When Fairy Tale Grows Up: How Shirley Temple Failed to Make a Career off Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are tightly entwined with children’s media, so it’s to be expected that the most famous child star of all time, Shirley Temple, would have connections to them. In 1939, Temple was chosen to present Walt Disney with an Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (feat. seven mini Oscars alongside the big one). Her presentation speech is notable for birthing the misconception that Snow White’s prince is named Ferdinand when she mentions Ferdinand the Bull alongside Snow […]

A Valentine’s Day Look at Interspecies Romance in Fairy Tale

Life has never been easy for lovers in fairy tales, where poison apples and conniving stepmothers get in the way of a perfectly wholesome elopement. But most problems pale in face of one stock love trope: interspecies romance. When one lover is a mermaid, hedgehog, or dragon, they usually need to take on a human form to kick off a relationship in the first place, and that deception creates tension until the inevitable reveal.Adaptations of such tales carry mixed messages […]

Tablet, Tablet, In My Hand, Who’s the Fairest In the Land?

Life was rough before cell phones. Mystery princesses dashed off from the ball without leaving a number to get in contact with them later. Children wandered off into the woods to be gobbled down by wolves and witches without texting you to let you know they’d be out past curfew. And how are you supposed to keep up on the latest goings-on in the kingdom without a live newsfeed? Fortunately for fairy tale characters, modern media works in technological cheats […]

Swans and Nutcrackers: When Ballet Becomes Fairy Tale

In a previous post, we discussed how theater is one of the most exclusive arts made more accessible by television. Ballet also calls auditoriums its natural habitat, but works its way onto the small screen, either as a straight broadcast of a performance or by incorporating popular ballet stories into fairy tale story franchises. Ballet is a wordless art and audiences can only catch bare hints of plot from a paper program and pantomimed dialogue. Therefore it’s important for the […]

The Wonder in Your Living Room

  Theater might be the most exclusive of all performance arts, with the possible exception of ballet. Tickets cost money, yes, and that’s one barrier to access, but more important is location. Even if you can afford a ticket, you’ll need to travel to a theater mecca like New York or London, watch for a touring company to swing by the nearest large city, or wait for the rights to die out so your community theater can put it on. […]

How Dragons Slither Into Fairy Tale Media

Dragons are some of the most famous stock creatures in fairy tales, right on par with fairy godmothers and wicked witches. Dragons might actually have a more prominent presence in legends, like St. George saving the local princess from a hungry dragon and King Arthur’s knights galavanting around the countryside to slay them. In Greek mythology, Hercules and Perseus both rescue princesses from a huge sea serpent. Dragons have snaked their way into modern media franchises. Jabba, the gross, huge, […]

Toddlers, Arise! Why Recipe for Disaster is a Recipe for Success

The queen of YouTube is a three year old girl who eats pink goop with an overgrown teddy bear. Masha and the Bear is a children’s TV show based on a Russian fairy tale of the same name. Masha has achieved a fair amount of success on streaming services, like Netflix, but she’s most successful on YouTube. The seventeenth episode, Recipe for Disaster, has racked up over 4.3 billion views as of December 2020. It ranks as the fifth-most viewed […]

The Ugly Truth About Depictions of Cinderella’s Stepfamily

Cinderella is quite possibly the most popular story about a blended family in Western culture. Her ugly relationship with her stepfamily can provide an outlet for young viewers in messy or abusive step relationships. But stepmothers and their children have feelings just as real and complicated as the “Cinderellas” of the world and suffer from one-sided portrayals. The etymology dictionary website Etymonline says the very word stepmother has been associated with cruelty since at least the Middle English era. The […]

Cinderella, the Modern Woman: 1961-1978

In a previous post, we went over how Cinderella was modernized in the first few decades of the twentieth century in pre-television cinematic featurettes. The 1950’s brought a television boom. By 1953, half of all American homes owned a TV set. Sadly, the small screen Cindys of fifties haven’t survived in a form that’s currently accessible. Televised Cinderellas of the 1950’s include a 1957 broadcast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation and a Cinderella ballet, neither of them realistic or […]

Cinderella: the Modern Woman, 1922-1944

Classic. Old-fashioned. Anti-feminist. Cinderella seems to belong to a bygone world of ball gowns, but for the past century, she has been modernized at least once a decade by the magic of television. Our oldest database entry, not just for Cinderella but any tale type, is a silent, black-and-white cartoon produced by Disney in 1922. Instead of waltzing the night away in a ballgown, Cinderella shows up to the ball in a flapper dress and dances to ragtime; a thoroughly […]