With a fully-functional diner, antique-filled pawnshop and Snow White’s cozy two-storey apartment, the set of “Once Upon a Time” is every bit as magical as it seems on TV.
I was lucky enough to visit the soundstage in Burnaby, B.C., where the hit CTV show films most of its indoor scenes, including the ones in Granny’s Diner and the back room of Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop. (The exterior shots of Storybrook’s main street and the famous clock tower are shot in nearby Steveston).
(Images courtesy of Disney)
Mary Margaret’s Apartment
After visiting Mary Margaret (Snow White) and Emma Swan’s apartment, it’s not hard to see why the pair would much rather be at home than stuck in Fairytale Land. With its exposed beams, hardwood floors and rustic charm, the cozy apartment is as warm and inviting as its inhabitants.
The apartment is a fully-dressed two-storey set, yet the show hasn’t yet shot upstairs because it is difficult to get cameras on the second level, says executive producer Steve Pearlman, who showed us around the set.
From the gas stove where Mary Margaret and Emma boil the kettle for a cup of tea, to the sink where they wash their dishes, everything in the apartment is fully functional, which is not always the case on TV sets.
Even though the audience will never see all the quaint details – such as the books and ornaments adorning the shelves and the fully stocked cupboards – Pearlman says it helps the actors get a sense of who their characters are.
There’s even a bathtub behind a glass door at the rear of the kitchen!
With its fully stocked counter full of cakes, biscuits and candies, checkered floors, Formica tables and red booths, not to mention a (very reasonably priced) menu board hanging above the counter, it’s hard to believe you’re not in a real restaurant when you step into Granny’s Diner.
The exterior of the diner matches that of a real building in Steveston but all the indoor scenes are shot here. (A façade of Storybrook’s main street, built to a three quarter scale, is across from the set to make it look like there is a real street outside of the window).
The permanent set also has a fully functional kitchen in the back and a walk-in freezer that was recently built for a scene where Ruby got stuck inside (the claw marks from her wolf self trying to escape are prominently imprinted on the door!).
While the diner is quite large, Pearlman says it is necessary so all of the cameras, cast and crew are able to fit in. The whole bar is also completely movable.
Now if only those delicious cakes on the counter were real!
Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop (the back room)
While the exterior and main room of Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop are located in a rented store front in Steveston, the back room is housed on the soundstage.
The dark, musty room is filled with antique treasures, a small bed and a giant wooden spinning wheel that “belongs” to Rumpelstiltskin.
Also tucked away here is Belle’s chipped cup, which first appeared in Fairytale land and is now one of Mr. Gold’s prized possessions.
The set of puppets that were once Jiminy Cricket’s parents are also kept here.
Quite fittingly, the office belonging to Regina and the Evil Queen felt a lot colder than the rest of the set.
The striking room is completely monochromatic, with black and white birch-patterned wallpaper, giant black columns, a white marble-looking desk and black and white geometric floor.
Pearlman says the only colour that has ever been used in the room, has been red – in the form of red apples, of course.
The pilot episode of “Once Upon A Time” featured a scene with Rumplestiltskin in a cave, shot on location at a mine an hour and 15 minutes away from Vancouver. Since it’s not practical to travel that far every time they needed such a shot, a replica cave was built inside the soundstage.
Even though it has only been used for Rumplestiltskin’s cave once, the show has gotten a lot of use out of this set – including as the Storybrook mines (a S-shaped roller coaster track was built to accommodate a mine car), the Queen’s dungeon, an underground pit where Cora threw Emma and Mary Margaret and the site where the dwarves mine diamonds.