One of the things I love about fairy tales is that they’re general narratives, so a lot can be done with them. They’re easy to read into, easy to put yourself into. I hadn’t really thought a lot about the possibilities, though, until I was well into college. I was still at home and basic networks were still airing original movies on the weekends to try to up viewer interest. I don’t remember it having a lot of fanfare, but I also don’t recall it being something I just clicked onto. Doesn’t matter.
10th Kingdom changed me.
The basic story is that the fairy tale world is divided up into 9 kingdoms. When the evil queen from Snow White’s story jailbreaks, her minions bleed over into the real world (the 10th kingdom) and cause havoc. When Virginia and her father are sucked into the fairy tale world, they’re thrown into a world of adventure, quests, romance, and danger.
It’s amazing. Virginia is a fantastic character, anyway, but there’s also a lot of unique characters. Wolf starts as an antagonist and ends up as a redeemed love interest. Virginia’s dad is a greedy never do well through much of the series, but ends up standing up for himself and the greater good…kinda. An arrogant prince learns what it truly means to be a ruler. Even miniscule characters like the huntsman and the three troll siblings are intriguing. And then there’s the queen…played by the amazing Diane Wiest, that was a villain that got my attention after years of assuming anything fairy tale would be the same old same old. You see old, familiar friends reinvented and re-invigorated. There’s a sense of danger and real risk that at that point in time had been removed by Disney and others, and many fairy tales beside the old standards are referenced or expanded upon.
And it’s hilarious. Innuendo abounds, and while it has its serious moments, it doesn’t take itself that serious. It’s really like walking through a fantasy world that has this sort of past history and knows to reference it with a wink and a nudge. There are shepherdess competitions, jailbreaks, curses gone awry, misunderstandings – all turned on their heads.
Obviously this affected me. While I was careful to not base Kingdom City off 10th Kingdom, I definitely knew I wanted that blend of humor and danger, and that irreverence. The phrase ‘Bluebeard’s balls’ may be my attempt to outdo the 10th Kingdom phrase ‘Suck an elf.’ I wanted to create a world that other people would want to get lost in, though, that had that blend of familiar and unfamiliar.
Very few people seem to have heard of 10th Kingdom these days, but those who have immediately get excited about it. My friend Susan and I can still do dialogue back and forth and I haven’t seen the thing in years. It’s always like revisiting an old friend when it comes up in conversation, and I can’t help that it opened some doors when it aired. People looked at fairy tales in a certain, sanitized fashion. Now,everyone’s putting their own spin on things, gritting them up, filling in the blanks. The difference is 10th Kingdom obviously did it with love and in loving tribute to those stories, which was an important lesson, too. It wasn’t a product placement, it wasn’t a way to jam a bunch of free characters into a dark setting. It was and still is an amazing, inspiring story.