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The Oz Toy Book

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The Oz Toy Book: Cut-outs for the Kiddies was a 1915 promotional product released by Oz publisher Reilly & Britton, which turned into a significant source of dissatisfaction between L. Frank Baum and his publisher and illustrator.

Sales for the 1914 Oz book, Tik-Tok of Oz, were considered disappointing by Reilly & Britton; the company made a greater advertising effort for its 1915 successor, The Scarecrow of Oz. One aspect of this promotional drive was The Oz Toy Book, which consisted of 16 full-color pages of cut-out paper dolls of Oz characters, 54 figures from the first nine books, drawn by regular artist John R. Neill. The quality of the booklet was high enough that the publisher decided to sell it, rather than merely giving it away as a promotional item.

Reilly & Britton neglected to consult the author of Oz, however; Baum learned about the thing only when he saw it in the publisher's catalogue. Mindful of all the difficulties he had endured with W. W. Denslow over copyrights to Oz characters, Baum had reason to be sensitive and protective on the subject; he reacted vociferously to the Toy Book. Company president Frank K. Reilly mollified his star author with explanations and profuse apologies.

Yet the matter also crystalized Baum's latent dissatisfaction with illustrator Neill. Unlike his personal relationship with Denslow, Baum had little if any direct contact with the Philadelphia-based Neill. The author wondered if Neill's artwork was funny enough for the humor in the books. Baum suggested that Reilly & Britton consider replacing Neill with Winsor McCay, the brilliant creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland, or George McManus of the comic strip Bringing Up Father. The publisher, however, had a good working relationship with Neill; when Baum did not pursue the matter, they were happy to let it drop.

The original Toy Book is now one of the rarest of Oz collectibles; only four complete and intact copies are known to survive. Eric Shanower produced his own companion piece, The Oz Toy Book Volume 2, in 1994.

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