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Human-Focused Adaptation

"In a world full of cartoon characters and action figures you loved, spend more time with these human characters you don't, like Keno, an obnoxious little twerp, this boring science guy, and this completely random lady who calls herself April O'Neil."

So a Live-Action Adaptation of your favorite childhood Funny Animal cartoon is coming out. You go to see it, and... what's this? Who's this guy? Where's the cartoon character? Why should we care about this guy? Can you move it along and get to the cartoon character now? Oh, there he is! And now they're back to that guy again. Looks like it's gonna be another Human Focused Adaptation.

Family movies that are live action (and sometimes even animated) adaptations of cartoons that otherwise probably wouldn't work as a live action blockbuster, or actually would, normally seem to focus more on a newer human character and his love life, rather than the character from the series the movie is adapting. More often than not, the plot has an Unlucky Everydude with a crappy job and a crush on his hot co-worker, having a run-in with the cartoon character of the day, or having said cartoon character as a pet. Hilarity Ensues, and the cartoon character's hijinks somehow bring Everydude and his love interest together, and they live Happily Ever After.

These subplots mostly, if not always seem to do with the unlucky new guy in love. This even applies to already existing human characters who never had a love interest, and are either given a completely new one, or they take an existing character and pair them up, accuracy be damned.

This is probably caused by a combination of the costs (both time and money) of CGI and the beliefs that a human character might be more relatable or that people want to see a love story—no matter how much it has to be shoehorned in. This trope, while common to live action, is not exclusively a live action trope. There are many examples within anime, comics, and Western animation itself. If any adaptation reduces the importance of major non-human characters to focus on more humanistic or traditional characters, it should count as being this trope, regardless of the medium. Note that this doesn't always mean "non-human characters are barely in it" but that the ratio is shifted considerably. The amount of human importance may shift from 10% original to 60% adaptation, it still leaves 40% of the movie to the non-human characters. It isn't always about "making it relatable" but being a Pragmatic Adaptation if you are going to make something in a different medium.

Related to Adaptation Decay, Most Writers Are Human, Developing Doomed Characters, Romantic Plot Tumour, Just Here for Godzilla, Spotlight-Stealing Squad, Demoted to Extra.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Sonic X during first two seasons has Chris Thorndike taking the spotlight and filling roles which, in the actual game versions of the stories Sonic X was adapted from, were filled by Tails and Amy. This turned off quite a few fans as a result. But Season 3 just about inverts this trope, with Chris in their world, as a side character.
  • Kirby of the Stars gave a lot of focus and screentime to humanoid looking Fumu and Bun (Tiff and Tuff in the dub), though since Kirby was basically a baby in this continuity, pretty much everyone at some point got more focus over him. Kirby sometimes didn't even do anything until the climax of the episode.
  • While the games and even the anime obviously put a fair amount of emphasis on the human characters, Pokémon Special does so to such a greater extent that the Pokemon rarely have personalities or characterization at all. Contrast the anime, which regularly has character arcs and entire episodes focused almost exclusively on the antics of the surprisingly developed Pokemon.

Film
  • Underdog, which makes no sense; the original cartoon featured a 100% Funny Animal-populated world.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Though the Chipmunks get a fair enough amount of screentime and focus, it still follows the "unlucky guy in love has cartoon characters as pets" formula. At least the human in question, Dave, was a part of the franchise to begin with. The "Squeakquel" introduced some reason why he couldn't be there and then replaced him with some completely random loser.
  • The Rocky and Bullwinkle movie gave less screen time to the cartoon moose and squirrel than their traditional human villains and new human characters. Rocky and Bullwinkle are on a very small part of the DVD cover (pictured above) while the human characters are front and center.
  • Two Looney Tunes live action movies.
    • Space Jam puts its focus on bringing Michael Jordan into the Looney Tunes' world to save them from aliens by playing basketball. The first part of the movie plays like a Biopic of Jordan before the Looney Tunes show up.
    • Looney Tunes: Back in Action introduces two human characters to team up with Bugs and Daffy and even gives them a romantic subplot.
    • Additionally, a cancelled Marvin the Martian film would have followed this, teaming Marvin up with a young boy.
  • Masters of the Universe: In the film this trope is done with Human Aliens taking a backseat to Earthlings. The first act of the movie focuses on the eponymous heroes, but once they journey to Earth, the story becomes more about the mundane Earthlings Julie and Kevin up until the final climatic battle, and then afterward returns to them for the conclusion.
  • Two Dr. Seuss live action adaptations (and one animated one):
    • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, while still mainly focused on The Grinch, has more focus put on the Whos (who are more or less Rubber-Forehead Aliens) than in the original, especially Cindy Lou, who gets half the movie to herself and has far less makeup than the other Whos, making her look even more human than the rest of them. Partly explainable as an attempt to stretch a short children's book into a feature length movie.
    • The Cat in the Hat in its film adaptation.
    • The Lorax focuses its "past" timeline on the interactions between the titular nonhuman and the Once-ler, but the former barely appears at all in the "present" timeline, which constitutes the first third and last third of the movie. (Also, the Once-ler is now clearly human rather than Ambiguously Human.)
  • The Smurfs Live-Action Adaptation has the Smurfs taking refuge with a husband and wife in New York after being teleported there. Pretty much follows this trope to the letter.
  • The title character of Yogi Bear takes a backseat to Ranger Smith, of all people. Yogi and Boo-Boo are all but reduced to walking, talking plot devices, while most of the story focuses on Smith's efforts to save Jellystone Park from being demolished and turned into farmland. At least here the human was actually in the original series.
  • The 1932 film adaptation of The Call of the Wild focuses on the character of Jack Thornton, played by Clark Gable, over Buck the dog. In the book, he only factors into perhaps a third of the plot.
  • Although the original is also about a human, the first Mr. Bean movie, Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie did something like this. The original series is simply about a near-mute, accident prone-fellow causing chaos and havoc wherever he goes, which tends to lend itself best to brief vignettes. The movie, of course, had to flesh this out, so it centred mainly on some American art expert who Bean stays with and his troubled relationship with his family.
  • Some of the Muppet productions fall under this trope:
    • Played with in The Muppets where the trailer makes it look like a human-focused romantic comedy, only for Kermit the Frog to show up and reveal the real nature of the film. It still technically qualifies for this trope, though; most of the screentime is given to Jason Segel, Amy Adams and new character Walter (who is a Muppet but not in-universenote  until the final act of the movie), although the humans' subplot takes a backseat to the main plot for most of the movie. That said, a concerted effort was made to give the Muppets enough screen time and have them qualify as main characters.
    • Referenced when Jason Segel hosted Saturday Night Live, and The Muppets were upset that they weren't asked to host.
    • The literature adaptations are bad for this. The Muppet Christmas Carol is all about Michael Caine's Scrooge, although Kermit and Gonzo get major roles as Bob Cratchett and Dickens. In Muppet Treasure Island, the main focus is on Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, played by Tim Curry. Originally the "Jim Hawkins" part was going to be played by Rizo and Gonzo (being named Jim and Hawkins as two characters), before it was decided to make it into a Coming of Age Story with an actual human kid as Jim. And in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Ashanti's amount of focus makes The Muppets themselves feel like an afterthought. In this case both are based on stories where the main characters were humans, and the trope is just a side-effect of staying faithful to the story.
    • The original Muppet outings tend to avert the trope by including major human characters but keeping the focus on Kermit and the gang. In The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, said humans are antagonists or connected to them in some way, and The Muppets Take Manhattan doesn't even have a major antagonist, with Kermit getting amnesia the problem that the climax hinges upon. Other human characters are there for the Muppets to play off of and/or to provide cameos for name performers. Muppets Most Wanted takes a similar tack, but takes it even further: not only is the primary human character (Dominic Badguy) a villain, he's not even the main villain.
  • The Thomas the Tank Engine film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, contains a large amount of focus on a human man played by Peter Fonda and his granddaughter played by Mara Wilson, as well as the Conductor played by Alec Baldwin. While Thomas and the other engines are in the film, this can largely be blamed on it also being an adaptation of Shining Time Station, which was a framing device for the series.
  • Too early to call, but the Sonic the Hedgehog film adaptation may get this as it has been described as a live-action/CGI hybrid movie. When the screenplay will be finished is anyone's guess.

Fan Fics
  • Take any franchise focusing mainly on mons, whether it be Pokémon or Digimon. Chances are, at least half of its fics are Human romances in which no Pokemon or Digimon are even mentioned whatsoever.

Franchises
  • While the 2007 Transformers film and its sequel are often mocked for this due to its high visibility, the franchise in general has a long history of it. The first half of Transformers Armada was almost more about the humans than about the robots, and Transformers Super God Masterforce takes it Up to Eleven, gradually morphing into a Henshin Hero series as the actual Autobots are displaced by an increasing number of humans in Powered Armor. In the case of the live-action movies, if they didn't have humans as part of the plot and focused more on the Transformers, there would really be no reason to make a live-action adaptation, as opposed to just going all CG. Plus there's the fact that the CGI for every frame with a Cybertronian in it took about twenty-four hours to render and Devastator melted a computer, so it would be pretty much impossible to be more robocentric without setting parts of Hollywood on fire. It got slightly better in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, where (apart from Sam's role in the first act) the Transformers are treated as actual characters rather than plot devices to help Sam get the girl and satisfy his sex drive. Although unhealthy amounts of time are still given to human characters, the main plot definitely focuses on the Transformers and their history (most of the human screentime consists of subplots). Its is further improved upon in Transformers: Age of Extinction, since the human subplots and the Transformers subplot intertwine, the Autobots, especially Optimus Prime, get just as much screentime as the human leads.
    • This trope was lampshaded in the first panel of this VG Cats comic.
      Starring a cast of two-dimensional characters no one cares about! With special guest stars the Transformers.
    • The show was similarly human focused since the Autobots were learning Earth culture through their human friends and exploration. Also, very few plots were because the Autobots stumbled upon a Decepticon plot, and Teletraan-1 intercepted human communications for possible Decepticon involvement.
    • Inverted with Beast Machines, the only show in the franchise to lack human characters (barring a brief flashback).
  • By default, every Digimon adaptation with the sole exception of Digimon X-Evolution - though the existence of human Tamers for the mons was part of the original fluff for the virtual pets, said fluff didn't mention any specific human characters, and the majority of adaptations - most prominently the various anime - tend to focus much more on the interactions and struggles of the humans, relegating their Digimon partners to more of a support role. This is also averted by Digimon Xros Wars where Digimons actually managed to end up being more developed than some of the human cast. A rare Tropes Are Not Bad example.

Literature
  • The official novelisation of Doctor Who's Development Hell episode, "Shada", gives the two helpful human characters, who fulfilled their plot function and were then put Out of Focus in the original, roles about as prominent as that of the Doctor and Romana. Their relationship with each other goes from being Implied Love Interest to explicitly romantic, with Chris's conflict being how he Can Not Spit It Out and admit he loves Clare - Chris even literally hijacks the Doctor during his climactic defeat of the villain to say "I love you" to her. Most of the middle of the book is also rejigged to be from Chris's point of view. Tropes Are Not Bad, of course, as it serves the purpose of allowing outsider perspectives on the Doctor's antics - the Fourth Doctor's character is very much defined by the eccentric ways he moves and goes about doing things, which is easy to represent on television, but in a book his actions have to be relayed through a witness who understands him as little as we do.

Toys
  • Defied by BIONICLE. Greg Farshtey has stated this as the main reason why LEGO never allowed a theatrical movie to be made. They received several pitches for it, and all of them involved human kids somehow ending up in the BIONICLE universe - which is supposed to be a Constructed World in which humans do not and never will exist.

Video Games
  • A rare video game example in Kingdom Hearts. The Disney and Final Fantasy characters seem secondary to the original cast. Part of this is that Disney laid down so much Executive Meddling behind the scenes in the first game that the production team decided that in general, original characters were the only ones they could tell new or interesting stories with, and not have to worry about Disney pitching a fit at characterization or portrayals of their properties.
  • Inverted with several Pokémon spinoffs. While the games and most adaptations place a healthy amount of focus on the eponymous pocket monsters, the stories generally center on the adventures of their human trainers. In some spinoff titles such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon and PokéPark Wii, humans receive a passing mention at best.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • A fully animated example is the Tom and Jerry: The Movie, whose title characters take a backseat to a little orphan girl, in a plot that seems like they were trying to remake The Rescuers as a musical with Tom and Jerry thrown in as an afterthought. Averted with the Direct-to-Video Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz where they and other MGM animated characters are Off to See the Wizard.
  • The My Little Pony has an interesting history with this Trope, especially considering its nature:
    • The original show had a human girl named Megan who, along with her siblings in the shows, helped the ponies in their fight against whatever apocalypse was threatening them at the moment. Granted, she was very seldom the main character of an episode, but she was still around for most. Books and comics for the series also frequently included humans, typically either normal people or magical beings like witches.
    • Most of the sequel series avert this being Slice of Life series that focus solely on the ponies.
    • My Little Pony Equestria Girls, the first appearance of this Trope since G2, is about human versions of G4 ponies attending high school. It can be considered Downplayed, however, since the characters have either been transformed or re-imagined as human beings rather than introduced to brand new human characters.
  • Pound Puppies has another similar inversion. The show originally focused on an orphan girl named Holly who helped the eponymous talking dogs, while her Wicked Stepmother served as the main villain. The remake now focuses mostly on the dogs.
  • While Littlest Pet Shop (2012) does have the human main character of Blythe, the trope is downplayed as she is merely a main character and the pets receive a good amount of focus.
  • The animated adaptation of Darkstalkers has Harry Grimore as the main protagonist, next to Felicia.
  • While the original Curious George stories were about a mischievous monkey getting into stuff, the 2006 movie was more about Ted Shackleford's life, love, dreams, and career. Case in point, up until this adaptation George's human friend didn't even have a name, and was only known as "the man in the yellow hat".

God-Created Canon ForeignerDerivative WorksHumble Beginnings
Hotter and SexierMedia Adaptation TropesIndecisive Medium
Getting Crap Past the RadarThe Millennium Age of AnimationInk-Suit Actor
Rocky and BullwinkleImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Rocky Horror Picture Show

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