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Storybook Opening

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"Oh, no, no, not the book! How many have seen "opening the book" before? Close the book. We're not doing that."

A common device for starting a story, especially fairy tales, is to begin with a book opening. The Opening Narration goes on as normal, but as it goes on the book opens and we fade to see the story itself being played out. Just as if it came from the book itself. Usually the story will finish with the book being closed.

The Trope Maker here is the Disney Animated Canon, which has used it since the very beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

A subtrope of Framing Device. A sister trope of the one where the book is shown as it is being written.


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  • One Empire Today commercial (boasting dialogue inspired by Goldilocks) does this with a book of carpet samples, reading "Once upon a time..." on the front.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Kämpfer: The very silly episode 12 did this.

    Film — Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon examples, in chronological order:
  • Shrek
    • Subverted by Shrek, which opens with the title character reading a Fairy Tale... and then ripping out a page as toilet paper. Of course, it's still the same basic type of story anyway.
    • Played surprisingly straight in Shrek 2, but even that turns out to be a setup for a gag that kicks off the rest of the films plot.
    • Used again in Shrek Forever After, with multiple pages being ripped off in frustration by the villain, Rumpelstiltskin.
  • Hoodwinked uses it not only to begin the film, but also for each of the versions of the story as told by the various characters.
  • The Adventures of Mark Twain begins with a variant where the contents of an opened storybook spill out and form the world.
  • Justice League: The New Frontier starts like this. It's a very dark version, as the storybook is about the monster that's coming to destroy humanity, and the writer finishes by committing suicide.
  • At the very beginning of Rock-A-Doodle, just right after we see Chanticleer quitting his job at the farm of waking the Sun up with his crowing and moving to the city after the other farm animals make fun of him after seeing the Sun rise without him one day, the camera pulls back to show that the entire prologue (which is animated) is just a storybook a mother is telling to her young son Edmund (both played by live actors) when the evil owl is introduced for the very first time.
  • Another Don Bluth film, The Pebble and the Penguin, actually did this with a songbook.
  • The Smurfs and the Magic Flute starts off with a book page that the narrator reads "once upon a time" until he decides to tell the story without resorting to using a book and just turns the page to the picture of the king's castle that the camera zooms into.
  • Strange Magic starts with a scroll being opened to show the map of the Fairy Kingdom and the Dark Forest while the opening narration explains the setting.
  • The Christmas Tree is a textbook (storybook?) example. The storybook doesn't have words or even word-shaped scribbles, just the kind of colored Tetris-like blocks that frequently showed up in low-budget animation before the All-CGI Cartoon became common.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Used in Enchanted, for both the opening and the closing. Fittingly, the song that ends the movie opens with a line about "storybook endings".
  • Oddly used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It doesn't happen at the beginning or end, but about twenty minutes into the film, with the description of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table.
  • The extended edition of the The Lord of the Rings DVD menu.
  • Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opens in this style.
  • Used in the 1937 Shirley Temple version of Heidi for the opening credits and first paragraph.
  • Used in the Laurel and Hardy version of Babes in Toyland, but cut from many prints.
  • Elf not only has a storybook in its prologue, opening credits, and closing scene, but the menus on the DVD resemble pop-up books.
  • Snow White and the Three Stooges opens this way, with the Stooges having fun at points.
  • In the extended version of David Lynch's Dune one of the first shots after the opening credits is a shot of a copy of the original book by Frank Herbert.
  • In The Smurfs 2, Narrator uses a pop-up book to tell the story of how Smurfette came to be at the beginning of the movie.
  • The 2016 version of The Jungle Book doesn't have a storybook opening, but it does have a storybook closing, with the book being the very same one that opened the original animated classic.
  • The Disney Channel original movie Descendants "modernizes" this using a computer tablet in its opening.
  • Superman: The Movie does this prior to the credits, with a copy of Action Comics and a young boy's voice recounting some of the Daily Planet's backstory.


    Live Action TV 
  • Monk uses this for the summation in the last episode of season 3, "Mr. Monk and the Kid"
  • Hustle does it with the season 4 episode "A Designer's Paradise", although the book doesn't appear until partway into the episode when Albert starts explaining the con in terms of the fairytale "The Emperor's New Clothes".
  • The "Gingerbread" episode of Taggart used this. (The story was loosely inspired by Hansel and Gretel).
  • The Highlander episode, "The Stone Of Scone" has this.

  • When it first opened, the 2013 musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had an animated opening sequence about the making of chocolate that began this way (the book a large, purple one with a golden W on the cover). The narrator began with the lines "This is a story about the most important thing in the world: Chocolate." This sequence was cut in 2014 with the first cast turnover, possibly for pacing reasons.

    Video Games 
  • The old Crystal Dynamics game The Horde does this.
  • Radical Dreamers: This Super Nintendo Stellaview game uses it as well. One of the few examples where the story is related through (it is implied) the text of the book itself. Chrono Cross does the same thing, only since it isn't a text-based game, the example isn't quite as unusual.
  • Myst has a variant; Atrus narrates as the Myst book tumbles through a starry void, before landing in front of you on a...surface. Open the book, touch the picture, and the game begins. Since you're supposed to be in a library as the Framing Device, one can assume that it was actually falling off a shelf, and the player picks it up to begin.
    • The book is actually falling through a starry void, having been dropped into it as explained in the sequel Riven. If you've played your way through the entire Myst series including Uru, you'll know that the book fell through the Star Fissure, and that the "surface" mentioned above would be the ground in the New Mexico desert. A funny Fridge Logic twist is that, if you've also read the books, you'll know that you could have picked up the Myst book, entered the Crevice nearby, and navigated your way through the caves to D'ni just like Ti'ana did in Myst: The book of Atrus. Then you could hand the book directly to Atrus where he sat, avoiding the entire first game and "winning" without ever having linked anywhere nor visited Myst island.
  • Super Mario Bros.
    • Yoshi's Story features a pop-up storybook. The opening scene presents the first several pages introducing the story. During gameplay, the page turns for each new world. At the end, the storybook reviews all six worlds, the final pages present a happy ending, and the book closes.
    • Paper Mario: Each game begins with a book opening and the narrator informing the player what "Today's story" is going to be. This is one of the few aspects of the series that Sticker Star kept.
    • Super Mario Galaxy 2 shows one of these when starting a new file, and during the credits. At the end, it is revealed that Rosalina had been narrating it as well as the whole game. The end scene also transitions into the Green Star Challenge.
  • Odin Sphere: The story of is contained within a series of books a young girl is reading one afternoon. Each character's New Game+ is simply Alice closing the book at the end and starting again from the beginning.
  • Kirby's Epic Yarn: Every cutscene is presented as a storybook, with anything not from the yarn world presented as a paper cutout. It's also narrated by a calm and soothing audiobook-style voice.
  • Valkyria Chronicles opens this way, and uses the book as a menu interface throughout. At the end, Ellet, the reporter following Squad 7 turns out to be the writer.
  • Castlevania 64 starts with the book already open on the a page holding the file select menu. Starting a new game results in your signature appearing on the document, and the pages flipping backwards to reveal it's a copy of the Necronomicon.
  • Grand Knights History
  • Chrono Cross
  • Wild ARMs
  • Atelier Marie
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula for the SNES and Genesis has the player opening a book titled "Vampyres" and turning to a new page between levels. However, there are no cutscenes.
  • Mace: The Dark Age
  • Dark Cloud
  • MapleStory originally had a login screen which was the first page in a book.
  • Brave Hero Yuusha: The storybook is called The Hero & The Demon.
  • Cuphead opens with a live-action storybook cutscene explaining Cuphead's situation, and closes out the same way.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Winnie the Pooh: Disney's short subject versions take this to its logical conclusion by actually taking place in the book itself.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: The "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment used this, but played with it, with the fairy first having difficulty turning the pages due to her small size, then having the book slam shut on her.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The first episode opened with one, telling the "old pony's tale" that sets the events of the series in motion.
  • Chowder: The opening credits, only instead of a storybook, it's a cookbook.
  • The 30-minute adaptation of The Little Engine That Could opened and closed this way.
  • Ferdinand The Bull didn't have one originally, but it was retroactively added in the 1950s when it was broadcast on Walt Disney's television show.