Audience-Coloring Adaptation
aka: Ink Stain Adaptation

"People don't really hate Aquaman.
It's just that the 70s version of him is such an easy and irresistible target."

An adaptation to a long running franchise which irrevocably colors the public's perception of the franchise as a whole.

Done badly, this can not only kill a show, but may also kill any interest in doing future adaptations unless we are promised the next one will be very good. Done well, it can attract more potential fans, and can cause creators of the main work to incorporate some of the qualities of the adaptation.

Sometimes, it is used for Lost in Imitation.

See also Adaptation Displacement, Never Live It Down, and First Installment Wins, where the first iteration of a franchise is more remembered than its sequels, regardless of quality.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Film - Animated 
  • Disney has played an infamously enormous role in coloring public knowledge of numerous fairy tales, and even some novels and short stories, with Lady and the Tramp, The Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmatians, the The Great Mouse Detective, and The Black Cauldron being but a few titles now almost entirely unknown outside their Disney version.
    • When people think of Aladdin, odds are they'll think of the Disney version with its storybook version of Persia/Arabia, rather than the Chinese setting that the original story employed. To be fair, nearly all adaptations of Aladdin were set in Arabia well before Disney got their hands on the story. And moving the story out of China does make it easier to cast Caucasian actors, as the Disney film did.
    • Pocahontas, meanwhile, is one of the biggest subversions. The stage version of John Smith and Pocahontas had formed itself not long after the real events. But through many different variations and romantasizing went as far as them being lovers. Once Disney put that story to celluloid, the Vocal Minority that knew its inaccuracies raised such a stink that everyone now knows the real Pocahontas was only twelve years old at the time and has no love affair with Smith. She even married John Rolfe and moved with him to England, a fact that Disney inexplicably got right in the direct-to-video sequel.
  • The How to Train Your Dragon movies, which was adapted from the fairly obscure book series of the same name, have pretty much defined the series in the general public. The average person might be surprised at the wide amount of differences between the books and the movies if you hand them one of the books, where Toothless is a much smaller and annoying dragon for example.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In 1995, Judge Dredd had a film adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone that had a very devastating impact in the US. While in Britain, Dredd is an old warhorse of a comic that isn't going anywhere, the movie was the first exposure most Americans had to the franchise. Almost two decades later, the impact can still be seen in DC's failed attempt to market Judge Dredd trade paperbacks in American comic stores, and in how the latest film adaptation was a Box Office Bomb despite being much closer to the source material and winning the acclaim of those who actually saw it.
  • Though the original Gojira was a serious and scary movie, Godzilla is best remembered by the general populace as a camp icon from the 60s, or by the 1998 In-Name-Only adaptation. The 2014 reboot has alleviated this somewhat.
  • The first sound version of Frankenstein (made in 1931, starring Boris Karloff) simplified and compressed the story considerably and changed the character of Frankenstein's Monster. In particular, the monster in the original story was actually about as lithe as a human, could speak, and was very intelligent, not the stiff, shambling, groaning monster of the movies. He also did not have bolts in his neck or a cylindrical flat-top head. The movie solidified the idea that the monster was called Frankenstein, though this mix-up was already in effect in the preceding decades. And the idea of the monster being brutish, unintelligent and unable to speak was established by the book's first dramatic adaptation, Richard Brinsley Peake's stage play Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein, as early as 1823.
  • On a similar note, Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the Count in the 1931 adaptation of Dracula thoroughly supplanted the original novel's depiction of the title character. Nowadays, having Count Dracula walk around freely in daylight is regarded as Our Vampires Are Different, and if a man with a mustache dressed up in a cape and fangs, he'd be jeered as a poor copy for not shaving. (The Count's white mustache is the first thing Harker notices about his host's appearance in the original novel.}
  • Related to Universal Horror, The Mummy (1932) saw a significantly less scary reinvention with The Mummy Trilogy, to the point the trailer for the 2017 remake has many comments weirded out by the horror tone returning instead of the Indiana Jones-esque adventure tone seen in the movies with Brendan Fraser.
  • The success of the The Lord of the Rings films has dramatically colored public perception of the work, for better or worse, since the films put their own dramatically different spin on various themes. The number of people who read the books for the first time prior to seeing the films or knowing everything that happens therein is expected to approach zero. The studio struggled for a while to get the prequel, The Hobbit, off the ground, due in part to the pressure of making it conform to the existing films (and turning it into a trilogy).
  • The Conan the Barbarian franchise has been a series of ink-stain adaptations building on each other, for better or worse, until the original Howard stories were Lost in Imitation. Some aspects of the Expanded Universe Conan, such as the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film and Frank Frazetta's artwork depictions, are more successful than others, such as the sequel Conan the Destroyer which with Red Sonja nearly killed the entire genre as well as franchise. And the Conan remake seems to have done it all over again, as it did poorly at the box-office and was savaged by critics.
  • For most people, Superman is synonymous with the Christopher Reeve movies. To a lesser extent there is the earlier TV show, which is the source of a lot of catchphrases associated with the franchise (Faster than a speeding bullet!...) Its details aren't known to many casual fans, but if you've ever talked about Superman you've quoted it at least once.
  • Howard the Duck fans will always have to deal with the negative reputation the series had from the film adaptation. This got so bad, that The Stinger to Guardians of the Galaxy was a bit divisive. You still have Marvel fans saying that there should never be another film adaptation.
  • Ang Lee's Hulk movie is often blamed for the failure of the MCU reboot, The Incredible Hulk, which despite being better received by fans, sold even fewer tickets than the original. The character's cinematic reputation has been somewhat restored by The Avengers, but Marvel is still wary of giving the property another chance, which is why there's no Hulk sequel in the works as of 2016. It doesn't help that Disney/Marvel would have to share profits with Universal (a condition of Marvel getting the film rights to the character back is that Universal gets distribution rights to any solo Hulk film).
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is this for its source novel, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That film has become so iconic and parodied that outside of the U.K. — and especially in the United States — the novel has suffered Adaptation Displacement. There are actually many other adaptations of it out there, but old-time fans tend to bristle at any telling that doesn't slavishly follow the lead of the 1971 Gene Wilder film, never mind that said tellings are usually Truer to the Text (such as the 2013 stage musical, though that adaptation tosses in one song from and several Internal Homages to the '71 version). Dahl himself disowned the film, so he likely wouldn't be happy about this at all. Some of the changes were "corrected" in Tim Burton's 2005 adaptation - the Oompa-Loompas changing back from orange-faced, green-haired clowns to dark-skinned jungle natives - but others were not.
    • One good example is how the characters' nationalities are presented. Willy Wonka is clearly supposed to be British in the novel, but in both film versions he's American — after all, both Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp are American. Augustus Gloop's family in the novel is either British or East Coast American, judging by his mother's speech patterns, but both films made them Germans. Veruca Salt's family was American rather than British (in the text, Mr. Salt says "crazy" rather than "mad" and calls his female employees "gals" rather than "girls"), but both films changed this. With the Bucket family it's a gray area: Charlie and his parents and grandparents are implied to be British (eating cabbage soup and whatnot), but the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator follows the lead of the 1971 film by retconning them as Americans, albeit ones of English descent (Grandma Georgina's ancestors came over on the Mayflower); in Burton's version, though, they're back to being British.
  • Not surprisingly, Walter Hill's 1979 cinematic adaptation of The Warriors has completely eclipsed the Sol Yurick novel - so much so that the 2005 video game adaptation not only kept Hill's campy approach, but made it even campier!
  • While the Transformers Film Series was a huge success, it had the unfortunate effect of giving the franchise as a whole a reputation of being all about big dumb action and giant robots fighting, much to the irritation of its fans in other medias, where it has plenty of good stories, mature writing and memorable characters (as well as giant robots fighting.)
  • While in the original novel Zorro wore a poncho, a sombrero and a full-face mask and used a cavalry sword and a pistol as his main weapons, the 1920 movie adaptation introduced the costume and weapons that have been used in all adaptations, with even the original author (who was still alive) revising his stories to fit.
  • A rare example of a film coloring perception of non-fiction persons is Bonnie and Clyde. Despite the various liberties it takes with history, virtually all mainstream knowledge of the historical Outlaw Couple comes from the film and anything that references them will be in reference to the film - something that has caused quite a bit of consternation with historians. There have been some attempts to make a more historically true film about the pair, but they are stuck in Development Hell at best.
  • In the original Addams Family comic strip and TV series, Wednesday Addams was generally portrayed as a fairly happy young girl, albeit one with very morbid interests (she has a pet spider and a headless Marie Antoinette doll). Christina Ricci's portrayal in the film adaptations, meanwhile, took out most of the perkiness and made her into a snarky, stoic goth girl and something of a proto-Daria. Ricci's version seems to have left a mark, with the '90s revival The New Addams Family, despite using many Recycled Scripts from the original series, keeping the films' characterization of Wednesday.

  • The King James version of The Bible, with its antiquated (it was deliberately a bit archaic even in James' day) version of English, seems to have produced in some people the rather bizarre notion that God speaks Ye Olde Englishe exclusively, and that it's very nearly sacrilegious to use modern English when speaking to or about Him. To this day, there are a great many Christians and Christian denominations (especially those on the fundamentalist end), known as "King James Onlyites", who will insist that the King James Version is the only English translation "approved" by God, and can get very touchy on the subject. However, these people are in the minority in much of the world. This is especially ironic/silly when you consider just why people like the KJV: because it is the version of the Bible with the most artistic merit. Rather than just a translation of the Hebrew, it is a work of English verse in its own right. In other words, it isn't a literal translation.
  • The later runs of The Princess Bride include post-novel content in which Goldman tells us (kayfabe) that Stephen King felt this way about Goldman's abridged version of the story. Goldman also cites this as one of the reasons he can't secure the rights to publish the sequel to the book in English; the Morgenstern estate feels that his abridgement was a travesty and won't let him near the sequel. The reality is Goldman has made a few abortive attempts to start the sequel, but each time he's realized he can't recapture the magic of the original.

    Live Action TV 
  • The 60s high Camp TV interpretation of Batman still lingers on as some people's view of the character, despite several adaptations and major character changes since. This has continued to the extent that Warner Bros. Consumer Products has approached Adam West and 20th Century Fox (producers of the TV show) in 2012 about producing merchandise based on the TV shows. (Also, greeting cards from Hallmark tend to follow the Adam West design, which most closely resembled the traditional comic book design.) The Jim Holmes incident may further encourage this revival of the West version.
    • Many also complain that the show paints the The Comics Code/Silver Age-era Batman comics, which are now remembered as being as campy and silly as the show. Many forget that the West show was intended as a parody, and was restrained by the production values and budget of an ABC show in the 1960s. Fans of classic comics lament that so many view this period of comics as a Dork Age, because despite not treating a guy who dresses up as giant bat to fight crime as such serious business, the Batman of the 60's and 70s was still cool in his own right.
    • In some ways, Batman was an ink stain for the genre of Western superheroes. Until 2000 or so, when superhero movies started being huge, any outside journalism on the genre would feature "Bif! Pow!" in the headline, as if Adam West was the last word on the subject.
    • Notably, The Dark Age of Comic Books may have revitalized interest in the show as a backlash against all the grimdarkness. Batman: The Brave and the Bold was something of a love letter to both the show and the Silver Age DC comics, and even included episodes written by Paul Dini, who had done plenty of serious work for the comparatively serious Batman: The Animated Series. Also, DC Comics debuted Batman '66, which treats the TV show as an alternate universe (even adding characters that either weren't in the show, such as Two-Face and Poison Ivy, or didn't even exist in 1966, such as Bane and Harley Quinn) in 2013, to modest success.
  • The 70s Wonder Woman series starring Lynda Carter colored, and continues to color, peoples' cultural knowledge of the character. Unlike Batman, however, Wonder Woman has never had the benefit of a successive adaptation that mitigates the Camp elements of the 70s show. The Justice League animated series has helped to some extent, but popular culture still looks almost exclusively to the Carter version, and an adaptation with Adrianne Palicki was cancelled before it aired. And because, unlike the Batman show, it very rarely attempted to adapt any of the villain concepts from the comics, it's also left future filmmakers floundering to find a villain from the comics that the mainstream will care about.
  • While Power Rangers is a successful franchise on its own, many Super Sentai purists view it as the reason why Super Sentai will never get the proper international recognition it deserves, since the adapted footage of the costumes and giant robot battles are so deeply ingrained with Power Rangers, Super Sentai could never stand on its own merits. It's not uncommon to see Super Sentai videos on the internet (such as the "Legendary War" scene from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger) to be labeled as Power Rangers videos, or even Sentai toys sold on eBay also marked as Power Rangers as well. This is especially prevalent among fans from countries such as Brazil, the Philippines, or France, which used to air locally-dubbed versions of Super Sentai before switching to Power Rangers dubs.
    • On another level, the individual Sentai seasons can be tarred with the Rangers brush. Some past seasons get a bad reputation simply because of the following Rangers adaptations. Some fans who watch Rangers first looked a little skeptically on Gaoranger or Boukenger simply because of how badly they were adapted into Wild Force or Operation Overdrive.
    • This also applies to tokusatsu in general. Fairly often people would call any costumed superhero from Japan "a Power Ranger", despite having no resemblance to one whatsoever.
  • Masked Rider, Saban's adaptation of Kamen Rider Black RX, was not just an ink stain to the Kamen Rider franchise itself, it was also an ink stain to its very own name. Originally "Masked Rider" was the official romanized name of Kamen Rider (kamen simply means "mask" in Japanese), but because the name "Masked Rider" is so closely associated to the Saban version outside Japan, most fans refuse to use it despite its prominence in many products. When Adness made Kamen Rider Dragon Knight (a remake of Kamen Rider Ryuki), Executive Producer Steve Wang insisted on using "Kamen Rider" instead of "Masked Rider" since he wanted to distance the show from the Saban version. The Japanese shows, which were using the romanized name of "Masked Rider" on the logos since Kamen Rider Kuuga, followed suit by switching to "Kamen Rider" beginning with Kamen Rider Double. On top of that, some time ago Saban applied for a trademark for "Power Rider", which many believe is their giving "Kamen Rider" another swing. Although, that was around the time Power Rangers Samurai was airing (which gave fans the impression they would try to adapt Kamen Rider Decade, considering how it intersected with Samurai's source series), and nothing yet has come of that.
  • Warehouse 13 uses this as a major plot point. All of the stories children grew up with, such as Cinderella and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, were bowdlerized Warehouse-issue fabrications designed to downplay the more horrifying aspects of the true stories.
  • Any Doctor in Doctor Who will be inevitably compared to Tom Baker's take on the character, who is considered the default Doctor portrayal even though he was far from the first to play the role and was in contrast to his predecessors at the time. The "Hinchcliffe era" of the show, which had over-the-top Gothic Horror villains, a metafictional tone, What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?, No Hugging, No Kissing and lots of BBC Quarry sets and corridor-running, is considered to be the way the show operates at its most Strictly Formula. (Note that this is something of a Dead Unicorn Trope.) After the New series took off, any new Doctor will also be compared to David Tennant, who is considered the default NuWho Doctor.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Super Friends has crippled Aquaman as a character forever. Give him a harpoon hand, replace it with a magical water hand, point out how life at the bottom of the ocean has made him stronger, faster, and more resilient than most humans... and everyone will still be like, "He's just some guy who swims fast and talks to fish." It's gotten to the point where DC finally decided to kill off the old Aquaman and create a new one. But the original is back now, and in New 52, all bets and gloves are off with DC, as they hire expert comic book fixer Geoff Johns to fix Aquaman's bad cred. As Geoff has had Aquaman face all of the 'fish man' jokes and blow them to shreds with all of the awesome things he does, it seems to be working. Additionally, he's now to be a part of the DC Cinematic Universe, to be played by Jason Momoa; debuting as a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Between Ronon Dex, Khal Drogo and Conan, if there's one person in the world who can rescue Aquaman's reputation as a stone-cold badass, it's him.
  • Everyone remembers the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, while the much darker original comics and more cartoon and movies seem to be living in its shadow... Much like the '60s Batman example earlier in the page.
  • Everyone remembers He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), with its goofy takes on the characters and the moral segments at the end. It was a cultural phenomenon in its day, and is ripe for Memetic Mutation in the internet age. Fewer know that it was not the first version, and it wasn't even close to the last. The earliest version of He-Man had no Secret Identity, just being a Barbarian Hero in a sort of Future Primitive setting implied to be After the End of their world. The 2002 series was a reboot that primarily drew from the first cartoon, but dialed down the camp and bumped things up a stage on the Sliding Scale of Continuity. DC Comics would handle another reboot in 2012, in the form of a Darker and Edgier comic series. On top of that, you have the spin-off of the first cartoon, She-Ra, about He-Man's long-lost sister, and the pseudo-sequel, New Adventures of He-Man, which moved to a new setting, mostly new cast, and transitioned to sci-fi.
  • Inverted in the case of The Real Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II. It's been said GB2 is seen as the runt of the franchise because RGB set such a high standard with writing and characterization. At least until RGB was tragically torn apart by Executive Meddling in the later seasons.
  • My Little Pony is frequently dismissed as a Tastes Like Diabetes outlet. This is almost entirely because of G3, which consists almost entirely of saccharine nonsense. People turned onto the franchise by My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are often surprised to find the G1 TV specials, movie, and cartoon show can be remarkably mature, can be a bit dark, and on occasion quite horrifying.
  • As a result of the 2000s Teen Titans animated series, that incarnation of the team — from personality to costumes — is now considered to be the definitive version of the superhero team.