After seven seasons on the air Once Upon A Time finally concluded its series run last month. While the show was a little hit and miss at times, I always loved the idea of characters from fairy tales and fantasy stories mingling with the real world. While I am not going to talk about Once Upon A Time today, I bring this up because today I am looking at what arguably could be considered the precursor to Once Upon A Time. Back in 2000 NBC aired a five night mini-series titled The 10th Kingdom that revolved around people from the real world interacting with a fairy tale world. While The 10th Kingdom never reaches the level of Once Upon A Time, it is an enjoyable yet a little long look at a world where fairy tales and the real world meet.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of The 10th Kingdom used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In a hidden realm unknown to our world resides nine fairy tale kingdoms. After escaping prison with help from some trolls, the Evil Queen comes up with a plan to take control over the nine realms. She ends up capturing Prince Wendell and turning him into a dog so she can later replace him with an imposter. The prince (now a dog) is able to escape the Evil Queen and stumbles upon a portal that takes him to Manhattan where he meets Virginia Lewis and her father Tony. Prince Wendell eventually convinces them to return with him to the fairy tale kingdoms and help him regain his rightful throne. Can Virginia and Tony adjust to the fairy tale world in time to help the Prince stop the Evil Queen’s plans?
I began this review talking about Once Upon A Time as the comparison was inevitable as the two shows have a very similar premise. Both shows share the premise of having characters from the real world meet and interact with characters from a fantasy world. As I already mentioned I think the premise of mixing the real world with fairy tales is pretty clever as it creates the opportunity to add a nice twist to typical fantasy stories. As The 10th Kingdom is actually older than Once Upon A Time, I think Once Upon A Time owes The 10th Kingdom some credit for the premise as Once Upon A Time likely took some inspiration from it.
The premise of the two shows are basically the same but in execution The 10th Kingdom is quite a bit different than Once Upon A Time. The most glaring difference between the two shows is that while Once Upon A Time is more drama than comedy, the opposite is true for The 10th Kingdom. The 10th Kingdom is mostly a comedy that focuses on making fun of fairy tale tropes. The show is definitely not worried about being cheesy as it has no issue featuring a talking dog. Most of the enjoyment in The 10th Kingdom comes from how it twists your expectations of typical fairy tale stories which is used for comedic effect. I actually found The 10th Kingdom to be funnier than I expected. While the mini-series is family friendly for the most part, there are some occasional adult jokes. The adult jokes are the type that will go over children’s heads though so I don’t really see them being something that will prevent The 10th Kingdom from being enjoyed by the whole family.
The second biggest difference between The 10th Kingdom and Once Upon A Time is that The 10th Kingdom focuses mostly on the fairy tale kingdoms. Outside of the beginning The 10th Kingdom mostly focuses on people from the real world adjusting to the fairy tale world. The show mostly focuses on Virginia and Tony as they make their way through the nine kingdoms as they try to help the Prince regain his throne. For the most part this works well for the mini-series as it allows the characters to move from one kingdom to another, getting into mischief along the way.
The last major difference between The 10th Kingdom and Once Upon A Time is the fact that Once Upon A Time could utilize the Disney interpretations of famous fairy tales while The 10th Kingdom had to rely on the public domain versions of the characters. This is one of the areas where I think Once Upon A Time has an advantage over The 10th Kingdom. Once Upon A Time was able to pull from a larger group of more developed characters. The 10th Kingdom is forced to draw from the most common fairy tales. Since it is using public domain characters it has some leeway to add some unique twists to the characters but in general they are not as good as the characters from Once Upon A Time.
While I enjoyed The 10th Kingdom quite a bit more than I was expecting, the biggest problem with the mini-series is the fact that at times it feels like the story was artificially lengthened in order to last for five two hour episodes. It has a runtime of almost seven and a half hours which is pretty long for a mini-series. The 10th Kingdom has some unnecessary padding that doesn’t really add much to the actual story. There are some storylines that drag on for too long and other storylines that don’t really go anywhere which could have easily been eliminated from the story. I think the mini-series could have easy cut out an hour or two which would have improved the story.
Due to the fact that The 10th Kingdom is an 18 year old TV mini-series, you wouldn’t expect a lot from the visuals department. I have to say that I was a little surprised by the mini-series’ production quality. The special effects are kind of cheesy and outdated based on today’s standards but for an 18 year old TV mini-series they hold up better than you would expect. Other than the special effects The 10th Kingdom does a good job creating interesting and engaging fairy tale locales. As far as the HD transfer for the blu-ray I would say it is pretty average. At times it looks pretty good and other times it could have been better. It is probably all you can really expect from the mini-series without a remaster which you usually don’t expect from a 20 year old cult TV mini-series.
As far as special features the movie includes two. First it includes an isolated score track which basically cuts out all of the dialogue so you can focus on the musical score. The blu-ray also includes the 45 minute feature: The Making of 10th Kingdom. The Making of 10th Kingdom is a pretty extensive behind the scenes look at how the mini-series was made which should appeal to people who liked the mini-series and like these type of behind the scenes features. The special feature appears to only be in standard definition though which is disappointing but not particularly surprising as you don’t usually see old special features upgraded to HD.
While The 10th Kingdom is not as good as Once Upon A Time, I think it should still appeal to people that enjoyed Once Upon A Time. The premise between the two shows is the same but both utilize their own unique take on it. The 10th Kingdom takes a more humorous look at the premise as two humans from the real world have to navigate the world of fairy tales. While it is a little hit and miss at times, I actually thought The 10th Kingdom was funnier than I expected. The mini-series comes up with some interesting twists on some classic characters and utilizes them along with characters from the real world to create some fun adventures throughout the ten kingdoms. The biggest problem that I had with The 10th Kingdom is that it suffers from too much padding. I think an hour or two could have easily been eliminated without the story suffering. The HD transfer of the mini-series could also have been better but is basically the best you could expect out of an 18 year old TV mini-series.
If the premise of the real world meeting a fairy tale land doesn’t really intrigue you, The 10th Kingdom isn’t going to be for you. If the premise interests you or you are looking for more of a comedic version of Once Upon A Time I think you will enjoy The 10th Kingdom.