[[FollowTheLeader Following the leader]] is ubiquitous in all media. The reasons for this vary, ranging from a desire to [[MoneyDearBoy attain some of the success of the original work]] to a desire to [[SincerestFormOfFlattery pay homage to a work that the creator of the derivative work adores]].

This technique can be quite a double-edged sword, however. Some fans stay away from such derivative works, either because they know that [[SturgeonsLaw most imitations are bound to be bad]] or because the work is so similar that they feel no need to invest any time into experiencing more of the same, regardless of quality.

So creators of derivative works find ways to make later installments less derivative, either in response to fan reaction or because their storytelling skills have improved to the point that they themselves no longer have to use derivation as a crutch. The work may still have some trappings that hint at its formerly derivative nature, but it's less likely that newcomers will easily be able to discern this.

Related to FromClonesToGenre and GrowingTheBeard. Has nothing to do with calculus.

[[AC:Anime & Manga]]
* ''{{Gasaraki}}'' started out as a clone of ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'', but evolved into more of a spiritual predecessor to ''Anime/CodeGeass''.
* ''JojosBizarreAdventure'' began as a clone of FistOfTheNorthStar (and {{Dracula}}, oddly enough). This changed with the advent of [[PsychicPowers Stands]], and the series drifted away from its inspiration. The eponymous [[GenerationalSaga Joestar line]] even grew progressively less like Kenshiro with each generation.

* On his first appearance, [[{{Franchise/Batman}} the Bat-Man]] was pretty much Radio/TheShadow with wings. Then he got his own backstory, decided he didn't like guns, recruited a kid sidekick, and generally became his own person.
* {{Deadpool}} used to be ComicBook/{{Deathstroke}} in red until they made him insane and gave him his own fighting style.
** ''And'' fourth-wall breaking, don't forget that. It's my- err, ''his'' most charming trait.
*** You're not fooling anyone like that.
** ...Shut up, brain.
* The lead character of Creator/PeterDavid's ''ComicBook/FallenAngel'' was widely assumed to be a lawyer-friendly version of Supergirl from his recently-completed series, but was eventually distinguished.
* In ''ComicBook/{{PS238}}'', many of the background superheroes are obvious walking shout-outs, like Atlas, who is the lone survivor of the doomed planet Argos, rocketed to Earth as a baby, must avoid deadly [[KryptoniteFactor Argonite]], etc. But a story arc revolving around Atlas's origins revealed -- to his surprise, as much as anybody else's -- that much of his backstory is an invention, and the truth is less Superman-like.
* The pirates in ''ComicBook/{{Asterix}}'' started off as straight-up redraws of the characters from ''BarbeRouge'', apart from art style. Notably, in some of Baba's early appearances, he looks almost exactly like the original, photorealistic one, apart from [[BlackFace bright red lips]]. Then one of them, Erix, got [[PutOnABus removed from the crew]], and the remaining crew got increasingly grotesqued until they all ended up looking really different to their original inspiration, especially Baba.

* ''TalesOfTheMagicLand'' started off as a loose translation of ''TheWonderfulWizardOfOz'', but later books in the series are original works that use said translation as a basis.
* The ''Literature/{{Shannara}}'' series started off as fairly derivative of ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', with the largest distinction being the former's AfterTheEnd setting. ''Literature/{{The Sword Of Shannara|Trilogy}}'' even took its general plot structure straight from ''The Lord Of The Rings''. As the series went on, however, the books developed more original plots, including an urban fantasy trilogy.
* The early books in the ''Literature/SwordOfTruth'' series were typical HighFantasy books that borrowed many elements from ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'', but developed a unique feel in ''Soul of the Fire'' with the introduction of [[{{UsefulNotes/Objectivism}} Objectivist]] themes.
* For its own part, if you only read the first novel of ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'' you could be forgiven for dismissing it as ''Literature/LordOfTheRings'' with some light gender politics. The setting and metaphysics become much more distinct, and the gender politics ''much'' more pronounced, as the series continues.

[[AC:Live-Action Television]]
* The Russian version of ''MarriedWithChildren'' recycled all the scripts from all 11 American seasons and then had a contest for suggestions to write more.
* The Russian version of ''TheNanny'' was so popular that the producers actually hired the original American writers to write 25 more episodes.
* The first twelve episodes of ''TheOfficeUS'' were simply reworkings of the scripts of [[TheOfficeUK the British version]], and not very well received. [[BritishBrevity Then they ran out of source material]], and once the US series found a voice of its own many of the characters were completely unrecognisable (particularly Michael Scott, who became much more of a well-intentioned buffoon than the [[UnsympatheticComedyProtagonist venal and unpleasant]] David Brent), which created a lot of EarlyInstallmentWeirdness in the first season.
* Likewise, the first season of ''Series/ParksAndRecreation'' was very much ''Series/TheOffice'' [[RecycledINSPACE in the public sector with a female lead]]. Starting in the second season the show dropped its reliance on cringe comedy and found its own identity.

* ''Roleplay/DinoAttackRPG'' started off as [[FollowTheLeader a near-clone of]] ''Roleplay/AlphaTeamMissionDeepFreezeRPG'' [[RecycledInSpace in a different setting]], but eventually adopted its own unique style starting with the introduction of the StoryArc formula.

* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' used to just be ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' [[RecycledInSpace with space ships]] before adding its own mythos and creatures.

* Nintendo's DonkeyKong arcade game was born out of this kind of serendipity; Nintendo, still trying to get their foot in the American game market in 1981, tried releasing a standard SpaceInvaders clone called Radarscope in the arcades; while it did well overseas, it completely flopped in the US and left them stuck with thousands of unsold cabinets. This prompted them to place ShigeruMiyamoto in charge of improvising another game to replace Radarscope (while converting the unsold cabinets into new games) and, instead of making another cookie cutter maze or shoot em up, created one of the earliest[[note]]but not the first; Space Panic, from 1980, is generally considered the first platformer game [[/note]], and certainly one of the most important platformer games in history.
* ''VideoGame/BanjoKazooie'' never tried to hide its similarities to ''VideoGame/SuperMario64'', but fans didn't mind too much because the game was pretty good anyway. As gamers started to get tired of the formula set up by ''VideoGame/SuperMario64'', however, Rare decided to go in a different direction with ''Banjo-Tooie''. The sequel contained more interconnected areas to make it resemble a {{Metroidvania}} more than anything. ''Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts'' abandoned the PlatformGame trappings altogether, introducing customizable vehicles as the central gameplay concept instead.
* After Sega tried to directly compete with Nintendo by copying the NES with their Sega MasterSystem, only to fall flat on their face, they decided to go in the opposite direction and become Nintendo's antithesis with the SegaGenesis, aiming for older audiences and darker games with slicker graphics, action and very lax censorship policies. Even their headlining mascot, Sonic, was a unique contrast from the Mario series in art and gameplay, and also a contrast to Sega's own Mario-derivative Alex Kidd, who was quickly abandoned by the company. Unsurprisingly, it worked.
** The Sonic series was unmistakably inspired by Super Mario Bros., but in contrast to Mario's strategic, defensive platforming, Sonic's gameplay usually leans more towards casual, heavily streamlined platforming romps with rollercoaster/pinball like physics and design with emphasis put on maintaining speed and precision timing more than anything else, with occasional standard, slower platforming, combat, puzzles and minigames sandwiched in.
* Creator/{{SNK}}'s ''VideoGame/ArtOfFighting'' was perceived by gamers to be a cheap cash-in of rival company Creator/{{Capcom}}'s ''Franchise/StreetFighter''. Despite this, ''Art of Fighting'' set itself apart by introducing several new gameplay mechanics such as taunting, the addition of a spirit gauge to regulate use of specials, along with supers and desperation attacks. The game's scaling feature also became a series trademark.
** Capcom later incorporated these same features, beginning with ''[[VideoGame/StreetFighterII Super Street Fighter II: Turbo]]'', the first game in the series to feature supers and a secondary meter for regulating them. ''[[VideoGame/StreetFighterIV Super Street Fighter IV]]'' adds revenge moves, which can only be used after the character has sustained enough damage, making them the SF equivalent of desperation attacks.
* The ''Franchise/MetalGear'' series was initially just a tongue-in-cheek take-off of American spy and action films, but ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' was where the series started to establish its own identity (as the SequelDisplacement can attest to).
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow'' started out as a pretty straightforward ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' clone, with the only caveat being ''Saint's Row's'' focus on gang violence. Each game has dialed up the DenserAndWackier aspects (''VideoGame/SaintsRowIV'' even features an AlienInvasion), with ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoIV'' dialing down the same. Putting ''Grand Theft Auto IV'' side by side with ''VideoGame/SaintsRowTheThird'' shows that the two bear very little resemblance to one another at this point, aside from gameplay involving stealing cars.
* Having also been made by [[Creator/SquareEnix Squaresoft]], ''VideoGame/SuperMarioRPG'' naturally has a lot in common with ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' games and other Square {{Role Playing Game}}s of that era, albeit with ActionCommands and the obvious ''Franchise/SuperMarioBros'' trappings among other things. After Square partnered with Sony and left the Mario [=RPG=]s in Creator/{{Nintendo}}'s hands, however, Nintendo gave its ''VideoGame/PaperMario'' and ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigi'' games a different focus from typical Square [=RPG=]s, such as with a much heavier use of intricate ActionCommands, simplified battle stat calculations, fewer party members on screen at a time, and PreExistingEncounters with enemies that can be attacked for some damage at the beginning of a battle. ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'' in particular is a mix between PlatformGame and Role-Playing Game.
* ''VideoGame/TheGreatGianaSisters'' was such a blatant clone of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioBros1'' that Nintendo successfully sued to get it off shelves. So ''VideoGame/GianaSistersTwistedDreams'' comes along and introduces mechanics such as DualWorldGameplay and heavier emphasis on melee abilities. Numerous critics noted the {{irony}} that a game that started off as a knock-off ended up becoming one of the most original {{platform game}}s of 2013.
* KC Munchkin for the Magnavox Odyssey 2; the first installment is an obvious clone of PacMan (although there are a fair amount of differences between it and it's inspiration already, most notably the ability to create your own maze), enough that a year after it was released, Atari, who had just released their own port for the 2600, successfully sued to get it pulled from shelves. To continue the series, a sequel, KC's Crazy Chase, was released, which [[WritingAroundTrademarks redesigned the lead character]], and revamped the gameplay to where your goal is to chase and eat a giant [[VideoGame/{{Centipede}} centipede]] throughout the maze to get power ups and win (not only distinguishing it from Pac Man, but also serving [[TakeThat as a sly jab at Atari]]). It also supports the Odyssey 2 voice module.
* ''LeagueOfLegends'' took the simplification path after breaking away from ''DefenseOfTheAncients''. The old ''Warcraft3'' main stat system was removed and replaced with direct manipulation of the underlying stats: attack damage, ability power, attack speed, movement speed, HP, mana, armor and magic resist. The standard ability kit of three powers and an ultimate was replaced by one passive, three abilities with or without passives, and an ultimate. The "Blue Pill", the equivalent of DOTA's Town Portal Scroll, was removed and made into a long Recall that can be performed any time without limits. The Blink Dagger and the Ancient Pocket Watch were made into the summoner spells Flash and Teleport. Then the champions started to be designed around the six standard roles of tank, fighter, ability power, attack damage, support and jungler -- five roles, as opposed to DOTA's hard carry, soft carry, disabler, support, lane support, initiator, jungler, durable, nuker, pusher and escaper. The barracks were replaced by inhibitors that regenerate over time. Roshan was replaced by Baron Nashor, which is much stronger and usually requires at least three champions at late game to be killed. Other mechanics such as creep denying, neutral creep luring, hit dodging or turn rate were removed. The result? After these and much more differentiation changes, Blizzard decided that ''LeagueOfLegends'' was different enough to not count as a derivative work -- unlike ''Dota2'', which put Valve into a trademark scuffle with Blizzard on account of being basically ''DefenseOfTheAncients'' on the Source engine, with SerialNumbersFiledOff, and a few cursory mechanic changes.

* Even though it wasn't a stick figure comic to begin with, it's easy to see that ''Webcomic/OurLittleAdventure'' is pretty heavily inspired by ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick.'' In 235 pages (and counting), ''Our Little Adventure'''s style has changed [[ArtEvolution fairly considerably]], both in character design and setting design.
* ''Webcomic/TheWayOfTheMetagamer'' also began as an ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' ripoff, even copying a strip word-for-word. It starts to diverge after the SeriesHiatus, when the AuthorAvatar makes an appearance, and by the time JustForFun/TropeTan shows up the storyline is completely different. As for that one strip copied verbatim, it is now an OldShame, which the creator lampshaded [[BetterThanABareBulb like with almost everything else in the comic]].
* ''Webcomic/{{Drowtales}}'' started off as the author Kern drawing up the events of the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' RP he and his friends were playing in the ''TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms'' setting. By Chapter 4, however, the plot had diverged so much from its source material that he decided to just turn it into its own unique setting. He even went on to completely redo the earlier chapters ''twice'' to make them better fit the divergent setting.

[[AC:Web Original]]
* ''WebVideo/TribeTwelve'' started off as a video series in Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos that was a largely forgettable ''WebVideo/MarbleHornets'' clone, but eventually found its own voice after the funeral submission, especially in "Night Recordings."

[[AC:Western Animation]]
* The LooneyTunes prior to [[LooneyTunesInTheThirties the mid to late 30's]] started off as standard gag and music cartoons in the vein of other studios of its day, such as FleischerStudios and MickeyMouse (the latter being the most understandable connection, since the early Looney Tunes were made by [[HarmanAndIsing former Disney artists]] in the first place). By the 1933 to 1935 period, the studio really tried hard to imitate Disney's cutesy cartoons, but that got them nowhere. By 1936, TexAvery and FrankTashlin (and eventually BobClampett) got their place in the studio as directors and slowly started leading them into a more humorous direction. Early entries of theirs such as ILoveToSinga and ''Now That Summer is Gone'' superficially resemble the cutesy stuff Disney was doing, but their humor and tone was unmistakably irreverent, street smart and contemporary for their time. By the 1940's (especially by the end of [[WorldWarII the war]]) the studio finally crystallized its art style, rich cast of characters and brand of humor into its iconic form.

* BBV's DirectToVideo sci-fi series ''The Stranger'' featured ''Series/DoctorWho'' star Creator/ColinBaker as a mysterious stranger obviously based on the Doctor. Over the course of the series, the character's backstory was revealed, distinguishing him from the Doctor in the process.
* BBV's follow-up audio series, featuring Baker's successor Creator/SylvesterMcCoy and his co-star Sophie Aldred, did all its differentiation in a single unsubtle lump, to avoid the onset of legal trouble arising from the fact that its leads were practically indistinguishable from the roles [=McCoy=] and Aldred had played in ''Series/DoctorWho''.