Sometimes a story isn't a remake, but borrows themes and/or situations from an earlier story. This isn't a Whole Plot Reference
or the Serial Numbers Filed Off
, but rather the normal realm of artistic inspiration and literary allusions.
When one work is inspired by another, oftentimes its creators will slip in an affectionate Shout-Out
to the original as an Easter Egg
. Nothing too overt—just a slight nod acknowledging the older work's influence on the newer one.
This Inspiration Nod
will let people know that "Yes, we have seen the previous work" and "Yes, we do note the similarities between our works". It often appears in a very particular part of the production choices, something that would be outside of the natural course of inspiration but which unambiguously points to another work.
Say, you have the trench run in Star Wars
and its connection to the The Dam Busters
. So George Lucas
fills in a small detail, like the background chatter, with something from Dam Busters. It doesn't affect the actual trench run (compared to the targeting computer) but gives a little nod to the original inspiration.
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Anime & Manga
- Love Hina has taken some flack for lifting story ideas and plot developments from Maison Ikkoku. It is probably not a coincidence that Keitaro's aunt is named Haruka, the same as Godai and Kyoko's daughter from the end of Maison. This is further suggested by vocal casting Megumi Hayashibara as Haruka (casting an A-list star in a support role); Hayashibara actually debuted in in Maison (minor characters and background voices).
- In Ray: the Animation... sort of... the story takes a lot of inspiration from Black Jack. In the manga, a character that is suspiciously similar to Black Jack shows up. The anime, though, just goes ahead and drops B.J. in there, because the studio that produced had the rights necessary to do so.
- Writer Peter David called these his Pink Bunny Slippers after an example of one of his Incredible Hulk comic book storylines. He realised that there are parallels between between his Incredible Hulk story line and this other movie, Real Genius. There are similar plot points, so he makes a reference to it that doesn't involve using any more of the pre-existing connection but just throws in this shot of pink bunny slippers (as worn by both the University President and Val Kilmer in the movie) to lampshade it to anyone else who might have also spotted the similarites.
- It is a bit of a Retcon, but Batman's origin (seeing his parents killed) traditionally happened on the way back from seeing The Mark of Zorro (an obvious inspiration for Batman himself).
- Wolverine's "Old Man Logan" storyline draws many parallels to the movie Unforgiven. Likely why "Un-4-Given" is gratified on the side of the future Fantasticar in the first issue.
- Alan Moore was either unaware of or had forgotten The Outer Limits episode, "The Architects of Fear", when he was writing Watchmen. When someone pointed out the similarity it bore to Ozymandias's Evil Plan, Moore and Gibbons had it playing on Sally's TV in one of the penultimate scenes.
- Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The concept of taking a relatively obscure DC Universe figure and re-interpreting it with a deeper mythology was ground well-trod by Alan Moore, in his run on the Swamp Thing series. In his first couple of arcs, Gaiman throws in a ton of nods to Moore: the inclusion of the Moore-created John Constantine, the clues that Morpheus' pet Matthew is the reincarnation of the Swamp Thing character Matthew Cable, the similar plot of a formerly goofy DC universe villain taking hold of his powers to become a major threat that the Justice League can't handle, so the eponymous character must talk down (The Floronic Man/Doctor Destiny), and so forth.
- Similarly, in Black Orchid, Gaiman gives the reinvented title character a direct connection to Swamp Thing. (Gaiman later wrote "I was creating an entire plant-based mythology, for reasons that now escape me.")
- Peter David again: X-Factor #240 is called "Run, Layla, Run" and features Layla Miller running to save someone, while her alterations to history mean that instead of seeing a single, immutable future, she sees multiple possible futures. Halfway through, she collides with Lola, who is running in the opposite direction.
- The Grant Morrison created character Fantomex is so named as a nod to Fantômas, although he's primarily inspired by Diabolik — unusually, Diabolik was conceived of as an expy of Fantômas of the original novels/early adaptions, and in turn, inspired a conception of Fantômas in Mexican comic books as a masked Gentleman Thief and adventurer (traits shared with both Diabolik and Fantomex).
- The Hulk vs Fin Fang Foom story "The Fin From Outer Space!" is about the titular dragon creature possessing the members of an Antarctic research team and and leaving corpses behind, creating a paranoid atmosphere. The team leader is called Dr Campbell, the first victim is called Dr Carpenter, and one of the other researchers has the first name Howard. Another scientist snaps "Who Goes There?" at Bruce Banner. There's also a poster for The Thing from Another World on the wall of the base in one scene.
Film — Animated
- The Incredibles has a family of four superheroes (plus a baby) with half of the same powers as the Fantastic Four. Naturally, the final villain (right after the origin story movie) is a subterranean conqueror, "The Underminer", who is a pretty close match to the Mole Man, the villain in FF #1.
Film — Live Action
- Demolition Man: Influenced by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Demolition Man draws its setting of peaceful, tightly controlled San Angeles of 2032 from the novel, and Sandra Bullock's character Lenina Huxley is named after the author and one of the book's characters as a reference.
- The evil rich mastermind in Batman Returns is given the apparently Meaningful Name of Max Schreck (fright/scare). Actually, that was the name of the actor who played Count Orlock in the original Nosferatu. A way for director Tim Burton to tip his hat to the very 1920s German Expressionist look of his two Bat movies.
- Throw Momma from the Train is built around the same let's-trade-murders plot as Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. This is directly referenced in the movie, when writing teacher Larry tells his hapless student Owen to watch some Hitchcock for inspiration. Owen watches the first few minutes of Strangers, immediately recognizes the similarity to his current situation, and runs off to kill Larry's wife...
- Star Wars
- The Death Star attack in Star Wars: A New Hope owes a lot to the climactic attack in the movie The Dam Busters, both in the way it was filmed and in the characters setting up a precise run to the target. This is made clear when much of the pilot chatter ("Say about twenty guns..." and so on) is lifted verbatim from the earlier movie.
- R2-D2 may have been inspired by the robot ZX29B from the 1960 Looney Tunes short "Lighter Than Hare". ZX29B has a strong resemblance to R2-D2 and Bugs Bunny mistakes ZX29B for a trashcan. In Star Wars, R2-D2 makes a trashcan sound when kicked or whacked by C-3P0.
- George Lucas likes John Carter of Mars. A lot. Burroughs' Mars has Jeds (princes) and padwars (lieutenants), martian lions are called banthas and one species of evil insects is called Sith.
- Pandorum does this with 1213. Dennis Quaid even compares it to Star Wars.
- Office Space had the main character and his friends robbing their company by rerouting the fractions of pennies that get rounded down when taxes are deducted. They comment that this is what Richard Pryor did in Superman III.
- 10 Things I Hate About You is The Taming of the Shrew in High School, thus lots of Shakespeare references appear.
- Stephen Fry's novel The Stars Tennis Balls (aka Revenge) owes a lot to The Count of Monte Cristo. In acknowledgement of this, the major characters have names that are anagrams of or puns on the names of their equivalents in the earlier novel.
- It's fairly obvious that the New Republic in Singularity Sky by Charles Stross is basically 19th century Prussia IN SPACE! Less obvious is that the Republic's military leader's delusion that he is pregnant with an elephant was shared by a real Prussian field marshal (Gebhard von Blucher) during the Napoleonic Wars.
- In a few Sherlock Holmes stories, Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin (on whom Holmes is based) is mentioned; in one story Holmes explicitly does a trick that Dupin did in one of his stories: as they're walking along one evening, Holmes/Dupin responds to some unsaid thought that their walking companion had at the time.
- Dickens Of The Mounted presents itself as the memoirs of Charles Dickens' Remittance Man son, but it's actually humorous historical fiction, which takes clear inspiration from the Flashman series, as is evident in similarly designed maps and a very similar Literary Agent Hypothesis claim by the actual author. In reference to the inspiration (and as a major "clue" the work is fictional), Flashman actually briefly appears in a Take That cameo, wherein he's presented as an Upper-Class Twit suffering from various venereal diseases that would be the likely result of all of his womanizing.
- Brutha, the protagonist of Small Gods is a beefy guy who has a Photographic Memory and becomes the prophet of a Crystal Dragon Jesus religion. These are traits shared with Severian, the protagonist of Book of the New Sun, and to this end, one character that Brutha encounters is named Severian. Incidentally, Small Gods is sort of an unofficial sequel or prequel to Pyramids, and in that book, one of the sections is titled "The Book of the New Son".
- E.L. Doctorow took inspiration for the storyline for one of the characters in Ragtime from Michael Kohlhaas, and thus named the character Coalhouse.
- Italian mystery novelist Andrea Camilleri's sleuth Inspector Montalbano is so named as a reference to his similarity to another detective character, Pepe Carvalho, written by Spanish novelist Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. In particular, both detectives are gourmets, leading to a lot of Food Porn in their respective novels.
- Similarly to the above, the fantasy detective character Garrett, P.I. has that name as a nod to author Randall Garrett, who invented the fantasy mystery with his Lord Darcy series.
- In the first chapter of His Dark Materials, Lyra goes into the retiring room, and overhears her uncle's discussion by hiding in the wardrobe. Most likely this is a reference to a certain other fantasy epic that began with a little girl hiding in a wardrobe.
- The Roald Dahl story "Pig" is clearly written as an homage to Candide, including a ridiculously idealistic protagonist and a bitingly satirical tone. As a reference to this, the hero's aunt, who raised him, is named Glosspan- a Significant Anagram for Voltaire's Pangloss.
Live Action TV
- Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote seems to have been more than slightly inspired by Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, especially since series star Angela Lansbury had previously played Marple in the movie version of The Mirror Crack'd. The pilot of Murder She Wrote opens with a scene of the star little old lady solving the end of a movie mystery interrupted halfway, which is a direct lift from the opening of The Mirror Crack'd. Said scene is not in the book.
- A case of internal borrowing: One LazyTown episode echoes the plot of the play it was based on when Robbie Rotten in disguise takes over illegally as mayor. Although other than the 'taking over from the mayor' aspect the episode is very different, both play and episode briefly have the real mayor in a bunny suit for no good reason. Only hardcore or Icelandic fans would get it, though, as the play is both in Icelandic and very difficult for a non-Icelander to acquire legally. Also, many of the songs used in LazyTown have the same tune (and general theme) as the songs used in the original plays.
- Season 5 Episode 17 of NUMB3RS contains a a number of references to the Robot series of Isaac Asimov, from which it borrows the plot device "an A.I. that kills a human." The episode's title is "First Law" after the Asimov's First Law of Robotics. The company in which the death takes place is called "Steel Cave Industries" after one novel in the series, The Caves of Steel. The name of the A.I. accused of murder is "Bailey" after the protagonist of that novel, Detective Lije Bailey. The scientist who is killed is named Daniel and gives his admin password as "Daniel Olivaw" after Lije Bailey's robot sidekick R. Daneel Olivaw. Presumably this scientist was the one responsible for naming the A.I. and the company created to fund its development, so his familiarity with these books gives an in-story explanation for all these references.
- The Parks and Recreation episode "Pawnee Goddesses" has Leslie engaging in a battle of the sexes between her girlscout group and Ron's boyscout group. At one point, to impress Ron's group, Leslie's friend Ann shows that a large fish she caught, and then admits to the camera that she bought the fish from a grocery store, and got the idea from an I Love Lucy episode. This alludes to an episode called "Deep Sea Fishing" that also had a battle of the sexes plot, but might also be a nod to Leslie and Ann having a similar dynamic as Lucy and Ethel.
- Slydris is a Tetris variant, and as a nod to its predecessor, it has three music tracks you can choose from, labeled A, B, and C.
- As the plot of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny was written as a salute to the Wild Arms series, the game contains several nods to the series that inspired it. Among these include Amita and Kyrie using attacks from the games, such as Accelerator, and Amita paraphrasing one of the lines from the Japanese version of "Wings" (The Ending theme of Wild ARMs 3) if she manages to perform her Full Drive Burst on the last stage of the Playable Epilogue note .
- Sticky Dilly Buns is mostly about Dillon, Amber, and Ruby sharing an apartment, and the ways they make each others' lives difficult. Shortly after she arrives, Ruby, who has a bit of a fondness for old television, is very happy to find Three's Company available on DejaView. Amber is more alert to the irony than Ruby is.
- An episode of the short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series features a weird plot that devolves into a fight with the animator, who keeps painting Dante and Randall into weirder and weirder situations. The similarity to the Daffy Duck short Duck Amuck is shown through this trope by having Randall temporarily turn into the same flower-head creature that Daffy turned into.