Saturday, July 01, 2017

Oz Con International

I'm at Oz Con International (Winkie Con) in Portland, and here's some fun moments from the first couple of days... in the form of the newsletter that I send out daily during the convention.

Winkie Newsletter OzCon 2017 - Day 0 Report

Oz fans gathered at Cinema21 in Portland last night to watch the classic MGM movie and enjoy commentary and a trivia contest hosted by John Fricke, the preeminent Judy Garland and MGM Wizard of Oz historian.

Fricke asked if anyone had never seen the movie, and a couple of hands went up. Then he asked how many people had never seen the movie in a theater, and many hands went up. He said we were about to enjoy the movie as it was originally intended and gave some hints at what to look for - including the length of Dorothy's hair in the Scarecrow introduction scenes and the horse of a different color attempting to eat itself.

The movie itself was glorious on the large screen, with details rarely noticed suddenly apparent. The loving work that went into the production was obvious with the screen so much larger than life. While some fans sang along and even quoted the movie, others watched and laughed at the Lion's antics.

As the movie ended and the lights came up, a number of people left the theater. However, quite a few stayed for the trivia session. Everyone had been given tickets as they entered the theater, and as numbers were drawn, members of the audience were invited to answer questions posed by Fricke and sometimes other members of the audience.

Among the prizes were an original doll of the Scarecrow by Karyl Carlson, 2005 DVD Wizard of Oz collection, a Wizard of Oz Monopoly game, the Munchkin Oz game, a three-day pass for OzCon, a $25 gift certificate for the dealers room at OzCon, John Fricke's 70th anniversary book, and Eric Shanower/Skottie Young's comic book adaptation.

Two young fans came dressed for the occasion, one as a member of the Lollipop Guild and one as Dorothy. The gentleman dressed as a guild member won the monopoly game while Dorothy was given the comic book hardcover by another winner (and she got the book signed by Eric Shanower, who was in attendance).

Both before and after the movie, John Fricke and Eric Shanower were available for autographs and questions, and had good crowds.

Now it's Friday morning and the convention is setting up... look for the next update tonight if ye ol' newsletter editor is awake enough to write it.

Winkie Newsletter OzCon 2017 - Day 1 Report

Follow or contribute to discussion of OzCon 2017 on Twitter with the hashtag #OzCon17 or #OzConInternational.

Registration was open bright and early at OzCon 2017, with people trickling down through the construction-filled hotel to the convention's lobby. The convention was located in the St. Helens wing of the hotel like last year, but thanks to a remodel currently in progress, the main lobby was blocked off and people had to weave past the restaurant, main desk and gift shop to get to the area.

Ye ol' newsletter editor settled down at a table to write the day 0 report while various people ran around setting up the audio/visual equipment in the two presentation rooms and the dealers set up in Baum's Bazaar. At 10 a.m., the first panel kicked off, featuring Eric Gjovaag, Lynn Beltz and Jay Davis talking about the Emerald City television show and other versions of Oz.

At 11 a.m., Jay presented a number of animated Oz shorts by Ted Eshbaugh and the Oz cartoons continued after lunch with a presentation by Colin Ayres and Sam Milazzo on Cinar's version of Oz.

A lunch buffet was ready at the restaurant for con-goers, who congregated in the lobby to chat and catch up with each other. Although the construction was, at times, a little loud, it didn't affect the presentations and rarely did more than slightly annoy the people in the lobby. During lunch, a large group of attendees got into an involved discussion of the history of Oz fandom and how it is changing.

Just before lunch a news crew arrived from KGW8 Portland to interview Peter Hanff, John Fricke, Eric Shanower and young fan Rylan (who was dressed as the Cowardly Lion and gave a mighty roar to the cameras on live television). The video are available at

Ashley of KGW interviews Peter Hanff and Colin Ayres:

Ashley of KGW interviews Rylan the Cowardly Lion and Eric Shanower (be sure to watch until the end to see Eric roar):

At 1 p.m. a panel moderated by Jay Davis talked about Oz Conventions and how to get the most out of them. It was basically Oz Conventions 101, and attendees reported it to be useful and interesting.

The Cinar presentation in the main room (The Emerald City Room) ran a little late, but after it finished, Karyl Carlson led a discussion on costuming while the smaller conference room (The Winkie Room) held a discussion by Lee Speth, Lynn Beltz and Rick Wiegand on Ozma of Oz. Live coverage of the panel was provided on Twitter by J.L. Bell at

At 3 p.m. the Emerald City room featured a presentation by Peter Hanff, Lynn Beltz and John Fricke on the 60th birthday of the International Wizard of Oz Club. Meanwhile, in the Winkie room, Eric Gjovaag led people in a rousing edition of the British game show "Just a Minute" ( adapted to an Ozian audience. Both events ran a little late due to some set up issues.

Erica Olivera won "Just a Minute" against Colin Ayres, Rick Wiegand, and David Maxine.

A little after 4 p.m., the programs let out and everyone gathered in the lobby and dealers room for meetings and greetings. People slowly drifted away to dinner, with the main program scheduled to resume at 7 p.m. The bar created a new drink for this year, called the "Emerald City", and some fans were seen trying it out as the dinner hour progressed.

At seven, the Oz fans gathered in The Emerald City room for the evening programs. The festivities started with Peter Hanff giving an overview of the history of Oz books leading up to The Lost Princess of Oz along with a slideshow of images from the first edition of the book. He then summarized the book for the crowd, while showing slides of images from the book.

After a short break, Colin Ayres was next up with a presentation on Oz animation, starting with a 1933 short by Ted Eshbaugh and covering a number of other pieces in mostly chronological order, including Tales of the Wizard of Oz. Yes, a significant portion of the audience sang along to the theme song. Ayres included everything from full length films to a short by the American Heart Association featuring the Tin Man. The featured works included traditional animation, stop-motion and CGI. He also included Ozzy moments in other animated works, including the Superfriend's "Planet of Oz". Colin ended his presentation with a promotion of OzCon 2018, which will be celebrating the Tin Woodman of Oz. The convention will be in Pomona, California, which is fairly close to Los Angeles, Aug 10-12, 2018.

As the clock ticked past 9:15 p.m., another break allowed people to move around and get water. The final presenter of the night was Doug Aberle, who did Claymation work on Return to Oz and was there to tell the crowd how to make our own nomes. Aberle, sporting a brown Hawaiian shirt and a well-trimmed beard, started his presentation with a film about how he killed the Nome King. Aberle explains in the film that he was never on the set, but instead was working in Portland on the claymation parts of the film. The film also included an interview with Will Vinton worked into the narrative.

Aberle was the animator on the famous Mysterious Stranger segment of The Adventures of Mark Twain at Will Vinton studios, making the people the Stranger creates and doing "a really cool destruction sequence". He then started to work on the Nome King for Return to Oz with Will Vinton's team. The film told us which animators worked on which segments. The Nome King goes through three phases of claymation evolution before becoming a live actor in a costume for a short time. Aberle got the assignment to kill off the Nome King and explained why he had to do it four times. He also visited the Deadly Desert, which is just south of Tillamok, Oregon.

After the film, Aberle took questions from the audience. He was asked how many takes are usual, and Aberle said most of his shots are first take. Having to do four takes of killing the Nome King was very unusual. He also answered questions about the type of clay they used and how long the entire process took. He said he worked at Will Vinton Studios for 18 years total, and worked on a lot of different projects. He also talked a little about his current work, including a space adventure starring sock puppets. Convention Chair Lee had a hard time getting people to stop asking questions, but finally told the group that Doug will be available for more questions on Saturday. Aberle's son said the video seen by the attendees will be put on the AberleFilms YouTube channel after a few more tweaks.

The location of the after-party was announced by David Maxine, who asked the crowd to give them a head start for set-up. The attendees wandered off into the halls - though a good number found their way to the party, where David and Eric Shanower were serving "Ozma's Enchantment", a peachy drink that will turn you into a lost princess. Ye ol' newsletter editor noted the lack of chocolate and left almost immediately.

More Media Coverage:
Auntie Em! There's no place like OzCon
5 Things To Do and See In Portland Today, Thursday, June 29

Quotes of the con so far:

"It's an Oz con, there's always a technical glitch" - Colin Ayres, right after a video he was showing crashed.

"ROOOAAAARRRRR!" - Eric Shanower