We return to the season five premiere of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (OUAT), which we first covered in this post. OUAT is known for its character-a-minute cameos, but this week featured the best untamed mane in the business: Merida, from Disney/Pixar’s Brave.
It’s a good season for Disney/Pixar’s Brave–not only does Merida appear in this premiere but she’ll also appear in Sofia the First’s “The Secret Library,” appearing October 12. But honestly, it’s no surprise that OUAT is jumping on the Brave train, not after OUAT’s last season focusing on Disney’s Frozen.
So how does this episode tap into the massive success of Brave? Much like Frozen, Brave is more in the public conscious (particularly for a younger generation) than other adaptations that have appeared on OUAT, like One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Last season, OUAT was aware of what the recent success of Frozen would mean for the audience; although OUAT is very revisionist of its tales, the Frozen tale itself remained more or less intact, with revisions occurring either prior or after the tale. With this in mind, I was very interested in how OUAT would treat the similarly-recent Brave.
And boy, was it a doozy. I did not expect the drastic drama in store for our fave dizzy redhead. Yes, Merida was chasing a Will o’ the Wisp, like she does in Brave. But when we meet Merida in OUAT, it is post-film (as evidenced by a crack about a bear). We learn her father, King Fergus, is dead. What a major surprise, since King Fergus was an image of stalwart health (peg leg and all) and my favorite figure in the film. Plus her triplet brothers have been kidnapped by the neighboring clans and now war threatens her kingdom. On top of that, the neighboring clans do not recognize her feminist reign, which completely undermines Brave’s climax. Yowza.
It’s the most revisionist OUAT has been about a very recent Disney creation. And while OUAT loves to give us more facets to these beloved characters (Peter Pan as Rumpelstiltskin’s daddy, anyone?), this subversion of Brave’s feminist themes changes, well, pretty much everything. And while this happens with other tales on the show, like Rumbelle’s Beauty and the Beast romance, Brave is more recent, more in the public conscious, and stalwartly integral in theme.