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Season 6: To Sleep, Perchance to Dance

Your season 6 topic.

 

Episodes:

 

Rip Van Winkle

The Little Mermaid

The Dancing Princesses

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FYI, I'm watching these on DVD and they weren't released by season, they were organized into volumes based on theme, so The Dancing Princesses appears on the 'Princess Tales' DVD for example, and the other episodes are elsewhere. I'll guess that you can find the show by season online, on Hulu or somewhere.

 

Anyway, I'm here to talk about The Dancing Princesses, because it's my favorite episode so far. There's a wry wit and the actors manage to sell even the most cliched dialogue. Zelda Rubinstein ("that lady from Sixteen Candles" as I will always know her) as the witch/fairy has great line delivery. Peter Weller is really charming, too. I can't remember the last time I saw him in a comedy...he should do more. Roy Dotrice was also well-cast as the father, and the daughters....well, they're mostly comic relief, but each one gets a moment or two and none of them are cringe-worthy.

 

I also got a kick out of the fact that the princesses all look 30 yrs old. This might be the fault of their costumes, though: puffy, cotillion-esque dresses.

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Oh, yes, this was one of my favorites as a child, too. 

 

I remember thinking how cool it was the way the bed turned into a portal to another world, ha. If I recall, wasn't the princesses' age part of the storyline? I recall Peter Weller's character saying to Lesley Ann Warren how "most women your age are already married" so maybe even Shelley knew the cast was a bit long in the tooth to be playing nubile young princesses. 

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I agree there was a hint of meta about the princess' ages. I also took it as (further) affirmation that the show was probably more for adults than kids.

 

I've since watched Rip Van Winkle and The Little Mermaid. I liked both, though The Dancing Princesses is still my favorite.

 

Rip Van Winkle had a fairly different tone from other episodes--creepy and ghostly--and I'm not sure how faithful it was to the book. There's social commentary on civil rights and voting that struck me as a stab at 80's politics, for example. It was still well-directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Harry Dean Stanton conveyed the right level of sleepy for the role, I guess. It bugged me that the wife was just a one-dimensional nag though, but that part may actually be faithful to the book.

 

And I had totally forgotten that the Little Mermaid dies--it's like the Disney version scrubbed it from my memory. (I think it was the one Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale I never read as a child, too.) How odd also to see a version where the prince chooses (arranged?) political marriage over fantasy love. This was the first time that I'd ever thought about the Little Mermaid story in terms of class warfare, too. Meaning, the mermaid-human differences become an allegory for upper class-lower class intermarriage, which the story ultimately rejects.

 

All of this is going on while the actors are wearing long wigs held up by wires (which you can see) and enduring wind machines to make it look like they're underwater, of course. I guess the mermaid production design options were limited back then, but there's still a "criminy, will you look at that" aspect to the episode.

 

The true star of The Little Mermaid though was, um, Treat Williams' pants. Just sayin'. Also, Helen Mirren has clearly been awesome since the beginning of time.

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Re: The Little Mermaid wind machine. It's so funny you mention that, because I just watched the episode on YT the other night, and it struck me how it's almost part of the charm of this series. Namely the way the sets and visual effects have an almost community playhouse feel to them.

 

Little Mermaid as an allegory for class warfare also makes sense given that Hans Christian Anderson was a devout Christian who had to suppress his homosexuality (it's been documented that he wrote love letters to a younger man, IIRC), so the story takes on an interesting twist with its commentary on forbidden love. 

 

Treat Williams was so beautiful in this. I'm not surprised Pam Dawber fell for him at first sight. ;-)

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The Little Mermaid was the first episode I ever watched. It was also the first time I ever saw a version with the sad ending.

Treat Williams was good looking back in the day, but that doesn't make up for Prince Andrew being such an oblivious dolt. He probably didn't mean to lead Pearl on, and he does deserve credit for trying to let her down gently with his "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" speech, but still, he was kind of patronizing to her. That's how the prince acted in the original HCA story, which has always irked me. Just because she's mute doesn't mean you have to treat her like a child. Kind of a parallel to how some people talk down to people with disabilities.

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