What do Oz, Wonderland and Neverland all have in common?

They have all been revisited by the folks at Syfy. That’s right, it seems that Syfy channel (previously Sci-fi channel) has decided to make all their past three miniseries based upon fantastical children tales. And I’m not complaining, I greatly enjoy new stories based in old worlds, especially those dealing with well-known stories, it gives a whole new modern spin to an old genre. I have seen both the Tin Man (which was based on the Wizard of Oz) and parts of Alice (which was based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and for the most part, I greatly enjoyed them – the Tin Man especially. I only watched a bit of Alice because I never managed to catch it on TV from the beginning, but from what I did watch, I knew I liked the art direction, although the story seemed to drag on a bit, which probably was the reason why Alice didn’t gain as much popularity. There’s actually a new TV series that came out recently on ABC entitled Once Upon a Time that is a new spin on the fairy tale Snow White. But from the preview I saw, I was not impressed, the writers could have done so much more with the plot but from what I could tell, the story seemed very rushed. I’m no critic of movies and TV shows, I mostly watch films and shows because I find they entertaining aesthetically and interesting story and character development-wise, so these are all my (probably inaccurate) opinions. Origin stories (stories about what happened to characters before well-known stories) intrigue me greatly. There’s a special kind of creativity required to make a story still original while in an already established realm and creating unique characters that will believably develop into the ones that we see later. Even though I already know how the story has to end up in order for the events of the original story to take place, I still find myself invested in the journey of the character now. It’s a reminder that all characters – and real-life people for that matter – have stories to tell and are not just defined by one great achievement. A great life isn’t characterized by one great achievement, but by overcoming any obstacles that come in one’s way. Although Tin Man and Alice aren’t necessarily Origin stories, they certainly deal with previously established worlds and character motifs (these two miniseries technically take place after the events of the well-known stories).

On my list of Youtube recommendations appeared a trailer entitled Neverland. To be honest, I didn’t remember where I had heard that term before, but I knew that it should have been familiar to me. But it was from Syfy, and while Syfy is known for some pretty low-quality movies (and pretty lame trailers), their miniseries have a pretty good track record (I guess they prefer to tell their stories over a course of days instead of hours). Neverland, is of course Syfy’s new take on the story of Peter Pan. I suppose I should have seen it coming, given Syfy’s track record, but I’m not usually one to speculate, so it came as a surprise. It actually looks pretty good, in my humble opinion, and if I wasn’t stuck in a TV-less University Dorm, I’d be spending my Sunday and Monday night watching the premier, but oh well, I guess I will have to wait. From what I can tell, Neverland is the origin story of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, who apparently were quite good friends back in England or wherever they originally came from. It may seem somewhat cliché to have good friends turn into enemies, but fantasy stories are chock-full of chichés (just listen to some of the dialogue in the trailer – “Peter, trust in yourself!”). Fantasy stories are not so much about originality (although these kinds of stories are quite original in my opinion, even within already established worlds) but about how the story is told, through complex character relationships, art direction, and various other factors.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy origin stories so much is the way it brings me back to older memories of past stories. But I don’t mean just any old origin stories like the lame prequels that have appeared lately, I mean origin stories of well-known childhood characters, especially those in fairy tales. I am actually taking a writing seminar class right now entitled From Fairy Tales to the Uncanny: Exploring the Romantic Consciousness. In the class, we discussed and read some popular (and not-so-popular) Grimm Fairy Tales, read and wrote essays on the tales and fairy tale history and societal impacts.  It’s an interesting topic of discussion, and through it we read an essay by Freud about the Uncanny. I won’t give you an entire summary of what Freud says (I already had to do that), but basically Freud says that something gives us the feeling of Uncanny because it reminds us of memories that were once repressed (or hidden away in our subconscious) and has uncomfortably returned. It’s a strange kind of fear. And while Fairy Tales are not necessarily Uncanny, they certainly remind us of past memories, bringing back those warm feelings of innocence and magic. And while these days the trend in the film and television industries is to put a darker, more realistic take on older stories (think: The Dark Knight), Syfy still manages to somehow maintain that feeling of innocence and the environments of overly-fantastical magical worlds, even if their stories are not overly-fantastical (but still manages to have common Syfy production flaws, like awkward dialogue). One of the topics in my class that I wished we discussed more was what attracts people of all ages to keep coming back for more. In short – what makes a Fairy Tale timeless? I had mentioned earlier that stories that I greatly enjoy reading and writing stories that blend realism and fantasy, and perhaps Syfy’s latest trend of miniseries (plural…miniserieses?)  has certainly caught my attention. They are certainly stories that I would not mind watching again and again. Neverland certainly seems promising (and features a very nice CGI giant-crocodile, so no cuts were made in the visual effects) and I hope to watch it sometime soon. And if Syfy continues with this trend, I wonder what they will do next?  Whatever they do, I’m sure it will bring up childhood memories and stories that we all once – and still do – fondly remember, even if it’s deep down in our subconscious.

Neverland Trailer

Alice Trailer (it’s short, and admittedly, doesn’t look as interesting as I vaguely remember it)

Tin Man Trailer

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