I was born in 1985, and therefore I am proud to say Disney raised me. I grew up with the best they had to give. Then OUAT came in.
*** If you didn’t watch Once Upon A Time four years later: Spoiler Alert! Consider yourself warned! ***
Once Upon A Time
Once upon a time four years later and amazing to watch during a pandemic!
Emma Swan’s past disasters drag her into the small town of Maine. She is the long-lost daughter of a king who must protect her town from the curse of an Evil Queen. — Google
Once Upon a Time is an American fantasy-adventure drama television series that aired for seven seasons on ABC from October 23, 2011, to May 18, 2018.
The action alternates between two main settings: a fantastical world where fairy tales happen; and a fictional seaside town in Maine called Storybrooke. — Wikipedia
Snow White Started It All
When I first saw the trailers for the upcoming series, I wasn’t sure about specific roles’ choices. I wondered what would happen by intertwining all the Walt Disney tales who retold them and those untouched by the company.
All I knew was that the tale of Snow White was part of the series. Who knew which other fairy tales would be included. But, it did make sense since Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was Disney’s first princess to appear on the silver screen.
Four Years Later
I didn’t know much about the show, the actors, the story aside from being an amalgam of fairy tales. I’m a Disney fan, and the series belonged to a channel belonging to the Mouse.
The first episode was on, and I was hooked. No pun intended. You’ll know why soon enough! The intrigue was there, and I wanted to understand what was happening.
My Husband Joined The Circus
My husband is a Disney fan but, like me, didn’t feel an attraction to the series when it came out. When he saw I had it on when coming back from the grocery store, he showed a surprise on his face.
He sat down and decided to give it a try. Seven seasons is an excellent show to watch when you’re stuck at home. So, after the second episode, we went for three and so on.
We were in, and like the people in Storybrooke, we had no way out! Once Upon A Time four years later after it ended and yet, it is still enchanting to watch!
Welcome To Storybrooke!
Appearances of beloved animal characters such as Pongo or mention of a name like Sarafina are common. However, that is all the mentions one can get due to the already expensive setting.
The attention to detail regarding a complex visual world in OUAT is essential. The team made it happen. We travel from Storybrooke, a small town reminiscent of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. But Storybrooke is on the borders of the sea, to other magical realms.
Storybrooke has many secrets. The main one being the mayor. Regina Mills governs the town and has way more power in her arsenal than we think. She even has more political power than she should, but it’s okay.
The Visual Attraction
When the viewer is in Storybrooke, we are in the present modern time. However, when we shift to a memory, the series transports us into a magical realm. Most of the time in the first seasons, the Enchanted Forest.
That is where we see Snow White, the Evil Queen, Prince Charming, are living an entirely different story than what Disney told us! This magical realm’s overall appearance is impressive with the costumes, the weaponry, and the story in itself.
When inside buildings such as castles, dungeons, most of the series are in front of a green screen. The superposition is remarkable. Considering that Once Upon A Time is a television series, the green screen is not a crutch but a tool. Smart decisions made this choice a great one.
Once Upon A Time four years later and the green screen and overall special effects appear good on the small screen.
What About The Common Thread?
Aside from the green screen providing the setting and magic, we need a common thread to connect the fairy tales.
To accomplish such a task, Once Upon A Time found one character capable of jumping from one story to the next: Rumpelstiltskin.
Called Gold in Storybrooke and Rumpel in the Enchanted Forest, this character becomes the pillar of what is in motion. Rumpel had a plan from the beginning, even before the Evil Queen decided to make the Dark Curse.
Rumpel was a wise choice and made it all believable and more enjoyable! His character is by far the one with the most depth.
The series used the fairy tales wisely, studied the characters, used the environment and cinematographic tools necessary to make it happen. They had the main story, the characters, the magic, now…the story.
The Root Of All Evil
To make Once Upon A Time possible, jumping from one reality to the next, present to past, takes a strong story. It also takes simplicity. Everyone has to easily be able to follow what is happening.
The Evil Queen cast a Dark Curse, a curse made possible with her mentor, Rumpel, to destroy Snow White’s life. The Evil Queen doesn’t think Snow White’s death to be enough. She wants to tear her life apart. That is how Snow White becomes Margaret Blanchart, a teacher at an elementary school.
The Dark Curse serves as a dimensional portal to a realm without magic, our Earth, and represses everyone’s memory. Everyone from the Enchanted Realm is now in Storybrooke, where the Evil Queen is the only one “awake” and aware of what is happening.
The Square Root Of All Evil
The Dark Curse provides the setting of Storybrooke and why all fairy tales’ characters are in our world. However, like the laws of physics, anything that happens has an opposite and equal reaction.
The Evil Queen cast the spell. Subsequently, it needs a hero to bring balance to it and counter the effect. That’s when we learn more about Rumpel’s place on the chessboard. He traveled back and forth between many realms to protect his assets and efforts. He made sure one person could awake everyone.
Because Rumpel was always awake, being the Dark One—ultimate mean wizard—spells can’t really affect him—unless someone get their hands on his dagger that is. Regina often came to him for help to improve her life. No one knew she was the Evil Queen. Some feared her while others were indifferent. She realized she needed something more.
Now, she set the wheel in motion to start the beginning of the first Dark Curse!
Fast Forward To More Characters
In this series, we see Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Brave, Frozen, Rapunzel, The Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and more!
Despite the prominent family being the “Charming” or Snow White’s family, every character has its place and importance. In Storybrooke, the Evil Queen known as Regina Mills separated Margaret or Snow from her prince by putting him in a coma and not remembering their relationship.
As a counterbalance, Rumpel made Regina’s wish possible by helping her adopt a son. However, Henry, Regina’s adopted son named after her father, is Emma “Charming” Swann’s she conceived with Baelfire or Neal, whose paternal is Rumpel. But, what she does know is that Emma is Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter.
The family tree is quite complicated.
Fairy Spacetime Continuum
The plot revolves around awakening all the fairy tales’ characters to remember their lives in the enchanted forest. Once accomplished by the end of the first season, Emma Swann must awaken her powers as the savior, of what? We don’t know yet.
The Evil Queen and Emma are the center of attention in the first season due to their rivalry surrounding Henry and their motherhood. However, the two become friends, and Regina is not so evil as her character grows.
Regina has many redeeming qualities, and the pain she carried is relatable even from her past in the Enchanted Forest.
Regina’s magic is great and powerful, which brings us to the intertwining of other realms and cause and effect. The Evil Queen has a sister green of envy. Her name is Zelena, The Wicked Witch of the West.
That’s right, Oz is part of Once Upon A Time four years later, we still love it!
The Butterfly Special Effect
We travel from one realm to the next throughout the seven seasons of Once Upon A Time. We go from the Land Without Magic to the Fairy Tale Land—Enchanted Forest, Underworld, Oz, Neverland, Netherworld, Land Without Color, Dreamscape, Wonderland, Untold Stories, and The Wish Land.
All are accessible through the ability to open portals from the relatively limited magic beans. That is where Jack and the Beanstalk come in. Those magical beans are not common in a land without magic. We even meet Dr. Frankenstein!
However, some characters saved some for rainy days. What shouldn’t exist somehow is accessible on a planet deprived of enchantment. Then comes Mr. Gold, Rumpelstiltskin, a pawnshop owner of many objects from various journeys belonging to other stories.
Gold always has magic that he saved before the Dark Curse to ensure his safety. So, did Regina with her tomb in the cemetery leading her magical lair where she hid her limited but nonetheless, magic.
Magic Comes With A Price…Dearie
Some fairy tales are barely recognizable, while others are more faithful to their nature. Peter Pan is a good example. The original story of the boy who didn’t want to grow up is relatively darker, hiding psychopathy and cannibalism between the lines.
Pan is one of the greatest foes in Once Upon A Time, and so he should be. He was my favorite villain. Powerful, influential, and father of Rumpelstiltskin, the character is pure evil. The perfect counterpart to Gold.
When it comes to Captain Hook, the writers went the other way and made him an anti-hero. While the character has his dark past, he desires nothing more than to change his practices when meeting Emma.
Referring to Rumpel or Gold as Crocodile, Killian Jones becomes a central focus of the series. Frequently at each other’s throat, Hook and Rumpel is a pair that pushes the series forward.
The Happy Ending Obsessions
Once Regina turns to the right side and decides to become a hero, more villains unfold and continually finds portals to come in Storybrooke despite its secret location.
Storybrooke is a secret to the rest of the world. Regina chose a plot of land that was virgin and built the town on top of magical artifacts. Protected by an almost unbreakable cloaking spell possible through the Dark Curse, it’s a Schrödinger’s Cat town, both there and not at the same time.
Depending on the season and magic used, one could leave Storybrooke but never come back, leave, and have no recollection, or simply vanish like one of the seven dwarves.
Once Regina makes it public that her intentions were now good, other villains such as Hook, Maleficent, among others, want redemption too. But they also want a happy ending. No one wants it more than Rumpel, who is Belle‘s Beast and his obsession.
The Authors Do Tell Tales
How do you change a “happily ever after” from one character to another? Well, you need to find the author who wrote the story! Everything unfolded in advance for Rumpel, who knows about the author. Once Upon A Time four years later, I still wonder if we know everything Rumpel knew or kept hidden.
But, what we find out is that there are many authors, and Henry Mills is only one of many. We go through many adventures and find the prior author through Cruella De Vil‘s story of all stories!
The intertwining of fairy tales and stories from Disney is quite genius! The villains’ stories are fascinating, to say the least, and their parts play an essential role.
They even found a way to include Fantasia in the story to lead to the discovery of the authors in the other realms. What we also see is that Rumpel has next to no affection for Henry at all. Yet, Gold is, in fact, his grandfather through’s his son Neal being the father.
Not All Is Good In Storybrooke’s Neighborhood
While the story is vital for Once Upon A Time, we encounter much redundancy. Dark Curses usage, which should happen once, happens at least six times throughout the seven seasons.
The portals happen way more often than one would think! However, the characters said there were none left. Yet, there is always a bean laying around somewhere to make a portal happen.
Some other inconsistencies are forgettable, but the repetitiveness in the story toward the end is something prominent. I am not okay with the last shot of the sixth season. It portrayed Leonardo da Vinci‘s The Last Supper painting, with Emma at the center. However, I could live with it being the end of the series.
However, they came back to milk a dead cow for the seventh season. The writers played fast and loose with the Wish Realm to bring back Hook as Emma was out of the series and showed up far between small screen appearances.
Too Much Is Like Not Enough
Some stories are way too long for their own good. Such was the fate of the Underworld season. Hook’s death was a culminant and turning point. Going to Hell to bring him back was an excellent choice to mix in Hercules’ story but lasted longer then it should have had. Also, let’s face it, including Disney’s 1997 Hercules‘ story was not essential either. I consider it fluff.
The cast for Hades was not the right choice and made the whole season appear longer. No sarcasm or over-the-top reactions. The stories took too long to develop, and despite bringing good memorable scenes, all could have been told better in a shorter time. Once Upon A Time four years later, I still think that storyline was a miss.
Another needless and almost unrealistic story was the return of The Evil Queen. Regina divided herself in two to extract The Evil Queen from herself. Despite needing her in the long run, another character or villain would have been better.
This whole “acceptance of yourself,” the good and the bad, was unnecessary, and Regina is too smart to fall for a trap like that. Regina is an intelligent queen and woman. It was apparent separating herself from her evil would come back and bite her in the arse. Once Upon A Time four years later, I believe no Oncer can believe Regina to be that careless.
There are also filling episodes I thought were needless, and covering other parts of the town could be a better choice. The musical episode is one of them. Many fans loved it, but to me, it was a cheap episode.
Why? Since Buffy The Vampire Slayer did it smartly to advance the plot, OUAT used it as an excuse to be part of the “Disney” entity. Buffy hit a perfect score for their ground-breaking musical episode. OUAT didn’t because it was filler. The end result’s achievement would be better if played differently.
They Live Happily Ever After
All in all, Once Upon A Time is a series that lasted seven years. It is evident that it has its up and downs, but the overall ride is so enjoyable that you forget about the bad.
Sometimes, I wish there would be shorts to show things we missed! The lunatic asylum people, the people working in Storybrooke at the gas station or at the marina, and more!
I know some people who watch the show over ten times! It is a series that is unforgettable and stays with you like all the magic of Disney. I wished for more Merida and Ariel, but they played their part.
If you miss OUAT, just watch it over and over. I know I’m watching it again! Once Upon A Time four years later when I need it the most! Watch out for more in-depth articles about each season of Once Upon A Time coming soon!