Faerie Tale Theatre: A Closer Look

Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the "Sleeping Beauty" episode as the Prince and Princess.
Christopher Reeve and Bernadette Peters in the “Sleeping Beauty” episode as the Prince and Sleeping Beauty.

During the filming of Popeye with Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall was inspired to start a children’s television series in the vain of the classic television show Shirley Temple’s Storybook where fairy tales were at the forefront. The production values and the guest-stars were top notch, and in 1982, Faerie Tale Theatre hit the airwaves. With witty dialogue and cultural references that are relevant even today, it’s amazing how popular this show still is. It’s not just a kid’s show either. Like Shelley Duvall said in her intros, it was meant for children of all ages. What’s more impressive, is the sheer amount of all-star guest appearances that graced the screen. Shelley Duvall and her show had a certain appeal that made actors WANT to be on her show. Past, present, and future Oscar-winning actors like Tatum O’Neal, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin, Anjelica Houston and Helen Mirren all appeared on the show. Numerous character actors, still working today, such as Conchata Ferrel, Christopher Lee, Harry Dean Stanton, Doris Roberts, and John Lithgow, just to name a few, had screen time. The list goes on and on. You can view lists of episodes with guest stars here. What I find fascinating, is these actors, who were and are well-respected, did a so-called “kids” show and gave full-out, amazing performances. It didn’t matter if the audience was all-children, or adults. Faerie Tale Theatre was a show where the quality of the episodes and the quantity of the guest stars were equally matched, and brilliant. Inspiration from illustrations done by famous artists like Norman Rockwell, Gustav Klimt, and Arthur Rackham helped make the back drops and sets unique to each individual fairy tale. In fact, I doubt that in this day and age, a show like this, of this caliber, would even make it onto the airwaves. The acting was superb and it shows. It probably harkens back to the theatrical training of many of the stars of the show. Christopher Reeve was Julliard trained, Bernadette Peters was a Broadway vet,  and Vanessa Redgrave comes from theatrical family for example.

Below is the beginning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring Oscar-winner, Tatum O’Neal, Emmy-winner, John Lithgow, and Grammy-winner, Carol King. It’s one of my favorite episodes, and it’s timeless in terms of production values and episode quality.  The full series is available on YouTube for free and worth watching.

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