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Series / Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story

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Once Upon a Time...yes, this sounds like a fairytale. A little something for the children.
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Just about everyone knows the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. Boy trades cow for magic beans, climbs the beanstalk that grows from the beans to a castle in the sky, steals a singing harp and goose that lays golden eggs from an evil giant then cuts down the beanstalk when the giant gives chase and he lives Happily Ever After.

What if that wasn't what truly happened?

Jack Robinson (Matthew Modine) is the rich CEO of a large company who’s having dreams about his father and an angry giant while trying to keep healthy since no Robinson male has lived to be over 40. Strange things start happening like a giant humanoid skeleton being found during construction of a casino around his ancestral castle and Ondine (Mia Sara), a mysterious woman who keeps suddenly appearing, accusing him of being "a thief and a murderer". Jack soon learns from a relative that he thought long dead that he is the descendant of Jack from the Fairy Tale and that the truth of the tale is not clear cut as it seems.

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Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story is a 2001 television Mini Series directed by Brian Henson and was a co-production of Hallmark Entertainment and Jim Henson Television.


The Mini Series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: An In-Universe example. The woman who found and sheltered Jack in the fake tale is a haggard, old woman whereas the "real" woman, Ondine (played by Mia Sara), was young and had a relationship with Jack. This seems to be an effort to hide that the original Jack took advantage of her trust to steal from the giant.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the original fairy tale, the Giant was a straight-up villain who wanted to eat Jack. Here, the Giant, named Thunderdell, is a kind-hearted man and a loving father to Bren.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The fairy tale version of Jack's mother was a heroic character. In this adaptation, Wilhemina killed Thunderdell, resulting in the curse that plagued him and his descendants for the next 390 years.
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  • The Ageless: Countess Wilhelmina, the woman whom the modern day Jack thought was his great aunt is actually the original Jack's mother. She was given immortality when she killed Thunderdell, Cursing her to forever watch her descendants die young.
  • Big Bad: Siggy's actions to take over Jack's business for money drives much of the miniseries' plot, and Ondine and Jack must stop him before it's too late.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The harp and the goose contained the guiding energies of the lands at the top of the beanstalk and due to the original Jack's theft, the lands have become desolate and barren.
  • Complete Immortality: Wilhelmina became immortal after killing Thunderdell.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The great council of giants is made up figures from various religions including Thor, Odin, Maha Calia, Cernos, Magog, and others.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The miniseries has both a fairly straight telling of Jack and the Beanstalk and then modern day Jack starts to find out what "really" happened.
  • Fiction 500: Modern day Jack is the chief executive of company called Robinson International that is a two hundred billion dollar enterprise.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Averted - GM crops are presented as a solution for supplying food in arid areas. The prototype seeds become a Chekhov's Gun, allowing Jack to convince the giants' council that life can be returned to their lands (apparently genetic engineering can overcome magical desolation).
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Wilhelmina kills Thunderdell with the axe used to knock down the beanstalk, the impact is not shown, although his skull is shown to have been graphically fractured when his skeleton is dug up in the present.
  • Happily Adopted: Ondine to Thunderdell, which makes her quite hostile to the modern day Jack for what his ancestor did.
  • Hereditary Curse: Jack's family suffers from a 390-year-old curse that kills the sons after they turn 40 years old, which is ultimately the result of the original Jack's theft and his mother killing the giant.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bran went into a major one after Thunderdell is killed by Wilhemina.
  • Immune to Bullets: The giants are a bit too big for bullets to have any effect on them, although this doesn't stop Siggy from trying.
    Siggy: Giants? Get away. Don't hurt me. Leave me alone.
    (Two shots are fired and the bullets bounce harmlessly off Thor)
    Siggy: Oh, did I do that? I didn't mean to do that.
    (Fires two more shots and they too bounce right off)
    Siggy: Just a silly reflex. I have no control. Someone call the army.
    (Continues firing more shots which all bounce off Thor)
    Siggy: What kind of gun is this? (Thor kicks him across the room)
  • Interspecies Adoption: Thunderdell the giant adopted the human Ondine after she lost her parents.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Jack and the Beanstalk was apparently based on exploits of Jack's ancestor and even he is surprised that the tale had some basis in fact.
  • My Greatest Failure: Bren was not able to save Thunderdell when the beanstalk was cut down.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The Giant, who didn't have a name in the original fairy tale, is named Thunderdell in this adaptation.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: By stealing the harp and goose and helping Wilhemina kill Thunderdell, it set off the Robinson Curse that plagued their descendants for nearly four centuries.
  • Our Giants Are Different: Most of the giants are your standard giant humans but Maha Calia is blue with four arms and Cernos has the head of a stag in keeping with the depiction of their mythological namesakes.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: By the time Jack and Ondine return to Earth, the former has been declared legally dead and Siggy has taken his place in Robinson International.
  • Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Siggy encouraged present day Jack to not have children and take no interest in the business so Siggy can take over once the curse kills him.
  • Sanity Slippage: Siggy basically suffers from this when Jack returns and the giants come down after him, pointlessly shooting the three giants with a standard gun and last seen on a newspaper headline being sent to an asylum for his 'delusion' that giants are after him.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The protagonist and his family have been punished for the actions the original Jack for fifteen generations, to the point that the Giants sentence Jack Robinson to die.
    Magog: Surely in your world, if you benefit from the wrongdoings of your fathers, then you inherit the obligation to right the wrong. If you do not, then who shall?
  • Take My Hand: In the backstory, Bren tries to help Thunderdell up the beanstalk when it's cut down, only for the latter to fall to his death as he accepts that his son can't save him.
  • Talking Animal: Gallaga, the goose that laid golden eggs, until it was taken to Earth.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The giants possess glass vials that teleport the holder to Earth or back when smashed which makes the whole "climbing the beanstalk" thing a bit pointless (it is suggested that the beanstalk was intended to encourage new awareness of their two worlds so that the giants could inspire humanity by establishing a more direct line of communication between the two worlds).
  • Treacherous Advisor: Siggy set himself up as a Parental Substitute to modern day Jack and encouraged him to not settle down and have children so when Jack is killed by the Hereditary Curse, Siggy can produce a faked will that leaves everything to him and no one would have reason to question it.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Certainly applies to Wilhemina; for actually killing Thunderdell, she is condemned to live for over four centuries (and it is implied that she wasn't even able to sleep during that time), watching her descendants die young.
  • Written by the Winners: The show posits that the giant atop the beanstalk, Thunderdell, was in fact nothing but friendly and benevolent, with most of the fairy tale being a lie made up to cover for what Jack and his mother did for their own selfish ends. This includes killing the giant after he falls off the beanstalk.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Time in the land at the top of the beanstalk passes at a rate of one day for every year on Earth, with the result that only a year has passed in the giants' country while almost four hundred have passed back on Earth.

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