Genre Fusion: 10 Great Fairy Tale Mash-Ups

As we prepare for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to hit theatres in a few weeks, followed closely by Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful, Jack the Giant Slayer, and next year’s Malificent, why don’t we open the pages on some other classic fairy tale genre mash-ups from years past?





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10. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) Director: Rupert Sanders

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

An ambitious script, stunning visuals, and a morbid approach add up to an interesting experience despite the fact that no sighted individual would ever believe that Kristen Stewart is hotter than Charlize Theron. Stewart’s Snow White is so wooden that it’s hard to tell when she’s awake and when she’s in a coma. In contrast, Theron chews scenery and sells the hell out of her character, while Hemsworth gives his usual wonderful leading man portrayal. It was a dark take on a classic, and bent the genre in all the right ways. If only Snow White didn’t look like a cat watching ping-pong. The whole thing made enough money to green light a sequel, proving that people still love the classics.

9. Beauty & the Beast (1987)

Starring: Ron Perlman, Linda Hamilton

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Many forget how beloved this series was. Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin even had a creator credit on this bad boy. There was enough action for male fans to love it, and the Beast was romantic enough to have big-haired eighties ladies swooning. Beauty & the Beast was a nice dark twist on the old classic, and had an ahead of its time gothic aesthetic that would be played up in the genre bending fairy tale scene for decades to come. The series came to a crashing halt when one of the titular characters was killed off. Bad plot choices notwithstanding, this show broke new ground for its time.

8. Alice in Wonderland (2010) Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter 

The film that showed Hollywood that if you take a fairy tale, give it enough of a tonal twist to get attention, and assemble an eclectic cast you will make money. The film is paced strangely and Depp mumbled his way through the part, but the stunning visuals and surreal atmosphere made this film a financial success. Alice in Wonderland shows what happens when fairy tales grow up, but retained enough innocence and whimsy to make the film a smash hit. Forget critical quibbles, any movie that has Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky is worthy of attention.

7. Hard Candy (2005)

Director: David Slade

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Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson

What starts out as a modern take on “Little Red Riding Hood” turns in a white knuckle cautionary tale about pedophilia, morality, sexuality, and torture. This film is not what you think it is, and it twists a beloved fantasy so out of shape that it is barely recognizable. Yet, the idea of the predator and innocence, the core themes of the original tale, are constant. Slade’s liberal use of lush colors completes the picture. If you aren’t covered in a cold sweat by the time this film is done, you legally can’t be considered human. Sick, twisted, and daring, this modern take on a classic is not for the faint of heart.

6. American McGee’s Alice (2000)

This groundbreaking computer game took the innocence of Alice in Wonderland and squeezed it dry, creating a cynical, comical, and twisted vision of Lewis Carroll’s classic. This video game was one of the first mainstream products that twisted a familiar iconic fairy tale into something dark. It was an attention getter, and opened the door for future creators to twist the familiar characters of childhood into something dark and oh-so-marketable. It also opened the door to the idea that there was something possibly gruesome set after “happily ever after.”

5. Grimm (2011)

Creators: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf

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Starring: David Giunyoli, Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch

A surprise hit for NBC, Grimm takes a Buffy-like premise and somehow holds it together to form a coherent and fun show. Protagonist Nick Berkhardt inherits the power to see “Grimms,” a seemingly endless array of fairy tale species that secretly live among humanity. Each episode is loosely based on a classic fairy tale as Nick uses his detective’s brain, Grimm powers, and an arsenal of archaic weapons to keep suburban Portland safe. Actually, Nick doesn’t do much. He is so white bread as to almost not impact the series at all, but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast and enough plot twists to make this show watchable despite the most generic main character in recent memory.

4. Once Upon a Time (2011)

Creators: Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle

Oh, this one pissed off Vertigo fans. But once this reviewer, staunch Vertigo-ite that he is, actually watched the show, it was hard not to love it. Set in the modern town of Storeybrooke, which is inhabited by every fairy tale character there is, Once Upon a Time centers on a curse that took the memories of the myths’ past lives away. Now, a young boy, with the help of Snow White’s daughter (who happens to be a bounty hunter), must help the inhabitants regain what they lost. The cast is terrific, but it’s Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin who steals the show and turns it from a Fables rip-off into something truly original and compelling. Once Upon a Time is a ratings success and is cementing the modern fairy tale into the cultural lexicon week after week.

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3. Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, and Apples” (1994)

Anyone desiring to write a fairy tale with a modern or dark twist should be forced to read Gaiman’s short story (currently available as part of his Smoke & Mirrors collection) at gunpoint. In this take on Snow White, Gaiman casts the witch into the role of protagonist and reshapes Snow into a vampire. It works. It is chilling, memorable, and horrific. “Snow, Glass, and Apples” strips the Snow White story of its innocence, but somehow maintains the sense of wonder that always surrounds the name Snow White. Groundbreaking and essential reading.

2. Fables (2002)

Writer: Bill Willingham

Ah, Fables. Where would the bookstore market be without thee? In 2002, Vertigo was searching for a book that would define the imprint now that Sandman, Preacher, and Transmetropolitan had finished. They found one, and it’s still here a decade later. The series focuses on Fabletown, a town filled with characters from every conceivable fairy tale from around the globe. Full of scathing humor, Fables doesn’t shy away from sex, violence, or political posturing. Every character that pops up has a modern and unexpected twist such as: Fabletown mayor Snow White, Sheriff Bigby Wolf, Secret Agent Cinderella, or eternal ass-hat Jack of Fables. This series set the standard for the modern twisted fairytale and is running stronger now than when it took an unexpecting comic market by surprise ten years ago.

1. Babes in Toyland (1934)

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Directors: Gus Meins and Charley Rogers

Starring: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy

Laurel and Hardy did it before it was cool. This holiday classic was the first time where the familiar characters of lore were used in another genre on film and all together in one community of fables. Stan and Ollie sell the hell out of the whole thing and give the world a texture of reality. The climactic invasion still holds up as an eerie fouling of the innocent worlds of childhood. The movie/fable mash-up breaks so much ground that every attempt at the genre that came after owes something to the original fable town and the two legendary comedians that brought it to life. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news, reviews and trailers revolving around the world of geek.