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Western Animation / Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

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An animated series that originally aired on HBO and ran for three seasons over 1995-2000. The episodes take different traditional fairy tales and set them in a variety of cultures from all around the world, with an appropriate Race Lift applied to the characters. In Season Three, all the stories have female lead characters, which depending on the source material may or may not be the result of a Gender Flip. Each episode is narrated by Robert Guillaume, with a recurring cast of guest stars including Sinbad, Rosie Perez, and B.D. Wong. And yes, every story ends with the characters living Happily Ever After.

Not to be confused with the Filmation movie Happily Ever After.

Compare and contrast Faerie Tale Theatre, another cable series that retold fairy tales with an All-Star Cast. (Twenty-four stories were dramatized by both shows.)

As of 2021, Happily Ever After is being rerun every weekday morning on HBO Family until 2024.

This cartoon has examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Sometimes, these are fairly tales after all. The wicked stepmothers in Cinderella and Snow White, naturally. Madame Zenobia of Rapunzel is more of an abusive guardian. King Midas of the fairy tale of the same name is not classically abusive to his daughter Goldina, but is certainly neglectful of her in favor of gold. And Scofflaw, pauper Zoe's father in The Princess and the Pauper, is definitely an abusive dad. He even tries to force his daughter to steal even when she says she doesn't want to.
  • Action Girl: Breadcrumb of The Three Little Pigs and Goldie from The Steadfast Tin Soldier. Imani, the human star of that same story, arguably becomes this. Vanna of Rip Van Winkle becomes this as well.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Rapunzel and her Prince first meet while Rapunzel is still living at Madame Zenobia's house; in fact their meeting becomes the impetus for Zenobia to shut her away in the tower.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The stories are changed to different countries, such as Thumbelina being Brazilian instead of Danish.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Almost every fairy tale is given extra characters, expanded worlds, and endings that tend to give more closure than the original story.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • A very minor example, but in The Pied Piper of Hamelin, the reason why the mayor and city council of Hamelin only pay the piper fifty guilders, instead of the fifty-thousand they promised, is simply because that was all they had left in the city treasury after paying all the damages the rats caused and the other exterminators.
    • Hansel and Gretel's father. Where in the original tale he's a Henpecked Husband who sadly agrees to his wife's plan to abandon the children in the forest, here he refuses to even consider it, so she abandons them by herself while he's at work, and he spends the rest of the story searching through the woods for them.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Giant's Wife in Jack and the Beanstalk initially seems kind-hearted in contrast to her husband, as she is in other versions of the tale, but ultimately she lights the oven when she thinks Jack is hiding inside, then laughs as he begs to be let out (not knowing that he's actually hiding under the oven and playing a trick).
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Madame Zenobia is the QUEEN of this.
  • Adipose Rex: The Emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes, as well as a few other kings in the series.
  • Adults Are More Anthropomorphic: In Three Little Pigs, a baby pig in an Imagine Spot is just a normal pig with hair. The adults are mostly bipedal and they wear clothes.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Initially, Queen Ah Moo-ni was set up with this seemingly, as she acted somewhat suspicious (both towards Eu-la and Ho) and the sly tone she often used implied this heavily. Turns out she was not evil at all, she was just challenging Princess Eu-la.
  • All There in the Script: Cinderella's wicked stepsisters are named Margarita and Esmeralda in the credits, though are not identified in the episode.
  • Artful Dodger: In the Goldilocks and the Three Bears episode, Goldilocks becomes a street-smart scamp whose intro song includes multiple repetitions of "I'm going to get away with it."
  • Big Beautiful Woman:
  • Big Eater:
    • The two iguanas in the Cinderella episode—they even have a song dedicated to it. Susana the witch from Hansel and Gretel also counts.
    • Then there's Rip, who wants Vanna to be his "little miracle baker," generally seems to be scarfing down something, and complains quite vocally about his hunger (ironically enough, he doesn't know how to use a microwave).
    • In "The Three Little Pigs", eating a lot and being plump is encouraged by society. This is why Barbie gets ostracized by society for being skinny and, ironically, being too clean.
  • Big Fun: Deli Porkchop, a big woman with an even bigger heart.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella episodes make particular use of this. They all have a Latin-American flavor and thus, Spanish words are liberally mixed in with the English tales.
    • For the "Hansel and Gretel" episode, if you pay attention to the beans' song, they are actually trying to warn the children that the witch is going to eat them in Spanish.
  • Bittersweet Ending: While most of the episodes, as the series title implies, ends with the characters living "Happily Ever After", the endings of both "The Happy Prince" and "Pied Piper of Hamlin" are both this in order to remain faithful to the source material.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens too many times to count but an example that sticks out is The Emperor's New Clothes, where the emperor learns to be nicer and allows his brother to come back after being humiliated.
  • Canon Foreigner: Some fairy tales include new characters to add more depth to the original stories and the main characters as well. Ex. "The Shoemaker and the Elves" features Tanatiuh, a fearsome warrior who serves as the main antagonist to the titular shoemaker.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Likely played for Black Comedy Cannibalism in the "Three Little Pigs" episode. For example, one pig character's father makes a fortune off of pork bellies.
  • Cats Are Mean: Zigzagged with Puss In Boots. He is sincerely loyal to his master and wants to help him, but the way he goes around this is very underhanded.
  • Composite Character: In Pinocchio’s adaptation Mr.Buzzard is a combination of Mangiafuoco and the Coachman.
  • Cool Old Guy: The titular shoemaker from The Shoemaker and the Elves is a wiry and brave old man with a kind heart, but also gleefully messes with an arrogant warrior for disrespecting his craft.
  • Con Man: Tojio and Keiji in The Emperor's New Clothes.
  • Dating What Mommy Hates: In "The Princess and the Pea", the Queen doesn't like that her son is falling for Princess Yu-long, since she arrived late and claims to have lost her invitation. The Queen even faints when Yu-long turned out to be the truly blue princess.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sharp Flint from the Snow White adaptation is one. And so is Pidge from The Happy Prince.
  • Death by Adaptation: The Snow Queen in her titular episode.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Many of the song sequences go into this, especially The Three Bears' Song in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the Blues Fairy and Dream Diva's song in Pinocchio and King Midas, respectively (though understandable seeing as how they're both magical). Vanna's "I Am" Song has some, too, as does Rip's.
  • Disneyfication: Every adaptation...except for The Happy Prince.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Check out the maidens' reactions during Sly Fox's "You Are" Song.
  • Expy: In the Thumbelina episode Mrs. Leaperman looks, sounds and acts strangely like Bev Bighead.
  • Every Episode Ending: Each episode ends with the line "lived happily ever after".
  • Extra-Long Episode: The "Mother Goose" episode has an odd runtime of 34 minutes, unlike most episodes that are no longer than near 28 minutes.
  • The Fair Folk: Rumpelstiltskin fits this trope to a T.
    • The Dream Diva from King Midas is an inversion. She doesn't mean for her spell to be evil, but the negative consequences sure feel that way.
  • Fairy Tale Motifs and Fairy Tale Tropes in general.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Many of the classic fairy tale villains, including the Witch in Hansel and Gretel.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Emperor from "The Emperor's New Clothes" and his younger brother the Prince are a perfect example of this trope.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: Most notable in the Aesop's Fables episode.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted despite it being made for a young audience. It is justified as they are old fairy tales, alcohol tends to show up occasionally, noticeably in "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" with wine that puts one to sleep.
  • Fur Is Skin: This is used in the Three Little Pigs episode. White pigs have pale bristles (where their pink skin shows underneath), black pigs have brown bristles, and Asian pigs have light brown-ish or tan-ish bristles.
  • Gender Flip: "The Three Little Pigs", "The Prince and the Pauper", "Robin Hood", "The Nightingale", "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", and "The Bremen Town Musicians" get this treatment, and few of the characters from Aesop's Fables in the last episode.
  • Gonk: Every main character in "The Emperor's New Clothes" except his brother.
  • Handicapped Badass: Goldie from "The Steadfast Tin Soldier".
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: In "The Princess and the Pea", one of the 11 princesses is a terrible singer.
  • "I Am" Song: Rip and Vanna each get one in Rip Van Winkle. There's one in The Princess and the Pauper, and one for White Snow's stepmother Sly Fox in "Snow White," though that's more of a You Are Song. The detective and hare get one in Aesop's Fables, and arguably, so do the ants. The miners in Snow White have a "We Are" song as introduction.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The fisherman's final wish in "The Fisherman and his Wife".
  • I'm Thinking It Over!: Played for Drama in King Midas. When the title king's daughter feels her father cares more about his gold than he does about her, she asks him if he had to choose between saving her or a bag of gold on a sinking ship, which one he'd choose. The king does not respond initially and when she asks again, more insistently, Midas coldly responds, "I am thinking!". Goldina runs away crying at this.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Not as common as you'd think, but why else would the Rooster from The Bremen Town Musicians (voiced by George Clinton) have his comb tied up like that?◦ Also very prevalent in the "Henny Penny" episode.
    • Mother Goose, played by Whoopi Goldberg does look a lot like her character.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Thankfully averted by Goldie and Imani.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In a particularly strange diversion from the usual routine of each episode being set in a specific place, "The Little Mermaid" is set in just "Asia", with the mermaid and her family being Korean, the prince being Chinese, and his betrothed, Princess Michiko, being from Japan. She even wears a hanbok.
  • Interactive Narrator: Usually averted, but a few of the more tongue-in-cheek stories have the narrator getting in on the act, such as becoming a golf announcer in "The Frog Princess," and having Henny Penny treat him like the reporter back at the studio.
    • "Rip Van Winkle" features a female co-narrator, emphasizing the theme of gender equality.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Puss In Boots is snarky and sneaky, but truly wants to help his master make it big.
    • Turkey Lurkey is condescending and quite vain, but he actually does want to make the barn a safer and better place. Noticeably, when his campaign manager's true colors are revealed he is quick to confront him and thanks Goosey Loosey for questioning him. He even happily applauds Loosey Goosey for beating him in the election.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The Tailors in The Emperor's New Clothes, though this is a rare example.
    • Cinderella's stepsisters, also, because the story takes the route of letting Cinderella forgive those who have wronged her. Subverted in that the iguanas will likely punish them for her.
    • And half the cast of Aesop's Fables gets one when the mouse suggests that all be forgiven when they steal the book to make the fables end in their favor and also erasing the pencil writing they put in.
    • Mr. Buzzard from Pinocchio gets away with turning several children into donkeys and selling them for profit.
  • Literal-Minded: In "The Princess and the Pea":
    Queen Ah Moo-ni: I see a ball.
    Prince Ho: Where?
    Queen Ah Moo-ni: Work with me, young Ho! I mean a royal ball.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Emerald Salt Pork in "The Three Little Pigs", who is super rich but doesn't have any friends. She goes to Camp Piggywood to make friends and become popular.
  • Lost in Imitation: The retellings of Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid owe more to the Disney animated feature versions rather than the original serialized novel and short story, respectively, with the latter having a Happily Ever After ending instead of the extremely Bittersweet Ending Andersen wrote.
  • Love Redeems: Happens in "Beauty and the Beast" and to the king in "Rumpelstiltskin".
  • Meaningful Name:
    • All the "little men" in the Snow White adaptation are given Native American names that reflect obvious traits. The exception appears to be Bright Silver (who might be a little dim).
    • Scofflaw of The Princess and the Pauper, as in, he scoffs at the law.
  • Midas Touch: Of course, this is featured in the episode retelling the King Midas myth with an Egyptian twist.
  • Montage: The princesses showing their awful talents in "The Princess and the Pea", making the royal family cringe.
  • My Beloved Smother: The Queen in "The Princess and the Pea". She's sliding between this along with being a Doting Parent and a Jewish Mother. She wants what's best for her son, no doubt, however, she oversteps. She'd have kept doing that until the Prince threatened to climb up to the roof and not come down "until Christmas" if she doesn't allow Princess Yu-long to stay.
    • Madame Zenobia is a very dark example.
  • Musical Episode: "Mother Goose: A Rappin' and Rhymin' Special" and "Aesop's Fables: A Whodunit Musical" are heavily carried by songs more than the usual episodes of the series.
  • Noodle Incident: In "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," we have the teddy bear warning the clown not to "do anything illegal, like the last time!"
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: In episodes that center around only animals this is quite common.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Deli Porkchop of The Three Little Pigs is supposedly an Expy of Dolly Parton. Camp Piggy itself appears to be based on Dollywood (which Dolly Parton has owned since the 80s).
  • No Indoor Voice: Cocky Locky, who needs to be loud in order to wake up the rest of the barnyard.
  • No Social Skills: Apparently, when Princess Ebony tried to befriend the village children, she demanded them to always bow before her and address her as “her majesty”.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Queen in "Snow White" shapeshifts into a bear as a last resort when she's found out for attempting to kill the heroine. However, in order to use such magic she has to go into the spirit world via her mirror. So before she can get back and hurt anyone, the dwarfs trap her there forever by breaking the mirror.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • The Rip Van Winkle episode, heavily based on the '60s and feminism, has a whole cast's worth with the Women of Thunder Mountain and Vanna's Fairy God-Mentor.
    • Both the King Midas adaptation and the Rumpelstiltskin one have references to M.C. Hammer's "Can't Touch This."
  • The Power of Love: Is often used to save the day.
  • Race Lift: Nearly all the stories have predominantly African-American/Hispanic/Asian casts, depending on the setting. The Asian "Aladdin" episode is this as well , as whilte the story is supposed to be set in (or near) China to begin with, it is most likely supposed to be the Turkic state the Kara-Khanid Khanate, while the episode has everyone as Han Chinese.
    • Also averted with Rip Van Winkle—Rip and Vanna are not only white, but blonde. Presumably, this is because of the tale's focus on women as a minority, not just racial issues.
    • The "Ali Baba" episode in an interesting case. There is clearly an Arabic setting...but the entire cast is African-American, so it is unclear what race the characters are meant to be.
    • The Snow Queen is an odd case. Though the setting is an Inuit one, nearly all of the voice actors are African-American.
  • Raised by the Community: In the show's adaptation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. After the Pied Piper takes away their children, the people of Hamelin realize the only kid left in town is a homeless boy whom they had never helped once. Seeing how badly they had screwed up, the townsfolk, from the workers to the mayor himself, collectively adopt the boy and raise him lovingly. This helps lighten up the otherwise dark ending of the of the original story, making it more of a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Reused Character Design: It's very common to find main characters of previous fairy tales as background characters in later episodes.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The daily speech of the citizens of Mother Gooseburg Land is like this, though they start to lose this after her decision to retire.
    • Rumpelstiltskin is also very fond of doing this.
  • The Runt at the End: In "The Princess and the Pea", the King noticed one of the princesses is really short.
  • Savage Wolves: The Three Little Pigs episode has an educational film about avoiding these.
  • Setting Update: Or sometimes setback - "The Shoemaker's Elves" takes place in Aztec Mexico.
  • Snake Oil Sales Man: The tailors in "The Emperor's New Clothes".
  • Spit Out a Shoe: The Big Bad Wolf burps up grandma's glasses in a gas bubble after eating her.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Rip Winkle's entire personality turns on this, to the point that his song lyrics include a reference to it.
  • Title Drop: "And they all lived happily ever after..."
  • Theme Naming:
    • The Native American retelling of "Snow White" names the seven dwarfs after minerals and metals, appropriate for a bunch of miners.
    • In "Beauty and the Beast", Beauty's siblings also have meaningful names — her sister is named Precious and her brother Tree. Precious is sweet and loved but narcissistic, and Tree is strong but also lazy (i.e., "rooted to one spot"). Beauty, who is pretty but also has a kind and lovely spirit, lives up to her name in all the best ways by comparison.
  • Token Minority: The Emperor in "The Emperor's New Clothes" has black and white servants.
  • The Trickster: Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, The Pied Piper, and the beggar in "The Golden Goose" just to name a few.
  • Thick-Line Animation: Some episodes have this, noticeably "Goldilocks" and "The Golden Goose".
  • Twice-Told Tale
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: In "The Princess and the Pea", while looking at the arriving suitors for her son, the Queen can tell one of them is really a man. This caught the King's attention. But this wasn't brought up again afterwards.
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: The Wolf in "Three Little Pigs" claims to be one. It's a Blatant Lie.
  • Verbal Tic: Turkey Lurkey, gobble gobble gobble!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In The Little Mermaid, we see Mija the mermaid trade her voice to the Sea Witch for legs, then the Sea Witch takes the voice for her own, laughs menacingly...and we never see her again. There was no hint of whether she planned to use the voice for her own misdeeds, but that one scene certainly implied it and since Mija wins the Prince's love and her voice back anyway, we'll never know.
    • Of course, the sea witch's "own misdeeds" were a Disney addition in the first place. Her entire business in the tale was limited to shady deals, and she even explained all the catches in advance. The temple girl, Lady Michiko, is notably a separate character, as she was originally.
  • Wicked Witch: It wouldn't be a fairy tale series without a couple of witches lurking about. There's Susana from "Hansel and Gretel", Madame Zenobia from "Rapunzel", Evelina, a fairy witch from "Sleeping Beauty", and the Sea Witch from "The Little Mermaid".
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: The Three Little Pigs—in pig-world, it's considered horrific to be thin or clean, which leads to the Camp Piggywood motto of, "You can never be too fat or too dirty." This is also used as justification for why Barbie-Que Pepper's career is suffering at the story's outset.


Video Example(s):


We are Da Bearz

On the bus ride over to a reggae concert, the Bearz family (in this retelling of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears) sing a little ode to their carefree lifestyle.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / IAmSong

Media sources: