Tale Spin: Once Upon a Time

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by Marcus Luera

Once Upon  a Time is a great  show, but I got more than a few weird looks when I told people that  they should watch. Yes, it does draw heavily from Disney’s take on fairy  tales, but the writers have added their own spin in some very interesting  choices. For example, let’s take Snow White. The Disney version was  kind of helpless, and pretty much a maid for the dwarves. In Once, she is  a thief and very useful in a fight. The show has writers from Buffy the  Vampire Slayer, and Buffy  changed many things about how we see female characters on TV. It is  in these updates on stories and characters that many find what they  love about the show.

Prince Charming

In Once’s universe,  “Charming” is a nickname and slight insult given to him by Snow.  Taken from a farm to replace a twin he never knew he had, he then had  to become a warrior. Yup, this Prince Charming is a bad ass; you can  see that in the pilot when he is fighting three men at once.

Belle

In the cartoon, she is very  much a bookworm; not completely helpless, but still not a full-fledged  hero. On Once, she seeks out adventure. Her  first chance at being a hero came when she sacrificed herself to save  her home from Rumpelstiltskin. After he let her go, she moped for a  while then set out to kill a monster, saving Prince Phillip in the process.  Belle’s basic characteristics between the original tale and Disney change  little, but it does seem that the show’s writers cherry-picked from  both versions.

Rumpelstiltskin

In Grimm fairy tales, he is  an imp who can spin straw into gold. In Once’s world, he is the ultimate  puppet master. Not only that, he is inserted into in other tales. The  writers made him Belle’s Beast; after killing Cinderella’s fairy godmother  he takes her place; and he is Captain Hook’s “crocodile.” They gave  him the backstory of man who was a coward and cared deeply for his son,  who he lost when he became power hungry. One thing retained from Grimm  was his penchant for making deals.

Little Red  Riding Hood

Little Red  Riding Hood has been updated and reinterpreted many times over the years,  but Once has the  most interesting take on her yet. Red, as she is called, lives with  her overprotective grandmother, and has a little bit of a rebellious  streak. The reason Granny is so over protective is not for Red’s protection,  but for the town’s. That’s right, they made Red the Big Bad Wolf, and  her famous garment is meant to keep her from changing into the creature.

Mad Hatter

With the  Mad Hatter’s story, they once again used a parent’s love for motivation.  In Carroll’s book, he was sentenced to death for bad singing and stuck  in a never-ending tea party. Disney added a huge dose of silly to the  character and gave the hat abilities. Once did away  with the silly and took him to a somewhat dark place. The Hatter (named  Jefferson) was able to move between worlds with his hat. Before he became  a father, he traveled between worlds and dealings with Evil Queen Regina  and Rumpelstiltskin. His last deal with Regina left him trapped in Wonderland  away from his daughter. He was driven mad making hats, desperate to  see his daughter again.

Captain Hook

The pirate was just the villain  Peter had to fight. He feared two things: the sight of his own blood  and the crocodile. Disney made him a comedic fop. This is one of Once’s most radically changed characters.  They stripped away the comedy and his fear. While still a bit of a fop,  Hook is more a ladies’ man and dashing rouge. That is until he makes  the mistake of running away with Rumpelstiltskin’s wife. Rumpel gets  his revenge by killing his own wife and taking Hook’s hand. Hook now  seeks out his crocodile to skin him.

Once also uses Lost-style flashbacks  to tell the stories that happened in the enchanted forest, and like Lost, sometimes  the flashbacks are more interesting and fun than what is happening the  main story. These are just a few of the changes that have made Once Upon  a Time a full-on  action-fantasy show that can be enjoyed by a diverse crowd.


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