Goldie and Bear is a clever, wink-wink-nudge-nudge, fairy tale romp that is aimed towards children (it will premiere on Disney Junior) but delighted even this fully grown grown-up. Granted, this grown-up has a very high threshold for whimsy, but this children’s show is the real deal.
Fairy tale’s own Maria Tatar—who, amongst her many other contributions to fairy tales and folklore, also chairs Harvard University’s Folklore and Mythology program—was brought in as a consultant. “When we are stumped,” she said (via Once Upon a Blog), “a story often provides the answer—not in the form of a one-liner but in a conversation about the things that mattered to us in the tale.” Which is a pretty herculean effort, considering that not only is the titular “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” tale under analysis but also a whole range of fairy tale and storybook characters: Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Jack, the Giant, Mother Goose, the Three Little Pigs, etc., all occupying the Fairy Tale Forest and appearing en masse in episodes.
So what then is the mission behind this series? “We are trying to keep these classic stories, and classic characters, in kids’ minds,” says Development Executive Nancy Kanter (via Variety). She added, “We thought it was really important that kids still had a touchstone to these time-honored tales.”
This commitment to storytelling seems to be two-pronged in its approach: first, distilling the themes that really mattered in the tale; and second, the episode’s accessibility to children. It’s with this two-pronged approach that I’d like to review and recap each Goldie and Bear episode: mining what mattered in the story and its accessibility.
MINING WHAT MATTERED:
The first episode is a double episode, split into two 15-minute storylines. In the first storyline, “The Birthday Chair,” little blonde Goldie is helping to decorate the surprise birthday party for best friend Bear when she realizes she has no present. Rightfully dismayed, she goes out in search for the perfect present—perhaps, she supposes, a replacement for the favorite chair she broke? And in the second storyline, “Big Bear,” Bear feels that he is too small and uses a magic bean to become…well, a big bear.
This emphasis on size and proportion is reflected in popular versions of the tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” You get a “Little, Small Wee Bear,” a “Middle-sized Bear,” and a “Great, Huge Bear.” In some versions, the size of the bears reflects a family unit, with Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear, respectively. And again, size and proportion is explored when Goldilocks experiments with porridge, chairs, and beds. So it makes sense that for the first episode, the focus would be on size and proportion.
In “The Birthday Chair,” Goldie tries to rebuild Bear’s broken chair, with green paint and glitter and glue and a heck of a lot of enthusiasm. But it ends up twisted: the curved backs of the chairs end up on bottom, the bottom legs act as the arm rests, etc. Goldie loves it but it’s different from what it was; the Wolf disparages it, so she goes to the experts: the Three Little Pigs, adorably suited in construction gear and work clothes. The pigs leap to the challenge and so build three chairs with the materials they know best. But when Goldie inspects them, she finds a chair of brick (too hard), a chair of straw (soft, but too allergic), and a chair of sticks (too prone to poke). But the party soon arrives and Goldie has no present to give except for the original chair, which Bear deems as being perfect (the curved legs now make the chair a rocking chair!). In the end, Goldie’s remaking of the chair is the best one, even though the famous words “just right” is never mentioned.
In “Big Bear,” Bear feels too small. So Goldie trades her pogo stick to Jack for a magic bean. Bear shoots straight up. He’s so big now that the Three Pigs ask Bear to move their piles of bricks, sticks, and straw, but the haystacks make him sneeze so powerfully that the ensuing gale inspires the Wolf to see a fellow huff-and-puffer. Bear is too big to help his friends, too big to get inside his house, and too big to not be hungry. Miserable, he is granted a wish from the Magic Gnome and happily returns to his original size. In the last line of the episode, Goldie punctuates perfect proportion with a throwback to the tale: “If you [Bear] ask me, you’re juuuust right!”
With the target age group in mind (Disney Junior, y’all), it’s interesting that “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” tale as we know it is not portrayed linearly; it’s in the past and so is treated as such. The only reference in the title song is exceptionally brief: “Now they’re friends forever, since she broke his little chair.” So honestly, I was a little worried about how young children with possible minimal exposure to “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” would understand the episode without an intro. Would kids understand that Goldilocks was a home intruder? Would that be a character flaw Disney would back or would Goldie’s character be more sanitized?
By the end of the episode, I was pleasantly surprised. Goldie herself doesn’t refer to the famous break-in, but numerous other characters (Mama Bear, the Three Pigs, the Wolf) jump to remind her that she both broke in and broke Bear’s chair. By the end, all the reminders just seem mildly catty and your heart goes out for the earnest little Goldie. After all, except for a recurring not-knocking problem, she’s doing much better.
Besides that little road bump, this was a darling episode that would excite both children and parents. The promos promised friendship, community, and adventure, which we viewers get in spades. Goldie and Bear’s interspecial friendship is sweet and tender, something that intrigues even the big, bad, Wolf himself. What might be most thrilling for children though are the fairy tale and storybook cameos. They can spot Humpty Dumpty daringly doing the limbo and see Little Red Riding Hood darting through Bear’s party.
On Wednesday, I’ll recap and Review Goldie and Bear Episode 2, so stay tuned!
Fairy tale and storybook characters appearing/referenced in “Goldie and Bear” 1.1:
- Goldilocks, the Three Bears, Jack, Jack’s Mother, the Giant, Humpty Dumpty, the Wolf, Jack and Jill, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Magic Gnome, and the Woodsman.