Lost in Imitation

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"Dracula would make a marvelous movie. In fact, nobody has ever made it... all the movies are based on the play.[1]"


A strange form of Adaptation Decay where new adaptations of an original work—generally a work which has inspired countless imitators—actually resemble the previous imitators more than the original. Sometimes the changes are subversive, or done because the original themes are no longer accepted by the audience, but often it's just because the writers think that it's what the audience is used to seeing at this point.

Usually started by a Trope Codifier. May involve Dueling Movies, where The Film of the Book of an imitator inspires a studio to film the original. Also often a result of Adaptation Displacement.

Lost in Imitation can propagate itself in time, in which case what was not lost in the imitation will suffer from severe Popcultural Osmosis.

A common cause of the Unbuilt Trope. Compare Ret Canon, Seinfeld Is Unfunny, Ink Stain Adaptation.

Since the first imitators (who then everyone imitates) change things from the original work, this is strongly related to Sadly Mythtaken.

Examples of Lost in Imitation include:

Comic Books

  • Many comic book characters have this happen, with the changes frequently becoming Ret Canon.
  • In X-Men adaptations, the need to keep the sprawling cast of the comics relatively simple tends to lead to villains who are unassociated in the comics working for whoever the main villain of the adaptation is. This has a tendency to become their default status in other adaptations:
    • In X-Men, almost all adaptations to feature Sabretooth have made him The Dragon to Magneto, despite the comic version of him never having worked for or with Mags. The rare exceptions are Wolverine and the X-Men, in which Sabretooth was simply a Weapon X operative, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which Magneto does not appear and Sabretooth is Wolverine's brother.
    • In comics, Mystique is the leader of the new Brotherhood and has rarely worked for anyone else. Most adaptations have her working for Magneto or Apocalypse. In the 1990s series, she worked for Apocalypse. In X-Men: Evolution, she worked for Magneto until he ditched her, then operated on her own, then joined Apocalypse. In the movieverse, she worked for Magneto until he ditched her in X3 (came after Evo ended).
    • Magneto's reliance on Mystique and/or Sabretooth as The Dragon can also be explained by most adaptations featuring a significantly powered-down version of the Master of Magnetism. In the comics, he's a top-tier threat: strong enough to fight an entire team of X-Men to a standstill (if not stomp them outright) and has a combo plate of powers that let him perform feats well beyond what magnetic fields are theoretically capable of.
    • In the comics, the Juggernaut is Professor X's step-brother and isn't even a mutant, getting his powers from a magic gem, and he originally worked alone or with one partner. Since he's one of the X-Men's most iconic villains he tends to be one of Magneto's henchmen in adaptations, usually not mentioning the nature of his powers and his relationship to Prof. X or actually making him a mutant and/or not related to Xavier at all. It's even partially made it back to the comics: while he's still Xavier's non-mutant stepbrother, writers more familiar with the adaptations than the comics often have him mention being a former member of the Brotherhood. He finally did appear as a member of a short-lived incarnation of the Brotherhood, albeit one largely unconnected to previous versions aside from using the same name; this hasn't stopped artists from drawing him fighting alongside Magneto (which he has never done) in flashbacks.
  • In Spider Man, The Symbiote originally had minimal influence over Peter's mind at best - the reason he gave it up was because it had a habit of taking his (sleeping) body out at night to websling and because he discovered it was alive and planning on merging with him on a genetic level- which freaked him out. In fact, the original comics symbiote had no emotions of its own, but developed them as a result of spending so long bonded to Spider-Man, even sacrificing itself (well, almost) to save its former host after being rejected. Though Eddie Brock, who hated Spider-Man, was able to use it to go against him as Venom, the symbiote still tried to jump ship and return to Spider-Man when Spidey made the offer. In the 90's animated series, the Symbiote was portrayed as having its own, extremely aggressive personality, which was starting to overwrite Peter's as the bond grew stronger, and all adaptions since have taken this up.
    • Also, none of the adaptations since--Ultimate, spectacular cartoon, or film—have kept its origin from "The Secret Wars", where it essentially came from an alien vending machine. The latter two had it come from space, as in the '90s animated series, while the former made it a product of his father's research into a cure for cancer.
  • Some adaptations of The Joker since Batman the Animated Series have drawn from Mark Hamill's performance as the character, particular either the high pitch, slight rasp or both, and definitely the laugh.
  • Most people would not know that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all wore red bandannas and had tails; those two details were altered when the first action figures were made, and have since become standardized. It wasn't until Turtles Forever that the original characters designs were seen outside the comic books.
    • Not to mention the fact that Shredder wasn't the major villain in the original Mirage run. He died in the first issue, and only came back once in canon as a worm colony clone. It was only through the Fred Wolf series that he took on the arch-nemesis position, and any other appearances and allusions to Shredder in the Mirage comics (such as the Shredder Shark monster) came out much, much later.
    • Also, Baxter Stockman is never known to have ever met Shredder in the Mirage comics, but the 4Kids cartoon, which was usually much more true to the comics, has him working for Shredder just as he did in the Fred Wolf show.
    • And the turtles didn't originally say "Cowabunga!" They were much more formal. Just read Leonardo's opening narration, and you'll get an idea.
    • And then there's Splinter, who does not see the turtles as his sons, but as trained assassins to kill Shredder. (There's a reason why they were called the "Ninja" Turtles.) Plus, he wasn't a human-turned rat; he started out as a non-mutated rat.
  • When Robin was introduced in Batman the Animated Series, he was redesigned so that his elf boots and scaly shorts were replaced with pants and a pair of more practical black combat boots, bringing him closer to the then-current Tim Drake look, despite the character being Dick Grayson. Virtually every cartoon to feature Robin since then (The Batman, Teen Titans, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Young Justice) has used a similarly "modern" design rather than using his classic look.
  • As this page analyzes, “If you ask the average person on the street, ‘Where does Clark Kent change into Superman?’, nine out of ten people will answer ‘In a phone booth’”. This particular part of Superman mythology was not originated in the comics, but in "The Mechanical Monsters", a Fleischer Superman Theatrical Cartoons. The page presents another 9 mentions until 1978 (another Fleischer cartoon, 1 Superman Sunday Newspaper, 1 Continental Insurance Superman Ad, some references to the radio series, and one reference to the Superman Broadway Musical, and four cover in the comics). But then mentions the joke in Superman (1978) works because, for some reason, everyone "knows" Clark Kent uses a phone booth to make his quick-change into Superman. How could this be if the joke was made only ten times in Superman Canon?


  • Various simplified adaptations of The Three Musketeers, most notably those by Disney, have made Cardinal Richelieu the iconical villain of the heroes, despite his ambivalent position in the first book and total absence in all following books.
    • Rochefort also gets promoted to a bigger role as The Dragon and it's much rarer to find a film version in which he doesn't get killed off by d'Artagnan. In the novels, d'Artagnan and Rochefort became grudging friends despite fighting many duels. Oh yeah, and he doesn't have an eyepatch either; that started with Christopher Lee in the 1970s version.
  • Our conception of Frankenstein's Monster (not to be confused with Victor Frankenstein himself) is based largely on Boris Karloff's depiction of him as a largely silent and misunderstood giant, which, in turn, has largely been Flanderized into a flat-headed hulkish killing machine with green skin that was based on the advertising art (the film was black and white). Very rarely will we get to see him as the verbose and vengeful monster portrayed in Mary Shelley's original book. To be entirely fair, he was misunderstood in the book as well, but his reaction to it was indeed vengeful, rather than ever being Boris Karloff's gentle giant.
    • Subverted in Young Frankenstein, where the monster has been given an abnormal brain that causes him to be the stereotypical groaning monster. After Frankenstein gives him a brain fluid transfusion, he becomes verbose and civilized. The vengeful part is left out due to Frankenstein's Heel Face Turn and subsequent displays of kindness towards his creation.
    • In addition, every adaptation has Frankenstein using some form of electricity to animate his creation. In the book, the framing device is the Doctor telling his story to a sea captain, and when he gets to how he created the monster he basically says, "And then I gave it life. I'm not telling you how, because I don't want anybody to repeat what I did." Obviously, that wouldn't have worked on the big screen.
    • The only exception is the 1910 version made by Thomas Edison. That one uses a vat of chemicals. Ever since the famous Universal version, however, electricity has been standard.
      • Actually, while he maintains that he won't tell the sailor the exact details necessary to know how to pull off the trick (for the sailor's own good, and the good of humanity), the book makes it very clear that he used some potion inspired by the alchemical notion of the elixir of life as studied by Agrippa and others.
      • In the novel, he does mention that when he saw a lightning strike at fifteen, he longed to harness that power, and he even brings up the work of Galvani, who made dead flesh move by running current through it. This does seem to suggest that electricity may well have somehow been involved in the process of creation.
        • In addition, Shelley did write that her idea for the story came in part from discussions that touched on Galvani's experiments.
    • Don't forget the existence of Igor, who became a staple of Frankenstein movies and the horror genre in general without having appeared in either the book or the film Frankenstein. Popcultural Osmosis took the hunchback character of Fritz from the first Karloff Frankenstein picture, and combined him with Bela Lugosi's character Ygor from Son of Frankenstein, the third and last Karloff Frankenstein film, a film that seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness despite being pretty good and being a major basis for Young Frankenstein.
    • The B-film Frankenstein Vs. The Wolf Man is the source of the image of the monster as stumbling around with his arms outstretched, as the monster becomes blind in the film.
    • The 2004 movie is one of the few screen adaptations of the source material that averts the stereotypical look of Frankenstein's creation established by the Karloff films, trying to be more faithful to Shelley's original description.
    • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is also much more faithful to the original source material-- except where it isn't.
    • And say what you will about Van Helsing, but they at least made an effort to make him more like he was in the book.
    • Though he is based more on the book than any film (he is given life by an alchemical fluid and an Ascended Demon) and in-universe is a creation of Conrad Dippel well over half a century before the book was published, Agent Franks of Monster Hunter International absolutely hates the book, considering Shelley's work akin to Draco in Leather Pants. Larry Correia has stated in interviews and his blog that this is Author Appeal, as he considers the book mostly boring brooding.
  • Another minor aversion occurs in the movie Hook, featuring Robin Williams as Peter Pan. Hook is supposed to be a sequel to Peter Pan set in the modern day. While it gives a few nods to Disney's adaptation of the stage play, it actually winds up being more faithful to J. M. Barrie's book (even sometimes quoting the book in the script), in that much of the characterization and dialogue that was left out of the Disney version has found its way into the live-action sequel (although some of the signature quotes are paraphrased).

Tinker Bell: Peter, you know that place between asleep and awake... That place you still can remember your dreams... That's where I'll always love you.

Hook: Prepare to die, Peter Pan!
Peter: To die would be a grand adventure!

Note, however, that Hook's hook is still on his left arm, as in the cartoon, not his right, as in the book. Dustin Hoffman, who is right-handed, insisted.
    • The Tinker Bell in Hook, however, bore only a passing resemblance to the play's. The Disney version is much closer with the silent, jealous portrayal. After all, the theatre version was played by a spotlight.
    • The higher loyalty to the book makes sense in context of the movie. The old lady Wendy is supposed to be the original and real Wendy whose family stories the book was based on. The twist comes when she reveals to Peter Banning that all the stories were true and he is, in fact, the real Peter Pan.
  • Most portrayals of John Watson are based on Nigel Bruce's bumbling Watson from the Basil Rathbone films rather than Doyle's more competent character.
    • Notably averted by Jude Law in the 2009 movie and Martin Freeman in Sherlock. Each of those Watsons provides the common sense to complement Holmes' genius.
    • And while it was television rather than movies, give Edward Hardwicke and David Burke some love too.
    • Sherlock Holmes inspired a long line of similar imitators. It was to the point that Holmes trademark hat, pipe and browncoat became visual shorthand for "detective" and Holmes himself is shown dressed this way in cameos and other popular depictions far more than he actually wore them in the original stories. Also, many adaptations forgot the quirkier aspects of his personality and focused on his famous detective skills.
      • Indeed, he never explicitly wore a deerstalker in the original stories at all. The iconic physical depiction of Holmes comes from Sidney Paget's illustrations in the stories' first appearances in Strand magazine.
      • In the books he did smoke a pipe (always the illustrations never depicted the famous calabash pipe which first became associated with Holmes due to a theatrical adaptation) but he smoked cigarettes and cigars almost as often.
      • Mycroft and Moriarty were not major character in the books and only appear in a story each and referenced in a few others but are major figures in many adaptations.
  • The musical and film My Fair Lady are actually much closer (particularly in the Revised Ending) to the 1938 film version of Pygmalion than to the stage play Pygmalion. For instance, the Zoltan Karpathy character was created for the 1938 film (and based on that film's producer). Indeed, the musical is officially based on both the play and film: as the credit in the program reads, it was "adapted from Bernard Shaw's play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture Pygmalion." The best-selling original cast album only names the Shaw play on its cover, however.
    • Many later spoofs of the Pygmalion Plot are based on the lesson scenes in My Fair Lady, which gave Eliza's lessons far more significance than in previous versions of Pygmalion (Shaw considered the lesson scene he wrote dramatically redundant).
  • The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I resembles the 1946 movie version of Anna and the King of Siam; only Margaret Landon's novel is credited as a source.
  • The 1992 Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis (the version people are most like to remember fondly) is explicitly credited as based on the 1936 screenplay. The book, not so much. To quote one critic:

"Even in its 1936 version, which starred Randolph Scott, "The Last of the Mohicans" was thought to be badly dated, and so stodgy it required considerable modification to allow its hero and heroine a genteel kiss. Drawing upon the novel with merciful selectivity... Michael Mann has directed a sultrier and more pointedly responsible version of this story."

  • Averted by the 2005 film version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, which according to director Tim Burton was deliberately entirely drawn from the original book rather than the 1971 film adaption.
  • The 1998 American version of Godzilla as Jurassic Park. Emmerich and Devlin wanted to make a movie that would have a higher grossing opening weekend than The Lost World had the previous year.
  • Similar to the Godzilla/Jurassic Park example, Richard Chamberlain's two Allan Quatermain films played as more of an '*Indiana Jones knock-off than an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's novels-odd in that Allan Quatermain serves as partial inspiration for Indiana Jones. They moved Quatermain up to World War I so he could have a Second Reich opponent and showed him using a whip. A 1986 animated version also inserted a German foe.
  • Professor Challenger has, similar to Quatermain, returned in various projects which seem to cash in on Jurassic Park:The Lost World and King Kong-which Challenger influenced.
  • As the page quote indicates, Dracula is nowhere near as well known from the original novel as it he is from the hundreds of movies that bear its name. Despite popular belief, the 1931 version was not based on the novel, but was an adaptation of the popular stage play in which Bela Lugosi had played Dracula. Nearly every Dracula movie that followed used the 1931 film as inspiration instead of the novel.
    • And to a lesser extent, Nosferatu. This goes so far as to cause any variation from the tropes of these two films to be seen as "breaking the rules" of vampires, which confuses audiences. Never mind that neither film is actually consistent with traditional vampire folklore, not that any two cultures' vampire legends are the same. The 1941 The Wolf Man has done the same thing to werewolves.
    • The 1992 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola is more faithful to Bram Stoker's novel, but even it takes a few liberties with the story (such as making Mina Harker the reincarnation of Dracula's lost love).
  • The 2007 film of I Am Legend is an adaptation of 1971's The Omega Man much more so than of the Richard Matheson novel from which it draws its name.
    • Right down to ghouls instead of human-looking vampires (capable of speech, wearing clothes, rebuilding society, etc).
    • All film adaptations since The Last Man On Earth have also kept the idea of Robert Neville being well educated and fairly urbane rather than the rough factory worker of the original story who learned all of his science through excursions to the library and was concerned more over a lack of sexual fulfillment than over the idea of the world ending.

Folk Lore

  • The Arthurian Legend gives us the trope of Excalibur in the Stone, which is a very good example of how this can happen.
  • In Romanian folklore, vampires and werewolves aren't really distinct—the word in Romanian that comes from the Slavic for werewolf, vârcolaci, is a type of vampire (it eats the moon to cause eclipses). However, many other cultures do distinguish them—other than that both are often witches, for instance, French loup-garous and revenants don't really have much in common.


  • Practically every parody of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory portrays the Oompa-Loompas as the orange-skinned, Germanic clothing-wearing little guys from the 1971 film, but in the original version of the book, they were actually African pygmies (males wore skins, females wore leaves, and the children were naked).
  • Hey, did you know that in the original The Count of Monte Cristo novel the titular count isn't Albert's father and he doesn't get with Mercedes in the end?
    • Gankutsuou knows!
    • The Count also humiliates Fernand Morcerf with evidence of his war crimes, instead of having a totally awesome sword duel.
  • A major complaint from Tolkien fans about The Lord of the Rings movies was that Gimli's more comical and somewhat cruder depiction borrowed more from the accumulated exaggerated stereotypes of dwarves in modern fantasy than Tolkien's 'original' dwarves.
  • Would you be surprised to know that Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not primarily a love story between the hunchback and the gypsy girl? Quasimodo is rather sweet on Esmeralda, and indeed dies in her tomb, but this is just one of several plots running through the story. The actual primary character of the book, as stated by the author, is—wait for it—Notre Dame Cathedral itself, as the original French title Notre-Dame de Paris implies. Fans of the Disney version may be distressed to hear that Phoebus was a right bastard in the original. He actually turned up to watch Esmeralda hanged for his murder and didn't even think to say "Excuse me, Mr. Hangman, but I'm not dead."
  • Dracula is claimed to be the origin of all modern vampire stereotypes and the definitive line between the vampires of folklore and the vampires of literature, film, and fiction, but most of his archetypal image - slicked black hair with a widow's peak, black high-collared stage cape, tuxedo, off-tempo Eastern European accent - is 100% Bela Lugosi, compounded by endless imitations. In the book, Dracula was a gaunt old man with dead-white hair and skin, a hawky face, and a flowing moustache, who grew young when he drank blood and spoke almost flawless English. Also, the origin of sunlight killing vampires outright was introduced by the silent German film Nosferatu. In Dracula, the only difference it makes is that they can't use their powers during the day.
    • Jesus Franco's rather unfortunate Dracula movie is one of few in which Dracula maintains his original mustache and de-aging.
    • Dracula's signature cape has its origins in stage adaptations of the story, added simply so the Count could twirl it dramatically to cover up his mystical exit by theatrical trapdoor. Needless to say, it stuck.
      • It was an Episcopal clerical funeral cloak. The "cape" portion of the cloak was flipped up in a collar so the actor's head couldn't be seen as he disappeared.
    • The stage play was the inspiration for a lot of the modern interpretation of Dracula—buying the rights to the stage play was cheaper for Universal, and so that's what they did. (In fact, both of Universal's Dracula films—the Lugosi and Langella films—both featured actors from stage versions of the play in the title role.) Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris? Dropped from the stage play, and so not featured in the movies.
      • Ironically, legal research for Universal later established that the novel was never copyrighted in the U.S..
    • Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation was possibly the most loyal to the original story, most notably Dracula's frequent appearances during daylight. The thick Eastern European accent introduced by Lugosi remains, though the character's Transylvanian origin makes this a bit justified. The film's major departures from the book and most other adaptations comes from making Dracula's character and backstory much more sympathetic.
      • Ironically, the movie was criticized by some for breaking the "no vampires in sunlight" rule and then Handwaving it away... when this is actually the most accurate depiction of what happens in the original novel.
        • The BBC's 1977 TV adaptation is the most accurate, except in dropping Arthur Holmwood and in the depiction of the count, himself.
  • Adaptations of The Prisoner of Zenda such as Dave and The Moon Over Parador always present the identical characters as strangers who just happen to look alike. However, in the original novel, the two are distant cousins who look alike due to features introduced by adultery of a previous generation of their families, which crop up every couple of generations.
  • Moby Dick, just about every adaptation or, more frequently, parody features the great whale as an all-white behemoth, despite the fact that he's described to retain only a white forehead and a white hump in the original novel. It doesn't help that that the book repeatedly refers to Moby Dick as the "white whale" almost exclusively. By the time they actually find it and the reader realizes that only parts of it are white, the image of a completely white whale is too powerfully engraved. Most book covers depicting the whale also make it completely white.
    • Let it be noted that the reader should know that as early as chapter 42(of 136 chapters), called "The Whiteness of the Whale", in which even the book itself recognizes the falseness of calling it a "white whale", justifying that, the whale being a creature that lives under the water and only lifts its body out of it slightly to breathe, the forehead and the hump are the only parts of it you see most of the time.
  • The original "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" short story is about an annoying Connecticut schoolmaster who invades a Dutch community and gets run out of town by the prank of a clever local. The story was actually about cultural tensions in the new American society. Since the Disney version of the story, however, most adaptations focus on the ghost story exclusively.
    • |The Tim Burton film is clearly based more on the Disney version than the original story. Though Crane has a cowardly personality, he is ultimately the hero of the story. The villagers, on the other hand, are mostly turned into corrupt villains, and the prankster Brom Bones is a bully.
    • The scene where Ichabod rides across the covered bridge is a direct reference to the Disney adaptation, complete with the frogs seeming to croak "Ichabod". The shot where he ends up on his horse backwards is also borrowed from that version.
  • Traditionally, Robin Hood is a brilliant archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, a noble outlaw fighting corrupt officials, and sometimes even a brave Saxon fighting against the Norman oppressors... or is he? This myth largely originates in 19th century Romantic adaptations of the Robin Hood legend (such as Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Walter Scott's Ivanhoe), many of which were developed specifically for children. In the original ballads, Robin is a trickster outlaw who steals for himself, couldn't care less about helping the poor, doesn't care about class differences (likely because by the time the stories were born the Norman population had already long assimilated), and can be pretty callous and cruel. Pretty much the only thing Robin's current and original image have in common is him being an outlaw and a great archer.
    • Robin Hood, in every version, symbolizes principled resistance to unjust authority. What form that takes varies with the era, but it's always there. Originally it was simply taking from the rich. "Robbing from the rich to give to the poor" wasn't specifically added until John Major's Historia Majoris Britannae (1521).
    • Robin Hood is one of those that seems to pick up elements with each iteration. For example, it's become common to include a Moor amongst Robin's men and to portray Marion as an accomplished fighter, herself. Also, Robin's role as a returning Crusader is "borrowed" from the title character of Ivanhoe.
      • The first such "borrower" was Douglas Fairbanks Sr. for his movie version in 1922. He spent the first several reels trudging along in chain mail on Crusade before receiving an Urgent Message from back home in Merrie Old....
      • The Moorish companion and the feisty Marian, alongside several other elements, can be traced down to the excellent Eighties series, Robin of Sherwood. The Kevin Costner version ripped several of these elements off (to the point where there was talk of a lawsuit) and brought them into the worldwide mainstream.
    • Lampshaded in Peter Is the Wolf: The characters there explain yet ANOTHER old version of the myth, and mention some of the issues, if not others. It's not treated as the original story, either. For one thing, Robin is a werewolf!
    • Robin's identity as "Robert, Earl of Huntingdon" dates from a 17th century play by Anthony Mundy. "Robin of Locksley" isn't much older. Alan-a-Dale was added around this time as well.
  • Don Quixote is explicitly stated in the first paragraph of the novel to be almost, but not even, 50 years old; later he's said to have graying hair and a black moustache. Yet any adaptation depicts him as a bumbling old man in or around his 70s, often with completely white hair and beard.
    • Also, for the people who didn't read the novel may come as a surprise to see that the so much iconic windmill scene last barely a page.
    • He's also a Jerkass in the book, whereas nowadays everyone remembers him as only a Wide-Eyed Idealist.
  • Most versions of the Wizard of Oz are based more on the 1939 film (The Wizard of Oz) than on the original novel (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), for instance by having ruby slippers (the slippers were silver in the book, changed to ruby for the movie in an effort to show off the new-fangled color film they were working with) and by having Glinda be the witch who directs Dorothy to the Emerald City (in the book it's the Good Witch of the North, who appears only in that scene and succumbed to character composition).
    • Wicked splits the difference, claiming the slippers were crafted from silver treated with ruby dust.
    • Averted in The Muppets Wizard of Oz: Dorothy is correctly given silver slippers, and Glinda is not the witch who first sends Dorothy off to the Emerald City.
    • There's also a long-running animated series based directly on the first three or four Oz books, and not based on the film.
    • This might also be a case of pragmatism, as the original book is in the public domain, while the 1939 film version and all new concepts introduced therein, including the ruby slippers, are still under copyright.
  • The version of Oliver Twist which most people think they know is notably different to the novel. Since the 1960 musical, the public perception of Fagin is as a Loveable Rogue rather than the Complete Monster of the original who betrays his cohorts to the hangman to avoid sharing the spoils and manipulates Sikes into killing Nancy (mainly because Dickens' habit of emphasisising he's a Jew has Unfortunate Implications). The first two sound films, in 1933 and 1948, introduced the practise of removing characters and simplifying the plot: In the original, Oliver is not the grandson of Brownlow but (concentrate now) the son of an old friend of Brownlow's, the paternal half-brother of Big Bad Monks (who is often left out) and the maternal nephew of Rose (ditto...and when she is included she's often Brownlow's daughter to tie in with the traditional but non-original back story). Most surprisingly of all, Oliver spends the last two thirds of the novel completely safe with his family while they try and get his inheritance for him. Adaptations usually can't resist keeping him in peril to the end.

Live Action TV

  • The syndicated TV show The Beast Master has more in common with the B movie than the Andre Norton novel, in that it has absolutely nothing in common with the Andre Norton novel, and the only things different from the movie are that Dar doesn't wear a crown or use a sword (for the early part of the series); it takes place in the jungle instead of the desert; and Dar's loincloth doesn't have fringe on it. Oh, and Ruh's a tiger instead of a puma.

Newspaper Comics

  • A minor example occurs for Peanuts. Lucy is usually depicted as less bombastic in modern derivations of the comic, including the merchandise, with 'crabby mode' Lucy items being rare because they're objectively less marketable. Most people forget Schulz intentionally made Lucy extremely argumentative from the get-go, making the gentler concessions only because she sounded more severe to the ear than on paper.


  • The musical Jekyll and Hyde is based on Spencer Tracy's and earlier movie versions of Stevenson's novel more than the text itself. Almost all adaptations have a Betty and Veronica Love Triangle with Jekyll engaged to Sir Danvers Carew's daughter, and Hyde hooking up with a good-time girl ... all entirely absent from the book.
  • Most depictions of The Phantom of the Opera include his unique half-mask because that's what was used in Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous stage version, though his entire face was deformed in the original novel, not just half.
    • Averted quite nicely in Maskerade, where the full face mask (and the stupidity of "recognising someone because they are wearing a mask") is a plot point.
    • Incidentally, the stage version only used a half-mask because the first actor to play the Phantom found it too difficult to sing while wearing a full mask. (A full mask is depicted on the poster.)
    • The Lon Chaney silent film uses a half-mask, though it has a short veil coming from it to cover his also-deformed mouth.
    • Also, in the original novel the mask was black, while most adaptations use white or another pale color.
  • The 1954 Broadway musical version of Peter Pan was apparently the first adaptation to call Neverland "Never-Never Land."

Western Animation

  • References to fairy tales generally have more to do with the Disney adaptation than to the original story. The Seven Dwarves will have names, Cinderella only goes to one ball, and the wicked stepmother will inexplicably not be put to death (though that probably had also been removed from earlier Bowdlerised editions).
  1. The BBC 1977 miniseries "Count Dracula" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula" by Francis Ford Coppola are the closest to be faithful to the novel. Nosferatu was originally intended to be a direct adaptation of the novel.