Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Josie and the Pussycats in Oz

No, not really. But sorta.

At San Diego Comic Con International I picked up a DVD of several episodes of the mid-1970s Saturday morning cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. I'd liked and watched the show as a kid. Alas, I can't say it holds up very well. But a most unusual realization occurred to me. Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space is almost assuredly one of the reasons I've always had a fondness for Ruth Plumly Thompson's most off-the-wall Oz book, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz (1939).

Many Oz fans kind of hate Ozoplaning. I agree it's a very atypical Oz book - it hardly even seems like an Oz book! - but it does have a lot of originality and action in it. It was also the last of Thompson's "official" Oz books and I've always kind of thought maybe she was just tired of Oz and decided to write her own fantasy and just  stuck the Oz characters in it to fulfill her yearly Oz book contract. Thus, while it isn't necessarily a good Oz book,  it is a good Thompson novel. In the book the Wizard has just invented a pair of magical airplanes. While he is showing these "Ozoplanes" to our Ozzy friends, one of the ships is accidentally launched and we're off on an adventure in the sky. While these things are called Ozoplanes, they really function much more like spaceships.

And here's where Josie and the Pussycats come in to it. On Saturday morning television in the early 1970s it seemed like everyone went to space! We '70s kids drank Tang, we ate Space Sticks, and we watched Josie and the Pussy Cats in Outer Space. Heck, even the Partridge Family went to Outer Space! So I think by the time I got around to reading Ozoplaning it had some goofy camp-appeal as a kind of Wizard of Oz in Outer Space thing. Josie and company begin their space adventure in much the same way the Oz characters do in Ozoplaning. It's an accidental launch in a vehicle no one knows how to fly and they get lost in space.

When I asked Eric Shanower to design a new cover for our Hungry Tiger Press edition of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz a couple years ago, he drew exactly what I imagined and wanted. Amazingly, it looks a LOT like the Josie image at the top of this blog post! But then again, Josie's ship looks a lot like an Ozoplane! (See the model sheet for Josie's Spaceship at the bottom of this blog.)

While I readily admit Ozoplaning is a really weird Oz book, I must also admit I would REALLY love to have an Ozoplane of my own. I'd even settle for a toy Ozoplane!

So next time you sit down to read Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, don't bemoan the fact that it isn't in the same mold as Patchwork Girl, Merry Go Round, or Lost Princess. Just mix yourself a glass of Tang, dust off your beanbag chair, and realize that Ozoplaning far outshines Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space!


Tim Tucker said...

I always loved that Josie and the Pussycats' spaceship. It just looked so cool.

And I've never had a problem with Ozoplaning, either.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Ozoplaning was a most appropriate lead-in to the Neill books.

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

to Glenn - Yes, it really was!

Anonymous said...

JATPIOS may not have been the best of Hanna-Barbera (several other contenders leap to mind), however like so much of H.B. product, it had a wonderful theme song, and some great voice work. Must reread Ozoplaning after reading your post.