We all know about Monster High right? Someone had the bright idea to take Universal Monsters and turn them into a line of highly profitable dolls. Naturally this led to a bunch of knockoffs, one of which being Ever After High which is basically the same premise only with slightly less murder in their back stories. So if this is just a rip off of someone else’s idea, why am I bothering to give this the light of day? The reason why is because Netflix picked it up and is making a movie followed by a season of episodes to be released on its service. Seriously!? What exactly do they see in this property? Well there are currently three episodes on Netflix (made before the deal), so let’s take a look at each one of them in our very first three-part series!!
The first episode is called A Tale of Two Tales. We start with an opening that’s actually pretty decent. I like the parchment filter on top of the animation and the “spilled ink” effects give it some style. The song isn’t good, but what the hell did you expect from something like this? The look of the show is a mixed bag. Everyone has the same basic features with only hair and clothing to distinguish them. It’s particularly bad for the boys who don’t have the benefit of a variety of hair styles and skin tones to set them apart. The animation is flash based which tends to look bad when done on human (or humanoid) characters, but there are points where the animation, on top of the samey character designs and fantasy settings, give the show a paper doll sort of look which I actually find interesting. I don’t know if this was intentional, but I’ll give them points for it either way.
The episode starts in earnest with a flash forward to Raven Queen who’s the daughter of… the evil queen. Really? Who the hell calls themselves the ‘evil’ something? Is this some strictly enforced government label? Anyway, she’s in front of an audience and it appears that she’s about to denounce her mother, when ANOTHER narrator (female) interrupts our FIRST narrator (male) and tells him to start at the beginning stupid! The male narrator, realizing his mistake, takes us back a few days and explains the premise of the show. There’s a high school where all the sons and daughters of fairy tale characters go to. So not only does this imply that every fairy tale character decided to get knocked up in one specific year, but there’s also an elementary and middle school that have either been abandoned, or have been converted into this high school. Am I thinking too hard about this already?
Apparently this first section is called Raven’s Tale: The Story of a Rebel.
So the helpful narrator informs us that “It was the year of Legacy Day where the kids pledge to follow the path of their parents.” Okay, gonna have to stop you for a bit. “Year of Legacy DAY?” Does anyone else find that odd? A holiday ending in “day” implies that this happens once a year right? If this ISN’T an annual event, then this also proves my theory from above. Every god damn kid in this universe had to of been conceived within a year of each other! If not, then SOME kids wouldn’t have taken part in Legacy Day, right? Also, what the hell is with this pre-deterministic society where you MUST BE LIKE YOUR PARENTS!? Seriously, I need to stop over thinking this.
We see Raven Queen (is she actually a queen?) carrying an ominous looking black box, walking with another character.
Lady Narrator starts interrupting Dude Narrator which annoys Raven’s friend and she demands they stop fighting. She’s obviously the only one who can hear them, and we also find out that she’s the daughter of Johnny Depp. No wait… she’s the daughter of the Mad Hatter.
Let’s see, a character that breaks the fourth wall, confuses her friends with her strange behavior, and has poofy curly hair.
You know what? I’m not even going to criticize them for doing this. It’s a simple enough character template and anything that could liven this up a bit is very much appreciated. So Raven is having an identity crisis because everyone assumes that she’s evil like her mother. Our offbeat friend here (Madeline Hatter) assures Raven that everyone is cool with her, and then they walk into the school where EVERY LAST MOTHERFUCKER THERE looks at her, screams, and runs 40 miles in the opposite direction. Is this something that happens every day!? What the hell is this shit!? Madeline, despite seeming everyone shit their pants and bolt, still seems assured that everyone likes Raven and proceeds to act quirky. We cut to lunchtime which we know is at 12:30 because we see the olde timey clock tower has a digital clock embedded into it.
During lunchtime, we’re introduced to Dexter Charming who’s apparently this school’s version of Milhouse despite looking just as good as anyone else here. Oh, but he has glasses so that ugly’s him up a bit. Dexter is trying to hit on Raven, with about as much success as you’d expect, when his brother Daring Charming walks in wearing a Letterman jacket and a hot blonde on his elbow. Obviously he’s the Handsome son of Prince Charming, while Dexter is the Homely son, despite them both having the exact same fucking face.
We find out that the arm candy is Apple White, daughter of take a fucking guess, and she’s the clichéd popular girl who’s insanely self-centered, but tries to be nice to everyone. We also (very quickly) get introduced to Cerise Hood, daughter of that character from Hoodwinked, who drops her food because of Handsome Charming, growls at him, and then sheepishly walks away. I only bring up this little scene because she’s obviously going to play into the plot later (why else introduce her like this?), and I found it quite interesting that she growled at the guy. Is there a part of the Red Riding Hood story we didn’t see? Is this the offspring of those characters from that crappy movie a few years ago (i.e. wolf baby daddy)?
The next scene actually gives us some answers to the questions I raised earlier. It turns out that this IS the first day of school, and not only that but it’s a boarding school. That would explain the weird box that Raven was carrying (her luggage), as well as the reaction everyone had to her. Except it DOESN’T really explain that, because they’re ALL THE SAME AGE and probably went to elementary/middle school together. Whatever, it turns out that in Apple White’s crusade to make the world a better place by putting herself in the center of it, she was able to get the headmaster to switch rooms so that Apple is bunking with Raven instead of Madeline. She does this because Raven’s so integral to her own story (I guess this has to do with Legacy Day) that she wanted them to be close to each other. Raven quietly puts up with this bullshit, and we move on to the rehearsals for Legacy Day.
It seems that everyone has to stand in front of a book, and pledge to follow the path that their genetics force them to. Raven doesn’t seem to want to do this (who the hell would CHOSE to call themselves ‘evil’?) and asks if she doesn’t have to. I figure that they’ve known about this for a while now, and it seems odd that she’s only NOW bringing this up. Headmaster Grimm (GET IT!?) gets in her face and lets her know that if she doesn’t pledge, then her story would cease to exist, and then SHE would cease to exist. The guy even throws in a ‘Poof!’ just to be extra menacing.
WAS SHE UNAWARE THAT HER ENTIRE EXISTENCE DEPENDS ON HER BEING THE BAD GUY!? Despite this knowledge, she still can’t go through with it and runs away from the rehearsals. We then cut to a disheveled, bearded man who lives in the caverns below the school who happens to be the headmaster’s brother. Wait, what?
He’s not on screen for long, and only gives some cryptic foreshadowing before cutting back to Raven sitting on a bench feeling morose. At this point, Lady Narrator takes over the story and starts over from the beginning, telling us Apple White’s side of the story. Wait, what?
As it turns out, this ‘episode’ on Netflix is actually a collection of some of the webisodes previously released on YouTube. Since each webisode was released independently (and not part of one episode) it makes sense for each one to have a bit of overlap, but the way it is on Netflix means we hear some of the same fucking jokes and go through some of the same scenarios. Apple White is carrying her bags, followed by her friend Briar Beauty (Sleeping Beauty’s kid) and they spend the first few minutes of this webisode basking in the glory of being popular. We see her meet Daring who she clearly want to be with but makes sure to let us know she’s going to wait (“we have forever after to hook up!”) Despite their supposed “destined love” it’s clear that Daring has a wandering eye, and I’m REALLY hoping that comes into play later. We skip ahead to see Apple decorating Raven’s half of the room before she gets there, and Apple reiterates how much of her life depends of Raven playing her part. The whole Legacy Day thing still seems odd and nebulous to me, but I like how they’re setting up Apple to get a real shock later on. Briar is in there with her, but when they hear Raven approach she quickly jumps out the window. Wait, what?
Don’t worry, she gets caught by the crowned prince of Douchebags who gives her his trademark “would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.” look (not before dropping her ass on the ground of course).
We cut to Apple and Briar walking through the neighboring town and while the scene has very little substance in terms of story, there are some interesting sight gags here. The gingerbread man is apparently a sign flipper, while FedEx has apparently been replaced by storks that just drop their packages from hundreds of feet in the air. This scene also introduces us to Ashlynn Ella (daughter of Cinderella) who apparently has a thing for shoes.
We finally get to the rehearsal scene, and so far we’ve learning absolutely nothing of substance in this entire section of the episode. All we get is a scene of Apple freaking out about Raven’s inability to finish the pledge, and the headmaster convincing her to keep an eye on Raven. Now that we’ve finished that episode, we get the one that wraps all this up like a tight little bow! The final webisode starts the day after the rehearsal where Raven is still not sure what she’s going to do. Madeline (after some admittedly funny lines) tells Raven that she knows someone who can help. Apple, not wanting her entire future to be ruined, tries to follow them in the hopes of convincing Raven to go through with her destiny. Madeline takes Raven to the library which has a pretty easy to find secret entrance that leads us to the crazy brother we saw in part one, giving Apple the slip in the process. There’s actually a decent joke here where the guy is cursed and can only speak “riddlish” which Madeline knows. Raven (not even bothering to ask why the brother of the headmaster is living in the school’s basement or how Madeline knows him) asks if refusing to make the pledge will end up murdering her. Madeline translates for Raven and tells her that her story will probably not go “poof.” Apparently “riddlish” isn’t an exact language, so there’s a bit of ambiguity.
We jump from there straight to the Legacy Day ceremony, where Raven has to finally decide whether or not to take the pledge and be the villain.
I will say that for a show that’s barely scrapped above passable, this final scene is surprisingly great. See, when they’re taking the pledge, the magical storybook shows them a brief glimpse into their future, and frankly Raven’s looks horrific. She fucks with Apple, gets arrested, and spends her life on the streets like a bum.
Obviously she’s not about to accept that as her fate and refuses to take the pledge (like any sane person would). There are some that are happy with her, but a lot are angry. The crowd gets in a bit of a frenzy and Raven (feeling pressured) uses her magic to freeze everyone. This is (hopefully) a nice indication that simply rejecting her destiny might not be enough, and she’ll have to work to be a different person. She unfreezes Apple, who is completely crushed, and tries to apologize to her. Raven genuinely feels a bit guilty because, even though it can hardly be said that Apple DESERVED her happily ever after, she just ripped away that certainty and has left Apple without a clear path of where her life will take her. Apple runs away in tears, and we cut to sometime later where the head master ominously foreshadows future threats due to Raven’s actions. The episode ends with the mirror mirror from Snow White cackling before cutting to black.
I really liked where this story ended up going; but considering what it was for most of the running time, I doubt that the remaining episodes will focus on the darker and more challenging aspects of this story. Oh well. We can only hope, right? So far, I like this show enough that I’m interested in seeing if they keep up with what was established here, but I still doubt that this will turn out to be anything special. The characters are way too cliché, the tone is aimed at an incredibly young audience without being smart enough to subvert those trappings, and the animation is only decent. I guess I can see the potential that might have convinced Netflix to buy it which makes me hope that they have some interesting plans for this series. With Netflix’s built in audience, as well as their reputation for making great original content, I can see them wanting to expand this into something more than just a show to sell toys (maybe looking for their own MLP perhaps?) but this is just speculation (and hope) on my part. If you already aren’t into children’s shows, I’d say just skip right over this, but if you do like these kinds of cartoons, I’d say that it tries a bit harder than most, but doesn’t quite excel past them.
Want to find out what happens next? CLICK HERE for Part 2!