Once Upon a Time is one of the number 1 shows on tv today and has filled a long empty gap in the television world. The ABC series focuses on Snow White and Prince Charming as they try to outdo a curse that has brought them to reality; to a little town in Maine called Storybrook. The cast is amazing and the story is interwoven expertly as you willingly devote 1 hour every week of your life to these wonderful characters and unbelievable situations. Fantasy at its best. With the talents of Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parrilla, and Josh Dallas this series has become an instant classic.
People, I believe, need fairy tales and surprisingly its one of the few genres that has been virtually overlooked by the tv networks. This TVLand look is all about Fairy Tales.
The 80′s gave birth to Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, The Charmings, and Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. All three gave the writers ideas for Once Upon a Time. I was lucky enough to have a frank discussion about the series with creator Adam Horowitz, when they debuted Once Upon a Time at Comic Con 2011. He has based alot of Snow on The Charmings.
In the early 80′s Shelly Duvall came up with an idea. She had been going through old fairy tale books and realized outside of Disney most of the tales had never been done on film. This set her into motion. After pulling some strings with her Hollywood connections, Showtime (a new cable network), decided to give her idea a try and ordered 3 episodes. Thus giving birth to the iconic 80′s classic simply called Faerie Tale Theatre.
Faerie Tale Theatre was groundbreaking children’s television. It won several awards over its 6 year run and incorporated almost every big star of the 80′s. A full 27 episodes were produced, and spawned a short lived spin off series entitled Tall Tales and Legends. The stories are timeless and the sets were stunning.
“The Tale of the Frog Prince”
A spoiled princess (Teri Garr) is forced to keep her promise to a talking frog when he rescues her golden ball from the bottom of a well. Starring Robin Williams, Teri Garr, Rene Auberjonois, Michael Richards and Eric Idle (who wrote, directed and narrated).
A miller’s daughter (Shelley Duvall) is forced to answer for her father’s tall tale that she can spin gold from straw. Starring Ned Beatty, Shelley Duvall, Paul Dooley and Hervé Villechaize.
The story of a girl (Shelley Duvall) who is taken from her parents by a witch (Gena Rowlands), and is brought up in an isolated tower that can only be accessed by climbing her unnaturally long hair. Starring Jeff Bridges, Shelley Duvall and Gena Rowlands. Narrated by Roddy McDowall
A Chinese Emperor (Mick Jagger) finds true friendship from a lowly kitchen maid (Barbara Hershey) and a plain little bird; both of whom are worth more than they appear. Starring Mick Jagger, Barbara Hershey, Bud Cort, Mako, Keye Luke, Edward James Olmos and, in small roles, Anjelica Huston and Jerry Hall.
A handsome prince (Christopher Reeve) on the search for a princess (Bernadette Peters) bumps into a woodsman (George Dzundza) who tells him the story of the fabled Sleeping Beauty. Starring Bernadette Peters, Christopher Reeve, Beverly D’Angelo, Carol Kane, George Dzundza, Sally Kellerman, Rene Auberjonois and Ron Rifkin.
“Jack and the Beanstalk”
A dreamer named Jack (Dennis Christopher) one day finds that his dreams have grown to enormous proportions. Starring Dennis Christopher, Elliott Gould, Jean Stapleton, Katherine Helmond and Mark Blankfield.
“Little Red Riding Hood”
An overprotected young lady (Mary Steenburgen) learns that there is merit to her parents’ advice that she stick to the path and not talk to strangers. Starring Mary Steenburgen, Malcolm McDowell, John Vernon, Darrell Larson, Frances Bay and Diane Ladd.
“Hansel and Gretel”
A sombre story about a brother (Ricky Schroder) and sister (Bridgette Andersen) who are left to fend for themselves in the woods and stumble upon a curious house made out of candy. Starring Ricky Schroder, Bridgette Andersen, Joan Collins and Paul Dooley.
“Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
A precocious girl with a penchant for telling tall tales (Tatum O’Neal) learns to tell the truth and to respect the privacy of others. Starring Tatum O’Neal, Hoyt Axton, John Lithgow, Carole King and Alex Karras.
“The Princess and the Pea”
A bored prince (Tom Conti) decides that the best way to cheer himself up is to get married. As he goes through his mother’s (Beatrice Straight) list of eligible princesses, an outspoken young lady (Liza Minnelli) appears at the castle with raucous claims. Starring Liza Minnelli, Tom Conti and Nancy Allen.
When lonely puppetmaker Gepetto (Carl Reiner) wishes with all his might that he can have a real son, the Blue Fairy (Lainie Kazan) decides to grant him and a wooden puppet (Paul Reubens) the chance to make that wish come true. Starring Paul Reubens, James Coburn, Carl Reiner, Lainie Kazan, James Belushi, Michael Richards and Vincent Schiavelli.
The story of a girl no bigger than a human thumb (Carrie Fisher), and the adventure she has in the big wide world. Starring Carrie Fisher, William Katt, Burgess Meredith and Conchata Ferrell.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
A princess (Elizabeth McGovern) whose only crime is being more beautiful than her wicked stepmother (Vanessa Redgrave) is forced to flee for her life. Starring Vincent Price, Vanessa Redgrave, Elizabeth McGovern, Tony Cox and Rex Smith.
“Beauty and the Beast”
The beautiful daughter (Susan Sarandon) of a merchant sacrifices her freedom to save her father from the punishment of a cursed beast (Klaus Kinski). Starring Susan Sarandon, Klaus Kinski and Anjelica Huston.
“The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers”
A boy (Peter MacNicol) who doesn’t know what fear is sets out into the world to try to understand what it means to be afraid. Starring Peter MacNicol, Christopher Lee, Frank Zappa, and David Warner; narrated by Vincent Price.
“The Three Little Pigs”
The mother (Doris Roberts) of three little pigs (Billy Crystal, Fred Willard, Stephen Furst) sends her sons out into the world to find their fortune in their own individual ways and The Big Bad Wolf (Jeff Goldblum)’s nagging wife sends him out to get dinner. Starring Billy Crystal, Jeff Goldblum, Valerie Perrine, Doris Roberts, Fred Willard and Stephen Furst.
“The Snow Queen”
When her best friend (Lance Kerwin) is taken by the fabled Snow Queen (Lee Remick), a girl named Gerda (Melissa Gilbert) begins a perilous journey to rescue him. Starring Melissa Gilbert, Lance Kerwin, Lee Remick and Lauren Hutton.
“The Pied Piper of Hamelin“
Told entirely in the original poem, the Mayor, Town Council and town of Hamelin learns the heavy price of going back on their promise to the Pied Piper. Starring/narrated by Eric Idle and written/directed by Nicholas Meyer.
“Faerie Tale Theatre: Greatest Moments” aka Grimm Party
Reunion episode, featuring cast/crew interviews, scripted skits and recaps.
A young woman (Jennifer Beals) recovering from the death of her father finds herself reduced to a servant in her stepfamily’s household, but is given the surprise of her life when her fairy godmother (Jean Stapleton) appears to lend a helping hand. Starring Jennifer Beals, Matthew Broderick, Jean Stapleton, Eve Arden, Edie McClurg and Jane Alden.
“Puss in Boots”
A young man’s (Gregory Hines) journey from rags-to-riches, all because of his talented Puss in Boots (Ben Vereen). Starring Ben Vereen, Gregory Hines, Alfre Woodard and Brock Peters.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes”
An Emperor (Dick Shawn) with peacock tendencies becomes the target for two conmen (Alan Arkin, Art Carney) who use his self-indulgence against him. Starring Dick Shawn, Alan Arkin, Art Carney, Clive Revill, Georgia Brown and Barrie Ingham. Narrated by Timothy Dalton.
“Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp”
A common boy named Aladdin (Robert Carradine) has big dreams, which he finds coming true when he is approached by a Moroccan magician (Leonard Nimoy) who presents him an offer he can’t refuse. Starring Robert Carradine, James Earl Jones, Leonard Nimoy and Valerie Bertinelli. Directed by Tim Burton.
“The Princess Who Had Never Laughed”
In a kingdom where all frivolity is banned, a princess (Ellen Barkin) who has grown up never knowing what laughter is decides that she will marry the first man who can make her laugh, but it takes a peasant’s youngest son (Howie Mandel) and his pig to bring out both the laughter and the truth. Starring Ellen Barkin, Howie Mandel, Howard Hesseman, Sofia Coppola (credited as Domino Coppola), Michael Tucci and Barrie Ingham. Narrated by William Daniels.
“Rip Van Winkle”
The story of a lazy man (Harry Dean Stanton) who sleeps for 20 years. Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Talia Shire, Roy Dotrice, Ed Begley, Jr., Christopher Penn and Tim Conway. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Narrated by John P. Ryan.
“The Little Mermaid”
When a young mermaid (Pam Dawber) falls in love with a human being (Treat Williams), she sacrifices everything to be with him. Starring Pam Dawber, Treat Williams, Helen Mirren, Karen Black, Brian Dennehy, Laraine Newman and Donna McKechnie.
“The Dancing Princesses”
A king (Roy Dotrice) who is overly protective of his daughters discovers that their dancing shoes are mysteriously being worn out every night, and offers to let any prince who can solve the mystery choose any of the princesses to have as his bride, but when the cleverness of the eldest daughter (Lesley Ann Warren) proves too much for the princes, it’s up to a wandering soldier (Peter Weller) to discover the secret. Starring Lesley Ann Warren, Peter Weller and Roy Dotrice.
The most popular actors, directors and producers from the day all made up this extraordinary series. These are now available in a stunning 7 disc set from Kotch Vision HERE.
Next we are looking at “The Charmings”; an ABC sitcom about none other than Snow White and Prince Charming. Once upon a time there was a vain queen who was so jealous of her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White, that she poisoned her with an apple, but a handsome prince came along and broke the spell. Snow White and Prince Charming threw the wicked stepmother down a bottomless pit and lived happily ever after. But it turns out the pit wasn’t bottomless, just very deep, and now the queen was very mad. With a spell so powerful even she couldn’t control it, she put the Charmings asleep for a thousand years. She also got herself and one dwarf. Eventually they woke up… and the rest is sitcom history!
The show ran on ABC from 1987 to 1988. The show was canceled at the end of its second season. ABC put the show in a new time slot against The Cosby Show and unfortunately the ratings fell. ABC never aired the last episode. The show starred Caitlin O’Heany, Carol Houston, Cork Hubbert, veteran actress Judith Parfitt, comedian Paul Winfield and “Reba’s” Christopher Rich. The show was fun and original, taking characters we know and really adding depth and Humanity to them…much like Once Upon A Time. This show remains unreleased in any format.
The 80′s also brought another series to life. One of the most imaginative men of our time, Jim Henson, created a series of lesser known tales for NBC on Sunday nights simply called “The Storyteller“. Nine stories were made and each was introduced by the traveling storyteller. “When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for… The Storyteller” is the haunting intro to this amazing series. The most vivid episode for me is The Soldier and Death, about a traveling soldier who not only cheats Death, but kidnaps him.
The nine tales included in the series are as follows, and have been released to DVD: Hans My Hedgehog, Fearnot, A Story Short (AKA Stone Soup), The Luck Child, The Soldier and Death, The True Bride, The Three Ravens, Sapsorrow, & The Heartless Giant
The last series that comes to mind is a much much older series. This series was called Shirley Temple Storybook Theatre. Shirley Temple is someone you always picture as a little girl with curls that sang. Sadly her best work, in my opinion, was long after when she became an adult. Shirley wanted to do something special for her children and she had a lot of connections in the movie business. She, much like Shelly Duvall, wanted to do a series of fairy tales. The show premiered in 1958 and was shown on the NBC network. The series starred such classic actors as Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, and Robert Culp. The series production value is low, but still fun to watch. So far, due to rights, 11 episodes have been released to DVD. However 9 episodes are only available in VHS format.
Twenty-five episodes were produced: Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, The Nightingale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dick Whittington and His Cat, The Land of Green Ginger, Rip Van Winkle, The Sleeping Beauty, The Little Lame Prince, The Magic Fishbone, The Wild Swans, Hiawatha, Rapunzel, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Mother Goose, The Land of Oz, Kim, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tom and Huck, Madeline, Little Men, The Prince and the Pauper, Emmy Lou, The Reluctant Dragon, The Black Arrow, The Indian Captive, The House of Seven Gables, The Black Sheep, Babes in Toyland, Pippi Longstocking, King Midas, Rebel Gun, The Terrible Clockman, The Fawn, Onawandah, The Return of Long John Silver, The Little Mermaid, The Peg-leg Pirate of Sulu, The Princess and the Goblins, & Two for the Road
If you are a fan of fairy tales please treat yourself to any of these collections, and should you want to delve further into this hobby, try the Cannon Movie Tales series. Nine live action fairy tale films, all musicals starring the likes of Sarah Patterson, Aileen Quinn and Christopher Walken. The absolute best version of Snow White was made by them starring Diana Rigg as the evil queen.
Thank you for taking time to look over this little piece of TV History and be sure to watch ABC’s Once Upon A Time when it comes back next season.