There’s no escaping the fact that the world of film and television is currently witnessing a renaissance of sorts when it comes to the exploration of classic fairytales and stories of fantastical creatures. While this year alone will see two adaptations of Snow White on the big screen, following last year’s offerings of Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty (not to mention the phenomenon that is Twilight and its vampire/werewolf characters), television is catching on to the trend, with the creators of Lost opting to explore a fairytale world/real world collision in Once Upon a Time, and the obvious True Blood and The Vampire Diaries fuelling our appetite for vampire, werewolf and witchcraft fiction in a serialised form. With online sources revealing that there are already as many as fifteen new fairytale inspired movies (the majority of which are not aimed at young children) in production at the moment, from Beauty and the Beast to Cinderella and Peter Pan, this trend does not seem set to fizzle out any time soon.
So what exactly has been the catalyst for this newly rediscovered obsession? It cannot surely be a coincidence that so many film makers have chosen to reinvent these tales over the past couple of years, but it’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason as to why they have become so popular, other than the obvious ‘bandwagon’ idea. It’s not uncommon for certain themes to become favourable for producers to get behind following the massive success of one particular film of a genre and some critics are suggesting that Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland could be the movie to thank in this case. Also, riding hot on the tails of the Twilight series, these films are making the most of an already established audience and fan base, with fans already looking for fairytale type movies to tide them over until the last instalment of Breaking Dawn and even beyond that. While that reasoning makes sense in terms of the film makers attitudes, it may be worth considering what it is that is actually causing audiences to cry out for more of these adaptations; after all, with trends like this, it seems obvious that those behind the camera are only giving audiences what they think they want.
There is a certain kind of pleasure in re-watching films from your childhood as an adult – the obvious nostalgia of sitting down to watch some of the Disney classics, for example, and reminiscing about watching them over and over as a child is a lovely feeling. However, there is always that slight fear with these films that, if you haven’t seen one of them for a long time, it won’t quite match up to the expectations you have in your head, with the rose-tinted glasses keeping the film absolutely perfect in your mind. Fairytales are the stories every child should be told – classic tales told from generation to generation, exploring important ideas (love, power, greed, jealousy, etc.) in the form of a magical or fantastical narrative. So perhaps there is an element of audiences appreciating the idea of seeing how film makers succeed in adapting these tales (which were, in their original form as fables from the likes of the Brothers Grimm, often dark and uncomfortable sorts of stories rather than the warm, colourful and musical Disney versions we have adored for years) for a specifically adult audience.
Yes, we can watch and enjoy Disney films at any age, but there may be a desire to see a more grown-up version of the stories we’ve known our entire lives in order to reconnect with these themes and ideas as an adult, and with a more mature outlook on life. Also, it isn’t unusual for audiences to want to compare and contrast different versions of the same tale – we only have to look at the upcoming releases of Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman to see that film makers can and will approach fairytales with completely different ideas, and create completely different films using the same classic fairytale as their basic framework.
While fairytales will never cease to have a place in the world of film and TV, only time will tell how long this current fascination with these stories will last. Certainly a time will come when cinemas have reached the point of saturation with them and film makers will be on the lookout for a new genre to get audiences excited (or re-excited) about, but that point does not seem likely to arrive any time soon. Let us know if you have any other thoughts on what might have caused this Hollywood fairytale fixation!
Mirror, Mirror opened in cinemas on 2nd April, with Snow White and the Huntsman is due to be released this June.