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Is ABC taking ‘Once Upon a Time’ fandom for granted?

Or is their promotion just lazy?


Aja Romano


Posted on Sep 19, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 6:06 am CDT

The Once Upon a Time fandom is having a rough time of it—and season three of the show hasn’t even started yet.

Sure, the series’ Facebook page recently reached 3 million followers, but the ABC franchise seems to be counting on word-of-mouth to build the fanbase, at least if fans’ negative reactions to the company’s latest promotional attempts are any indication.

First, ABC released a series of lazy promo photos of the cast in a hilariously windswept glamour shoot that looked like the kind of sloppily crafted work you would have seen on a Trapper Keeper in 1991. 

“[P]art of her hair [is] see through and most of the outline of her body [is] blurry,” commented lovingcaptainswan on one of the photos, adding:

*shakes head at person in charge of this*

The backlash was so quick and so fierce that ABC had to pull the photos altogether. Many fans additionally ‘meh’ed the replacement photoshoot ABC gave them, which gave the show a Lost vibe.

Then, they announced a special preview release… of a video they’d already shown us.

“We will unlock the FIRST SNEAK PEEK of the new season when we reach 3 million likes on our page,” promised the OUAT Facebook on September 11th. Fans did their part, pushing the number of likes to 3.24 million, but the big reveal turned out to be a clip they’d already shown fans at the D23 expo in August.

In a pre-YouTube, even pre-Tumblr era, the sneak peek might not have been so disappointing, but with a month having passed between the D23 reveal and Sunday’s follow-up, fans had already had plenty of time to catch the video as it spread online. It’s just one more way in which the fans and the franchise have occasionally been out of step, especially since fears that the show would be canceled after Season 2 were put to rest with the announcement of a spinoff focused on Alice in Wonderland. This, along with recent plot developments, drew criticism from many fans who felt the franchise was losing its focus, branching out to include more characters instead of spending time on characters the fans already knew and loved.

At Comic Con this summer, creators Ed Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and star Jennifer Morrison alienated a large swathe of the fanbase after distancing themselves from the subset of fans who ship “SwanQueen,” the pairing of main character Emma Swan and the villainous queen Regina.

The photoshoot fiasco, combined with the lazy video premiere and other moments of disconnect in recent months, has many fans wondering if the show has taken a backseat in the minds of its creators. As dark-ones-dagger put it:

I’m not blaming ABC for the sneak peek they released since technically no one but Comic Con [sic] attendees should have seen it. I’m frustrated that it’s not new new stuff, but that was a decent business move. HOWEVER, this coupled with the terrible first promo pictures and the promotion of season 3 in general (aside from Ginnifer’s) is making me kind of mad at them because I LOVE THIS SHOW SO MUCH AND IT HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL AND IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THEY GAVE IT AS MUCH EFFORT AS THEY DID BEFORE AND I REALLY WANT IT TO GET MORE AWESOME AND NOT LESS. Pleeeeease, ABC, give us a good season regardless of the promos. Please.

The show has made a big recovery, however, with its most recent photos, which trade off the popularity of Regina the dark queen and Captain Hook—just in time for Talk Like a Pirate Day—emblazoned with fan-friendly catch phrases that urge audiences to “believe.” It looks like it will be a long time before Once Upon a Time walks away from its core group of characters, or the fans who love them.

The new season begins on September 29th at 8pm ET.

Illustration by captain-matick/Tumblr

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*First Published: Sep 19, 2013, 2:31 pm CDT