Have you been watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time? The Between Family has been since it premiered this fall. What got our attention was familiar Disney characters in a new light. And the concept of these fairy tale characters in our world has been an interest to me since I first picked up the comic book series Fables. In fact, what I really wanted was a live action adaption of Fables and I still secretly (okay very openly) want it.
In Once Upon a Time the Evil Queen curses the kingdom on the day of Snow White’s and Prince Charming’s wedding. She tells them they will be sent “someplace horrible.” It is discovered that only their unborn child Emma will be able to break the curse the Queen has placed on them. The curse strikes on the day of Emma’s birth and she is safely placed within a wardrobe built by Geppetto as the Queen’s curse strikes. 28 years later in our world, a young lady named Emma meets her son Henry who she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Henry insists that she is the key to breaking the curse on his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine. Storybrooke is a town that Henry insists is filled with people who are unknowingly fairy tale characters. And Henry believes his adopted mother is in fact the Evil Queen. Henry convinces Emma to stay, to Henry’s mother’s disdain. Viewers are told the story through action in Storybrooke and flashback to the fairy tale world. We follow along with Emma as she wonders if Henry is telling the truth or is trying to escape reality.
Anyone familiar with Disney princesses will feel comfortable with this ABC, making it Disney, weekly live action tale. Snow White and Prince Charming are major characters, with the curse being directed at them and their daughter being the key to destroying the curse. Additionally, the Evil Queen is the major, though maybe not only, bad guy. To be honest, we all know that Snow White and Prince Charming should live happily ever after. The fact that in Storybrooke they are separated creates a tension in their story that does not exist in the classic film. The Evil Queen is as bad as any Disney fan could hope her to be. The Huntsman also makes an appearance, telling his back story in one of my favorite episodes to date. And I have not even mentioned the Magic Mirror. The producers and writers are clearly relying on Disney tradition in their story from dwarfs named Grumpy to keepsake boxes that take us back to the Walt Disney’s first animated feature.
Snow White’s tale is not the only tale making up the foundation of the series. Pinocchio is heavily represented. Jiminy Cricket is Henry’s therapist Archie Hopper. Hopper’s best friend is Gepetto. And I have to say that the Jiminy Cricket flashbacks are highly satisfying and enjoyable. Archie has a pet Dalmatian named Pongo for fans of The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The Pongo reference is clearly a tribute to Disney animated features as he is not a traditional fairy tale character. The Blue Fairy is also seen in fairy tale flashbacks.
Other Disney characters weave themselves throughout the show. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty appears in a flashback and is key to the curse. Cinderella’s story has been explored in an episode. Episodes in 2012 promise Belle and the Beast and Aladdin focused stories. Yes, this is a series that will make Disney fans very happy.
Not all of the foundational tales of this series comes from Disney. There are non-Disneyfied fairy tales characters like Rumplestiltskin who have major roles. And it is fun, like with Fables, to see them on our world also.