polite for that. He says he could never find the woman who granted the wish again, and there’s no indication as to whether or not he asked the second old lady about what had happened. Nick asks if the witch-woman had wrinkled skin and half her teeth missing, to which Tommy says no, and Nick confirms that it couldn’t be Mombi, even though he’s seen Mombi change her form. I don’t know of any indication that Mombi ever granted wishes, though. The woman could be a character we’ve met before, but wouldn’t have to be. It’s something I’d sort of like to address in a future story. I’m working on one now that identifies the owner of the magic book that brings Benny to life in Giant Horse, and I’ve already written about Soob the Sorcerer who’s mentioned but doesn’t appear in Gnome King, so I guess revealing secret magic-workers is a hobby of mine. Tommy also says he got his name for his speed at running errands, which means we don’t know what his name might have been before that, but it might have been Tommy (Thomas?) and the Kwikstep was added later. He turns up again in Jared Davis’ short story “Tommy Kwikstep and the Magpie,” which is slated to appear in the upcoming The Lost Tales of Oz.

Polychrome says she remembers Jinjur, but when would they have met before? My best guess would be the party in Road, which Jinjur is never said to have attended, but it’s possible she was there. And the Tin Woodman says that he remembers Mr. Yoop, even though he wasn’t in the scene where the Scarecrow encountered him in Patchwork Girl, although maybe he just means he remembers HEARING about Mr. Yoop.

Posted in Atticus Gannaway, Characters, Jared Davis, L. Frank Baum, Names, Oz, Oz Authors, Places | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vehicular Film Slaughter

Cars 2The first movie was about NASCAR racing, so this one is about international espionage. Makes sense. Okay, I guess it sort of does, since the spy genre often involves souped-up cars. But it doesn’t make for a particularly good movie. I believe this one has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any Pixar film, and I can’t say I disagree. At least that means that, if I’m on the same page as the consensus, Cars 3 won’t be as bad. The original Cars wasn’t a favorite of mine by any means, but it had a bit of sentimental charm that really isn’t present in the sequel. Since Lightning McQueen’s story is pretty much over, it instead focuses on Larry the Cable Guy’s tow truck character Tow Mater, whom McQueen takes along on the World Grand Prix. Sponsored by a billionaire oil tycoon car who’s now marketing an alternative fuel, it has tracks in Japan, Italy, and England. There’s a fair amount of Mater just acting like an American rube, driving on the wrong side of the road and mistaking wasabi for pistachio ice cream, for instance. (How is a car going to tell if something is spicy, though?) He’s mistaken for a spy by two actual spy cars, Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell, who are investigating a plot to sabotage the Grand Prix by a society of lemons, and they take his simple-mindedness as remaining under cover.

He eventually manages to save the day and expose the mastermind behind the scheme in his own way by noticing things the other cars don’t. There’s a bit of a subplot about McQueen having an Italian rival in the Formula One car Francesco Bernoulli, whom his girlfriend finds attractive, but it never really goes much of anywhere. The film continues to introduce aspects to the world that don’t really seem to work with cars as the dominant life form. Like, Luigi’s Italian aunt and uncle want to make McQueen food that will fatten him up, because stereotypes. But if they live on fuel, wouldn’t that just result in an overflowing gas tank, not a fatter car? But then, as per the wasabi scene, they apparently eat human foods sometimes? How do they even make it? I’m not really sure how it works. It’s also confirmed that ALL vehicles are alive and many of them sentient, so when the cars fly in planes, they’re riding inside of other intelligent beings.

I guess that was already the case with the trailers in the first movie, but it’s even more exaggerated here. Really, though, my main problem was that it just wasn’t particularly fun to watch. The only thing that I think worked was some of the jokey names for the cars, but I like puns more than a lot of people. The name Topolino for Luigi’s relatives is an in-joke of sorts, in that it’s a nickname for the Fiat 500, but also the Italian name for Mickey Mouse.

I’m not exactly sure how “Tow Mater” is funny, though. I mean, I get that he’s a tow truck and it sounds like “tomato,” but what does he have to do with tomatoes? I guess they just thought “Mater” sounded like a hick name or something?

Posted in Cartoons, Humor, Names, Revisiting Disney, VoVat Goes to the Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment