Once Upon a Time Season 1
Studio: ABC Studios, Kitsis/Horowitz
Release Date: October 17, 2012
Price: $66.99 – Available Here
There are plenty of books, movies and TV shows out there that are about reinventing the fairy tales that we all know as children. However, not all of them have landed that well. In fact, a lot of them haven’t done so well and have come across either forced, or silly, or just not interesting beyond the fact that they’re reimagined fairy tales. Still, Once Upon a Time takes it to a level that it has never been taken to before. Not only are they reimagining one fairy tale, but countless.
The series is like a trip down memory lane, to simpler times of Disney movies and fairy tale books. So, how does it measure up, does it take on these bevy of fairy tales well? Or does it struggle to juggle them all?
The story revolves around Emma Swan, a cynical, strong woman who has been brought to Storybrooke by the son she gave up for adoption. Her son, Henry, insists that all the members of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped in the real world, which she doubts very much. The first season is spent with Henry trying to convince her of this, her doubting him, and the audience being introduced to the various Storybrooke members and their fairytales.
Quite a few different fairy tales get explored in the first season, with the main story being that of Snow White and Prince Charming. Instead of having their story being quite two-dimensional and easy, with their love happening instantly and over nothing, there is actually a whole lot of story and character development and by the time they actually make it to each other it feels like you’ve completed a marathon.
The parallel of the Fairy Tale Land and Storybrooke works brilliantly, with both sides of the characters being handled with great skill by the actors and writers. They are completely different from each other, in terms of most of the characters who have adopted a new persona in Storybrooke.
Even Regina the ‘Evil Queen’ has more dimensions to her than you’d expect from a standard fairy tale character. It brings a whole new degree of interest and intrigue into the show, and leaves you desperate for more at the end of each episode.
Each episode is themed with a different character or story, and while at first these are pretty singular, it becomes more of an arc over time. To be honest, the singular episodes weren’t something that I minded as a start off point, because it let us be introduced to more characters and gave us more of a feel for Fairy Tale Land. Of course, giving one episode to a character isn’t going to allow for much depth, but as the show gained more of an arc that was provided.
It was always interesting to see where the show would go with the reimagining of the characters, because quite a few of the stories were reinvented and moulded to suit the environment of the TV show. Even in the singular episodes there would be something tying together the stories in Fairy Tale Land in some way.
The characters are dynamic and wonderful, even though sometimes you want to cuss them out for something they’ve done. Once Upon a Time is a truly addictive show, one that you will fly through because after each episode you’re left desperate to discover more about the characters and what’s going to happen next.
In terms of Fairy Tale Land a lot of it is based around Snow White and Prince Charming, while Storybrooke is more Emma, Henry and Regina. This balance works fairly well, even though Snow White and Prince Charming’s alter egos in Storybrooke might cause a lot of grief and wringing of the hands. But again, that’s a sign of a truly addictive show.
Overall, it’s all brilliantly woven together and certainly takes on the challenge of reimagining fairytales and succeeds in its endeavour.
The sets of Once Upon a Time are well designed, with a real rich visual feel. Instead of focusing on a few different sets, Storybrooke is explored and you get a real feel for the town and its layout. It really embodies the middle-of-nowhere small town with a small city centre. It is entirely self sufficient and large, but with a claustrophobic feel at the same time (since the members of Storybrooke cannot leave).
In contrast, Fairy Tale Land is huge. There is no skimping on the sense of grandeur and the vastness that adds to the whole fairy tale wonder aspect of it. The difference between the two worlds is palpable, but the link between them is also there. The show can do both small, ordinary sets and huge fantasy ones at the drop of a hat.
The soundtrack of Once Upon a Time does sound like a fairy tale and make you feel like you’re in one. In particular, Snow White and Prince Charming’s theme, which gets played in the more emotionally wrought scenes that will make your heartstrings get pulled every time it starts to play in the background. Like the look of Fairy Tale Land, the sound track sends you back to those times when you’d watch Disney movies for hours on end.
Plus, the fact that Disney published Once Upon a time means that you will actually get a few Disney tunes here and there without the show worrying about exorbitant fees. It’s a nice throwback, and a reminder of childhood and the tales that the characters originate from.
The Once Upon a Time Season 1 DVD contains a few different special features to enjoy. There are some behind the scenes featurettes that go into the characters, bringing fairy tales into the modern world, and the story which are interesting to watch and give more of an insight into the show. Plus, the always entertaining bloopers, deleted scenes, and commentary.
Once Upon a Time could have been a flop quite easily, fairy tale remakes often fail or don’t find that right groove. They get support because everyone loves to revisit their childhood, but the result often doesn’t carry that love through. Thankfully, Once Upon a Time dodges this bullet and delivers an interesting, complex, and fascinating story and characters.
The cynical Emma Swan introduces us to the story line with the similar doubt that a lot of people would have, allowing watchers to relate to her as they do come around to the idea of Storybrooke. It was a smart decision, and one that is continued with the way that the story and characters are approached.
Definitely worth a watch, particularly if you love your fairy tale characters, and like seeing them being a bit more badass than usual.