Sunday, October 23, 2011

ABC's "Once Upon a Time" tries to sum up all fairy tales (no pun intended)

One time when I was subbing, the tenth graders had an assignment to finish their authored fairy tales. I looked at one of them, “once upon a time, there lived a banana.”

I recall that in our fourth grade reader (a green hard-bound called “More Streets and Roads”), there was a long story near the end, “Rumplestilskin.”  It had only a few pictures.  The reading assignments were getting longer and demanding more concentration!

Maybe the rewards of “too much education” (in Army-speak) show up in ABC’s new series “Once Upon a Time”, written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, creators of NBC’s “Lost”. The creators seem to be trying to roll up all the traditions of fantasy and fairy-tale storytelling into one series.  It’s going to take a lot of commitment from viewers.

The concept does provide a perfect example for “layered storytelling”, so English and film (screenwriting) professors will probably take note.  In high school, substitute teachers will probably find themselves showing it in a couple years.  It looks like it will stay well within the PG-13 world.

The foil is Emma (Jennifer Morrison), a process server and bail recoupment agent, who is about to celebrate her 28th birthday in Boston. (Where else?)  A lot happens.  Among other things, she gets a visit from a ten year old boy Henry (Jared Gilmore) whom she had given up for a closed adoption. But her own parentage is mysterious. It seems as if her folks had been dropped into a raw coastal town of Storybrooke, Maine (a la Stephen King), but had taken over raising Jared.

The kid has a storybood – like a grade school reader with pictures – which transforms into a parallel world story of where Emma’s parents came from.  It’s a real fantasy place of high castles, fjords and pointed mountain peaks, and a wicked godfather to puts a curse on the couple that turns out to be Emma’s parents. But it’s less compelling than, say, the world of Tolkien. The haboob that overruns it and drives them to Maine is rather interesting to look at.

Ginnfer Goodwin and Josh Dallas play Snow White and the Prince, aka the abducted and transplanted couple who must fall to earth – in Maine.  Dallas is quite cute, with nary a widow’s peak
ABC’s site is here.

I guess the opening fantasy “broken wedding” doesn’t help those who argue for preserving “traditional marriage.”

Update: Jan 6, 2012

ABC GMA discussed the show. The characters in Storybrooke, ME (where time had been frozen) have no memory of their previous existences in the fairy tale world (because of the curse), so the concept now sounds more like an experiment with New Age ideas, even reincarnation.  You could get the memory back.  Storybrooke is kind of the joint between the real and fairy tale worlds.

Actually, the memory loss (of the fairy tale world) sounds almost like "reverse reincarnation".  It's more natural to imagine a story where someone lives in heaven or a fairy tale world and slowly remembers life on Earth. 

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