Once Upon a Time Once Upon a Time title card

Genre Adventure
Created by Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin
Jennifer Morrison
Lana Parrilla
Josh Dallas
Jared S. Gilmore
Raphael Sbarge
Jamie Dornan
Robert Carlyle
Eion Bailey
Emilie de Ravin
Meghan Ory
Colin O'Donoghue
Michael Raymond-James
Michael Socha
Rebecca Mader
Sean Maguire
Andrew J. West
Dania Ramirez
Gabrielle Anwar
Alison Fernandez
Composer(s) Mark Isham
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 135
Executive producer(s) Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Steve Pearlman
David H. Goodman
Andrew Chambliss
Producer(s) Damon Lindelof
Christine Boylan
Robert Hull
Kalinda Vazquez
Jane Espenson
Daniel T. Thomsen
Brian Wankum
Kathy Gilroy
Ian Goldberg
Liz Tigelaar
Samantha Thomas
Jerome Schwartz
Helga Ungurait
Location(s) Steveston, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
Cinematography Steven Fierberg
Stephen Jackson
Tony Mirza
Editor(s) Geofrey Hildrew
Mark Goldman
Scot J. Kelly
Joe Talbot Hall
Running time 43 minutes
Production company(s) ABC Studios
Distributor Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Original network ABC
Original run October 23, 2011 – present
Status Returning Series
Related shows Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

Once Upon a Time is an American fantasy drama television series that premiered on October 23, 2011, on ABC. The show follows various fairy-tale characters who were transported to the real world and robbed of their original memories by a powerful curse. The first six seasons were set in the fictitious seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, with Emma Swan as the lead character, while the seventh takes place in a Seattle, Washington neighborhood called Hyperion Heights, with a new main narrative led by an adult Henry Mills.

It borrows elements and characters from the Disney franchise and popular Western literature, folklore, and fairy tales. Once Upon a Time was created by Lost and Tron: Legacy writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. For the first six seasons, the series aired on Sundays at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT. On May 11, 2017, ABC renewed the series for a 22-episode seventh season, moving to Friday 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT, which premiered on October 6, 2017. In February 2018, it was announced the seventh season would serve as the final season of the series.

A spin-off series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, consisting of 13 episodes, premiered on October 10, 2013, and concluded on April 3, 2014. It followed the journey of Alice, from Alice in Wonderland.

Series Overview

During the first six seasons, the series takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, in which the residents are actually characters from various fairy tales and other stories that were transported to the "real world" town and robbed of their original memories by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) who used a powerful curse obtained from Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle). The residents of Storybrooke, where Regina is mayor, have lived an unchanging existence for 28 years, unaware of their own lack of aging. The town's only hope lies with a bail-bonds person named Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), who was transported from the Enchanted Forest to our world via a magic tree as an infant before she could be cursed. As such, she is the only person who can break the curse and restore the characters' lost memories. She is aided by her son, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), with whom she was recently reunited after giving him up for adoption upon his birth, and his Once Upon a Time book of fairy tales that holds the key to breaking the curse. Henry is also the adopted son of Regina, providing a source of both conflict and common interest between the two women.

With the seventh season reboot, the setting currently takes place years later in the Seattle neighborhood of Hyperion Heights, where the characters were brought into this real world under a new curse from a different realm known as the Magical Forest, where Lady Tremaine has plotted to destroy Cinderella after she killed her father and blamed her for the "death" of her eldest daughter, only to have an adult Henry Mills become involved and eventually fell in love with Cinderella. Hoping to restore her family's memories, Henry and Cinderella's young daughter Lucy must convince Henry to save the trapped characters in Hyperion Heights, which is being controlled by her step-grandmother Victoria Belfrey (who is actually a non-cursed Lady Tremaine), a ruthless developer who wants to push the characters out of the neighborhood, including Cinderella (who is now Jacinda, a fast-food worker), Tiana (who is now Sabine, Jacinda's roommate), Regina (now a bar owner named Roni), Rumpelstiltskin/Gold (now a rouge Detective Weaver) and a wish-realm version of Killian Jones (now Detective Rogers, Weaver's partner).

Episodes usually have one segment that details the characters' past lives that, when serialized, adds a piece to the puzzle about the characters and their connection to the events that preceded the curse and its consequences. The other, set in the present day, follows a similar pattern with a different outcome but also offers similar insights.

Season 1 (2011-12)

The first season premiered on October 23, 2011. The Evil Queen interrupts the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming to announce that she will cast a curse on everyone that will leave her with the only happy ending. The majority of the fairy tale characters are transported to the town of Storybrooke, Maine, where they have been stripped of their original memories and identities as fairy tale characters. On her 28th birthday, Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, is brought to Storybrooke by her biological son Henry Mills in the hopes of breaking the curse cast by his adoptive mother, the Evil Queen Regina.

Season 2 (2012–13)

The second season premiered on September 30, 2012. Despite Emma having broken the curse, the characters are not returned to the fairy tale world, and must deal with their own dual identities. With the introduction of magic into Storybrooke by Mr. Gold, the fates of the two worlds become intertwined, and new threats emerge in the form of Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue), Regina's mother Cora (Barbara Hershey), also known as the Queen of Hearts, and sinister operatives from our world with an agenda to destroy magic.

Season 3 (2013–14)

The third season premiered on September 29, 2013. It was split into two volumes, with the first eleven episodes running from September to December 2013, and the later half from March to May 2014. In the first volume, the main characters travel to Neverland to rescue Henry, who has been kidnapped by Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) as part of a plan to obtain the "Heart of the Truest Believer" from him. Their increasing power struggle with Pan continues in Storybrooke, which ultimately results in the complete reversal of the original curse. All the characters are returned to their original worlds, leaving Emma and Henry to escape to New York City. In the second volume, the characters are mysteriously brought back to a recreated Storybrooke with their memories of the previous year removed, and the envious Wicked Witch of the West (Rebecca Mader) from the Land of Oz appears with a plan to change the past. Once again, Emma is needed to save her family.

Season 4 (2014–15)

The fourth season premiered on September 28, 2014. It was also split into two volumes, with the first eleven episodes running from September to December 2014, and the later half from March to May 2015. A new storyline incorporating elements from Frozen was revealed when the time travel events of the previous season lead to the accidental arrival of Elsa (Georgina Haig) from the Enchanted Forest of the past to present-day Storybrooke. As she searches for her sister Anna (Elizabeth Lail) with the aid of the main characters, they encounter the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell). Meanwhile, Regina seeks the Author of Henry's Once Upon a Time book so that she can finally have her happy ending. However, later on Mr. Gold returns, with the help of Cruella De Vil (Victoria Smurfit), Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten), and Ursula (Merrin Dungey), has his own plan to rewrite the rules governing the fates of all heroes and villains. Henry and Emma race to restore reality and the truth before the twisted inversion becomes permanent. However, the price leads to the ultimate sacrifice.

Season 5 (2015–16)

The fifth season was announced on May 7, 2015, and premiered on September 27, 2015. The first volume ran from September to December 2015, and the second volume from March to May 2016. The characters embark on a quest to Camelot to find the Sorcerer Merlin (Elliot Knight) in order to free Emma from the powers of an ancient darkness that threatens to destroy everything. To complicate matters, King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) is determined to forever alter the balance between light and darkness using the legendary Excalibur. As history and destiny collide, unsuspected consequences lead the characters to the Underworld where they encounter souls of those with unfinished business and must face Hades (Greg Germann). In an attempt to restore order to the chaos that has culminated, the characters' dangerous manipulations of magic lead to an exacerbation of the war between light and darkness, with the separation of Regina and her Evil Queen persona, as well as the arrival of Dr. Jekyll (Hank Harris) and Mr. Hyde (Sam Witwer).

Season 6 (2016-17)

The sixth season was announced on March 3, 2016, and premiered on September 25, 2016. The characters must defend Storybrooke from the combined threat of Mr. Hyde and an unleashed Evil Queen and the mysterious fate of saviors leads to Emma learning about Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz). The ongoing war between light and darkness ultimately leads to the arrival of the creator of the Dark Curse, the Black Fairy (Jaime Murray) as well as the final battle that was prophesied before the casting of the original curse.

Season 7 (2017-18)

In May 2017, the series was renewed for a final seventh season consisting of 22 episodes, which marked a soft reboot. Years later, Lucy (Alison Fernandez) arrives in the fictional neighborhood of Hyperion Heights in Seattle, Washington with her Once Upon a Time book to find her father Henry Mills (Andrew J. West) who is needed by his family. Characters from the New Enchanted Forest were brought to Hyperion Heights under a new curse and are caught in a rising conflict involving Cinderella (Dania Ramirez) and Lady Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar) whose dangerous history with Mother Gothel (Emma Booth) is revealed as well as the agendas of Dr. Facilier (Daniel Francis). Two worlds collide when the arrival of Wish Realm Rumplestiltskin and Wish Henry Mills as they plot and culminates on every characters' happy endings by separating them in a separate realms into their own separate storybooks, leading to someone making the ultimate sacrifice.


Season Episodes Originally aired (U.S. dates) Nielsen ratings
First aired Last aired Viewers (millions) Viewers rank 18–49 rating/share 18-49 rank
1 22 October 23, 2011 May 13, 2012 11.71 28 4.1/10 18
2 22 September 30, 2012 May 12, 2013 10.24 35 3.6/9 18
3 22 September 29, 2013 May 11, 2014 9.38 35 3.3/8 12
4 22 September 28, 2014 May 10, 2015 8.98 50 3.2/7 17
5 23 September 27, 2015 May 15, 2016 6.32 69 2.2 34
6 22 September 25, 2016 May 14, 2017 4.39 105 1.5/5 70
7 22 October 6, 2017 May 18, 2018 TBA TBA TBA TBA

Once Upon a Time's first season received "generally favorable" reviews from critics. Metacritic gave it a score of 66 out of 100 based on 26 reviews. The pilot episode was watched by 12.93 million viewers and achieved an adult 18–49 rating/share of 4.0/10. The second season premiered on September 30, 2012, to an audience of 11.36 million viewers, while the third season began on September 29, 2013, opening to 8.52 million viewers. In May 2014, ABC renewed the show for its fourth season, premiering in September 2014 to an audience of 9.47 million viewers. The series was renewed for a fifth season in May 2015 and for a sixth season in March 2016. On May 11, 2017, ABC renewed the series for a 22-episode seventh season. In February 2018, it was announced the seventh season would serve as the final season of the series.


Development and production


Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis conceived the show in 2004 before joining the writing staff of Lost, but wanted to wait until that series was over to focus on this project.

The idea is to take these characters that we all know collectively and try to find things about them that we haven't explored before. Sometimes it's a story point, sometimes it's a thematic connection, sometimes it's a dilemma they face in both worlds that is similar. We are not generally retelling the exact same story as the fairy tale world. — Executive producer Adam Horowitz

Eight years before the Once Upon a Time pilot (the two had just completed their work on Felicity, in 2002), Kitsis and Horowitz became inspired to write fairy tales out of a love of "mystery and excitement of exploring lots of different worlds." They presented the premise to networks, but were refused because of its fantastic nature. From their time on Lost, the writers learned to look at the story in a different way, namely that "character has to trump mythology." They explained,

"As people, you've got to see what the void in their heart or in their lives is to care about them ... For us, this was as much about the character journeys and seeing what was ripped from them in coming to Storybrooke – going at it that way as opposed to making it the 'break-the-curse show."

Despite the comparisons and similarities to Lost, the writers intend them to be very different shows. To them, Lost concerned itself with redemption, while Once Upon a Time is about "hope". Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof aids in the development of the series as a consultant, but has no official credit on the show. Kitsis and Horowitz have called him a "godfather" to the series. To differentiate the storytelling from what the audience already knew, the writing staff decided to begin the pilot with the end of the typical Snow White fairytale. Themes concerning family and motherhood were emphasized, in contrast to the focus on fatherhood in Lost. Kitsis and Horowitz sought to write strong female characters, rather than the classic damsel in distress. Horowitz stated their desire to approach each character the same way, asking themselves, "How do we make these icons real, make them relatable?"

The pilot is meant to be the "template of the series".Kitsis confirmed that every week will contain flashbacks between both worlds, as they "love the idea of going back and forth and informing what the character is missing in their life." The writers' desire to present a "mash up" of many small characters can be seen in a scene of the pilot, in which there is a war council featuring Geppetto, Pinocchio, and Grumpy. Horowitz elaborated, "One of the fun things for us coming up with these stories is thinking of ways these different characters can interact in ways they never have before." Since then, the creators have added more elements, and given its ties to Disney, have managed to expand the universe to include more recent material, by throwing out hints that they might look ahead at incorporating characters from Brave and Frozen in future episodes, if they get the green light from Disney. The Season 3 finale introduced Elsa in the final minutes of the episode.

The general premise, importing the Snow White core characters into the "real world", was previously seen on ABC television in the short-lived 1980s comedy The Charmings. The show also has a similar premise to Bill Willingham's ten-year-old comic series Fables, to which ABC bought the rights in 2008 but never made it past planning stages. After Fables fans raised controversy over possible appropriation, the show writers initially denied a link, but later said they may have "read a couple issues" of the comic book but while the two concepts are "in the same playground", they are "telling a different story." Bill Willingham responded to the controversy in an interview, where he stated he did not feel the show was plagiarism and said: "Maybe they did remember reading Fables back then, but didn't want to mention it because we've become a very litigious people."