Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Article: "Once Upon A Time" - What Counts As A Fairy Tale Exactly?

This is interesting. Laurel Brown, a writer at, heard the latest Once news - that Alice In Wonderland will be a featured tale very soon - and she has a good question:

For Once Upon A Time, what counts as a fairy tale, exactly?

Now, we've had plenty of hints Once writers would be adding Alice characters, both in props used in Rumpelstiltskin's (ahem, I mean Mr. Gold's) pawn shop, a picture in Henry's book and via a passing mention in an interview (if memeory serves). (You can see fan summary and speculation about other items in Mr. Gold's shop HERE and HERE.)

Here's how Ms. Brown's article begins:

Apparently, for Once Upon a Time, the term "fairy tale" is loosely translated as "a story famous as a Disney movie." That's the only possible explanation for the most recent story announced for the fantasy show. Because it is not, by most definitions, any sort of fairy tale. Keep reading to find out the new story coming to Once Upon a Time. 
According to, a Once Upon a Time will soon take on the classic tale, Alice in Wonderland. The episode, expected to air in March, will be called "Hat Trick" and will feature Roger Daltrey (of The Who) as the voice of a talking caterpillar. 
But Alice in Wonderland is not a fairy tale. 
It is a familiar story, beloved by children for generations and the subject of several film adaptations, but Alice still isn't a fairy tale. What is it then?

Ms. Brown goes on to give a brief history of what the Alice stories are and the connection to Disney, which is worth taking a look at if you're one of the people that keeps reading on fairy tale blogs that Alice isn't a fairy tale and you wonder why.

Just like Once, you'll find more than a passing mention to Alice in Wonderland on fairy tale blogs (like this one!) despite that we know it isn't really a fairy tale. While I don't know if the creators of Once consider Alice a fairy tale or not, it really doesn't matter. In the mind of the public, it generally is. I think it's because of how it's been almost "diluted" in popular culture so Alice really does seem like a fairy tale to most people now.
Roger Daltry is confirmed as playing a talking caterpillar on ABC's Once Upon A Time in ep 1.17 Hat Trick

Ms. Brown does have a good point about a problem in using Alice* - or any of her other Wonderland character friends - as a story component within the premise of Once though.

To her mind, to have Alice appear breaks the contract of the uniquely fairy tale version of "suspension of disbelief" that we've been working with so far. I think she may be on to something with that concern. So far Once has been more successful than I expected it would be in keeping away from the sense that Storybrooke is a demented Disneyland (a fear I had, especially after seeing the first three or so episodes, which appeared a little like a disorganized mash-up at times). With Alice arriving on the scene there's a definite difference in the manner of spanner being thrown into the Once-works this time. Fairy tales are more real than not. They just have Wonder added. Alice is a confusion of imagination on steroids which sucks the entire world around it into it's irresistible - and very mad - rabbit hole. Unless we're about to see Storybrooke's asylum and have Doc Hopper being overworked I'm not sure how this is going to work.

My real question is: what effect will a character like Alice (or any other Wonderland inhabitant) have on the sensibilities of the Storybrooke residents? Even more of a question is, what effect it will have on their fairy tale counterparts?

Curiouser and curiouser...

The Once Upon A Time Alice-themed episode 1.17, titled Hat Trick will likely air in March.

You can read the whole article HERE.

*Note: it appears Alissa Skovbye is set to play Alice but I haven't heard any confirmation other than the IMDB database of that, which obviously isn't up-to-date. Roger Daltrey isn't currently listed in the cast.


  1. I'm actually looking forward to Alice appearing on Once, since as a kid I didn't really make a difference between her or characters from "real" fairytales anyway ^^
    And from what I gather the producers of Once are not that picky about fairytale or not. After all, they featured King Midas and he was not in any of the fairytales that I read :D

  2. Alice has always been a favorite of mine, and I think that if Once Upon a Time does it right, they could work in some of the Wonderland characters very easily. We already see Little Red Riding Hood as the town floozy, so why not have the Mad Hatter be the town crazy, or Tweedle Dee and Dum as immature twins?

    Once Upon a Time seems to focus more on classic Children's Tales, rather than Fairy Tales, and I think Alice will work well if that is kept in mind.