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Graham Rawle's new vision of Oz

October 11, 2008 | 12:56 pm

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By the time L. Frank Baum moved to Los Angeles in the early years of the 20th century, he'd already completed "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and had begun publishing its sequels. A longtime fan of the theater, he was one of the earliest authors to embrace the idea of capturing his stories on film; Oz was on screens in 1910, 1914 and 1925 before 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" debuted. But it's the very omnipresence of that film, British artist Graham Rawle notes, that has blotted out Baum's original writings.

I had always considered The Wizard of Oz to be one of the greatest stories ever told, though my opinion was based on countless viewings of the 1939 MGM motion picture. Like so many others, I knew the film inside-out, but had never read the book. What I eventually discovered between its pages was inspiring.

In fact, it inspired Rawle to spend two years creating a new illustrated version, "L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz," out this month. He has restored parts of the book that were omitted from the famous movie version.

I was surprised to find L. Frank Baum's Oz richly populated with bizarre and wonderful characters not featured in the film: the Dainty China people, ornament-sized folk made from porcelain who are prone to breakages, and the Hammer Heads, armies of armless fighters with extendable necks and hard, flat heads. There are extra scenes, as well as back story, that reveal the origin of the Winged Monkeys, how the Tin Woodman came to be made of tin, and how the Emerald City only appears green because its inhabitants are made to wear green tinted spectacles.

Rawle handcrafted miniature sets, costumes and characters from common materials -- Toto was carved from balsa wood, the Emerald City's skyline includes painted, glittered Pringles cans, and a spider's legs were made of stalks of spray-painted asparagus. He then photographed his creations and assembled and tweaked the images in Photoshop. His illustrations are vivid constructs that come alive in the strangest ways, and the behind-the scenes views are equally fascinating -- a couple of them are after the jump.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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All photos copyright Graham Rawle; prints of his Wizard of Oz illustrations can be ordered from his website.

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