Adaptation Distillation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Doomed planet. Desperate scientists. Last hope. Kindly couple."

All-Star Superman telling Superman's Super-Hero Origin in 4 panels.

Some adaptations take a complex character or situation and greatly simplify it, removing elements the producer believed to be unnecessary. This effect is more common when adapting from a long-running series, especially if it hasn't had a singular vision over the years.

Compare Compressed Adaptation, which deals more along the lines of a direct adaptation and is about all the stuff that is cut out along the way to make this trope happen.

Contrast with Pragmatic Adaptation: in a distillation, a complex story is simplified, without much substantive change. In a Pragmatic Adaptation, the story is changed with the shift in medium. Also contrast Adaptation Expansion. When a story element is removed, but its effects aren't, that's Adaptation Explanation Extrication.

Examples of Adaptation Distillation include:

Anime and Manga

  • Black Butler: The anime diverges from the manga very early in the series, having little material to work with at the time. This ends up with the entire cast being tame & simple, lacking the mangas years of character development. Grell has the most notable personality difference between the two mediums.
  • The 2122-page Akira manga was condensed into a 120-minute movie by ending it 3/5 of the way through (the manga itself was not completed at the time), eliminating subplots and fusing several scenes together.
  • The Road to 2002 animated adaptation of Captain Tsubasa, the premise was to cover the first manga series up to the 3rd manga series (the titular Road to 2002), but in practice is merely a rushed retelling of the beginning of the manga series and altering the many sub-plots along the way to catch up with the later manga series; to wit: all romantic subplots from the manga were dropped, even the one involving the protagonist himself who would be married by the 2002 arc, some Love Interests for the guys were introduced, only to provide support as they never went anywhere, while other girls weren’t lucky enough to even exist in this adaptation. Removing the romance wouldn’t be so bad if originally it wasn’t one of the main forces keeping and inspiring the guys to continue playing soccer, but is, and by removing it several events had to be altered or to be downright ignored.
  • Mazinger Z: The anime removed many unnecessary characters (such like the Inspector Ankokuji, the Gamia or the twins Loru and Lori) and storylines and streamlined several stories (like the Lorelei story), trying to make the plot more cohesive and coherent.
  • Similar to the above example, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind ends at around volume two of the seven volume manga.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion seems to be going this route, if the first movie is anything to go by. Not so much the second, though...
    • The manga also counts in this category, as it removes a lot of the anime's more superfluous scenes (as well as adding some of its own), streamlines angel battles, and removes a high quotient of Mind Screw scenes. However, some of the characters have their personalities and backgrounds altered, so there is some Adaptation Decay to it.
  • Anime Compilation Movies are like this. The Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy, especially the third installment, Encounters In Space is a particularly good example.
  • The film version of Leiji Matsumoto's Galaxy Express 999 - not so much a compilation as a new adaptation of the original manga series - cuts out much of the unnecessary melodramatic elements of the original to focus on the core story-arc, while at the same time expanding on Tetsuro's quest to get revenge on Count Mecha.
  • The live-action series of Ouran High School Host Club was this to and the anime that came before it, given how it's only 13 episodes long. It cuts about half of the material from the anime.
  • Astro Boy's long history is rife with examples. While the first anime series generally had low production values (it was the first animated TV series produced in Japan, so it took them a while to get the hang of it) and the heavier themes of the manga were often toned down for mass consumption, a few of the stories adapted from the manga were much tighter than the originals. The 1980s anime had the same problems as the first, but added the character of Atlas (actually an amalgam of three different characters from the manga), a complex recurring villain who tied several episodes together into a single overriding story arc. Then came the 2003 series which, while still fairly episodic by modern anime standards, had a continuous storyline revolving around the struggles between humanity and robotkind tying together classic stories from the manga, greatly expanded the role of Astro's father, Dr. Tenma and featured animation quality similar to that used in Tezuka Productions' acclaimed theatrical release Metropolis. In a non-animated example, the Sankei Newspaper comic strip version, originally a continuation of the story from the first anime, turned into a continuity reboot after Astro Time Travelled back to the (then) present, eventually died and then the time of his creation rolled around again. This version greatly expanded on Astro's backstory and his relationship with Dr. Tenma. And then there is the Ultimate Universe version created by Naoki Urasawa (of Monster fame) for his futuristic suspense-thriller manga Pluto. Then we have the 2009 animated movie by IMAGI but distributed for American audiences... definitely the farthest away from the original storyline, only keeping the key points from the Origin Story.
    • Then we have the GBA game, Astro Boy Omega Factor. It takes almost every Osamu Tezuka character and weaves them into one giant, all-encompassing storyline. It manages to do justice to the man's entire career. And it plays well, to boot.
  • The director of the film of Ghost in the Shell turned 300-odd pages of manga into an 80-minute movie by removing everything not related to the main plot, changing some scenes, removing many of the characters and changing the personality of the characters who were left in.
  • The live action films of Death Note keeps many of the best parts of the original story while changing several things, including giving Soichiro Yagami more prominence and letting him live in the end, giving a larger focus on the murder of Misa's family as a way of making her character seem less shallow, and most of all cutting the Mello and Near arc entirely and having L win personally instead.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho condenses the events of the first two volumes, in which Yusuke helps out spirits in stories completely unrelated to the battles of the later manga, into five episodes, all centered around the essential events; 1)Yusuke dies, 2)Yusuke finds out what he has to do to come back to life, 3)Yusuke helps his old rival Kuwabara, 4)Yusuke sacrifices his work toward resurrection to save Keiko and as a result 5)comes back to life. It also condensed the ending into a single episode (cutting out a lot of pointless stuff including an out-of-nowhere fight with human terrorists), and actually showed Yusuke's fight with Yomi to its conclusion (when in the manga, it abruptly stops at the end of Chapter 169).
    • Also, the original manga ending had a lengthy explanation about how evil demons were a Vocal Minority, humans had made them what they were, and Spirit World authorities had been brainwashing a lot of demons into committing crimes so that Spirit World could look good. This soiled the point of peace between humans and demons being established, as it made the demons look much too blameless. The anime cuts all this out, and both sides (humans and demons) are left much more even in terms of fault.
  • The Familiar of Zero's 1st season condenses the first few light novels into a fast-moving, lighthearted tsunderes and magic series, removing some rather awkward scenes. The VAs also define the characters well.
  • This seems to be what Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is going for.
    • As an added bonus, it tweaks many minor things and event orders, which shakes things up and keeps it from being a precise retread of the manga, without disrupting the overall spirit and character of the manga.
  • The manga adaptation of Breath of Fire IV. Of note, this is a condensation of a 40- to 80-hour video game with a very large number of Fetch Quests, two largely separate plotlines that don't interweave until close to the end, and Multiple Endings into a five-volume (and around 175 pages per volume) manga series. Just getting things sorted into a linear storyline was impressive in and of itself; even more impressive, they managed to incorporate both the Good Ending and the Bad End into a linear plot.
  • Hellsing Ultimate rearranges certain events and streamlines or expands others (particularly the fight scenes) in order to give it a more fast-paced and dramatic narrative flow. Most notably, the Major's "I Love War" speech is moved from the departure of the airships from Brazil to frame before the assualt on London.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie First, which took the first season, removed a lot of the less plot important bits (such as a huge chunk of the earlier episodes), cut out nearly all the secondary characters, made it more consistent with later seasons (The Staff and Cannon modes are now previously installed in Raising Heart, as opposed to being forms that Nanoha thought up), animated a lot of the more important All There in the Manual stuff (Like the full backstory of Fate), and showed the entire Start of Darkness of Precia as opposed to just hinting at it, turning her from the one-dimensional Complete Monster of the series to a more fleshed out Tragic Villain.
  • The anime adaptation of Aoi Hana concentrates mostly on the lead characters, with the relationship between Fumi and Yasuko taking central stage. This leads to it having more focus than the original manga, since Shimura loves to introduce loads of extraneous characters with their own back stories.
  • The Black Lagoon OVA "Roberta's Blood Trail" had the tough task of adapting a manga story arc ("El Baile De La Muerte") that most fans agree went on too long and suffered from poor pacing. For reference, the OVA lasts about as long as the Japan arc from the second season, but has to adapt twice as many chapters. The OVA compresses the narrative without cutting information, changes the order of scenes for dramatic emphasis. Significantly, the action scenes that took up so many manga volumes are shorter, more comprehensible, and more exciting when animated.
  • Ayashi no Ceres was compressed from a 14 volume manga to a 24 episode anime, leaving out several chunks of the original manga. To make up for this, either entire expeditions of Aya's group to find the hagoromo in various cities and prefectures were left out, or if the details were a bit more important, they were fused together with other details.
  • The first season of the Ah! My Goddess anime essentially cuts out everything that's not relevant to Keiichi and Belldandy's romance, with the exception of the Lord of Terror arc, and in so doing, manages to develop the romance farther than the manga has ever gone in 24 episodes (with Urd and Skuld each getting a side story to round out the season). When it was picked up for a second season, by contrast, they simply did a Compressed Adaptation of several manga storylines put together in no particular order.
  • Dragon Ball Kai cut out a lot of the Filler that plagued the original Dragonball Z, reducing it from 194 episodes (through the end of Cell Games Saga) down to 97.
  • The Idolm@ster - The anime combines story elements from all of the game routes, and Miki, Takane, and Hibiki are already part of 765 Pro from the start instead of eventually defecting from 961 Pro.
  • The manga adaptation of Code Geass Lelouch Of The Rebellion simplifies and compresses the series' main storyline in eight volumes and removes most of the less meaningful subplots or characters. It also removes the giant mechas and the action sequences that accompany them entirely, which was probably done because that works much better in animated format than it would on page.
  • The Trigun anime is significantly distilled from the original manga. For instance, the anime doesn't even feature Livio as a character, and many of the Gung Ho Guns only get a few minutes of screentime, or are replaced entirely. To be fair, though, the production of the anime began partway through the manga's lifetime, and since about three print issues can be squeezed into a single aired episode, it quickly outpaced the source material.
    • In addition to the distillation, the anime is in many regards just different from the source manga. Some of the bonus gaiden stories appeared as filler material for the first few episodes, probably to give the manga a month or two to go on with storyline before beginning with the story itself. One can fairly easily see exactly where the divergence begins; most of the early story arcs are nearly identical in both media, even down to having the exact same lines, but around where Monev the Gale first appears, the two stores take somewhat different directions.
  • The Rosario + Vampire animé is extremely guilty of this trope and is probably one of the most distilled animé adaptations of all time (thank you GONZO [sarcasm]). Entire arcs are skipped over, important details about the characters are completely left out and the animé is filled with so much Fan Service and panty shots that the fanservice basically becomes the plot.
    • To be more specific, the first season followed the manga explicitly, minus a few characters and plots that had to relevance to the fair portion of the manga adapted to that point, and could have been easily used as a jumpoff point to switch to the manga save for the omitted details. The second season is Overtook the Manga incarnate, to the point it has no ties to actual canon save a few characters (and even they deviate from the manga by quite a bit) and essentially non-canon in all respects.

Comic Books

  • The Punisher MAX is an example of distillation, although it's arguably just a set of "hardboiled" crime stories with only Frank Castle (and an Ennis take on Castle's backstory) to make it "Punisher," which works very well. (In "The Slavers" though it works too well, especially when you see the Downer Ending.)
  • The entire Ultimate Marvel line of comics.
  • All-Star Superman is intended as Adaptation Distillation of the Golden and Silver Age Superman, and it's widely regarded as doing a great job at it. Alan Moore's run on Supreme does the same thing (albeit with a Superman analogue).


  • The film versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)| and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets retain the dialogue almost word for word and just about every important scene from the books is left in, with only a few merged with other scenes or removed from the story.
  • All of the film and animated versions of the X-Men comic book series have involved considerable amounts of Adaptation Distillation.
  • The Last of the Mohicans is an extremely distilled version of a very long and rather complicated novel. Omitted portions include redundant portions where the women are captured and quickly freed, a deranged white man at the Huron camp, a shooting contest, and Natty Bumpo disguised as a bear. The changes generally streamlined and improved on the novel.
  • The Lord of the Rings is often considered easier to follow in movie format as opposed to the written version, since many of the plot's more complex nuances were omitted from the films, leaving only the core of the story. On the other hand, there have been loud grumblings from fans of the books about some of the things that were left out as well as some changes that didn't make any sense.
  • The movie The Towering Inferno was based on two books, The Glass Inferno by Scortia and Robinson and The Tower by Stern, because studio executives correctly realized that the market would not have supported two simultaneous films about buildings going up in flames. There is enough material left out to make at least another whole story.
  • The 1980 Flash Gordon film cut out the extraneous parts of the original comic book and adventure serial, making for a better adventure movie. It also cut out racism against black people, but oddly enough, not Asians, although even that was done so over-the-top it had to be tongue-in-cheek, which, apparently, makes it okay.
  • The film adaptation of the graphic novel Road to Perdition merges all the anonymous hitmen sent after the protagonists into a single character.
  • The film adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel Jaws stripped away most of the book's land-bound subplots and condensed the climactic shark-hunt to a single voyage. It also made the shark a far more shadowy nemesis in the early going, although this was due more to special effects restraints than artistic vision. All of this significantly increases the viewer's tension.
  • Layer Cake definitely comes across as a distillation of the novel, being much more tightly plotted, and notably, when the author of the novel, J.J. Connoley, attempted writing a screen play, it was several hundred pages long, and thus he wisely left this task to Mathew Vaughn.
  • The film version of The Godfather eliminates about two thirds of Mario Puzo's novel to concentrate solely on the core story of Michael Corleone, dropping most of the Johnny Fontane plot and all of the Lucy Mancini storyline (Lucy Mancini, Sonny's mistress has a tiny non-speaking part in the movie). The result is a much more fast-paced and interesting work. The sections regarding Vito Corleone's rise to power were relegated (and fleshed out in The Godfather II.
  • The original Conan the Barbarian stories were somewhat unsuited to adaptation to film, and the original script for the movie of Conan the Barbarian featured lots of huge fight scenes that would have been expensive to shoot. John Milius took both as inspirations for writing the movie, preserving the feel of R.E. Howard's world without the unfortunate tropes.
  • The Twilight movie condensed the plot.
  • Multiple reviewers of the film adaptation of Iron Man had claimed this, saying the film to be a distillation of everything that makes Iron Man intriguing: all the Jerk with a Heart of Gold and The Alcoholic tendencies, with none of the changes that have happened over time.
    • To a lesser extent, the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in general.
    • The Avengers draws heavily from not only the mainstream Avengers comics, but The Ultimates as well. Loki is still used as the reason behind the team's formation, but a number of elements (such as Hawkeye and Black Widow being S.H.I.E.L.D. black-ops agents and founding members of the team) come from the Ultimate universe.
  • The Name of the Rose also stripped away all of the description of dreams, historical lessons and other scenes not directly related to the main plot.
  • The first Left Behind movie makes the opening attack less of a non-event (by condensing the amount of time between it and the Rapture), plays up the mystery in the first half, puts Buck in a position where he has a lot more influence over the nation, and streamlines the hell out of the book's rather ping-pong opening sequence. That said, it's still not well-liked.
  • A History of Violence: The original graphic novel featured a finger in a jar on a boss' necklace, an overly-devoted wife who immediately had no problem with her husband's previous life, and a brother being kept alive while having parts of him cut off. Cronenberg's take on the story removed the more "comic-book-y" aspects of the graphic novel, while adding more depth to the characters, and replacing the Happily Ever After ending with a more Bittersweet Ending.
  • The Cider House Rules is a considerable distillation of the original novel by John Irving—who also wrote the screenplay of The Film of the Book.
  • In Mildred Pierce, the early part of the film follows the book fairly closely, but once Mildred opens her restaurant, things go in completely different directions. Among other things, the novel contains no murder. Instead it follows Veda as she builds up a singing career, largely by sleeping her way to the top.
  • The Silent Hill movie is pretty much this applied to the plotline of the first game. The pseudo-Christian elements were kept but highly simplified, the protagonist is functionally a mix of the heroes from the first three games (Radha Mitchell looks exactly like Heather from 3), the "all that matters is the person I love" mentality of Harry and James, and the diabolical force running the whole show were tremendously simplified, but no less evil for it.
  • The 2009 Star Trek movie took decades of Backstory culled from the show's various series and distilled it to fit with the Origin Story of the alternate Enterprise crew.
  • The 1994 film of The Shadow. As there were two separate versions of the character running at the same time, the film instead chose to combine the most well-known elements of both—namely the radio Shadow's identity and abilities, combined with the magazine Shadow's network and attire. Several characters were removed entirely.
  • The Secret of Moonacre, the movie based on The Little White Horse, also mixes the two concepts. Basically, Gabor Csupo took the book's characters, and went off and did his own thing. To be fair, however, the original book really doesn't lend itself that well to a cinematic adaptation.
  • Superman: Doomsday was both this and a Pragmatic Adaptation of the The Death of Superman, Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen storylines which, when combined, spanned over 60 issues of story. Granted, a lot of that was extraneous storyline for followers of the continuity, but they also managed to effectively compress two or three of the four fake Supermen into a single character and used the audience familiar Luthor as it's creator in place of multiple entities that would have had to be introduced and made the conflict about stopping him as opposed to an alien invasion. It still managed to hit the important points of those series.
  • The film version of Film/Wanted had the plot revolve around a secret organization of high-profile assassins. Main character Wesley Gibson/The Killer was in fact an assassin in the comic, but the Fraternity was a shadowy cabal of comicbook-style supervillains, who are presently in control of the entire planet after having killed all the superheroes and then altered the very fabric of reality in 1986. Its membership is in possession of superscience, alien technologies, and magical powers, and partakes in Complete Monster-worthy atrocities on a regular basis. The comic's writer Mark Millar was actually pretty happy with the transition result.
  • The animated version of the Batman arc "Under the Red Hood" compressed several issues of story into one animated movie. It removed several of the more outlandish moments and origins and created a tighter storyline.
  • The novel of Get Shorty features a handful of scenes written from the perspective of characters who work in the movie industry who view the scenes as though they are scenes in a script. The film takes those scenes and shoots them to pitch-perfection. The rest of the movie was mildly altered, but John Travolta stood in the way of any substantial Executive Meddling.
  • The film version of Jurassic Park Many side plots from the book were written out and several characters were combined and their fates change.
    • Most notably, in the film Hammond's character was a kindly old man who just wanted to share the magic of dinosaurs with people. In the novel, he's a manipulative Jerkass who really just wants people's money, and won't listen to anyone's advice about how dangerous the situation is.
    • Some scenes in the book that were left out of the first movie appeared in later movies. The book opens with a scene of a family having a picnic on a beach. A child chases a tiny dinosaur into the forest and then gets attacked by a swarm of them. Another scene has the female character jumping from roof to roof being chased by velociraptors. Those scenes were shown in The Lost World.
  • The Transformers Film Series.
  • The film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy merges two minor characters, Jerry Westerby and Sam Collins, into one. It works well enough for the film, but could be problematic should the studio decide to adapt the rest of the Quest for Karla trilogy, since both Westerby and Collins become major characters (the protagonist and one of the main antagonists, respectively) in the second installment, The Honorable Schoolboy.
  • The animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn is regarded as highly faithful to the text, even though significant parts of the book (such as the poetry and songs) are left out.
  • Despite quite a few things being removed for time and expenses, the film version of Holes is still regarded as faithful to the original book. Of course, Louis Sachar had a big hand in the adaptation.
  • The Hunger Games shortens how long the actual games take, and a few scenes/flashbacks are cut due not being a first-person narrative (on the other hand, others from outside the protagonist's scope are added).
  • Dredd, though not based on any specific Judge Dredd story arc, does a good job compresses elements from various parts of the verse into a rather cohesive whole while remaining much more faithful to the comics than the 1990s adaptation.
  • A Letter to Three Wives was based on the novel Letter to Five Wives. Two wives were taken out, one at the start, the other after the first draft, in order to help tighten the film.


  • William Goldman's The Princess Bride claims to be "the good parts version" of an earlier novel by Simon Morgenstern, turning what was a digression-laden, politics-heavy slog into a fun action-adventure story. In fact, Morgenstern and his unabridged novel are entirely fictitious. This setup allows Goldman to lampoon such authors as Victor Hugo and his ilk. The film distills the story even further, into its purest essence.
  • Similarly to the Warhammer 40,000 PC games, the Gaunt's Ghosts series of novels by Dan Abnett do such a good job portraying the dog-soldiers of the Imperial Guard that the entire tabletop army was revamped to exhibit a competent, technologically-advanced army like that of the Ghosts. It would be so successful that this portrayal would go on to affect later novels by other authors, such as Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain series.
  • Thomas Malory, in Le Morte Darthur distilled an enormous mass of wildly contradictory Arthurian legends into a book that is often regarded as the definitive Arthur story.
  • T.H. White's The Once and Future King is a distillation (and paraphrase) of Le Morte D'Arthur. The reader is actually directed to read Mallory's version to find out the specifics of certain jousts, etc. Tom himself makes an appearance in the final pages, directed by an ancient Arthur to run away from the final battle so that he can record the Arthur's history.
  • Subverted by The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, a book by Neil Gaiman. In the introduction, the author claims it's an attempt to take various elements of various retellings of a certain preexisting Japanese myth, and bring them together in a logical, complete way. It apparently works as the thing turns out great, and the illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano are beautiful to boot... of course, as it turns out, the preexisting myth didn't so much exist at all, which is pretty much standard for Neil Gaiman.

Live-Action TV

  • The eponymous hero of the 1990 series The Flash was an amalgamation of the Silver Age and Post-Crisis Flashes in the comics. While his secret identity was that of Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, some aspects of the character (like his relationship with scientist Dr. Tina McGee and his need to eat insane amounts of food to maintain his powers) were incorporated from the character of the later Flash, Wally West.
  • The miniseries version of Hogfather and The Color Of Magic managed to retain most of the good material from the original novel, though it was apparently hard to follow for those who hadn't read the books, as it assumed you already knew most of the backstory. In this case, the distillation is probably because Terry Prachett was heavily involved in both productions, even having cameo appearances in the last scenes of Hogfather and the first of Colour.
    • One specific example: They based the Patrician on his later appearances (including Wuffles), instead of his eventually rather contradictory appearance in the actual early books. The "Machiavellian Vampire Flamingo" Vetinari was introduced approximately at the same time as the name "Vetinari". In fact, if it wasn't for Word of God saying that it was just badly written, people would still be arguing whether it was supposed to be the same Patrician or not.
  • The J-Drama form of Hana Yori Dango managed to compress thirty-six volumes of manga written over a period of eleven years into a much smoother story, combining characters and editing plot arcs as necessary.
  • The Nobuta wo Produce J-drama was based on a book whose titular character was an overweight, unattractive boy, and the main character was a cold-hearted Jerkass who only wanted to produce Nobuta because he was bored. In the drama, Nobuta was a lovable Woobie girl who wasn't even capable of smiling properly, Shuji was misguided and selfish rather than a cold jerk, and the character of Akira was introduced. The resulting drama had an ending that was not saddening as the book, had beautiful cinematography, and mind-blowing plot and characterization.
  • The US game show Minute to Win It spun off versions in Australia and the Netherlands version, both of which manage to cram twice as much gameplay into the same hour (which also fixes the numerous pacing problems of the original) by gutting out all the Padding, Filler, reminding the viewers of what just happened three minutes earlier, and Commercial Break Cliffhangers.
  • The Incredible Hulk: A very loose adaptation of the Marvel Comics character. The comics' supporting characters and villains are left out and only once during the series did the Hulk battle another superhuman character. Also, for the majority of the series, the only sci-fi or fantasy elements were the Hulk himself. With the exception of two TV movies, the rest of the Marvel Universe wasn't even referenced and the name Hulk was rarely used onscreen to refer to Banner's alter ego. The format for the show was a loose adaptation of Les Misérables with David Banner as Jean Valjean and Jack McGee as Inspector Javert. Comparisons to the Kung Fu TV series are also common with Banner as Kwai Chang Caine as is Richard Kimble of The Fugitive. The show focused on character drama instead of deliberate superhero-style adventure.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Bonnie in the TV series is a combination of the book version of Bonnie and Meredith; Meredith's traits are folded into Bonnie and bitchy Caroline takes Meredith's place in the trio.
  • The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries cuts most of The Hardy Boys book series' supporting cast. The Hardys' mother, Laura, is dead, and the boys live with their widowed father and Aunt Gertrude, and the only friends from the books that show up are Callie Shaw and Chet Morton — and Chet, only in two episodes. In second season, the series is distilled even more, with even Aunt Gertrude and Callie getting cut.

New Media

  • Parodied with the in 5 seconds YouTube videos, which cut down the targeted film to its most important points. The quality varies somewhat widely from video to video though. This may represent an inadvertent Deconstruction, as some basic biology knowledge will tell you that it is unhealthy to remove all the fat from the body.
    • A lot of Rule of Funny goes into those, so it's hard to really call it "distillation", in the traditional sense.
  • Also on YouTube, " 30 seconds and re-enacted by bunnies!"
  • MS Paint Masterpieces, a retelling of the Mega Man mythos does a very good job at telling the story of the games, as well as compositing the Gameboy games and Wonderswan games into a coherent whole.
  • Some of The Abridged Series out there can do this, not just successfully (or unsuccessfully) turning the story into a comedy but also greatly simplifying the story.

Tabletop Games

  • Parodied in the GURPS: Goblins RPG sourcebook; a sample adventure includes "The Abridged Macbeth, With Just The Witches and the Fighting". The entire script is one page long.


  • When Edna Ferber's Show Boat was made into the famous Broadway musical in 1927, it wasn't common at all for such long and convoluted novels to be made into musicals. The result still ran very long for a Broadway show, and so has been subjected to various levels of Adaptation Distillation in all revivals (and in the 1936 movie, the only faithful film version).
  • The play Auntie Mame is an Adaptation Distillation of Patrick Dennis's pseudo-autobiographical novel. To quote Patrick Dennis:

"Not every episode of my book is in the play. To get them all in - not that every one would be worth dramatizing - would require passing out box luncheons, blankets, and tooth brushes to a rough-and-ready audience of slavish theatre-goers weaned on Eugene O'Neill and the Ring Series. But an astonishing number of the episodes in the book are in the play; enough so that the casual reader is convinced that every word of the novel has been translated to the stage. If that isn't catching the 'spirit' of a book, I don't know what is."

  • Victor Hugo's original Les Misérables novel contained, among other tangents, a lengthy retelling of the Battle of Waterloo. Many critics agree that you can skip this section of the book and pretty much miss nothing. The extremely popular musical adaptation removed such elements and focused on the core story and characters. Sadly, it did also lose a lot of character development, and a bit of the plot.
  • A double example: British playwright Christopher Bond took the most exciting elements of the Sweeney Todd myth (the razors, the chair, the pies) and added plot elements from The Revenger's Tragedy and The Count of Monte Cristo (as well as excellent dialogue) to create a first-rate melodrama with real character motivation. Then, Stephen Sondheim took Bond's play, fixed the weakest plot moments and set the whole thing to an amazing musical score to create Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a first-rate musical tragedy.
  • Herman Wouk distilled his novel The Caine Mutiny into the play The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. A made-for-TV version of this play directed by Robert Altman appeared in 1988, but the more famous 1954 film version is a very different distillation of the novel.

Theme Parks

  • The "Dark Rides" at Disney Theme Parks that adapt movies in the Disney Animated Canon take the parts of the movies that recreate the feel and emotions of the movie while generally squeezing the plot into a few rooms.
    • Occasionally they'll throw in some extra stuff, such as making "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" Darker and Edgier than the animated feature that inspired it.
    • The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure takes the approach of focusing entirely on the film's songs, though coming at the cost of Ursula gaining mostly Offscreen Villainy.

Video Games

  • Mortal Kombat 9: The story mode is basically the plot of the first three games condensed into one, while cutting the fat away. While there are changes (some quite major) because of the Timey Wimey Ball, most of the stuff that happened in the old games still happens in this one.
  • Arcade game manufacturer Global VR lived on this trope by making arcade games that are distillations of Electronic Arts games. Examples include Madden NFL, EA Sports PGA Tour Golf, EA Sports NASCAR Racing, and three Need for Speed games: Hot Pursuit 2- which was rechristened "Need for Speed GT"- plus NFS Underground and NFS Carbon as well. They've also done distillations of UBI Soft games as well- witness Paradise Lost, a rail shooter based on Far Cry and Blazing Angels.
  • Super Robot Wars will take the plots of the various series it crosses over, cuts out the filler and leaves only the important plots, all while mixing it up in subtle ways.
    • Subtle ways? It's like they took the plots and put them in a blender. It's less cutting out and more with everything happening at the same time things go much faster, though not everything happens as you would expect with everything interacting.
      • Z deserves special mention because the less important plot points and events were put back in the Special Disk expansion. The main game was so crowded not everything would fit.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is an extremely large storyverse, with literally hundreds of novels, graphic novels, rulebooks, and other sources of backstory, some of which Retcon older works. For the PC, they distilled this all down into the excellent Dawn of War series of Real Time Strategy games, which manage to capture the gritty feel of the game perfectly.
  • Those who have played both the original arcade version of Gradius III and its SNES conversion typically regard the latter to be superior, save for the much greater slowdown, and a much more forgiving challenge.
  • Blast Works is, at its core, a port of the freeware PC Shoot'Em Up Tumiki Fighters. The main focus of it is the extra-extensive editor, which lets you design many things such as the player ship, background objects, bullet patterns, enemies, and even entire levels. Making this feature even better is the ability to upload and download such creations via the game's official website.
  • DJ MAX Portable, a PSP version of the DJ MAX Online series, found itself becoming its own subseries; while the online versions died off (though a new version, DJ MAX Trilogy, is slated for release this month), the Portable series spawned 4 additional titles, one of which is the first American release in a line of previously-South Korea-only titles, and even said Korea-exclusive titles have Japanese- and English-language options, which shows that Pentavision recognizes its international fanbase (and probably didn't have enough funds to make non-Korean releases until recently).
  • When Sega developed Fantasy Zone II DX (the System 16 version of Fantasy Zone II), they took the multi-screen concept of the original and simplified it into a dual world concept.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is an overly simplified version of and at some points directly contradictory to its source material, Vampire: The Masquerade. But in most cases it is pretty clear that its differences are for the better, since a video game that is completely faithful to its tabletop origins will have some obvious issues. The main problem is that the Word of God states the video game's story is canon, which presents some setting issues as that means some characters (especially Caine) would have had to be in two places at once.
    • It is never really established how far back from the end of the oWoD storyline the end of the game is, even a few days would give the characters ample travel time.
  • The Darkness video game trimmed down the first couple of story arcs from the comic, altered several characters, removed the supervillains, got rid of that stupid looking armor, and gave Mike Patton the voice of the titular Darkness. The result is a damn good revenge story loosely connected to the comic canon, but doing a far better job of making the player feel for Jackie in a way the comic was never able to. When the game hits you emotionally, it hurts. Of course, the enemies trying to beat you is another matter entirely... Nintendo Hard it isn't.
    • Then again, being billed as a horror story where you play the monster, it fits the premise for Jackie to be hard to kill while in Darkness mode. Caught in the light, he dies easy.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is known for taking the storyline of Marvel Comics' Civil War Crisis Crossover, and keeping the interesting central ideas while jettisoning a lot of the padding that made the original so difficult to read.
    • It also has the advantage of picking a side. Neither one, since the conflict between pro- and anti-registration is seen as petty and pointless once bigger events start happening.
  • The Xbox port of Doom 3 had a few levels cut short or removed, particularly the filler segments such as the outdoor area in the second level.
  • Although it too had some features removed due to hardware and control limitations, the PSX adaptation of Quake II stayed truer to the PC original than the N64's Pragmatic Adaptation, while adding some new interesting areas and enemies, such as a Vore-like arachnid enemy.
  • The games in the Batman: Arkham series have essentially taken the different forms of media that Batman and his world have appeared in, selected the best bits from each one, glued them together, filed the edges down and then cast the player as Batman. It's generally considered one of the key reasons the games have been so successful.

Western Animation

  • The DC Animated Universe, from Batman the Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited, was generally of this kind.
  • Relatedly, the Robin from Teen Titans is essentially an amalgam of Dick Grayson (Robin I) and the better aspects of Jason Todd (Robin II, who doesn't exist in the DCAU), along with the costume and general look of Tim Drake (Robin III).
    • Cyborg and Raven were also a bit more interesting in the cartoon. Both had far less Wangst, and Raven also had powers that were actually useful in combat (in the comic, she became nothing but The Empath and was often the first one taken out by bad guys despite her considerable power in her earliest appearances).
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold is a Lighter and Softer take on the greater DC Universe outside of the "Big Three," and gets the core personalities of the characters it features down pat while improving some others. Aquaman is a Large Ham Boisterous Bruiser in the show, unlike the comics, but it fits better with the tone. The show's also packed aplenty with Mythology Gags ranging from references to the relatively recent Infinite Crisis and 52 to long-forgotten Golden Age Batman stories. It's essentially the "good parts version" of the entire DC Universe but is still accessible to non-readers of the comics.
    • The show is also more respectful to characters who pass the torch. In the comics, Blue Beetle Ted Kord is shot through the head by a villain after refusing to give in; in B&B, he dies stopping a missile attack on America. Likewise, Ray Palmer had a Heroic BSOD after his wife went nuts and became a murderous villain, handing the Atom mantle to Ryan Choi, who was later killed. In this series, Palmer handed the mantle without the tragedy, but Choi retired himself because he was more of a scientist than a hero.
    • The prior Batman show, The Batman, also managed to get some of this trope in, the show's treatment of Hugo Strange, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and especially Clayface are among some of the most well-regarded things in the show.
  • Young Justice manages to do this, using older characters like Dick Grayson as well as more recent ones like Miss Martian. The show also gives modernized redesigns to some of the campier DC characters. Like The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice also uses numerous shout-outs and mythology gags, as well as a few nods to the 90's comic book of the same name.
  • Lord Of The Rings until the second half of The Two Towers is this incarnate. With the only changes from the book being the omission of Tom Bombadil,Glorfindel being replaced by Legolas (which was then replaced by Arwen for the Live-Action films),and the history of the ring with Sauron learning from the elves rather than the other way around.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man. It adapts the broad strokes of the original Spider-Man comics while bringing in characters, plot elements, and designs from the more recent Ultimate Spider-Man comics and the popular live-action Spider-Man film series, making a cartoon that is recognizable to both older and younger fans.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes cartoon brought several outdated costumes and looks and made them sleeker and more futuristic. For example, Bouncing Boy newly sports spiky hair and goggles and his limbs disappear when he bounces, which looks a lot less ridiculous.
  • The 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon did make one notable improvement. The comics by Eastman and Laird, and most subsequent adaptations, depict Splinter as a rat who learned ninjutsu by copying the movements his human master made while training, before mutating and gaining human characteristics. In the 1980s cartoon, the human master himself is mutated by gaining rat characteristics, and retains all his ninja knowledge, which he then passes on to the Turtles.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades is a rather successful attempt at this, blending elements from the original comic book, 80s cartoon, and Rise of Cobra movie tossed into a blender with The A-Team.
  • Reviews of Transformers Prime commonly state that this show takes many of the good points of the films (intense action scenes and realistic robot designs) while following thematics that were established by Beast Wars or Transformers Animated.
  • ThunderCats (2011) has showrunner, Michael Jelenic articulating this as his general aim for the series. Also, series composer Kevin Kliesch worked under a demand to rearrange and truncate the original's Theme Tune from two minutes to ten seconds while retaining its signature elements.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has also won acclaim from the fans for doing this, drawing on not only the classic Silver Age stories, but a number of the modern elements and even the best bits of The Ultimates to make a show for fans of all ages.