"It was much earlier even than that when most people forgot that that very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. Later on they took the blood out to make the stories more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it's being shed by the deserving), and then wondered where the stories went."
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The original script was actually closer to the original fairy tale than the final film, but as the film was made during The Great Depression, the animators could not afford to make the film as long as the source material demanded (such as having the witch try multiple times to kill Snow White, and the opening with Snow White's mother.)
An interesting case is with the witch's death. In the original story, the queen is exposed for her crimes at Snow White's wedding to the prince, and is burned to death. In the Disney film she is chased to the top of a cliff by the dwarves; as she tries to send a boulder down to crush them, the cliff is struck by lightning, she and the boulder fall off, and she is presumably crushed and eaten by vultures. While the latter is seemingly darker than the former, keep in mind, this way it is nature getting revenge on the witch, not any of the heroes. (The Witch does survive in the comics, though her later activities are less malicious.)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You wouldn't think Victor Hugo's original novel would be suitable fare for a children's movie. Despite being one of Disney's darkest movies, they still made it much nicer than the book - Esmerelda was nicer, Phoebus was nicer, Quasimodo was nicer, there was a clearer line between good and evil, and the good guys didn't all die or kill themselves at the end.
Strangely, it's also Lost In Adaptation: The film owes a fair bit more to the black-and-white movie based on the novel. And speaking of the clearer line between good and evil, Frollo alone makes the movie incredibly dark for a Disney flick by being the most twisted villain they ever came up with. And strangely, unlike the other examples, he was nicer in the book.
Hercules not only has a Hijacked By Jesus style, but also implies that the Greek gods had wholesome family values! Remember, in the original myths, every god is up to sexual hijinks at one point or another.
The Disneyfication of Hades from Dark Is Not Evil to Big Bad is pretty amazing. They took the Greek concept of the Underworld and Hades (which was more or less a neutral judging point) and spun it to better resemble Hell and the Devil. Complete with imp minions. Luckily, James Woods is a great actor. They also made him quite cynical (and possibly the Only Sane Man), which only helped.
In the original myth, not only was Heracles the product of an extramarital affair (with a mortal woman, Alcmene), but Hera loathed him and tried multiple times to torture and kill him. At one stage she inflicted a madness on him that drove him to murder his children and his first wife, Megara - and it was Heracles who had to carry out penance for this in the form of the Twelve Labours.
The Adventures of Pinocchio already underwent this process when it was a book: There, Pinocchio is killed (still a puppet) by hanging, which author Carlo Collodi had planned to be the ending of the book. But on the publisher's demand Collodi added extra chapters in which Pinocchio not only is restored to life, but also becomes a real boy (after a lot of hard and cruel life lessons, that is). When Disney made their Pinocchio movie, they in turn cut out the hanging completely, as well as other dark elements like Pinocchio killing the cricket. The original also had Pinocchio, after he had been turned into a donkey, being tossed into the sea to drown by his owner, and surviving only because his wooden body was lighter than water.
Of course, much like The Hunchback of Notre Dame the film is still noted for being much grimmer than the average Disney affair, most notably retaining the villain's Karma Houdinis (and even adding another in the case of Foulfellow). There are few Lighter and Softer adaptations that depict hundreds of children being captured, transformed and successfully sent to a Fate Worse Than Death.
Disney's so-called adaptation of Mary Norton's Bedknob And Broomstick dropped the original book's entire plot, and instead created a new one from whole cloth involving Eglantine Price's attempt to learn magic solely in order to help the British effort in World War II. Along the way, a medieval sorcerer became a modern con-man, an island of Talking Animals was added apparently just to give Disney's animation division something to do that year, and a climactic battle scene of magically powered suits of plate armor versus a Nazi invasion force replaced the book's much more low-key conclusion. Oh, and they made it a musical. A major plot element complete with its own musical number, critical to the climax of the film, was conjured up out of a random two-word phrase ("substitutiary locomotion") that appears only once in a minor conversation on which the children eavesdrop in the book. And on top of all that, they pluralized both nouns in the title for no obvious reason.
Mary Poppins began as a series of seven books about a quite snarky and unpleasant magical nanny. Particularly towards the final books, the series become increasingly bizarre and increasingly interested in mythology, mysticism and herbalism (as was its author, P. L. Travers, a devotee of Theosophy). It's all a far cry from the Disney film version, which Travers loathed.
Inside the packed twelve-hundred-seat theatre, the members of the audience responded to the movie with enthusiasm: they gave it a five-minute standing ovation. In the midst of the celebrating crowd, it would have been easy to overlook the sixty-five-year-old woman sitting there, weeping.
Pocahontas pretty much shredded everything we know about the historical woman. For one thing she was between 10 and 12 years old when she first met John Smith, making a romantic relationship unlikely at best. Her father had fifty wives and many children. She was taken to Jamestown as a hostage and married before her trip to London, and no Armada was threatening to annihilate her people. John Smith was not a Prince Charming type, but in fact an unattractive, short man with a giant woolly beard. Just about the only bit they got right was her saving Smith from execution, and even that is considered by some historians to be the enactment of a ritual (and thus Smith wasn't in any real danger). Still other historians suspect Smith of making up the entire story, since it doesn't appear until he wrote his memoirs, four years after her ''death''.
And she didn't actually marry John Smith. She married John Rolfe. The sequel addresses this, albeit in an inaccurate way, playing with drama between the two Johns. History dictates that when she met John Smith in London, she slapped his face.
The Black Cauldron mishmashed plot elements from Lloyd Alexander's book of the same name with his earlier The Book of Three, gave the amalgamated villain an annoying sidekick, turned the truculent dwarves into cute little pixies, and made beast-man Gurgi the very definition of Tastes Like Diabetes. No songs, though. Disney itself acknowledges the failure of this movie nowadays, and wishes they could give their fans a more book-accurate version. Why they don't, given that they still own the adaptation rights to the series, is anyone's guess.
In T. H. White's The Sword In The Stone, young Wart's education by the wizard Merlin contains powerful moral lessons that will help the young man face his future role as King Arthur. The Disney version throws away all of the moral messages and replaces them with (admittedly sometimes very good) visual gags.
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books (yes, two of them) depict the orphaned Mowgli growing into a strong and intelligent young man whose jungle upbringing will make him something of a Noble Savage. Baloo was a serious, wise old animal, rather than fun-loving comic relief. Kaa the python, while large, intimidating, and alien, is one of Mowgli's allies, not enemies. Hathi the elephant is wise and powerful and when he tells Shere Khan to clear off("How Fear Came"), the tiger does so - he is not a pompous ass who fancies himself a Victoria Cross-winning British Army colonel. There is quite a lot of violence, too. At one point Kaa hypnotizes a troupe of monkeys into becoming his helpless (ahem) dinner guests; later on Mowgli and the wolves kill Shere Khan by a stampede of water-buffalo over him. (In the Disney version he doesn't even die!) The story "Red Dog" has Mowgli cause the marauding dogs of the title to be attacked by millions of angry bees; those who jump in the river to survive are attacked by Mowgli with a knife; and those left then face Mowgli and his enraged wolf pack. And incidentally, Mowgli does most of this while he's naked. It should come as no surprise that none of the violence or nudity makes it into the Disney version, but Disney not only censors the story but effectively throws out every last original plot thread. A documentary on the DVD explains how Disney's writers "improved" on the original, but in fact it becomes clear that what they really did was to whittle away at the original storyline until there was almost nothing left except for a few almost coincidental similarities. They can't even pronounce Mowgli's name right. ("Mow rhymes with cow", says Kipling.)
All this can be easily explained by the fact that Walt Disney specifically told the production crew not to read the book. He gave an outline on the characters and plot ideas he wanted and didn't want the book itself to be used as a reference - specially as the original script and songs, inspired by the book, had a bit more darkness than is usual in a Disney film (to the point that the writer was ditched despite a long story with Disney, and the only song kept before changing composers was a cheery tune that became the Signature Song of the film, "The Bear Necessities").
The story of the Three Little Pigs originally had the first two pigs eaten by the wolf after their houses were blown down. The Disney cartoon of the story allowed them to run to the next house before the wolf could get his meal. The original has the big bad wolf being boiled alive after he attempts to gain access to the brick house via the chimney, whereas the Disney version simply has the wolf burning his hand and running away scared. Some other sanitized versions will have the wolf pass out from the exhaustion of trying to blow the third house down.
Aladdin, as well done as it is, is drastically different from the original. In the story as presented in the Arabian Nights, Aladdin had two genies - a weaker one in a ring, and the stronger one in the lamp - and had no limit on the number of tasks he could set them to. Yes, he won the hand of a princess, but that was barely the midpoint of the story; the evil wizard who had first used Aladdin to try to retrieve the lamp (and who had no connection to the princess in any way) was not quickly disposed of but instead discovered Aladdin's success, and successfully stole the lamp (and the princess, and Aladdin's palace, and almost everything else) with the clever ruse of "New lamps for old!" Aladdin had to win everything back from the wizard using his wits and the lesser genie he still had in his ring. There weren't any cute animal companions, magic carpets hadn't been thought up when the story was written, and the princess didn't have much of a part - she ranged from ruining everything by giving away the lamp, all the way down to being eye candy only present for Aladdin to marry.
Sleeping Beauty. Besides the minor Hijacked By Jesus elements, we also have the fact that the only precaution to protect the princess in the original was the outlawing of spinning wheels; the princess slept for one-hundred years, as opposed to just until Prince Charming returned home; speaking of the Prince, he wasn't introduced until after those one-hundred years had passed; and there's also that egregious case of Dude Shes Like In A Coma, too, which ended up with a pregnant princess... And she also didn't wake up until one of her babies, more by pure, rotten luck, accidentally sucked out a cursed splinter from her finger... And then there's the version where it wasn't the Prince, but A BLOODY OGRE who did all of the above mentioned to her, and then planned on eating her AND the kids.
Oddly enough, Newsies is not a particularly egregious example of Disneyfication. It's safe to say that the New York newsboys of 1899 didn't burst into spontaneous well-choreographed musical numbers as they walked the streets, and the violence occurring as a result of the strike is a bit sanitized (no blood); but we do see newsboys sleeping on the streets, smoking cigars, betting on races, beating up strikebreakers, et cetera.
Of course, one must point out that the newspapers never actually lowered their prices in the end; they came to an agreement with the newsies where they agreed to buy back their unsold papers. While this agreement was pretty mutually beneficial, clearly the idea of the rag-tag kids' union getting everything they wanted in the end was too good for Disney to pass up.
The Fox and the Hound. In the original book, Tod and Copper were never friends to begin with, Tod loses his first mate to a trap and his second to the hunter, Chief doesn't survive his encounter with that train, and at the end Tod dies of exhaustion while being relentlessly chased by Copper and his master. And then Copper is literally shot in the head by his owner to avoid having to abandon him.
Disney's dulling-down of subject matter actually extends into the physical world — real estate, in particular. The differences between New York City's Times Square before Disney took over most of 42nd Street and Times Square afterward are profound and at times somewhat depressing. Yes, it's cleaner and more family-friendly and a fair bit safer to walk around after dark, but sometimes it seems about as real as Main Street USA.
The story of Robin Hood had been thoroughly bowdlerised before Walt Disney was born, and their take on it is actually far from the worst abuse of the mythos.
To be fair, the narrator outright admits that everybody has their own version of the story (true enough) and that this was just the version that the animals tell.
Tangled skips the Teen Pregnancy and has Flynn get a rather clean stab wound at the end, instead of having his eyes gouged out. Although one could argue that the two balanced out, since Flynn actually dies, only to be brought back.
Disney actually went back and did this to an attraction in Tokyo Disney Sea. The Sinbad the Sailor attraction went from a telling of all of Sinbad's daring adventures and the dangers he faced along the way though in a rather stylized Mary Blair fashion to a sanitized Tastes Like Diabetes version with a happy Alan Menken song, Sinbad given a clean shave and a tiger cub sidekick, and all the monsters becoming Sinbad's friends or helping him along the way that brings to mind "it's a small world".
In a non-movie related example, Disney managed to do this to themselves by censoring some things in Kingdom Hearts II's Port Royal level. Such as removing the part where Will aims a gun at his own head, giving the Rifle wielding UndeadPirates Crossbows instead, and toning down the special effects on Undead Pirates hit with magic spells. All of this was done in order to keep the game at a E10+ rating. An attempt which ultimately failed, because they left the scene where Undead!Barbossa drinks a bottle of wine to scare Elizabeth in the game.
Disney also did this to Shakespeare when they adapted Hamlet in to an animated film featuruing an entire cast of talking animals, I Want Songs and a Happy Ending rather than the Downer Ending of the original play. Luckily, the end product was so good that it went on to be the most financially successful animated film in the Canon, and is commonly considered the Magnum Opus of the Renaissance. The name of the film? The Lion King.
Tarzan is a case where Disneyfication improved the original work. For instance, Burrough's virulent racist and xenocentric material was removed and a century's worth of scientific research about the true peaceful nature of gorillas was incorporated into the story.
Though interestingly averted in the case of the Queen of Hearts. While her book version did order beheadings left and right, she was generally shown as being blustering and clueless. Her husband secretly pardoned most of the people she condemned, and the Griffon told Alice that "It's all in [the Queen's] fancy, you know. They don't actually execute anyone". In the final trial scene, Alice even tells off the queen and dismisses her and the rest of the court as a pack of playing cards, before waking up. The same holds true for the Red Queen and the Duchess, who were both combined with the Queen of Hearts. In the case of the former, Alice ends the dream by "capturing" and shaking her. In the case of the latter, Alice quickly realizes that the casual threat to have her beheaded is empty. In the Disney version though, the amalgamated Queen of Hearts is portrayed as a genuine threat, extremely terrifying, and left with no hints that her threats are empty. The trial ends with Alice running for her life from the Queen and her soldiers, and wakes up while dreaming that she's desperately screaming for her sleeping self to wake up.
Other studios now or once owned by Disney have adopted the practice as well:
The anti-religious theme of Miramax Films' 2000 film of the bookChocolat was softened by replacing the bitter churchman of the book with a town representative. Also, the town itself was made to look drab and ugly in the opening acts, when the very first scene in the book describes the heroine and her daughter watching a bright parade through the streets of the same town. The most egregious change is the ending — the novel contained a brief, drunken hookup between the heroine and a male supporting character, leaving her pregnant as she left the village to continue drifting. In the movie, the relationship between her and the man is developed into a full romantic subplot, he returns at the end, and the heroine decides she doesn't need to leave the village, breaking the cycle.
The 1995 Hollywood Pictures film version of The Scarlet Letter starring Demi Moore not only has Hester, Dimmesdale, and Pearl riding off into the sunset, but also Dimmesdale is saved from hanging by a convenient tribe of Native Americans. Do filmmakers do this just to prank lazy students who didn't read the book?
Disney's old The Swamp Fox series softened a few things too. The blacks, like Marion's servant Oscar and the maid Dehlia, are just called 'servants' or for the men 'boys', they're never indicated to be slaves. And of course, there's no mention of how Marion, like many slave owners,sometimes raped female slaves. The Tories are made more out and out bad guys, when things were a lot more complex during the real American Revolution. Canada, the birthplace of series lead Leslie Nielsen, actually banned the series because of that part. And Marion's wife, Mary Videaux, was also his cousin, and that got cut.
Fairies in general. Case in point: Tinker Bell. Though you do see some of it peeking through in the first Peter Pan movie, all traces of traditional Fair Folk sociopathy are gone in later appearances.
Most of the dubbings of 4Kids Entertainment tend to do this, removing all the religious/ pagan/ demonic imagery, removing violence and firearms, removing almost all the references to death and murder and removing all the fanservice...You got the idea.
Nelvana is guilty of this too. Cardcaptor Sakura for example was basically torn in half to get rid of context unsuitable for Western demographic (eg. implied incest and underage romance). This is more in terms of context rather than narrative however, given the dialogue and characterizations are actually somewhat less cutesy and whimsical than the original Japanese original.
Also due to omitting almost all romantic elements, a large amount of the show's finale had to be edited, making it more bittersweet (especially since Nelvana lost the rights to dubbing the show before The Sealed Card was released).
Most of Go Nagai's classics were originally aimed for teens and adults. TV adaptions for kids during 1970s-1980s softened the materials significantly. A notable example is Devil Man. Even though the show is still a horror genre, it's nowhere as brutal as the original.
Subverted in the Danish comic book series Valhalla. Most of the stories from the Nordic Mythology are both severely simplified and kidified. For example, two kids, who have little to do with the original mythology, are made into protagonists for most of the earlier books. Also, in one myth Freyja sold her body to receive the Brisinga-necklace, but in the comics she just gave up a small part of her blood. On the other hand, the comic series also features gore, boobs and full frontal nudity!
The comic pays a lot of homage to the original myths even when changing them. In the case of Freyja, Odin (and the reader) are led to believe for most of the story that she did, indeed, sleep her way to getting the necklace. Odin (who, true to the myths, is often a Jerkass) gets Loki to steal it for him, intent on asking the same price for it as she originally paid if she wants it back. He wasn't expecting her to cut her finger and give him a few drops of her blood.
The book dealing with Baldur's death takes this trope even further. Loki kills Baldur purely by accident (not on purpose, like in the original myth), and he spends much of the story trying to avoid commiting the prophesized murder, thereby setting up the very circumstances that lead to it. Granted, Baldur still dies, but when he comes to Helheim (the realm of the dead), his cheerful disposition makes the goddess Hel so happy that the dark and miserable Helheim spontaneously turns into a lush, green pasture!
The final album in the series, which deals with Ragnarokk also manages to play this trope, even if it deals with the prophesied end of the world. It does so partly by playing up the oft-forgotten "rebirth" part of the myth, and partly by treating the "end of the world" as not the literal end of the human world, but a sign that the Scandinavian lands were converted to Christianity. The famous scenes of Asgard burning, Odin being swallowed by the Fenris wolf and Thor falling in battle with the Midgard serpent still happen, and are treated very dramatically, though the end of the story reveals in roundabout ways that this probably wasn't their final end and that they would go on in some form even if they were no longer worshipped as gods. The biggest Disneyfication is in Loki's fate, though: In the original myths he is killed by Heimdall, but in the comic he skips out of their fight and escapes to the untouched Midgard with Tjalve and Roskva. He gets about half a page to gloat that he's the only god left before being interrupted by a pair of Christian monks who invite him down to the newly-built church and join him in the worship of the "Almighty Lord." Loki being a very popular character thanks to his Jerkass Woobie characterization, no readers complained about this.
In addition to changing its heroine from a quiet, thoughtful girl into Shirley Temple's usual brassy, vivacious smart-aleck, the 1939 film of Frances Hodgson Burnett's book A Little Princess softens the hardships Sara undergoes, changes the villain's weak and complicit sister into a heroic brother, and imposes a Disney Death on Sara's father, while ladling generous quantities of Tastes Like Diabetes over the entire story. There have been more faithful adaptations since, but even the 1995 Alfonso Cuarón version has her father survive.
The Film of the BookThe Golden Compass noticeably ends the story a bit early — before the bit where Lord Asriel murders the little boy Lyra thought she was saving in cold blood. It was filmed but saved as an opener for the second movie — needless to say, it proved to be a Stillborn Franchise. It's possible to find cobbled-together versions of the chopped-off ending; it's very beautiful and heartbreaking and a shame that it looks like it will never be seen.
The film also toned down a lot of the original anti-Catholic themes, to try to stave off complaints from religious viewers. It didn't work.
This was, apparently, much to get Nicole Kidman to take the job and play Mrs. Coulter as she's so perfect in the role. Besides, the anti-Catholic themes and bossy lecturing really aren't that prevalent in The Golden Compass; they become more prevalent as the series goes on.
In almost every film or television adaptation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the N-word is taken out. In one particularly tacky example, an CBS Made-for-TV Movie made Jim white and removed any mention of slavery. Also, at least one removes all trace of barefootedness for some reason.
Although the film Enemy Mine and the novella both have happy endings, the film has a very optimistic one in which Davidge saves Zammis from evil slavemasters and this leads to an implied greater understanding between humanity and the Dracs, as Davidge is added to the line of Jeriba. Meanwhile, the novella instead ends with Davidge saving Zammis from his own people, who have had him imprisoned as mentally ill due to his strong identification with humans. Davidge then takes Zammis back to the planet Zammis was born on and Davidge and Jerry crashed on and founds a colony for those few humans and Dracs that are willing to look past the hostility and cultural differences between the races and work together in a spirit of cooperation, while giving up on a greater reconciliation of the two peoples in his lifetime.
The Live Action Film adaptation of Animal Farm qualifies big time. To give you a context, Napoleon and his fellow Pigs essentially get away with completely overturning Animalism in everything with the exception of its name, with the animals being unable to do a thing but watch in the original book. In the Live Action adaptation, its implied that Karma managed to bite Napoleon and his pigs in the butt when they neglected to use any money he utilized to actually help his fellow animals, and instead used it on trivial matters. Ironically, this ends up being justified because it was released after the Soviet Union collapsed... under very similar reasons to how Animal Farm collapsed.
The animated adaptation from the '50s also tacks on an ending where Benjamin the donkey rallies the other animals to get rid of Napoleon as they did Jones, though it's left ambiguous whether they succeed.
The film adaptation of Stardust replaces the bittersweet ending of the book with a straight-up happy ending. Rare in that author Neil Gaiman actually gave his blessing to the change, saying it served the film better than the book's ending would have done.
Charles Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty" was preceded by the 17th-century tale "Sun, Moon, and Talia" by Giambattista Basile, in which the princess was woken not by a kiss, but by being raped, giving birth — both while unconscious — and her child sucking the sleep-inducing splinter out of her finger.
It gets better. The ending of one variant of the tale is the princess being so pissed off when she realizes what's happened to her that she eats the babies.
Notably, The Brothers Grimm made many of their fairy tales less scary than their original versions. This was partly because of complaints that their first edition was not suitable for children. They had, after all, titled it Household and Children's Tales. They chiefly cut down the sex and converted evil mothers to wicked stepmothers, and some stories such as "How Some Children Played at Slaughtering" were left out entirely from later editions. Later writers toned down the violence.
One interesting example is what they did to the story of "Rapunzel". In the most commonly encountered version, Mother Gothel learns that Rapunzel's being visited in her tower when Rapunzel tells her — asking her, "How is it, good mother, that you are so much harder to pull up than the young Prince? He is always with me in a moment", which makes the heroine seem at best a bit on the dim side. In the original edition, Rapunzel was only naive, not stupid: she wanted to know why her dresses had grown so tight—specifically, around her stomach.
Gulliver's Travels is often a victim of this trope because it has giant Brobdingnagians and small Lilliputians which make for easy kid appeal, but the original novel is satirical and includes a scene where Gulliver upsets the Lilliputians by pissing on a fire to put it out. This scene, needless to say, is nearly always changed.
Most modern renditions leave out vast amounts of Gulliver's Travels, starting with scenes like the one in which a Brobdingnagian woman uses Gulliver as a dildo, and moving on to excise the entire second half of the book with the voyages to Laputa and the land of the Houyhnhyms, which can in no way be made kid-friendly.
The closest interpretation was the 1996 TV movie featuring Ted Danson, and even that one told the story differently, with Gulliver being treated as a mental patient raving about his adventures, while Grimmifying many elements of the tale and toning down the various elements involved in the story's ending, whether they contributed to its Downer Ending or not. At the end, he's proved sane when his son finally manages to live-trap a Lilliputian sheep (which he'd brought back from that journey) and present it to the judge.
The book The Tales of Beedle the Bard discusses this, with the tales of a Bluenose Bowdlerizer who'd rewritten the primal and admittedly occasionally horrific Tales to be filled with obnoxious Glurge. Dumbledore sourly comments that hearing her versions of the Tales causes children to be filled with "an intense urge to vomit". However, the book takes a sympathetic stance on her, attributing her attitude as being caused by sneaking downstairs as a child and hearing her sisters talk about what she claims was the most bloody of the Tales, but what is implied to be details of a sexual affair.
And apparently "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" was just too gruesome for her to find a way to give it this treatment.
Merlin. Goodbye incestuous lovechild of Arthur and Morgan le Fay, hello adorable orphan druid boy.
Mordred does get considerably less adorable as the series goes on. He was a Creepy Child when he was first introduced, and he just keeps getting creepier.
At one point he magically picks two spears and stabs one soldier with each of them. Then he smiles. All this before the watershed.
Worth noting that the incestuous love child was in itself a Retcon. In older stories Mordred is not related to Arthur (though nor does he have magical powers), and Morgan le Fay is a good Fae (hence the title), one of the three who take Arthur to Avalon.
Wishbone does this as a matter of course, being a kids' show about reading literature. For example, in the Frankenstein episode, the Monster's request for a bride is replaced with a request to "make me a frieeeend!", the Monster is portrayed much more like the dumb brute from the movies than the highly intelligent creature from the book, and Victor (Wishbone) doesn't die.
And then there's The Time Machine episode, wherein the Morlocks' only crime is being creepy, rather than farming and eating the Eloi.
Does it ever make you wonder what happens if some of these kids get inspired to actually pick up one of those old books that have been "edited" by these shows?
Clueless Even though Dionne and Murray had sex in the movie, they do not hook-up on the TV show until the last episode of the show.
Stephen Foster — The Musical was originally the story of Stephen Foster's life, called, appropriately, The Stephen Foster Story. It was later revised to give the story a happy ending and omit references to slavery.
Wicked. Can't have the heroine of a musical (at least, not a Stephen Schwartz one) be a homicidal terrorist — or dying at the end.
La gazza ladra is based on actual history. At the last minute, Ninetta, the heroine, is saved from the scaffold, whereas the real accused wasn't so lucky.
In-world example: In Escape from Monkey Island, the legacy of the dread pirate Tiny LaFeet is Disneyfied by real estate kingpin Ozzy Mandrill to better appeal to local tourists. According to Ozzy's marketers, the actually quite mean Tiny LaFeet "always said 'please' and 'thank you', twice!"
Richard Baxton piloted his Recon Rover into a fungal vortex and held off four waves of mind worms, saving an entire colony. We immediately purchased his identity manifests and repackaged him into the Recon Rover Rick character with a multi-tiered media campaign: televids, touchbooks, holos, psi-tours, the works. People need heroes. They don't need to know how he died clawing his eyes out, screaming for mercy. The real story would just hurt sales, and dampen the spirits of our customers.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2's GT Mode's ending was disneyfied in a very odd way. In the Dragon Ball GT series itself, Goku had to sacrifice his time on Earth to allow Shenron to revive all those killed during the reopening of Hell and the Shadow Dragon's emergence, and apparently returns to Earth 100 years later in the final episode. In GT Mode, however, Goku (who is an adult in this instead of a kid) ends up wanting to have lunch after killing Omega Shenron, with Vegeta making a snarky comment while leaving with him as if nothing happened.
In the arcade version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge, Marian is killed off by Machine Gun Willy and she stays dead in the end. In the NES version, she is still killed off as well, but the scene where she is shot to death by said villain (who is absent in this version) is never shown and she is restored to life after defeating the final boss (a new villain who was not in the arcade version).
The Dreamworks movie The Prince Of Egypt was relatively faithfully adapted from the book of Exodus. However, it still Disneyfied the potential drowning of Pharaoh. Kind of odd, since they included the deaths of his soldiers and two separate genocides (one by the Egyptians against the Hebrews and one by God against the Egyptians).
Then again, what with the relationship between the Pharaoh and Moses in the movie (and the movie's efforts to humanize him), killing the Pharaoh off would have been a pretty bad dramaturgical choice. (The last time we see him he's roaring Moses' name to the heavens in despair, while on the other side of the Red Sea Moses whispers "good-bye, brother.")
There is also spontaneous chariot racing for whatever reason.
The original text reveals Moses as actively deciding to kill the Egyptian taskmaster for beating a Hebrew slave. And then he (unsuccessfully) tried to cover it up to avoid blame
Moses was 80 years old and father of two sons when he came to see the Pharaoh. He also was "slow of tongue" and so Aaron did the talking. Moses as a younger man is probably more due to the influence of The Ten Commandments than this trope.
Anastasia manages to show the Russian Revolution without mentioning Communism. Instead, Rasputin is plucked out his historical context for use as a pure Evil Sorcerer (ignoring his complex relationship with the Romanovs), and given an annoying talking bat as a Non-Human Sidekick. They didn't even mention Lenin, the Soviets and the Bolsheviks when they attacked the Czar's palace!
There was one Communism joke. One. "That's what I hate about this government: everything's in red!" They get out of the USSR about as fast as the plot can carry them, saving it from any further inconvenient relevance to the cute-little-bugs musical numbers.
Titanic: The Legend Goes On's alters history so that (almost) everyone survives, including bad guys who would be considered an Acceptable Target, and also shoehorns some really bad singing and dancing in. It's a ripoff of a bunch of more famous movies, such as like James Cameron's Titanic, with comic scenes practically lifted wholesale from Disney movies.
It's even worse in The Legend of the Titanic, released at the same time as the former in Italy, where the ship is rescued from sinking by a giant octopus atoning for having chucked the iceberg in the ship's way in the first place. And in this one, everyone survives, even the captain and the band. The only possible saving throw is the ending, which implies that the narrator of the story, as a sailor, exaggerates and makes up stuff. This does absolutely nothing to excuse the sequel, which involves mermaids, Atlantis, talking toys, and evil mice.
In a 1998 installment of Saturday Night Live's animated "TV Funhouse" segment, there's a Real Trailer, Fake Movie for a Disney film called "Titey" in which the Titanic is a singing, dancing ship and the story mangles history in countless ways - the ship swordfights a singing, dancing iceberg voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and then "refuses to stay sunk" by being rescued by a gang of wise-cracking whales. (The final line of the skit is "See it, or your children will hate you!") The sad thing is, this skit predated the two above films — and if ever became a real movie, it'd probably still manage to be better than them.
The Swan Princess for the most part stays true to the original Swan Lake fairy tale, but makes the classic set of changes: talking animal sidekicks, a healthy dash of women's lib, and a happy ending in which the swan and the prince marry instead of drowning themselves in the lake. They even went on to star in direct-to-video sequels and are still alive and kicking!
Stagings of the ballet are divided on this: some have the lovers die (or parted forever as Odette is condemned to remain a swan), while others have them live happily ever after. Mercedes Lackey's retelling The Black Swan splits the difference: Odette and Siegfried throw themselves in the lake but are restored to life by a turned-good Odile.
The Rankin-Bass movie adaptation of The Hobbit makes a few questionable changes (all death is represented by the screen spinning) but is actually less destructive than you would expect. But for a sequel, Rankin-Bass got to make a mawkish version of The Return Of The King.
However, it also manages to avert this trope at the end, as not only does the mortally wounded Thorin die on screen, but a total of seven of the thirteen dwarves are killed in the Battle of Five Armies, as opposed to the three who are killed in the original book.
Arthur and the Minimoys was an international hit and yielded two sequels, but the American release of the first film, retitled Arthur and the Invisibles, failed miserably at the box office. This might be because the American release completely removed the romantic subplot between Arthur and Selenia.
The Secret of NIMH is based on a book called Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. There were a number of small changes between the books, notably, Mrs. Frisby of the novel became Mrs. Brisby in the film (mainly to avoid trademark issues with the Wham-O! company) and a shift of focus from the rats' time at NIMH to Mrs. Brisby's looming crisis. Some of the characterizations are obviously much more whimsical and goofy than in the novel (particularly Jeremy). However, the biggest and most Disneyfied change is the random inclusion of magic and mysticism, which plays an important role in the movie, but was not present in the book whatsoever. Many fans prefer the movie to the books — enough that a large schism is present in the NIMH fandom.
Then there's the treatment of Jenner, which actually inverts this trope and adds more drama and darkness with making him the evil, murderous Big Bad out to take control of the rats, while in the book he's never even seen, just mentioned as a rat that disagreed with the way the tribe was living, and so he and some people that thought the same way packed up and left (However, it's implied that he and they are the dead rats found in an electronic store, and this sets up the last act of the book, as the rats who stayed behind must leave the farm before human authorities track them down too.)
There's also a larger death count in the film. Oh, and Justin says "Damn" once.
And then, in came the sequel. Timmy To The Rescue, despite being an example of Lighter and Softer of the highest order, actually uses some elements from the book the novel neglected (eg. Brutus turning out to be a Gentle Giant, the NIMH survivors being six rather than two). That said, these mostly do play more into softening the tone of the film, and naturally also cause some contradictions with the first film.
Max: I never dreamed we could have this much fun and still be suitable for young viewers!
The animated adaptation of Animal Farm is Disneyfied in a similar manner to the later live action version, although a notable difference is that while the animals in the live action adaptation express their displeasure of Napoleon's policies after a cumulation of him sending Boxer to the butcher shop and altering the entirety of the animal seven commandments, especially the seventh, by simply leaving the farm, the animals actually rebel outright against Napoleon and his pigs and successfully depose his regime.
The PBS show Super WHY makes adaptations of fairy tales where Disneyfication runs rampant:
Of "Hansel and Gretel": The title characters go and nibble on the witch's house. The witch comes out and yells at them for ruining their roof. After a brief break for literary education from Our Heroes, Hansel and Gretel apologize to the witch; she accepts their apology and delivers the moral, then gives them cookies shaped like houses.
Of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses": Turns out they were sneaking out to plan a surprise party for their father, the king. What this has to do with the original tale is...um...there's twelve princesses. And there might have been some dancing.
Of "The Little Mermaid": The title character is afraid to play with the kids on the island because she has a tail. Combine with an especially Anvilicious frame story about "being different" and it's arguably the worst of the lot.
Just about any comic book adaptation that isn't specifically praised for being dark and edgy. There's a reason why so many people confuse comics books with cartoons, or assume superheroes are for kids (and admitting to reading them to those who haven't may lead to awkwardness). Apparantly, that characters such as the Punisher and Wolverine regularly kill others, and characters like Batman and Spider Man's entire premise is based around death means nothing to some people, because the cartoons are too childish to be taken seriously sometimes.
The Darkstalkers cartoon. While originally there was a lot of moral ambiguity, with the monster hunter wanting to kill nice monsters and even the main heroine not giving a rat's ass about being queen, the cartoon had Black and White Morality and was way less violent. For example, Demitri's teeth are just two fangs instead of a clusterfuck of sharp teeth.
Dino Babies often adapted stories this way. For example, their adaptation of Oliver Twist ended with Oliver finding his mother, while in the original story she was dead from the start.