Fractured Fairy Tales was a regular animated segment on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. (Do a search on Youtube. Many are available to watch for free.) The tales were narrated by Edward Everett Horton and voiced by June Foray (who also voiced Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale), Bill Scott, Paul Frees and Dawes Butler.
When I was a little kid, I would watch Rocky and Bullwinkle now and then but never liked it. I guess because it was animated, network executives thought it was for children, so they would program it with other children’s shows and cartoons. It took me a while to figure out it really was for adults. The Rocky and Bullwinkle segments were a dead-on satire of Cold War politics. I had to grow up to get the jokes.
I could appreciate Fractured Fairy Tales when I was little because most of them honed closely enough to the original tales to be familiar to children. But like the old Warner Bros. cartoons, there was a subtext to most of them that is only appreciated after you become a bit older.
What I noticed while re-watching several segments for this blog post is how many of the segments skewer popular culture and American consumerism.
For instance, a version of Sleeping Beauty has the prince decide, rather than kiss the princess and awaken her, to turn her into a tourist attraction. He creates “Sleeping Beautyland,” (an obvious dig at Disneyland) and rakes in the money. The fairy who cast the spell tries to get her cut so he makes several attempts to get rid of her. As the interest in the attraction wanes, the fairy comes back and confesses she’s not really a fairy. The prince confesses he’s not a prince. Sleeping Beauty awakens and confesses she was faking so she could see if she could make it in show biz.
In a retelling of Snow White, the Wicked Queen is fleeced for all her money by the dwarfs for dance, charm and nutrition lessons. The talking mirror is a scam powered by one of the dwarfs and Snow White turns out to be someone they invented to get the queen to hand over her riches.
In a twist on The Three Little Pigs, the pigs are women who inherit money so they each build mansions. Instead of wanting to blow down the mansions and eat the pigs, the wolf wants to marry one and live in luxury.
Cinderella’s fairy godmother will only let her keep her finery if she sells a set of cookware to the prince. The prince, in debt and about to go bankrupt, thinks Cinderella is rich due to her finery. He tries to propose and she tries to sell him the cookware. Both end up in poverty, with the prince selling brushes door-to-door for the fairy godmother.
That’s only a sampling of the many fractured fairy tales from the show. (There was also a segment on The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show that did the same with Aesop’s Fables.) If you’re looking for superlative animation, you won’t find it with Fractured Fairy Tales, but you will find forerunners of modern self-referential comedy. They tweak modern American life and still make me laugh after all these years.
Please check out Part 1 of my contribution to this blogathon: Once Upon a Mattress (2005).