Monday, December 05, 2011

Inaccuracies in Once upon a time

There's a fun show on ABC called Once Upon a Time. Its scenes are split between the modern day (reality, or a TV facsimile thereof) and fairy-tale land (generally shown to be a medieval-esque fantasy version of Europe). The scenes of the modern day are -- I assume -- pretty easy to mock up in the studio, but the fantasy lands...? Where are you going to get those sorts of landscapes that are not so obviously modern and American? One might use CGI for wide shots (especially if you are going to use them again):
but what about for tighter ones?

Apparently Once uses actual locations for shooting, but there are some things about those locations that are quite problematic for me: blatantly obvious telltale signs of a mechanized world.

In the first episode, the rider is galloping along a causeway through a lake:

In the third episode, the carriage is riding along a mcadamized gravel road through a forestry plantation:

In the sixth episode, the shepherd is chasing a lamb through a freshly mowed field (you can see the parallel swaths in the grass where the mower went along):

Now, I'm not really too annoyed with some of these things (such as the blatant mixture of early medieval costume with early Renaissance; these are things that are somewhat - if unfortunately - common when dealing with fantasy worlds, such as what one might find in D&D). I'm not even really annoyed with issues of simple physics, such as a wooden table being able to hold up a dragon's head that's been turned into gold (or even figure out how those three couriers plan on moving it without obvious aid):

The setting is, after all, a fantasy world; one with magic and trolls, dwarves, fairies, and talking crickets. (We'll probably be introduced to even more fantasy creatures before the end of the series.) Therefore, one could make the argument that these roads are magically made (or troll-made or dwarf-made), and that is why they seem out of place. This leaves open-ended questions of their own, however:

Perhaps the roads were built by magic (or trolls or dwarves or something else), but then what is the justification of that form of forestry plantation? (Remember: forestry plantations of the type that we see didn't really even start to come into place until after the late 1700s; well after these mish-mash costumes and sets could likely allow - assuming that the Neuschwanstein-esque castle is actually a medieval-to-Renaissance era construction, instead of a middle-late 19th century one.) Also, what is the purpose of having sheep grazing on a pasture land ... that is mechanically mowed? Sheep will - if left on their own and protected from predation - mow down a grassland quite nicely (which is why the Scottish Highlands are meadows and not forests).

Maybe it's just me ranting and going on. However, these modern inaccuracies annoy me. They make it just a little bit harder to suspend my disbelief.

... still, I do like the show.


Anonymous said...

Would you happen to know where this causeway is in your first screenshot? If it is indeed a real place?

Umlud said...

Looking at, the series appears to be filmed in British Columbia, and according to one forum entry, it is actually Pitt Lake. Google Maps takes you as far as the gate to the causeway. Look at the shape of the mountains beyond the causeway on Google: they're the same as the mountains in the screen capture from Once upon a time.