Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Once Upon a Time

I can’t hold back anymore. I’ve just got to talk about this new series on ABC – and any fan of the show will agree that this discussion totally belongs in a Disney blog.

At the beginning of the season, I was torn. After all, in addition to Once Upon a Time, NBC’s Grimm was another new show set in modern day times with some visits from characters we know from fairy tales. I was immediately more drawn to OUaT, but was I being biased because it was an ABC property? Anyone who knows me is aware that nothing raises my hackles more than any sort of prejudice, so I was determined to give Grimm a fair shot. Now, more than halfway through the first season, I can safely say that I find OUaT vastly superior.

 In case you haven’t been drinking this particular brand of apple juice, I’ll give you a primer on the show: Emma Swan gets quite a surprise when Henry, the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago, shows up on her doorstep. In the process of returning Henry to his adoptive mother, Emma discovers that Henry believes that everyone in his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine is a fairytale character under a curse, and Emma - as the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming - is the one who can save them all. The really crazy part is that we discover (as the story unfolds with a blend of modern day intertwined with the fairy tale stories) that Henry is right.

Each character we meet in Storybrooke has a fairy tale counterpart to whom we are eventually introduced. Granted, these characters aren’t exactly how we may remember them, but when has Disney ever shied away from giving a classic story a fresh twist?  Here are some of the old friends with whom we’ve become reacquainted:

Regina Mills, the mayor of Storybrooke and Henry’s adoptive mother is, in reality, the Evil Queen. Not only is the Evil Queen my favorite Disney villain, but this version of her sports some of the best costumes on TV. Score! She is the person who cast the evil spell, and one of the few who knows the truth.

Mary Margaret Blanchard (Henry’s teacher) is Snow White. This spell really has her suffering, as her One True Love is married to another. Let’s face it: “The Other Woman” is not a role Snow White was born to play.

Prince Charming started out in Storybrooke as “John Doe”, an unidentified coma patient. He awakens with amnesia, falls in love with Mary Margaret, and then discovers that his name is David Nolan, and is already married to Kathryn (Abigail, daughter to King Midas back in Fairy Tale times). I realize that particularly in this story, “the course of true love never did run smooth”. But I’ve got to say, I’m currently not very impressed with the way his character is developing. Right now he reminds me very much of the Prince Charming in Into the Woods – “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

Mr. Gold’s real name is Rumplestiltskin, and he’s the only other person in town who knows what’s really going on (unless August W. Booth does, but more on him later.) He’s a villain, too (why do the bad guys always have better intel than the good guys?), but he and Regina are definitely not BFFs. It’ll be interesting to see what matters more to him – making the heroes miserable, or one-upping Regina. Or will true love eventually melt his heart, too…

We’ve also got Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Belle (and her Beast is none other than old Rumple himself), Jiminy Cricket, the Magic Mirror, eight dwarfs, and more. But there are some new characters and unplumbed plot lines waiting to be revealed:

The Evil Queen’s Mother – We’ve already met Daddy Dearest (don’t get me started on the Oedipal issues there), but in the next few episodes we’re slated to meet the Mother of Evil, in a story that apparently also involves a stable boy. Is anyone else picturing some weird cougar battle?

August W. Booth – He seems to be pretty aware of Storybrooke’s storied roots as well, but we have no idea who he is. Is he the narrator? Or even the author (because we need more Grimms on the scene.) Or in keeping with the theme that the villains are routinely better informed than the good guys, maybe the Big Bad Wolf?  Time will tell, I guess.

Speaking of the Big Bad Wolf, we’re supposed to get more information on Ruby – aka Little Red Riding Hood – very soon. I’m interested to see the twist on her tale, because Ruby does not strike me as the sort to be naively taken in by some scoundrel she meets in the woods. I can see her liking the bad boy sort, but her eyes would be wide open.

We’re also slated to be introduced to the Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar this season. I can hardly wait!

Are you romanced by these new takes on the tales as old as time?  What characters are you waiting to meet, and what plot points would you love to see developed?  Share your speculation over on

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dear Disney - Please Don't

Dear Disney Imagineers,

While listening to The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill (, I heard a most disturbing rumor. Over the course of this fascinating and amusing conversation between Disney fan favorites Len Testa and Jim Hill, it was mentioned that you have a really bad idea in mind for The Country Bear Jamboree.  Please, please abandon this horrific concept.


What is this atrocious idea, you ask?  Believe me; it was so bad that I double-checked the date, just to make sure it wasn’t an April Fools' prank.  According to Jim Hill, Disney is considering revamping The Country Bear Jamboree into – wait for it – A-Bear-ican Idol. 

Now, I know that not everyone holds The Country Bear Jamboree in the same high esteem that I do.  Walt Disney World executives obviously don’t, if the lack of upkeep that attraction receives is any indication. But A-Bear-ican Idol?  Really? 

Here’s the basic concept: the bears perform country hits, and the audience votes on the winner.  Let’s set aside my well-established love for this classic attraction. Let’s even leave off mention of the much-derided Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. Instead, let’s discuss the wisdom (or lack thereof) of this particular makeover.

1. American Idol – We already have one WDW attraction based on this non-Disney property.  Do we really need another?

2. American Idol – Surely this phenomenon is waning. What’s the point of hitching your wagon to a fading star?

3. I get that Disney is all about the interactive experience right now – interactive queues, voting options, choose your ending (missing Horizons as I type that, by the way) – but the term “overkill” is starting to seem appropriate.

What do you think?  Do you actually like this idea?  Do you want to see a change – any change – to CBJ? Or do you think Disney should just give this classic attraction a refurbishment and invest time and resources into completely new rides and attractions?  Speak your piece over at!