As 2020 starts, it's time to look at the culture and entertainment ahead of us in the next 52 weeks, and a lot of this will be from or inspired by classic fairy tales, myths and legends, and children's stories. There are so many interesting things for fairytale fans to enjoy this year that this article is being split into two parts. The first part focused on movies and TV. The second part of this article will focus on theatre, literature and the arts. YA books, musicals and even art exhibitions are among the attractions which will entertain fairy tale fans in 2020…
Art and Literature
Every year, authors and publishers provide plenty of fantasy epics aimed at the Young Adult audiences. With their grand worlds and distinctive characters, they are incredibly popular with their fandoms, and several go on to become major franchsies. One which could enjoy major success in 2020 is All The Stars and Teeth, by newcomer Adalyn Grace. She began her writing career working in the story team for the epic animated series The Legend of Korra, and the lessons she learned there are in full evidence in All The Stars And Teeth. The novel tells the story of a princess named Amora Montara, who needs to master an especially dangerous form of “soul magic” if she wants to become heir to the throne of her kingdom. When she loses control of this magic, she has to go on an epic sea quest with a pirate in order to prove she is worthy of being a future ruler. Amora has to deal with a variety of obstacles, including a stowaway, scary and vengeful mermaids and a mysterious Dark Magic which is endangering her kingdom. All The Stars and Teeth is one of the most anticipated YA books of 2020, as it has received endorsements from popular YA fantasy icons like Tomi Adeyemi (the woman behind the Children of Blood and Bone series) and Hafsah Faizal. Grace is apparently starting work on a sequel, and we can expect plenty of epic novels from her in the future.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn (Published May 12th)
With her 2017 novel Girls of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust put an eerie and imaginative feminist spin on Snow White, which gained considerable attention from fairytale and YA fans. Second novels are always a challenge, but Bashardoust is using her second novel, Girl, Serpent, Thorn, to cement her position as a major new talent. The story is set in a Persian-inspired Kingdom, and concerns a princess named Soraya. Since birth, Soraya has been afflicted by a curse which renders her poisionous to the touch. As a result, she has been unable to leave her palace, but when her twin brother gets married, Soraya finds the lack of freedom unbearable, and seeks out a demon who could allow her to venture into the wider world. Needless to say, this decision generates a variety of problems for Soraya, who soon finds herself wrestling with the destructive consequences of her powers. The premise has echoes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Rappaccini's Daughter and the Indian myths which inspired it, but promises to provide something original by telling the story from the perspective of the female lead, and making her attempts at coming to terms with the curse into the focal point of the story. It seems like Girl, Serpent, Thorn will further demonstrate that Bashardoust is one of the biggest rising stars in the YA genre.
Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema (Runs May 23rd – October 25th)
Ray Harryhausen was the special effects guru who worked on a variety of epic fantasy and adventure films between the late 1940s and early 1980s. He specialised in stop motion animation, using it to create a variety of memorable monsters in blockbusters like Jason & The Argonauts, The Adventures of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans. Harryhausen became a formidable influence on all the filmmakers who watched his movies as children, including Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. In order to mark 100 years since his birth, the National Galleries Scotland will be holding a retrospective of his work. The exhibition in Edinburgh's Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art will be dominated by Harryhausen’s creations, with impressive work from conservation teams keeping these rubber models in good condition decades after their creation. Harryhausen’s drawings and artwork will also be showcased prominently, demonstrating the extent of his talent and vision. In addition, Harryhausen’s collection of books and tools will be showcased, revealing the amount of research and effort which went into creating his creatures. The National Galleries Scotland also promise to provide insights into Harryhausen’s life and the artists who inspired his unique approach. The artistic skills of special effects experts are often overlooked, so the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art exhibition makes a valuable case for recognising the creatives who bring fantasy worlds and characters to life on the big screen.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser (Runs June 27th – January 10th 2021)
In recent years, London's prestigious V&A Museum have provided exhibitions on major topics ranging from ranging from Opera and Winnie the Pooh to David Bowie and video games, but their examination of Alice In Wonderland promises to provide audiences with an entirely new and unique experience. Veteran stage designer Tom Piper is designing the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition, taking advantage of the underground exhibition space to really give audiences a trip down the rabbit hole into an exciting and mysterious immersive world. The exhibition will contain an incredible 300 items, showing how Lewis Caroll created Alice In Wonderland and exploring its impact on films, theatre, art and other aspects of popular culture. With illustrations for the original tale and costumes from theatrical versions sitting alongside paintings by the likes of Salvador Dali and Peter Blake, it promises to provide a fascinating insight into how Alice In Wonderland has inspired artists and creatives over the decades.
Cinderella Liberator & 3 New Fairytale Books (published in the UK in October)
Last year, the feminist commentator Rebecca Solnit moved into children’s fiction with her feminist fairytale Cinderella Liberator. She created a modern update of the age-old Cinderella story, maintaining the theme of a girl escaping her miserable existence, but updating it for an audience sick and tired of traditional romantic clichés. The story starts in the traditional way, with Cinderella going to the ball and losing her glass slipper, but instead of becoming a princess, Cinderella does something different and far more impressive with her life. Solnit honours the roots of her story by illustrating it with silhouettes created by the legendary fairy tale illustrator Arthur Rackham. This combination of old and new has unsurprisingly proved popular with fairy tale fans, so Cinderella Liberator is being published all over the world. However, to mark its arrival in Britain, publishers Vintage Books are providing a truly special treat. In addition to handling the UK publication of Cinderella Liberator, Vintage Books are publishing three more feminist spins on classic fairy tales, each written by an acclaimed British author. Kamila Shamsie is providing her own spin on The Ugly Duckling, and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit author Jeanette Winterson is adapting Hansel & Gretel Most excitingly, Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman, one of Britain’s best-loved writers, is creating a new take on Bluebeard. All three of these fairy tales are perfectly suited to feminist reinterpretations, and Shamsie, Winterson, and Blackman will all bring something unique and interesting to the table. Instead of providing one modern fairytale, Vintage Books will be providing four, and Cinderella Liberator and the three (currently unnamed) new books will really liven up autumn for British fairy tale fans.
Formulae and Fairy Tales American Tour (performances begin February 5th)
Established in 2007, Invertigo Dance Company have become one of America’s most interesting dance companies, with their creative approach and focus on making dance accessible and modern. Their fascinating new production, Formulae and Fairy Tales, is going on tour in 2020 after an acclaimed world premiere in LA last year. The first performances of the tour will be at the Phillips Center in the University of Florida Performing Arts, and more will be announced soon. Formulae and Fairy Tales is based on the tragic story of the legendary code breaker Alan Turing, who was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. After being imprisoned and forced into chemical castration, he committed with a poison apple, a method of death which fairy tale fans will instantly recognise from Snow White. The question of why a man whose life was based on codes and numbers would be so obsessed with the Snow White story is at the centre of this production, which highlights the contrast between Turing’s technical world and the fantastical, sinister world of fairy tales. Director Laura Karllin makes innovative use of projections to represent the AI and computer technology which Turing pioneered, and highlights the power of symbols in both technology and stories, with the forbidden apple unsurprisingly taking centre stage. Formulae and Fairy Tales represents proof that American ballet can tackle big ideas and topics in creative and original ways, and we can expect it to gain further accolades throughout 2020 – it wouldn’t be a surprise if the ballet also makes it beyond America…
The Prince of Egypt in the West End (Runs February 5th - September 12th)
Released in 1998, The Prince of Egypt is one of the finest Dreamwork's animated films. A take on the legendary Biblical story of Moses, it highlighted the epic nature of the story whilst developing the individuals who are at the centre of the events. With incredible images, fully formed characters and a strong soundtrack (including the Oscar-winning “When You Believe”), it proved that Disney were not the only studio who could create great animated musicals. Given the success of Disney’s theatrical musicals, it is not a surprise that Dreamworks are trying to break into the same market, and The Prince of Egypt is their second stage production after Shrek: The Musical. The Prince of Egypt shows how Moses, a Jewish child raised in the Pharaoh’s palace, must go up against his adoptive brother Rameses in order to rescue the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. The musical premiered in California in 2017, and has enjoyed two productions at Denmark, but the London production (taking place at the massive Dominion Theatre) will be the biggest outing yet for the musical. There will be new sets and costumes, and iconic composer Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) has added ten extra songs, including one for Moses called “Footprints in the Sand”, which is making its debut in this production. The Prince of Egypt is only having a limited 32-week run, so fans need to book tickets quickly if they want to see it in London. However, if it does well, we can expect further major productions all over the world, plus touring and amateur licensing, which could make The Prince of Egypt into a major money-spinner for Dreamworks…
A Monster Calls and The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe tour the UK (At various UK theatres throughout 2020)
With her acclaimed versions of stories like Jane Eyre and Peter Pan, Sally Cookson established herself as an expert in adapting classic literature and children’s stories for British theatre, and her status has grown even more in recent years. In 2018, her adaptation of Patrick Ness’ heartbreaking novel A Monster Calls premiered at the Old Vic, receiving critical acclaim and winning an Olivier Award. Cookson applied a minimalistic and imaginative approach to the tearjerking story of a troubled boy visited by a mysterious monster, and it will be great to see her production gain a second life. The tour starts at Chichester's Festival Theatre on February 6th, and will take the production across the UK, concluding on June 13th at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Cookson is famous for her collaborative approach, so we can expect the new cast and crew to edit the production whilst also staying true to the powerful messages about how stories help us deal with grief, fear, and the uncertainties and contradictions of life. A Monster Calls won’t be the only Sally Cookson play travelling through Britain in 2020. In November, her adaption of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (currently playing at the Bridge Theatre in London) will also begin a four-month tour at Aylsebury's Waterside Theatre on November 20th, with a high-profile stop in Manchester's Lowry Theatre across the Christmas period. Both tours will provide plenty of entertainment for theatregoers whilst we wait for Cookson’s next innovative productions.
Once Upon A One More Time premieres in Chicago (Runs April 14th – May 17th)
Once Upon A One More Time is a jukebox musical dedicated to millennial guilty pleasure Britney Spears, using the songs of the pop princess to tell a unique story about fairy tale Princesses. It centres on a group of classic fairy tale princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, etc) who are becoming fed up with their lives and a book club where they are only able to read Brothers Grimm fairytales. However, when a fairy godmother introduces our heroines to the classic feminist text The Feminine Mystique, our leads are inspired to shake up their conventional fairytale world. The musical is premiering in April at Chicago’s Nederlander Theatre, which has often hosted trial runs for future Broadway productions. It was meant to premiere there in October 2019 but was delayed for unknown reasons. A possible factor may be the recent opening of the similar West End musical & Juliet, which pays tribute to Britney's regular songwriter/producer Max Martin and features five of her biggest hits on the soundtrack. However, Once Upon A One More Time will probably do something different with the likes of 'Baby One More Time' and 'Stronger' and will also feature eighteen other Britney anthems, ranging from hits such as 'Toxic', 'Lucky' and 'Sometimes' to more obscure songs. Ultimately, this musical will be judged on its own terms, separate from its rival across the Atlantic, although it should successfully tap into the same demand for trashy and colourful, yet strongly progressive, escapism. Once Upon A One More Time does well in its Chicago run, it could make it to Broadway, and provide some feminist fairytale fun for Britney’s fanbase.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella has its UK premiere (Runs May 9th – June 6th)
In 1957, a take on Cinderella from the legendary Broadway songwriters Rogers & Hammerstein’s premiered on TV. With a young Julie Andrews in the lead role, and wonderfully romantic songs such as “Ten Minutes Ago”, it proved a major hit, and has been adapted for stage and TV several times since - one notable 1997 TV adaptation featuring Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother. The musical was reworked for Broadway in 2013, with Douglas Carter Beane incorporating other Rogers & Hammerstein songs (such as “The Time is Now”), and appealing to modern progressive values by adding a subplot where Cinderella inspires her Prince to bring democracy to their kingdom. This new version received eight Tony Nominations (winning an award for Best Costume Design) and ran on Broadway for almost two years. Last year, a semi-staged version was performed at West London's Cadogan Hall, with Christine Allado, Diane Pilkington and Jac Yarrow in the leading roles. As a result of this increased publicity, the 2013 version of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is finally making its full stage debut in May, as it will be performed for four weeks at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre, which has become one of Manchester’s most notable independent theatres since it opened in 2015. It's unlikely that any big names will appear in this smaller production, but it will certainly increase the popularity of this musical with UK audiences, and open the door for further adaptations in the future.
What Else Can We Look Forward To?
There are plenty of fairy tale films, TV shows and other that we will learn more about later in the year. Disney’s new streaming service, Disney Plus will provide more fairy tale adventures for Disney fans, including Secret Society of Second Born Royals, which could be fun if it acknowledges the ludicrous nature of its premise (What if the second born children of royals had superpowers?) Other channels are also providing their own spins on the fairy tale genre. Adult Swim, the channel behind anarchic, provocative adult animations such as Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, are applying their signature approach to fairy tales in a new animated series created by J.J. Villard. Fairy Tales promises to provide plenty of “gross weirdness”, whilst also retaining the “charm and cuteness” of the original fairy tales – can it do both? Meanwhile, British theatres are beginning to announce their plays and pantos for Christmas 2020. Things are still subject to change, but the Lyric Hammersmith will be retelling Aladdin, New Wimbledon Theatre will be adapting Dick Whittington, and Theatre Stratford East will be providing a less conventional choice with a Little Red Riding Hood panto. There are also plenty of treats for fairytale fans outside of the UK and US. In February, Sweden’s Millesgarden museum will open an exhibition about artist Gustaf Tenggren and his work with Disney. Finally, it is necessary to mention Tell A Fairy Tale Day on 26th February, where we are all able to create our own fairy tales and share them with the world. Overall, 2020 promises to be an excellent year for fans of fairy tales, with plenty to inspire and excite them.