A downplayed version of Executive Meddling
, where the bosses forbid only the use of a specific trope (be it a certain character, scene, Plot Twist
or so on) in a work, requiring the writers to find an alternative.
There can be numerous reasons for this. Perhaps the executive considered the trope in question cliché (or breaking their personal Willing Suspension of Disbelief
) and wants the writers to go back and re-think it; maybe that character was too popular (or profitable
) to be Killed Off for Real
. Maybe the foreshadowing
was too obvious for Genre Savvy
audience members; perhaps the prohibited trope was something offensive or controversial that might alienate potential audience members (or cause a firestorm
), limiting the potential market for the product; or maybe it's simply a subject that the publisher wants no part of in the first place.
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Anime and Manga
- Chiaki Konaka mentioned on his website that during early planning for Digimon Tamers, one of the first concepts for Juri Katou's father was that he was a Yakuza boss working in prostitution. Unsurprisingly, the producers nuked that one from orbit, Digimon being a kids' series and all. What ended up happening wasn't all that much more child-friendly, though.
- Ume Aoki mentioned in one of the art books that she originally planned to have a Wholesome Crossdresser in the four original tenants of Hidamari Sketch, but was shot down by her publisher.
- Chris Claremont wanted to reveal that Mystique was not in fact Nightcrawler's mother, but his father, having impregnated Destiny while shapeshifted into male form. The editors did not approve, but more than one subsequent writer and a decent number of fans have considered Retconning this into being Nightcrawler's actual backstory, especially since Nightcrawler's actual parentage, mainly his father being the Marvel equivalent of Satan, and the story that revealed it are widely considered to be even worse.
- Another "who's the father" plotline involves Gwen Stacy's children of "Sins Past." Originally Gwen's two children were intended to be Pete's but the editors vetoed it, feeling it'd age the character. Norman Osborn was eventually the one who they'd decided to make the father of Gwen's children. This story quickly fell into Fanon Discontinuity.
- Sally Acorn was originally intended to die during the events of the "Endgame" arc of the Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. The decision not to kill her off wasn't from fan backlash in response to the rumors (the loudest of whom was probably David Gonterman). Editor Justin Gabrie (not SEGA) convinced then-writer Ken Penders not to go along with killing Sally as he has clarified on his site. The arc was also intended to be twice as long with a robot Sally taking the place of the real one for awhile. This idea was also scrapped.
- Jean Grey of the X-Men was not originally intended to die in the classic Dark Phoenix storyline. But editor-in-chief Jim Shooter insisted on a more severe punishment for her destruction of an inhabited world, so the story was rewritten at the last minute.
- As Shooter himself noted later, the original ending would be comparable to capturing Adolf Hitler at the end of World War II, taking away the German Army, and sending him off to live in some suburb, since he's harmless now.
- When the Animated Series did the story-arc, they specifically changed the solar system she destroyed to being uninhabited to avoid this. In this version, her only victims during the act were a single ship of Shi'ar scientists who tried to stop her.
- The rejected plans for Spider-Woman's origin were that she wasn't a human with spider powers, she was a spider evolved to a humanoid form. Going back to the X-Men, there's a persistent rumor (which co-creator Len Wein denies he had any part of) that Wolverine was also to have been an evolved animal, but when the X-writers heard that it was pitched by Spider-Woman's writers and shot down they decided not to try it with Wolvie.
- Example of an entire work not coming out: the Brazilian distributor of Disney comics translated the Kingdom Hearts manga, but Square Enix has so far prevented it from being released, since the series never had an official release there (and most people played the games through piracy, since the imported games are way expensive).
- In issue #1 of Red Hood and the Outlaws it was originally planned for Starfire to be in a semi-transparent bikini, but the editorial shot it down. Considering how controversial the book proved to be even without that it was probably for the best.
- DC vetoed plans to have Batwoman marry her longtime girlfriend, Maggie Sawyer, because they felt that no member of the Bat Family should ever be allowed to marry. Afterwards, the series writer and artist both walked out; apparently, this was the last straw after DC had already vetoed several of their other plans for the series.
- In the DVD commentary for the film Bulletproof Monk, the writers discuss how the original story had Seann William Scott's character being killed by the villain and Jaime King's character becoming the Monk's successor. The studio wouldn't allow it, so the writers had to fudge the ending, allowing both characters to live and share the Monk's power.
- Perhaps the most extreme form of executive veto comes from Gene Roddenbery's proposed script for a sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture — one in which the Enterprise crew has to go back to November 22, 1963 and ensure that John F. Kennedy is assassinated to keep history flowing in the right direction. Apart from it being a Recycled Script (remember when Kirk had to make sure a social worker died to keep the universe Nazi-free?), it was also glaringly Too Soon (this being not yet 20 years after the event even), and the script idea was so firmly vetoed by the execs that Roddenberry was removed from his post as producer, setting up for the much better Star Trek II.
- This actually happened several times, as Roddenberry kept pitching the idea for the next movie(s), and the studio kept vetoing it.
- This plot was finally used by Red Dwarf decades later.
- And an episode of Quantum Leap had Sam as Oswald, though he did get to leap into a Secret Service agent to save Mrs. Kennedy.
- And an episode of The Twilight Zone, where a historian named Joseph Fitzgerald, a distant relative of JFK, uses a time machine to prevent the assassination, and eventually brings the President (played by Andrew Robinson) to the 22nd century.
- The film Layer Cake has an example where an executive veto made a scene stronger; in the novel of the same name, the protagonist and his hired Cold Sniper shoot an American tourist, mistaking him for The Dragon. The film was originally going to play the scene out in the same way, but Sony Pictures felt uncomfortable with killing the American and asked for the scene to be changed. It was; the Dragon snipes the sniper before he takes his shot at the tourist, which the director's commentary states makes for a better scene.
- Alien³ was originally not going to feature Ellen Ripley. Fox vetoed, saying she was the core of the franchise (and as other pages show, things only got worse from there on).
- Early on, the only veto was against using the aliens' home planet as the setting because it would be too expensive. The demand to feature Ripley came in 1989, when Joe Roth became chairman of FOX, and the Executive Meddling only became worse after that.
- One of the ideas in an early draft of the My Little Pony movie was for the ponies to encounter some characters from G.I. Joe and Transformers; specifically, a couple of ponies would have passed by Shipwreck, who would then have poured his drink away. Reportedly, the Hasbro representative's response was "Very funny. No."
- Rocky was originally supposed to die in the street at the end of Rocky V, symbolizing his total ruination. The producer and director reportedly called Sylvester Stallone and said "By the way, Rocky doesn't die."
- The line "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school" in Fight Club was a replacement, after the original line was considered too crass by Fox executives, and the writer got them to agree that ANYTHING else was better and they would not veto the line a second time. The original line? "I want to have your abortion."
- Jon Peters is infamous for demanding a fight between the lead and a giant spider in whatever franchise he was producing during the 90s, such as The Sandman and Superman. The only giant spider that managed to make its way into theatres under Peters' watch in the end was Wild Wild West. A western.
- The 90s also saw a similar case in Fox Executive Dylan Sellers. The victim was the planned reboot of Planet of the Apes and Sellers' veto was his demand of a scene where the apes played baseball with the lead. The then projected Gritty Reboot with the title Return of the Apes and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a scientist time travelling to prehistoric Africa was cancelled mere months before filming was scheduled because writer Terry Hayes fervently refused to include the baseball scene, so Sellers had him fired and director Phillip Noyce resigned in solidarity with Hayes. Sam Hamm was then brought in and penned a more comedic, child-friendly, straight space Sci-Fi draft with two scenes featuring apes playing baseball. This script never got to the filming stage as Sellers was arrested soon after for drunk driving; afterwards, no ''Apes'' script included baseball.
- The Fighting Fantasy book Slaves of the Abyss was originally intended to end with the player character making a Heroic Sacrifice, staying in the Abyss to allow everyone else to escape. Steve Jackson felt that the player should get a massive reward for winning, and so the ending was changed to one where they get godlike powers instead.
- Editors forced Robert A. Heinlein to change the ending of Podkayne Of Mars so that the title character doesn't die at the end. Modern copies have both endings.
- In early planning phases for the New Jedi Order and subsequent Star Wars Expanded Universe books, Anakin Solo was planned as becoming a major character, taking up Luke's mantle as leader of the Jedi, and maybe even falling to The Dark Side, while his older brother Jacen was going to be killed in the Yuuzhan Vong War. When Del Rey Books (or George Lucas himself, things are uncertain) thought that it was too similar to the journey of another Anakin (y'know, Darth Vader), the boys' roles were swapped; they killed Anakin, and had Jacen fall.
- Amongst known vetoes in Star Wars fiction are: the name of Yoda's species, his planet of origin and, of course, killing off the Big Three (Han, Luke and Leia). They managed a workaround with that last one by setting some of the stories over a century in the future, long past their natural lifespans.
- In the original version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Captain Nemo was a Polish noble fighting his personal vendetta against the Russian Empire after his family has been murdered by Russian troops during the ill-fated January Uprising. Pierre-Jules Hetzel however asked Verne to change the Captain's nationality as France was allied with Russia at the time and a sympathetic anti-Russian protagonist could stir political trouble. An Indian noble fighting the British - enemies of both the French and the Russians - was fair game though.
- FOX stopped the producers of 24 from actually killing President Keeler in the fourth season. They had to make do with putting him in a coma instead.
- ABC prevented the creators of LOST from killing Jack in the first episode. The plane's pilot was created and killed instead.
- The BBC ordered the removal of all shots of Captain Jack's naked backside from the Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf".
- In Stargate SG-1, Richard Dean Anderson wanted to leave the show and retire as early as season 6 but the Sci-Fi Channel wouldn't let him. It wasn't until after season 8 and the success of Stargate Atlantis that Jack O'Neill finally got Put on a Bus.
- Happens in-universe, in a more literal sense. A news reporter who has a scoop on the Stargate program is told that her boss was ordered by the president of the US to kill the story.
- According to Dexter executive producer John Goldwyn, Showtime would not allow Dexter to be killed off in the series finale, resulting in the show's now infamous "lumberjack ending".
- FOX executives wouldn't let the production crew of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles film an expensive fight scene where the T-850 model Cromartie takes on an entire SWAT team. Instead, series creator Josh Friedman opted for an alternate fight scene that didn't show most of the violence. The end result, a SWAT raid that goes awry and is only seen from beneath the water in a hotel pool as Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" plays, is considered by many to be a much more effective way of showing the carnage.
- Tina Fey wrote the role of Jenna in 30 Rock for her friend Rachel Dratch, but NBC wouldn't let her do it. Fey got back at them by writing all kinds of bizarre one-shot characters who are all played by Dratch.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Writers originally intended for Tommy to be killed off like his Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger counterpart during the "Green Candle" multiparter. Saban nixed that, instead having him be Brought Down to Normal and written out temporarily. This was a brilliant decision, as Tommy was the most popular character, and keeping him alive kept viewers interested.
- Mash had a planned episode in the first season where Hawkeye impregnated two nurses and tries to avoid marrying either one. FOX shot down this idea.
- A second season episode of Seinfeld, called "The Bet", was scripted, but never filmed. In the script, Jerry and Elaine make a bet about the ease of buying a gun, and a subplot about George finding out whether Kramer slept with an airline stewardess. Julia Louis-Dreyfus felt it to be too dark and disturbing. In particular, Jason Alexander mentions when she read a scene in which she holds the gun to her head reading "where do you want it Jerry? The Kennedy? [holds the gun to her stomach] The McKinley?", she turned to him and said "I'm not doing this". The script was thrown out and "The Phone Message" was written in two days to take its place.
- The producers estimated that they needed to build at least 9 ships for the second season of Game of Thrones, which was based on a book that features Fantasy!Vikings invading the North, a massive naval battle on Blackwater Bay and Daenerys being attacked by an assassin on the docks of Qarth and leaving this city by ship in the end. HBO replied that they had money for one ship and no more. So all ships were the same one multiplied by CGI (with different CGI sails for variety), the Fantasy!Viking landing proper took place offscreen, the Battle of Blackwater (which was considered to take place entirely offscreen as well) was fought on land after most of the enemy fleet was destroyed in a CGI explosion, and the scene with Daenerys was pushed to the third season.
- Pat Benatar wanted the central character of the music video for "Love is a Battlefield" to become a prostitute after she runs away from home. The executives at her record label rejected it; thus the character gets a job as a dime-a-dance girl in a strip club (a la Tina Turner's "Private Dancer").
- Gary Larson's The Far Side was occasionally subject to editorial veto. In The Pre-History of the Far Side: A Tenth Anniversary Book, Larson writes that in the cases of some of the cartoons that were vetoed, his editors probably saved his career by refusing to publish them.
- Dick Tracy had such a moment when the creator, Chester Gould, put Dick in a truly inescapable Death Trap. Gould was so stumped for a solution that he decided to have Tracy Break The Fourth Wall and address Gould himself who literally extends his hand to lift the Detective out. His publisher, Joseph Patterson, rightly concluded that this was an incredibly lame idea and ordered Gould to redraw into something, anything, else.
- Vince McMahon exercises full creative control over the WWE, and often uses the executive veto. On the good side, he was effective enough at filtering Vince Russo's ideas that Russo was regarded as a creative genius before he left WWE. On the negative side he's done such things as veto Paul Birchill's Jack Sparrow-inspired pirate gimmick because he hadn't seen the Pirates of the Caribbean series(despite the fact that it was a cultural phenomenon) and thought the character was all wrong, as he thought that Birchill's character should have been more like an Errol Flynn-style swashbuckler, and nixed the character despite Birchill being over with the fans.
- One of the things that contributed to WCW's death was that Hulk Hogan had "complete creative control" written into his contract, which meant he could literally rewrite the cards to put himself over at the expense of everyone and everything else. He did this frequently.
- BioShock was originally only intended to have the bad ending, with saving Little Sisters only affecting your conscience. The good ending was forced on it by executives disagreeing with this. Many would argue this as a positive example of the veto.
- According to legend, when Hideaki Anno was told that Studio Gainax had rejected the offer for Neon Genesis Evangelion to be in Super Robot Wars, he said, essentially, "There's no way you're keeping my EVAs from fighting beside the likes of Getter and Mazinger!"
- Super Mario Galaxy is noted for having a relatively complex plot for a Mario game, but Shigeru Miyamoto kept the team from going further in that direction for the sequel, reflecting his belief that Mario games shouldn't really have deep plots.
- The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures got a similar treatment. It was originally going to have a plot with strong continuity ties to the rest of the series (cut dialogue suggests it was originally planned to be about the Imprisoning War from the backstory of A Link to the Past), but when Miyamoto saw it he complained that the plot should not be something that confused the player — leastways not with this particular game — and "upended the teatable" on the project. What's left is a game with strong hints of both A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time but without clear continuity.
- The second Knights of the Old Republic originally had a Kill 'em All ending, and may not have had a Light Side path at all. One of the few bits of good executive meddling from Lucasarts was to tell Obsidian to dummy those out.
- It's also important to remember that the rest of Lucasarts' Executive Meddling resulted in the game being rushed out and losing about 1/4 of its planned content. Unfortunately as a result the game had no real ending at all.
- Madden NFL: John Madden outright refused to put his name on the six man football prototype EA first showed him, forcing the project to be shelved until 16-bit consoles came around which could handle a full team.
- Seymour Goes to Hollywood would have been a Dizzy game, except that Codemasters forbade placing Dizzy in the modern world.
- The executives of She-Ra: Princess of Power were once presented with the character of Stinkor to be included as a villain in the show. They hated the idea, thinking the character ridiculous enough to not be taken seriously by the fanbase. As a result, they resolved to never use him in She-Ra or any other Masters of the Universe-based media. The character was eventually allowed to be used in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002).
- Rumor has it that Duke was to be killed off in G.I. Joe: The Movie. The Transformers crew liked this idea and decided to do the same for Optimus Prime in their movie, which was released first. However, after the massive kids' outcry from Optimus dying, they decided to soften it just before release by putting in dialogue that confirmed Duke was in a coma, not dead (And the Joes learn that he recovers shortly after they save the day). This article seems to confirm the rumor. As does Buzz Dixon's commentary on the Blu-Ray, where he in no uncertain terms (and using the dead parrot sketch to boot!) states Duke was supposed to die.
- And according to Warren Ellis, writer of G.I. Joe: Resolute, the Hasbro executives told him that he couldn't have Cobra Commander wipe out Beijing. However they were OK with him wiping out Moscow. (Hasbro toys are manufactured in China.)
- Executives for Batman: The Animated Series objected to showing the Graysons' deaths. The producers opted to use a Sound-Only Death instead, deciding it was more powerful this way.
- It was actually a common policy for the show. The writers would write scenes, the executives would veto the scene, so the writers would write a worse scene which somehow got through. Possibly the best overall example (as opposed to individual scenes throughout the series) is the Joker Venom which originally killed its victims. But since you can't have a mass murderer on a kids show actually kill people, they instead had them have a permanent grin on their face and laugh uncontrollably, which made for a much creepier scenes.
- In that same vein, Alan Burnett revealed that he once wrote an episode in Batman Beyond where Terry and Dana break up for a final time and Terry hooks up with his best friend Max. Bruce Timm vetoed it, because when he proposed the episode, he'd intended that Terry/Dana finally have their important date at the end.
- The crew of Rocko's Modern Life averted this by pestering the higher-ups endlessly over marrying off Filbert and Hutch. In spite of the rules at the time stating that no Nicktoon could have any continuity, the execs caved and let the show go through with the wedding. They skipped the process and just gave the okay when the guys asked for permission to give Filbert and Hutch kids.
- According to Word of God, this is the reason that Princess Celestia of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is a Princess and not a Queen, because apparently, Hasbro claimed that Disney made it so that little girls affiliated queens with evil and princesses with good.
- Applejack, one of the main characters, harvests apples by kicking the apple trees. She was originally to headbutt the trees, before Hasbro reminded the studio their primary audience is girls 6-10 years old.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender - Jet dies during the Ba Sing Se arc, but it isn't very clear on what happens and the most confirmation we get is Toph using her Living Lie Detector ability to figure out that he's lying about being okay. Confusing? Extremely, to the point where fans jumped on He's Just Hiding theories and the creators actually Lampshaded it in the episode The Ember Island Players. Turns out that Bryke planned for him to die on-screen, but the executives shot that idea down and refused to let them confirm it outright. Until the commentary for the abovementioned episode, that is.