Once Upon a Time is an American fantasy drama television series created by Lost and Tron: Legacy writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz , that premiered October 23, 2011 on ABC. The first six seasons aired Sunday nights at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT before switching to Friday nights at 8:00pm ET/7:00pm CT for season seven. On November 3, 2011, ABC ordered the back nine episodes for Once Upon a Time, bringing the first season to a total of 22 episodes. On May 10, 2012, ABC renewed the show for a second season, which premiered September 30, 2012. On May 10, 2013, the show was renewed for a third season, which premiered September 29, 2013. On May 8, 2014, the show was renewed for its fourth season, which premiered September 28, 2014. The fifth season premiered on September 27, 2015. On March 3, 2016, the show was picked up for a sixth season, which premiered on September 25, 2016. On May 11, 2017, the series was renewed for a seventh season, which premiered on October 6, 2017. On February 6, 2018, it was announced that the series would end after its seventh season . The series finished its' run on May 18, 2018.
- Main article: Once Upon a Time episode list
The series takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, in which the residents are actually characters from various fairy tales that were transported to the "real world" town and robbed of their real memories by the Evil Queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla), using a powerful curse obtained from Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). The town's only hope lies with a bail bondswoman, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), who was transported from the fairy tale world before she could be cursed. As such, she is the only person who can break the curse and restore the characters' lost memories, aided by her son, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), with whom she has recently reunited (after giving him up for adoption upon his birth), and his book of fairy tales that holds the key to ending the curse. Henry is also the adopted son of Regina (who is the mayor of Storybrooke), providing a source of conflict between the two women.
Each episode focuses on a character back story. One segment details the character's past life that, when serialized, adds a piece to the puzzle about the primary characters and their connection to the events that preceded the curse and its consequences. The other, set in the present day, follows a similar pattern with a different outcome but also offers similar insights.
Season One (2011–12)
The Evil Queen interrupts the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming to announce that she will cast a curse on everyone and take away all their love so that she is the only one with a happy ending. Many of the fairy tale characters are transported to Storybrooke where most of them have been stripped of their original memories and identities as fairy tale characters.
Season Two (2012–13)
ABC renewed the series for a second season, which premiered on September 30, 2012. Despite Emma breaking the curse, which brings everyone's memories back, they are not immediately returned to the fairy tale world. With the introduction of magic by Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold into Storybrooke, the fates of the two worlds become intertwined, while a portion of the fairy tale world that was relatively spared by the curse is revealed.
Season Three (2013–14)
The first volume's plot revolved around the main characters traveling to Neverland from Storybrooke to retrieve a kidnapped Henry Mills from the possession of Peter Pan. After successfully retrieving Henry, the characters returned to Storybrooke, only to be returned to their original worlds following Pan's new Curse, leaving Emma Swan and Henry to escape to New York City. The second plot followed the characters' past journey in the Enchanted Forest and how they were brought back to Storybrooke by the Wicked Witch of the West, while also documenting Emma's mission to break the new Curse and save her family.
Season Four (2014–15)
The fourth season of the ABC fantasy-drama Once Upon a Time was announced on May 8, 2014. On May 13, 2014, it was revealed that the season would be split into two parts, the first half airing during 2014, and the second half during 2015. It premiered September 28, 2014. The final minutes of the third season finale revealed that Elsa will appear in some capacity. Kristoff and Anna from the 2013 film Frozen will also be introduced in Season 4, along with a new main antagonist called Ingrid, portrayed by Elizabeth Mitchell. Ingrid is Anna and Elsa's aunt, long forgotten years ago. The second half of the season includes three female villains, Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil. They have teamed up to get their own happy endings.
Season Five (2015–2016)
The first half of the season follows Emma being taken over by a powerful supernatural force known as the Darkness, it is up the main characters, heroes, and villains alike, to bring her back to the light of goodness. Their quest leads them to find the supremely powerful sorcerer Merlin and join up with the feisty Scottish princess Merida; a highly skilled archer to rescue Emma and defeat the Darkness once and for all before it destroys everything and everyone. The second half of season five followed the main characters journey to the Underworld to resurrect Captain Hook after he was killed by Emma. They must defeat Hades and find a way to return to Storybrooke.
Season Six (2016–2017)
Season 6 will premiere September 25, 2016 and follow the events set up in the Season Five finale. The group must face the return of the Evil Queen, whom they believe to be dead, as well as new arrivals to Storybrooke led by the villainous Mr. Hyde. Season 6 will not follow the split season method of previous seasons, but rather follow the one-story season style of Season 1.
Season Seven (2017-2018)
After six seasons, the residents of the Enchanted Forest face their greatest challenge yet as The Evil Queen, Captain Hook, and Rumplestiltskin join forces with a grown up Henry Mills and his daughter Lucy on an epic quest to once again bring hope to their world and ours. Along the way, new fairy tale characters and old search for true love, find adventure and once again take sides in the struggle of good against evil, as classic tales are once more twisted and reimagined.
Cast and characters
- Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard (seasons 1-6, guest season 7)
- Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan (seasons 1-6, guest season 7)
- Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen/Regina Mills/Evil Regina
- Josh Dallas as Prince Charming/David Nolan (seasons 1-6, guest season 7)
- Jared S. Gilmore and Andrew J. West as Henry Mills
- Raphael Sbarge as Jiminy Cricket/Archie Hopper (season 1, recurring afterwards)
- Jamie Dornan as the Huntsman/Sheriff Graham (episodes 1-7, recurring afterwards)
- Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold
- Eion Bailey as Pinocchio/August Booth (episodes 14-22, recurring afterwards)
- Emilie de Ravin as Belle/Belle French (seasons 2-6, recurring season 1, guest season 7)
- Meghan Ory as Red Riding Hood/Ruby (season 2, recurring otherwise)
- Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Hook (episode 36 onward, recurring previously)
- Michael Raymond-James as Baelfire/Neal Cassidy (season 3, recurring previously, recurring afterwards in season 5)
- Michael Socha as Will Scarlet (season 4)
- Rebecca Mader as Zelena (seasons 5-6, recurring seasons 3-4, 7)
- Sean Maguire as Robin Hood (season 5, recurring previously and afterwards)
- Alison Fernandez as Lucy Vidrio (season 7, recurring previously)
- Dania Ramirez as Cinderella/Jacinda Vidrio (season 7)
- Gabrielle Anwar as Lady Tremaine/Rapunzel/Victoria Belfrey (season 7)
- Mekia Cox as Tiana/Sabine (season 7, recurring previously)
- Deniz Akdeniz as Aladdin (season 6)
- Tony Amendola as Geppetto/Marco
- David Anders as Dr. Victor Frankenstein/Dr. Whale (seasons 1-3, 5-6)
- Lee Arenberg as Grumpy/Leroy
- Kristin Bauer van Straten as Maleficent (seasons 1, 4)
- Sarah Bolger as Aurora (seasons 2-4)
- Emma Booth as Mother Gothel/Mother Nature/Eloise Gardener (season 7)
- Emma Caulfield as the Blind Witch (seasons 1, 5)
- Jamie Chung as Mulan (seasons 2-3, 5)
- Parker Croft as Felix (seasons 2-3)
- Alan Dale as King George/Albert Spencer (seasons 1-2, 6)
- Karen David as Jasmine (season 6)
- Merrin Dungey as Ursula (season 4)
- Beverley Elliott as Widow Lucas/Granny
- Ethan Embry as Greg Mendell (seasons 2-3)
- Giancarlo Esposito as Magic Mirror/Genie/Sidney Glass (seasons 1, 3-6)
- Patrick Fischer as Isaac Heller (seasons 4, 6)
- Scott Michael Foster as Kristoff (season 4)
- Daniel Francis as Dr. Facilier (season 7)
- Joanna García as Ariel (seasons 3-4, 6-7)
- Liam Garrigan as King Arthur (season 5)
- Chris Gauthier as Mr. Smee (seasons 2-4, 6-7)
- Greg Germann as Hades (season 5)
- Anastasia Griffith as Princess Abigail/Kathryn Nolan (seasons 1 and 3)
- Georgina Haig as Elsa (season 4)
- Hank Harris as Dr. Jekyll (seasons 5-6)
- Barbara Hershey as Cora (seasons 1-2, 4-5)
- Adelaide Kane as Drizella/Ivy Belfrey (season 7)
- Robbie Kay as Peter Pan (seasons 3, 5, 7)
- Eric Keenleyside as Maurice (seasons 1-5)
- Elliot Knight as Merlin (season 5)
- Elizabeth Lail as Anna (season 4)
- Christie Laing as Maid Marian (seasons 2-4)
- Amy Manson as Merida (season 5)
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Tamara (seasons 2-3)
- Rose McIver as Tinker Bell (seasons 3, 6)
- Joana Metrass as Queen Guinevere (season 5)
- Elizabeth Mitchell as Ingrid (season 4)
- Julian Morris as Prince Phillip (seasons 2-3)
- Nathan Parsons as Jack/Nick Branson (season 7)
- Tony Perez as Henry (seasons 1-2, 4-6)
- Jeff Pierre as Prince Naveen/Drew (season 7)
- Rose Reynolds as Alice/Tilly (season 7)
- Jessy Schram as Cinderella/Ashley Boyd (seasons 1, 4, 6)
- Victoria Smurfit as Cruella De Vil (seasons 4-5, 7)
- Sebastian Stan as Mad Hatter/Jefferson (seasons 1-2)
- Olivia Steele Falconer as Violet (seasons 5-6)
- Freya Tingley as Wendy Darling (seasons 2-3)
- Keegan Connor Tracy as Blue Fairy/Mother Superior
- Sinqua Walls as Lancelot (seasons 2, 5)
- Timothy Webber as Sorcerer's Apprentice (seasons 4-5)
- Sam Witwer as Mr. Hyde (seasons 5-6)
- Yael Yurman as Anastasia (season 7)
Eight years previous to the Once Upon a Time pilot (the two had just completed their work on Felicity, in 2002), Kitsis and Horowitz became inspired to write fairy tales out of a love of "mystery and excitement of exploring lots of different worlds." They presented the premise to networks, but were refused because of its fantastical nature. The two learned from their time on Lost to look at the story in a different way, that "character has to trump mythology"; they expanded, "as people, you've got to see what the void in their heart or in their lives is to care about them ... For us, this was as much about the character journeys and seeing what was ripped from them in coming to Storybrooke and going at it that way as opposed to making it the 'break-the-curse show.
Despite the comparisons and similarities to Lost, the writers intend them to be very different shows. To them, Lost concerned itself with redemption, while Once Upon a Time is about "hope". Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof aids in the development of the series as a consultant, but has no official credit on the show. Kitsis and Horowitz have called him a "godfather" to the series. To differentiate the storytelling from what the audience already knew, the writing staff decided to begin the pilot with the end of the typical Snow White fairy tale. Themes concerning family and motherhood were emphasized, in contrast to the focus on fatherhood in Lost. Kitsis and Horowitz sought to write strong female characters, rather than the classic damsel in distress. Horowitz stated their desire to approach each character the same way, asking themselves, "How do we make these icons real, make them relatable?"
The pilot is meant to be the "template of the series". Kitsis confirmed that every week will contain flashbacks between both worlds, as they "love the idea of going back and forth and informing what the character is missing in their life." The writers' desire to present a "mash up" of many small characters can be seen in a scene of the pilot, in which there is a war council featuring Geppetto, Pinocchio, and Grumpy. Horowitz elaborated, "One of the fun things for us coming up with these stories is thinking of ways these different characters can interact in ways they never have before."
The general premise, importing the Snow White core characters into the "real world", was previously seen on ABC television in the short-lived 1980s comedy The Charmings.
The show has a similar premise to Bill Willingham's ten-year-old comic series Fables, to which ABC bought the rights in 2008 but never made it past planning stages. After Fables fans raised controversy over possible appropriation, the show writers initially denied a link, but later said they may have "read a couple issues" of the comic book but while the two concepts are "in the same playground", they are "telling a different story." Bill Willingham responded to the controversy in an interview, where he stated he did not feel the show was plagiarism and "Maybe they did remember reading Fables back then, but didn't want to mention it because we've become a very litigious people."
Horowitz stated that everyone they initially wanted cast in the series accepted their offered role after being sent a script. Ginnifer Goodwin was cast as Snow White, who appreciated that she would be playing a strong character that was fleshed out for the audience. The actress had just completed her work on the series Big Love, and was looking for a new project; she turned to television after film scripts failed to interest her. Having said previously in interviews that she would love to play Snow White, Goodwin called her acceptance of the Snow White role "a no-brainer." Both Kitsis and Horowitz are self-described big fans of Big Love, and wrote the part of Snow White with Goodwin in mind.
Joshua Dallas, who plays Prince Charming, was pleased the writers took "some dramatic license" with his character, believing the prince had become more real. He explained, "Prince Charming just happens to be a name. He's still a man with the same emotions as any other man. He's a Prince, but he's a Prince of the people. He gets his hands dirty. He's got a kingdom to run. He has a family to protect. He has an epic, epic love for Snow White. He's like everybody else. He's human."
Jennifer Morrison was hired for the part of Emma Swan. The actress explained her character as someone who "help[s] her son Henry whom she abandoned when he was a baby and who seems like he's a little bit emotionally dysfunctional", but noted that Emma does not yet believe there is a fairy tale universe. Ten-year old Jared Gilmore, known for his work on Mad Men, took the role of her son, Henry.
The role of The Evil Queen/Regina went to Lana Parrilla. She explained the character, "There's always two stories being told when playing Regina. There's the threat of her knowing she's an evil queen and then there's just the pure simple fact that the biological mother has stepped into her world and the threat of losing her son is just enormous. That's a fear that I think any adopted mother would have. I think that's going to really help the audience relate to Regina in some level."
The role of Rumplestiltskin was given to Robert Carlyle; it was written with Carlyle in mind, though the writers initially thought he would never accept the part. Horowitz recalled Carlyle's prison sequence, which was the actor's first day on the set as "mind-blowing ... You could see Ginny actually jump, the first time he did that character. It was fantastic!" The writers offered the part of the Blue Fairy to recording artist Lady Gaga, but never heard back from her management staff.
For the second season, Meghan Ory as Ruby (Red Riding Hood) and Emilie de Ravin as Belle have joined the regular cast. New supporting characters for the second season include Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), played by Sarah Bolger; Mulan, played by Jamie Chung; Prince Phillip, played by Julian Morris; and Captain Hook, portrayed by Colin O'Donoghue. On October 3, 2012 it was announced that O'Donoghue would be billed as a series regular beginning with the second-half of the second season.
As a nod to the ties between the production teams of Once Upon a Time and Lost, the new show contains allusions to Lost, and is expected to be a continuing theme throughout the series. For example, many items found in the Lost universe, such as Apollo candy bars, Oceanic Airlines, and MacCutcheon Whisky, can be seen in Once Upon a Time. The town clock was stuck at 8:15, an allusion to Flight 815 from the Lost universe. An Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk No. 3 comic read by the character Henry in Episode 9 of Season 1 was written by Lost executive producer Damon Lindelof. In addition, former cast members of Lost have made recurring appearances on the series, with Emilie de Ravin being the first post-Lost regular to become a full-time regular on Once Upon a Time. Jorge Garcia appears in the second season as the Giant from up above the beanstalk. Even Alan Dale was also a guest star on Lost and now a guest on Once Upon a Time.
The show, as a production of Disney-owned ABC, contains multiple allusions to the Disney versions of the stories that form the basis for the series. Snow White's dwarfs, unnamed in traditional versions of the story, here have the names they were given in the Disney film. When Snow White first meets Grumpy, he can be heard whistling the main chorus of "Heigh-Ho" from the Disney film version of Snow White. Towards the beginning of "Heart of Darkness" as she sweeps the dwarfs' cottage, Snow White is heard humming "With a Smile and a Song", another song from the Disney film. Snow White also wears a red bow in her hair while singing the song. In "An Apple Red as Blood", the shot of the apple falling out of Snow White's hand is reminiscent of the shot in the Disney film. The Dwarves hats are the same color as the hats in the animated movie.
In the second season Sleeping Beauty is called Aurora just like in the Disney movie and her love Prince Phillip also shows up to wake her from her sleep. There was also a spinning wheel next to Aurora while she was sleeping. She was also surrounded by thorns which Prince Phillip had to cut through.
Dr. Whale (Victor Frankenstein)'s name is a reference to James Whale, the director of the 1931 version of Frankenstein. His realm resembles a black and white world like in the old monster movies.
In "The Price of Gold", Cinderella wears a blue dress to the ball just like in the movie.
Geppetto's fairy friend is called The Blue Fairy as in the 1940 Disney film, rather than the Fairy with Turquoise Hair as in Carlo Collodi's novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, which the Disney film is based on; similarly, his conscience figure is called Jiminy Cricket rather than "the Talking Cricket". In the episode "The Stranger", when Pinocchio and Geppetto are on a raft in a storm, they are being chased by a giant whale, referencing the whale Monstro in the 1940 Disney film Pinocchio, whereas in the Carlo Collodi story it was The Terrible Dogfish.
The episode "Hat Trick" contained numerous references to Alice in Wonderland, specific to either the original story or the Disney version. Mary Margaret overpowers the Hatter with the first thing that comes to hand, a croquet mallet similar to the ones depicted in the Disney film. In the same episode the Mad Hatter's name, Jefferson, alludes to the 1960s psychedelia band Jefferson Airplane, who had a hit record with the song "White Rabbit". The mushroom Regina uses to make her father bigger appears in the 1951 animated film which Alice used to grow different sizes. The Blue Caterpillar appears on a mushroom smoking and says "Who are you?" which we says to Alice in the Disney film.
Archie's Dalmatian, Pongo, is a reference to One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The Genie of the Lamp claims to hail from Agrabah, the central location in the Disney animated film Aladdin. In the episode "Skin Deep", a teacup with a chip in it is an allusion to the Chip character from Beauty and the Beast, an ornate clock as a reference to Cogsworth and a candelabra in reference to Lumière. There was also a teapot in reference to Mrs. Potts. Belle's father is called Maurice just like in the movie. The costuming and the character of Gaston were also a nod to the Disney animation. Belle also wears her yellow gown and her blue and white outfit in the episode just like in the movie.
In Rumplestiltskin's castle was the scythe featured near the end of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, albeit colored differently. In Episode 8, the true name of "The Dark One" is Zoso which is also one of the symbols in the album Led Zeppelin IV. Regina also talks about a certain young mermaid she needs help with.
Henry has a Tron lunch box and Regina gave him a handheld video game device upon which he played Space Paranoids, as seen in "What Happened to Frederick".
In the episode "Skin Deep", Mr. Gold confiscates a florist's truck reading "Game of Thorns", a reference to the TV series Game of Thrones. Also in this episode, Mr. Gold moves a golden cup. This cup is alleged to be the Holy Grail.
In Mr. Gold's shop there is also a sorcerer's hat, alluding to Mickey Mouse's hat in The Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence in Fantasia, and also a severed hand, an allusion and foreshadowing reference to Peter Pan's Captain Hook.
In the Season 1 finale "A Land Without Magic", Emma slays the dragon Maleficent with an overhead sword throw just like Prince Phillip did in the animated movie Sleeping Beauty.
In the second season, Mulan appears which is a character from a Chinese legend that the Disney movie was based on.
In the episode "The Crocodile", Smee, Hook's right hand man, wears a red cap just like in the Disney movie. Captain Hook calls Rumplestiltskin a crocodile and Rumplestiltskin cuts his hand off, but in the Disney movie a crocodile really did eat Hook's hand. Belle's interest of books is shown just like from the Disney movie and she becomes the town librarian.
In the episode "The Doctor", Jefferson mentions magic slippers that can transport the wearer between magical and non-magical worlds. This is a reference to the Silver Shoes in "The Wizard of Oz".
In the episode "Into the Deep", the poppy Mulan uses to make the sleeping powder appears in both book and movie of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
In "Child of the Moon", Billy's fairy tale counterpart is Gus, a mouse who used to live with Cinderella and there was a mouse named Gus in the Disney movie.
In "In the Name of the Brother", Cora tells Regina that she pushed her through The Looking Glass that transported her to Wonderland, which is a reference to Lewis Carrol's novel Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.
Beginning with the second episode of the first season, the opening sequence that appears below the show's title features a mythical creature, person, or an item that is tied into the episode.
Mark Isham composed the series' theme and music. On February 14, 2012, an extended play album featuring four cues from the score was released by ABC Studios. On May 1, 2012, a full-length 25-track soundtrack album with five different album covers was released by Intrada Records.
The actual spread and scope of the Enchanted Forest is not currently known. Several independent kingdoms are implied by an array of different rulers, including Snow's father King Leopold (the kingdom later ruled by his widow (the Evil) Queen Regina); King Midas; Charming's (secretly adoptive) father King George (Charming and Snow rule his kingdom after deposing him); Cinderella's father-in-law; and Sir Maurice, Belle's father.
Storybrooke, Maine, is depicted as a typical oceanside small town. Although it has a "trapped in time" factor, modern conveniences such as the internet and TV broadcasts are available. It is established in several episodes, however, that residents affected by the curse are unable to leave the town limits of Storybrooke. A notable exception to this is Henry, who is able to leave Storybrooke to retrieve Emma from Boston in the pilot episode due to him not being part of the original curse. For characters that have attempted to leave, their cars break down and they get into some sort of danger. Since Emma's arrival, the curse has begun to weaken, with clocks now moving forward and Regina's apple tree showing signs of spoilage.
The episode "Hat Trick" shows Wonderland of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It said that other worlds or universes exist; in "The Doctor", Dr. Frankenstein is brought to the Enchanted Forest for a short while, and later in Storybrooke (as Dr. Whale) expresses concern over whether all the worlds have disappeared. It was also revealed in "An Apple Red as Blood" that it can be possible to retrieve an item from the Enchanted Forest and bring it to the present day.
In the second season it was revealed that not all of the Enchanted Forest was cursed. The survivors were frozen for 28 years and just woke up when the curse broke. They established themselves in a safe haven, waiting for news of the rest of the Enchanted Forest.
References to Disney
With ABC Studios being a division of the Disney-ABC Television Group, the producers of Once Upon a Time have exclusive permission to use and reinterpret Disney properties.
Disney Films Featured
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- Bambi (mentioned)
- Make Mine Music
- Fun and Fancy Free
- Alice in Wonderland
- Peter Pan
- Lady and the Tramp
- Sleeping Beauty
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians
- The Sword in the Stone
- Robin Hood
- The Fox and the Hound (only in novel)
- The Little Mermaid
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire (mentioned)
- Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
- Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
- Tinker Bell
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
- The Princess and the Frog
Disney Cartoons Featured
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Mother Goose Melodies
- King Neptune
- Babes in the Woods
- Old King Cole
- The Pied Piper
- Gulliver Mickey
- The Goddess of Spring
- The Golden Touch
- The Big Bad Wolf
- The Ugly Duckling
- The Sorcerer's Apprentice
- Peter and the Wolf
- Mickey and the Beanstalk
- Paul Bunyan
- The Prince and the Pauper
Disney Live-Action Films Featured
- Treasure Island
- The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Return to Oz
- The Three Musketeers
- Tom and Huck
- 101 Dalmatians
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- The Haunted Mansion
- Alice in Wonderland
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- Oz the Great and Powerful
- Cinderella (2015)
Others Stories featured
- David and Goliath (referenced when David Nolan fights the giant Anton)
- Rumpelstiltskin or The Miller's Daughter
- Three Billy Goats Gruff (referenced when Snow White and Prince Charming go to the Bridge Trolls to make a deal)
- George and the Dragon (referenced to King George)
- Snow-White and Rose-Red (referenced to Red Riding Hood and Snow White's friendship)
- The Song of Roland (referenced to Roland, Robin Hood's son)
- Pandora's Box
- Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
- There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
- Pride and Prejudice (referenced when Alice is introduced to Mr. Darcy as a potential suitor by her stepmother Sarah)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (referenced to the Nurse Ratched)
- Don Quixote
- Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
- Mary Reilly
- Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
- The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
- Steamboat Willie: There is a plush of Minnie Mouse in Emma Swan's baby room at the castle. Later, a plush of Mickey Mouse was given to an adopted little girl when a teen Emma was at a foster home.
- The Three Little Pigs: When secretly visiting Red, Peter cites 'I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow the...' like the Big Bad Wolf.
- The Grasshopper and the Ants: When Emma drink a glass at the bar Aesop's Tables, the story's tittle was used like the name for an cocktail.
- Fantasia: In the castle, there is a hat which resembles that of Master Yen Sid, in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene.
- Bambi: A small Bambi statue is seen in Mary Margaret's apartment.
- Song of the South: Snow White, enchanted by Ingrid's curse, cynically mentions the song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", when mocking Anna.
- Cinderella: When Madeline locking her daughter Cruella in the attic like her new bedroom (for good intentions), it is an allusion to Lady Tremaine and Cinderella. Similarly, Isaac acted like the Grand Duke.
- The Shaggy Dog: In his flashbacks, Charming had a pet dog named Wilby.
- Mary Poppins: When she present herself to Mary Margaret like a nurse, Zelena is dressed very similarly to Mary Poppins.
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Anita, Red's mother, share her name with Anita Radcliffe.
- The Jungle Book: The Huntsman's past, adopted by wolves, is a allusion to Mowgli.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: There is a honey neon sign for a pub called "Winnie's".
- The Rescuers: In her teenage flashback, Emma was depicted like Penny, searching desperately to be adopted by a family. It was also in Cruella's child flashback when purchased by her mother with two trained dogs, similar to Madame Medusa with her two alligator pets.
- The Empire Strikes Back: Henry mention this movie as one of best sequels.
- Unidentified Flying Oddball: Violet reveals that her father is from Connecticut.
- Tron: Regina gives Henry "Space Paranoids"; a game created by Kevin Flynn, the protagonist of the film. Emma eludes to Flynn by quoting his advice to Henry while he is playing the game; "It's all in the wrists". Henry has a Tron lunchbox. Kurt and Greg Mendell/Owen's last name is Flynn. A bench which features an ad for computers with the Encom logo.
- Return of the Jedi: The Caterpillar had a similar personality to Jabba the Hutt.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Henry mention this movie as one of best sequels.
- The Black Cauldron: A Gnome who appeared as The Evil Queen's ally before she instantly turns him into a stone statue after he finds amusement in the fact the curse did not work, has a similar characteristic and behavior to Creeper.
- Splash: Grumpy mentions this movie when fearing that normal humans who come to Storybrooke made experiments on Fairy tale characters. Ariel walks into Storybrooke from the bay like Madison.
- Oliver & Company: When Cruella De Vil comes to Forbidden Mountain for the first time with two feral dogs that she magically control and surprise Maleficent and Ursula, the sequence is reminiscent to Bill Sykes's introduction and his two dogs Roscoe and DeSoto terrorizing Fagin in his barge.
- The Little Mermaid: When Zelena disguised like Marian, amused to destruct Regina's happiness with Robin, smile at a mirror, it is a reference to Ursula disguised like Vanessa.
- The Rescuers Down Under: The hole trap, prepared by Regina, where Snow fall before to be rescued by Hercules, is similar to the scene where Cody is captured by McLeach.
- The Lion King: In Mr. Gold's shop there is an African mask, alluding to the film. Emma mentioned this movie when her father prepared commemoration for his newborn son.
- A Kid in King Arthur's Court: Violet reveals that her father is from Connecticut.
- Disney's Aladdin in Nasira's Revenge: Amara, Jafar's mentor and lover, bears a resemblance and same clothes to Nasira, when she appears during her meeting with Jafar, then a child.
- Fantasia 2000 : A jester employed by the Evil Queen had a similar characteristic to Jack-in-the-box. Henry name Operation Firebird, Hook's rescue in Hades' world.
- Treasure Planet: In her flashbacks, Snow tell to Blue that she wants to go in Longbourne, a marine port, for to to escape to the Evil Queen. Longbourne is also the name of one of the alien pirates working for John Silver.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Emma Swan share her family name with Elizabeth Swann. Hook references the song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)". Hook is also often jokingly nicknamed eye-liner pirate, a reference to Jack Sparrow.
- Chicken Little: Mr.Cluck's Chicken Shack is the name to the drive-in restaurant where Cruella and Ursula command while traveling with Mr. Gold to Storybrooke.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The door and the world where Glinda the Good Witch of the South was located are similar to Narnia during the reign of Queen Jadis the White Witch. Also, Glinda is similar to Jadis by her dress-style. The Snow Queen's repair at Storybrooke is similar to her own repair. When Cinderella tried to left her world for the Land of Untold Stories with the magical key, she open a similar closet used by the children from the movie.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Ursula is similar to Tia Dalma, in her cross stories with Hook. The two women are also established like sea witch goddess.
- Enchanted: When the Snow Queen comes to New York for the first time, her impressions, reactions, and the curiosity that she was for citizen are reminiscent to Princess Giselle's coming in the city. It also reminiscent to Prince Edward's coming when Robin Hood use a white horse in the city for to purchase a pickpocket who steal Maid Marian's bag.
- The Princess and the Frog: The 20's London world is impregnated in jazz music like in New Orleans and the young Cruella (sociopathic behavior hidden) is somewhat similar to Charlotte La Bouff. When she dances and flirts with Isaac in a Jazz club, her dress and the club are reminiscent to Tiana's fantasies where, dressed like Josephine Baker, she imagine to hold her own restaurant. Charlotte, Edmond Dantès' lover share her name with Charlotte La Bouff. The Captain Hook from the Wish Realm is similar to Lawrence due to the fact that he was also a plump old man who had a villain use the blood of someone else to magically transform him into a handsome young man.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Ariel had a personality and a story similar to Syrena in her cross stories with Hook and Blackbeard. Also, Prince Eric replaces Philip Swift.
- Thor: David Nolan mentions Asgard in Season 4.
- Disneyland: Camelot's appearance looks a lot like the Sleeping Beauty Castle, at Disneyland California.
- Tron: Legacy: Henry has a Tron: Legacy lunchbox.
- Oz the Great and Powerful: The Evil Queen mentions the evil munchkins' dirt road.
- Thor: The Dark World: The mystical Hammer was featured on an episode.
- While based on traditional stories, some characters were specifically named after their Disney counterparts, including the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio, Maleficent, Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty, and Gaston and Maurice from Beauty and the Beast.
- Emma Swan wishes on a blue star-shaped candle, referencing the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio.
- Archie Hopper's dalmatian is named after Pongo, the protagonist from One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
- The melody of song "Cruella De Vil" is diffused by radio and jazz club music into 20's London where come Cruella.
- King Leopold finds a genie lamp and is granted with three wishes. One of the things wishes for is to set the genie free, making him an allusion to Aladdin.
- The Genie's hometown was named after Agrabah, the central location from Aladdin.
- August Booth's past shares some similarities with Pinocchio, including his abandonment of Emma Swan at another boy's request, just as Pinocchio leaves Geppetto to travel with Lampwick, and his return from holidaying in Phuket, alluding to Pinocchio's stay at Pleasure Island.
- The melodies of songs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs have been whistled or hummed by characters, including Leroy whistling "Whistle While You Work", Grumpy whistling "Heigh Ho", and Snow White humming "With a Smile and a Song".
- Many Disney-related objects reside in Mr. Gold's pawnshop, including a Mickey Mouse phone, Mickey and Minnie Mouse plush toys, and the lamp from Aladdin.
- Rumplestiltskin assumes the role of the Beast, leading to many connections with Beauty and the Beast, including his mentioning of Belle's "little town" from the lyrics of "Belle", and the transformation of Gaston into a red rose, who Rumplestiltskin later refers to as "just an old woman selling flowers," referencing the Enchantress.
- Several references exist in Rumplestiltskin's castle, including Yen Sid's hat from Fantasia, the lamp from Aladdin, the hammer from Thor and a candelabra, clock, teapot and chipped teacup representing Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip from Beauty and the Beast respectively.
- A spinning fairy ornament resembling Tinker Bell from Peter Pan is seen in a front garden.
- Henry Mills owns a Tron lunchbox. Later, he receives a handheld edition of Space Paranoids.
- Snow White's collapse after biting a poisoned apple is a visual reenactment of the scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Emma Swan slays the dragon Maleficent with an overhead sword throw, the same method used by Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty. Earlier, the Prince attempts to kill the Evil Queen in the same manner.
- The Ugly Duckling is alluded by Emma Swan's name and her dramatic teenage past when searching desperately a family who wants her.
- In "Devil's Due", Cruella wears a doe fur. She jokes that it is Bambi's mother, but she neither confirms nor denies if it really is.
- In "The Brothers Jones", there is a room with lots of toys. Amongst these toys is a stuffed bear and tiger next to each other.
- Dracula: Henry mention him when searching Edmond Dantès' real identity.
- The Invisible Man: Henry mention him when searching Edmond Dantès' real identity.d
- The Great Gatsby: When residing in Mr. Gold's cabane, Isaac read the novel, written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.
- Errol Flynn: Emma compare Edmond Dantès to the actor Errol Flynn.
- Colours: The song performed by Donovan is the romantic theme between Snow and Charming when trying to support the new sleep curse caused by the Evil Regina.
- Sympathy for the Devil: The song performed by the Rolling Stones is used as tittle for Cruella's centered episode.
- I'll Be Your Mirror: The song performed by the Velvet Underground is used as tittle for an episode.
- The Cat in the Hat: Robin Hood find this book in Belle's library.
- Harold and Maud: Henri mentions this movie when sharing a romantic dinner with Violet.
- David Bowie: Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum's make-up is a reference to Ziggy Stardust.
- Annie Hall: Lily mentions this movie when comparing her mother, Maleficent's modern dress style, similar to Diane Keaton, at Storybrooke.
- The Godfather Part II: Henry mention this film as one of best sequels.
- E.T.: Grumpy mentions this movie when fearing that normal humans who come to Storybrooke made experiments on Fairy tale characters.
- Only You: The song performed by Yazoo is the romantic theme to Emma and Neal.
- Sixteen Candles: Henry mentions this movie when trying to invite Violet at cinema.
- The Breakfast Club: Henry mentions this movie when trying to invite Violet at cinema.
- Commando: Henri mentions this movie when sharing a romantic dinner with Violet.
- Back to the Future: Emma mentions this movie to Hook when they travel in the Enchanted Forest's past.
- Hook: During a fight with Peter Pan and the lost boys Captain Hook mentions the character Rufio.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The scythe from Season 7 appeared in a episode at Mr. Gold's shop.
- Harry Potter: In her teenage flashback, Emma mentioned the novel when Ingrid tried to persuade her that she had magical powers.
- Wicked: In the episode "Our Decay", Zelena turns a munchkin name Boq into ash. The character is a reference to a munchkin of the same name in the Broadway musical "Wicked".
- My Dreams: The song performed by Ruth B. Is the romantic theme to Henry and Violet when dancing at the diner.
- Interestingly, the fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk" that is already adapted in the show, was at one point going to be adapted as an animated movie called Gigantic.
The critical response to the series was generally positive. On Metacritic, it was given a score of 66 out of 100 with "generally favorable reviews". E!'s Kristin dos Santos cites the show as one of the five new shows of the 2011–12 season to watch. Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe gave the show a "C+" grade commenting "From a pair of Lost producers, this is a love-or-hate proposition. The ambition is impressive, as it asks us to imagine Goodwin's Snow White and Parrilla's Evil Queen as moderns. But Morrison is a wooden lead, and the back stories – a random collection of fairy tales don't promise to surprise."
In a review from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, TV critic Gail Pennington hailed it as one of the "Most Promising Shows of The Fall" and, unlike Gilbert, had high marks for Morrison. USA Today's Robert Blanco has placed the series on its top ten list, declaring that "There's nothing else on the air quite like it." Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times preferred this series to another fairy-tale themed drama, Grimm, citing that the premise takes its time building up the charm and that the producer "has that part nailed". She also gave excellent reviews for Morrison's character: "Her Emma is predictably cynical and prickly – fairy-tale princess, my Aunt Fanny – but she's sharp and lively enough to keep audiences begging for 'just a few more pages' before they go to bed."
Several feminist outlets were pleased with the show for its feminist twist on fairy tales. Genie Leslie at Feministing commented that Emma was a "badass", that she liked how Emma was "very adamant that women be able to make their own decisions about their lives and their children", and how Emma was a "well-rounded" character who was "feminine, but not girly. Natalie Wilson from Ms. praised the show for a strong, "kick-butt" female lead, for including multiple strong women who take turns doing the saving with the men, for subverting the fetishization of true love, and for dealing with the idea of what makes a mother in a more nuanced fashion. Wilson went on to state about the lead: "Her pursuit of a 'happy ending' is not about finding a man or going to a ball all gussied up, but about detective work, about building a relationship with her son Henry, and about seeking the 'truth' as to why time stands still in the corrupt Storybrooke world."
The pilot episode was watched by 13 million viewers and received a 4.0 rating in Teens and Adults 18–49. It was the season's highest-rated drama debut among Adults 18–49 and ABC's biggest debut in five years. With DVR viewers, the premiere climbed to 15.5 million viewers and a 5.2 in Adults 18–49. The show's next three episodes had consistent ratings every week with over 11 million viewers. The series has become the No. 1 non-sports program with viewers and young adults on Sunday nights.
The first season premiered as the top-rated drama series.
|Season||Timeslot (ET)||# Ep.||Premiere||Finale||TV Season||Rank||Viewers|
|18–49 viewers (#rank)||Live + DVR Viewers|
|1||Sunday 8:00pm||22||October 23, 2011||12.93||May 13, 2012||9.66||2011-2012||#28||11.71||4.1/10||12.47|
|2||September 30, 2012||11.36||May 12, 2013||7.33||2012-2013||#35||10.24||3.6/9||10.91|
|3||September 29, 2013||8.52||May 11, 2014||6.80||2013-2014||#35||9.38||3.3/8||TBA|
|4||September 28, 2014||10.20||May 10, 2015||5.51||2014-2015||#50||8.98||3.2/7||TBA|
|September 27, 2015||5.93||May 15, 2016||4.07||2015-2016||#69||6.32||2.2||TBA|
|September 25, 2016||3.99||May 14, 2017||2.95||2016-2017||#105||4.39||1.5/5||TBA|
|7||Friday 8:00pm||October 6, 2017||3.26||May 18, 2018||2.27||2017-2018||#120||3.41||0.9||TBA|
Awards and nominations
Once Upon a Time was nominated for a 2012 People's Choice Award for "Favorite New TV Drama", but lost to Person of interest. The show was nominated at 39th People's Choice Awards in four categories: Favorite Network TV Drama, Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show, Favorite TV Fan Following, and Favorite TV Drama Actress (Ginnifer Goodwin); it lost to another ABC show Grey's Anatomy in the first category, Supernatural in the second two, and Ellen Pompeo in the last category. It was also nominated for "Best Genre Series" at the 2011 Satellite Awards, but lost to American Horror Story. The show was nominated in this category again at the 2012 Satellite Awards, but lost to The Walking Dead. The program also received three nominations at the 2012 Visual Effects Society Awards, but all lost to Boardwalk Empire, Gears of War 3, and Terra Nova, respectively. At the 38th Saturn Awards, the series received a nomination for Best Network Television Series, and Parrilla was nominated for Best Supporting Actress on Television, but lost to Fringe and Michelle Forbes, respectively. The show received trophies for "Favorite New TV Drama" and "Favorite Villain" for Lana Parrilla on the TV Guide.
The show was nominated at 2012 Teen Choice Awards, the show lost to The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, and Awkward, respectively.
The show was nominated at 64th Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards, but lost to Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, respectively.
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
|2011||Best Network Television Series||Once Upon a Time||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress on Television||Lana Parrilla|
|2012||Best Network Television Series||Once Upon a Time|
|2013||Best Performance by a Younger Actor in a Television Series||Jared S. Gilmore|
Casting Society of America Announces Artios Awards
|2012||Television Pilot Drama||Once Upon a Time||Nominated|
|2012||Best Guest Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series||Keegan Connor Tracy||Nominated|
People's Choice Awards
|2012||Favorite New TV Drama||Once Upon a Time||Nominated|
|2013||Favorite Network TV Drama||Once Upon a Time|
|Favorite TV Drama Actress||Ginnifer Goodwin|
|Favorite TV Fan Following||Once Upon a Time|
|2014||Favorite On-Screen Chemistry||Jennifer Morrison and Colin O'Donoghue|
|Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show||Once Upon a Time|
|Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress||Ginnifer Goodwin|
Primetime Emmy Awards
|2012||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Series||Eduardo Castro and Monique McRae for "Hat Trick"||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects||Dayna Mauer, Phil Jones, Laura Jones, Sallyanne Massimini, Andrew Orloff, Jacob Bergman, Nathan Matsuda, Dale Fay, and Kevin Struckman for episode "The Stranger"|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special||Toby Lindala and Sarah Graham for episode "Dreamy"|
|2013||Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Series||Eduardo Castro and Monique McRae for "Queen of Hearts"|
|Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)||Sarah Graham, Juliana Vit and Naomi Bakstad for "The Evil Queen"|
|2011||Best Genre Series||Once Upon a Time||Nominated|
|2012||Best Genre Series||Once Upon a Time|
|2013||Best Genre Series||Once Upon a Time|
Teen Choice Awards
|2012||Choice TV Show: Fantasy/Sci-Fi||Once Upon a Time||Nominated|
|Choice TV Actress: Fantasy/Sci-Fi||Ginnifer Goodwin|
|Choice TV Villain||Lana Parrilla|
|Choice TV Breakout Star: Male||Josh Dallas|
|2013||Choice TV Show: Fantasy/Sci-Fi||Once Upon a Time|
|Choice TV Villain||>Lana Parrilla|
|Choice TV Actress: Fantasy/Sci-Fi||Ginnifer Goodwin|
TV Guide Awards
|2011||Favorite New Series||Once Upon a Time||Won|
|Favorite Villain||Lana Parrilla|
Visual Effects Society
|2011||Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Series||Douglas Charles Ludwig, Laura Jones, Andrew Orloff, Nate Overstrom||Nominated|
|Outstanding Models in a Broadcast Program or Commercial||Michael Kirylo, Jeremy Melton, Jason O. Monroe, Chris Strauss|
|Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Broadcast Program or Commercial||Stephen Jackson, Sallyanne Massimini, Nathan Matsuda, Kevin Struckman|
Young Artist Awards
|2012||Best Performance in a TV Series - Leading Young Actor||Jared Gilmore Tied with Dylan Everett for "Wingin' It" (2010)||Won|
|2013||Best Performance in a TV Series - Leading Young Actor||Jared Gilmore||Nominated|
|Best Performance in a TV Series - Guest Starring Young Actor 11–13||Quinn Lord|
- Main article: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
In February 2013, Kitsis & Horowitz, along with producers Zack Estrin and Jane Espenson, developed a spin-off focusing on Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. The series was given the proposed title Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. A "teaser presentation" began shooting in April 2013, with the pilot being shot in late July or August. On May 10, 2013, ABC announced that it had greenlit the spin-off and on May 14, 2013, announced that the spin-off will air in the Thursday night 8:00pm timeslot instead of making it a fill-in for the parent series, which had been hinted in the early stages.