Lost in Imitation

"Dracula would make a marvelous movie. In fact, nobody has ever made it... all the movies are based on the play."

A strange form of Adaptation Decay where new adaptations of an original work — generally a work which has inspired countless imitators — actually resemble the previous imitators more than the original. Sometimes the changes are subversive, or done because the original themes are no longer accepted by the audience, but often it's just because the writers think that it's what the audience is used to seeing at this point. It is especially prone when there is a Pragmatic Adaptation in play, with a belief that a truly 100% faithful adaptation is not possible in another medium.

Usually started by a Trope Codifier. May involve Dueling Movies, where The Film of the Book of an imitator inspires a studio to film the original. Also often a result of Adaptation Displacement.

Lost in Imitation can propagate itself in time, in which case what was not lost in the imitation will suffer from severe Popcultural Osmosis. Compare Truer To The Text, in that what is actually Lost In Imitation is actually being more faithful to the source material. But there are pitfalls there, removing the expected elements while still keeping much of the same framework may lead to being accused of changing it for the sake of being different.

A common cause of the Unbuilt Trope. Compare Ret Canon, Seinfeld Is Unfunny, Ink Stain Adaptation.

Since the first imitators (who then everyone imitates) change things from the original work, this is strongly related to Sadly Mythtaken.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 

     Comic Books  
  • Many comic book characters have this happen, with the changes frequently becoming Ret Canon.
  • In X-Men adaptations, the need to keep the sprawling cast of the comics relatively simple tends to lead to villains who are unassociated in the comics working for whoever the main villain of the adaptation is. This has a tendency to become their default status in other adaptations:
    • In X-Men, almost all adaptations to feature Sabretooth have made him The Dragon to Magneto, despite the comic version of him never having worked for or with Mags. The rare exceptions are Wolverine and the X-Men, in which Sabretooth was simply a Weapon X operative, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in which Magneto does not appear and Sabretooth is Wolverine's brother. The '90s show did have him take a job from Magneto to infiltrate the Institute, but he otherwise doesn't work for him. (When he finds out about the scheme, Wolverine points out that Sabretooth usually doesn't do someone else's dirty work.)
    • In comics, Mystique is the leader of the new Brotherhood and has rarely worked for anyone else. Most adaptations have her working for Magneto or Apocalypse. In the 1990s series, she worked for Apocalypse. In X-Men: Evolution, she worked for Magneto until he ditched her, then operated on her own, then joined Apocalypse. In the movieverse, she worked for Magneto until he ditched her in X3 (came after Evo ended).
    • Magneto's reliance on Mystique and/or Sabretooth as The Dragon can also be explained by most adaptations featuring a significantly powered-down version of the Master of Magnetism. In the comics, he's a top-tier threat: strong enough to fight an entire team of X-Men to a standstill (if not stomp them outright) and has a combo plate of powers that let him perform feats well beyond what magnetic fields are theoretically capable of.
    • In the comics, the Juggernaut is Professor X's step-brother and isn't even a mutant, getting his powers from a magic gem, and he originally worked alone or with one partner. Since he's one of the X-Men's most iconic villains he tends to be one of Magneto's henchmen in adaptations, usually not mentioning the nature of his powers and his relationship to Prof. X or actually making him a mutant and/or not related to Xavier at all. It's even partially made it back to the comics: while he's still Xavier's non-mutant stepbrother, writers more familiar with the adaptations than the comics often have him mention being a former member of the Brotherhood. He finally did appear as a member of a short-lived incarnation of the Brotherhood, albeit one largely unconnected to previous versions aside from using the same name; this hasn't stopped artists from drawing him fighting alongside Magneto (which he has never done) in flashbacks.
  • In the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books, Rocket Raccoon does not speak with any sort of discernible accent, but was given a cockney British accent in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. This proved popular enough that he was given the same one in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and a New York / Joe Pesci-ish accent in Ultimate Spider-Man. When it was revealed that Bradley Cooper would not be using an accent in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, some people complained, even though that's how Rocket sounds in the source material.
  • In Spider-Man, The Symbiote originally had minimal influence over Peter's mind at best - the reason he gave it up was because it had a habit of taking his (sleeping) body out at night to websling and because he discovered it was alive and planning on merging with him on a genetic level- which freaked him out. In fact, the original comics symbiote had no emotions of its own, but developed them as a result of spending so long bonded to Spider-Man, even sacrificing itself (well, almost) to save its former host after being rejected. Though Eddie Brock, who hated Spider-Man, was able to use it to go against him as Venom, the symbiote still tried to jump ship and return to Spider-Man when Spidey made the offer. In the 90's animated series, the Symbiote was portrayed as having its own, extremely aggressive personality, which was starting to overwrite Peter's as the bond grew stronger, and all adaptions since have taken this up.
    • Also, none of the adaptations since—Ultimate (comic and cartoon), Spectacular, or film—have kept its origin from Secret Wars, where it essentially came from an alien vending machine. Spectacular and 3 had it come from space, as in the '90s animated series; the Ultimate comic had it as a product of his father's research into a cure for cancer; and the Ultimate cartoon had Doctor Octopus create it.
    • The symbiote also initially made Spider-Man weaker since it was feeding off his adrenaline (even going as far as Puppeteer Parasite while Peter slept). The '90s show was the first to show the symbiote actually augmenting Spidey's powers along with his aggression, with the other adaptations following suit.
    • Another Spidey-related example is the Green Goblin's split personalities Talking to Themself. In the original version, Norman was simply unaware he was the Goblin, which lead to a Split Personality Merge. In the 90's animated series, there was a scene where Norman and the Goblin talked to each other in a mirror. This was carried over into the movie.
    • The iconic bridge scene from The Night Gwen Stacy Died gets adapted a lot — Spiderman The Animated Series, Ultimate Spiderman, the movie — and they always replace Gwen with Mary-Jane but letting her live. The child-friendly cartoon series actually came the closest to adapting the tragedy by having Mary-Jane fall into a dimensional time and space rift. When the The Amazing Spiderman 2 FINALLY gets the right girl they have to replace the iconic setting with a clock tower because people have already seen the familiar set up with Mary-Jane too many times. They also replace Norman with Harry. Don't expect a 100 percent faithful adaption anytime soon.
  • The film adaptation of The Avengers has been so successful that it's influenced a number of other works and adaptations.
  • Tony's Arc Reactor from the first Iron Man movie is now standard issue for pretty much any adaptation, even though in the comics, his chest piece in the armor was originally just a magnet to keep the shrapnel from his heart.
    • Likewise, the cartoons all use Pepper Potts and James Rhodes as his two confidantes, which originated in the movie. Though they have both had close associations with Stark in the comics, the two generally had very little interaction (in fact Pepper had more or less been Put on a Bus by the time Rhodey first showed up).
    • The people who captured Tony in his origin story were originally unconnected to any major Iron Man villains. Adaptations usually tie them with a famous villain (or sometimes, replace them): in the 90's animated series, Tony was held captive by the Mandarin. In the Invincible Iron Man animated movie, he was captured by a group trying to prevent Mandarin's return. In Marvel Adventures, he is captured by AIM. In the movies, the group is called Ten Rings, hinting at Mandarin, and they were hired to kill Stark by Obadiah Stane.
  • Some adaptations of The Joker since Batman: The Animated Series have drawn from Mark Hamill's performance as the character, particular either the high pitch, slight rasp or both, and definitely the laugh.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    • Most people would not know that the original turtles all wore red bandannas and had tails; those two details were altered when the first action figures were made, and have since become standardized. It wasn't until Turtles Forever that the original characters designs were seen outside the comic books.
    • The Shredder wasn't the major villain in the original Mirage run. He died in the first issue, and only came back once in canon as a worm colony clone. It was only through the Fred Wolf series that he took on the arch-nemesis position, and any other appearances and allusions to Shredder in the Mirage comics (such as the Shredder Shark monster) came out much, much later.
    • Also, Baxter Stockman is never known to have ever met Shredder in the Mirage comics, but the 4Kids cartoon, which was usually much more true to the comics, has him working for Shredder just as he did in the Fred Wolf show.
    • The turtles didn't originally say stuff like "Cowabunga!" They were much more formal. Just read Leonardo's opening narration, and you'll get an idea.
    • Splinter wasn't a human-turned rat; he started out as a non-mutated rat.
    • And to top it all off, the original comics were not at all kid-friendly. They were nothing short of bloody and ultraviolent.
  • When Robin was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, he was redesigned so that his elf boots and scaly shorts were replaced with pants and a pair of more practical black combat boots, bringing him closer to the then-current Tim Drake look, despite the character being Dick Grayson. Virtually every cartoon to feature Robin since then (The Batman, Teen Titans, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Young Justice) has used a similarly "modern" design rather than using his classic look. Also, the new black-and-red costume Tim Drake got when he finally appeared in the cartoon (since his comic look was stolen by Grayson) eventually made it back to the comics.
  • Lex Luthor's bodyguard Mercy Graves from Superman: The Animated Series proved popular enough to not only become a Canon Immigrant, but has also been featured in a number of subsequent adaptations such as The Batman (albeit as an Asian) and Young Justice. Even when Mercy herself doesn't appear, it's become pretty standard for Luthor to now have a female bodyguard or assistant whenever he appears in an adaptation.
  • As this page analyzes, “If you ask the average person on the street, ‘Where does Clark Kent change into Superman?’, nine out of ten people will answer ‘In a phone booth’”. This particular part of Superman mythology was not originated in the comics, but in "The Mechanical Monsters", a Fleischer Superman Theatrical Cartoon. The page presents another 9 mentions until 1978 (another Fleischer cartoon, 1 Superman Sunday Newspaper, 1 Continental Insurance Superman Ad, some references to the radio series, and one reference to the Superman Broadway Musical, and four cover in the comics). But then mentions the joke in Superman (1978) works because, for some reason, everyone "knows" Clark Kent uses a phone booth to make his quick-change into Superman. How could this be if the joke was made only ten times in Superman Canon? Because the joke was made far more often than that in canon. The author of the article admits (toward the bottom) that he didn't bother to find all the instances of Superman changing in a phone booth in the comics; he's (mostly) only citing appearances in other media. It may have originated in the serials, but the comics were quite happy to pick it up and run with it.

  • Most movie adaptations of The Three Musketeers make Cardinal Richelieu the iconic villain and antagonist of the heroes, despite his ambivalent position in the first book and total absence in all following books. Athos and d'Artagnan even ponder if they were wrong in opposing Richelieu a few times.
    • Rochefort's promotion to The Dragon, where in the books, Milady filled the roll. It is hard to find a film version in which Rochefort doesn't get killed by d'Artagnan in a climactic fight, rather then by accident during a riot. In the novels, d'Artagnan and Rochefort became friends after dueling each other. He also has no eyepatch in the books either; that started with Christopher Lee in the 1970s version.
  • Our conception of Frankenstein's Monster (not to be confused with Victor Frankenstein himself) is based largely on Boris Karloff's depiction of him as a largely silent and misunderstood giant, which, in turn, has largely been Flanderized into a flat-headed hulkish killing machine with green skin that was based on the advertising art (the film was black and white). Very rarely will we get to see him as the verbose and vengeful monster portrayed in Mary Shelley's original book. To be entirely fair, he was misunderstood in the book as well, but his reaction to it was indeed vengeful, rather than ever being Boris Karloff's gentle giant.
    • Subverted in Young Frankenstein, where the monster has been given an abnormal brain that causes him to be the stereotypical groaning monster. After Frankenstein gives him a brain fluid transfusion, he becomes verbose and civilized. The vengeful part is left out due to Frankenstein's Heel-Face Turn and subsequent displays of kindness towards his creation.
    • In addition, every adaptation has Frankenstein using some form of electricity to animate his creation. In the book, the framing device is the Doctor telling his story to a sea captain, and when he gets to how he created the monster he basically says, "And then I gave it life. I'm not telling you how, because I don't want anybody to repeat what I did." Obviously, that wouldn't have worked on the big screen. The only exceptions are the 1910 version by Edison Studios — that one uses a vat of chemicals — and the 1973 TV-movie Frankenstein: The True Story, which uses solar energy. Ever since the famous Universal version, however, electricity has been standard.

      While he maintains that he won't tell the sailor the exact details necessary to know how to pull off the trick (for the sailor's own good, and the good of humanity), the book makes it very clear that he used some potion inspired by the alchemical notion of the elixir of life as studied by Agrippa and others. In the novel, he does mention that when he saw a lightning strike at fifteen, he longed to harness that power, and he even brings up the work of Galvani, who made dead flesh move by running current through it. This does seem to suggest that electricity may well have somehow been involved in the process of creation. In addition, Shelley did write that her idea for the story came in part from discussions that touched on Galvani's experiments.
    • The existence of Igor, who became a staple of Frankenstein movies and the horror genre in general without having appeared in either the book or the film Frankenstein. Popcultural Osmosis took the hunchback character of Fritz from the first Karloff Frankenstein picture, and combined him with Bela Lugosi's character Ygor from Son of Frankenstein, the third and last Karloff Frankenstein film, a film that seems to have fallen out of the public consciousness despite being pretty good and being a major basis for Young Frankenstein.
    • The B-film Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is the source of the image of the monster as stumbling around with his arms outstretched, as the monster becomes blind in the film.
    • The 2004 movie is one of the few screen adaptations of the source material that averts the stereotypical look of Frankenstein's creation established by the Karloff films, trying to be more faithful to Shelley's original description.
    • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is also much more faithful to the original source material— except where it isn't.
    • And say what you will about Van Helsing, but they at least made an effort to make him more like he was in the book.
    • A lot of manga fans were surprised at Junji Itos take on Frankenstein for how "unique and creative it was". Hilariously, his take on it is one of the closest and most faithful to the original source material that you can find.
    • Penny Dreadful also attempts to stick fairly close to the source material, with 'Caliban' (the name given to the Monster to distinguish him from his maker) looking appropriately like a corpse that has been resurrected and who is even rather eloquent, as he similarly is in Shelley's original text.
  • Another minor aversion occurs in Hook, featuring Robin Williams as Peter Pan. Hook is supposed to be a sequel to Peter Pan set in the modern day. While it gives a few nods to Disney's adaptation of the stage play, it actually winds up being more faithful to J. M. Barrie's book (even sometimes quoting the book in the script), in that much of the characterization and dialogue that was left out of the Disney version has found its way into the live-action sequel (although some of the signature quotes are paraphrased).
    Tinker Bell: Peter, you know that place between asleep and awake... That place you still can remember your dreams... That's where I'll always love you.

    Hook: Prepare to die, Peter Pan!
    Peter: To die would be a grand adventure!
    • Note, however, that Hook's hook is still on his left arm (as in the Disney version) and not his right (as in the book). Dustin Hoffman, who is right-handed, insisted.
    • The Tinker Bell in Hook, however, bares only a passing resemblance to the play's Peter Pan. The Disney version is much closer with the silent, jealous portrayal. After all, the theatre version was played by a spotlight.
    • The higher loyalty to the book makes sense in context of the movie. The old lady Wendy is supposed to be the original and real Wendy whose family stories the book was based on. The twist comes when she reveals to Peter Banning that all the stories were true and he is, in fact, the real Peter Pan.
  • Sherlock Holmes
    • Most portrayals of John Watson are based on Nigel Bruce's bumbling Watson from the Basil Rathbone films rather than Doyle's more competent character. Notably averted by Jude Law in the 2009 movie, Martin Freeman in Sherlock and Lucy Liu in Elementary. Each of those Watsons provides the common sense to complement Holmes' genius. And while it was television rather than movies, give Edward Hardwicke and David Burke some love too.
    • Holmes inspired a long line of similar imitators. It was to the point that Holmes trademark hat, pipe and browncoat became visual shorthand for "detective" and Holmes himself is shown dressed this way in cameos and other popular depictions far more than he actually wore them in the original stories. Also, many adaptations forgot the quirkier aspects of his personality and focused on his famous detective skills. Indeed, he never explicitly wore a deerstalker in the original stories at all. The iconic physical depiction of Holmes comes from Sidney Paget's illustrations in the stories' first appearances in Strand magazine. In the books he did smoke a pipe (always the illustrations never depicted the famous calabash pipe which first became associated with Holmes due to a theatrical adaptation) but he smoked cigarettes and cigars almost as often.
    • Moriarty and Mycroft were not major characters in the books; they appear in only one and two stories respectively and were referenced in a few others, but are major figures in many adaptations.
  • The musical and film My Fair Lady are actually much closer (particularly in the Revised Ending) to the 1938 film version of Pygmalion than to the stage play Pygmalion. For instance, the Zoltan Karpathy character was created for the 1938 film (and based on that film's producer). Indeed, the musical is officially based on both the play and film: as the credit in the program reads, it was "adapted from Bernard Shaw's play and Gabriel Pascal's motion picture Pygmalion." The best-selling original cast album only names the Shaw play on its cover, however.
    • Many later spoofs of the Pygmalion Plot are based on the lesson scenes in My Fair Lady, which gave Eliza's lessons far more significance than in previous versions of Pygmalion (Shaw considered the lesson scene he wrote dramatically redundant).
  • The King and I resembles the 1946 movie version of Anna and the King of Siam, though only Margaret Landon's novel is credited as a source.
  • 1992's The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis (the version people are most like to remember fondly) is explicitly credited as based on the 1936 screenplay. The book, not so much. To quote one critic:
    "Even in its 1936 version, which starred Randolph Scott, The Last of the Mohicans was thought to be badly dated, and so stodgy it required considerable modification to allow its hero and heroine a genteel kiss. Drawing upon the novel with merciful selectivity... Michael Mann has directed a sultrier and more pointedly responsible version of this story."
  • The 1998 American version of Godzilla as Jurassic Park. Emmerich and Devlin wanted to make a movie that would have a higher grossing opening weekend than The Lost World: Jurassic Park had the previous year.
  • Similar to the Godzilla/Jurassic Park example, Richard Chamberlain's two Allan Quatermain films played as more of an Indiana Jones knock-off than an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's novels-odd in that Allan Quatermain serves as partial inspiration for Indiana Jones. They moved Quatermain up to World War I so he could have a Second Reich opponent and showed him using a whip. A 1986 animated version also inserted a German foe.
  • Professor Challenger has, similar to Quatermain, returned in various projects which seem to cash in on The Lost World: Jurassic Park and King Kong — which Challenger's debut, The Lost World, influenced.
  • Vampire movies in general often follow the Classical Movie Vampire conventions created by Nosferatu (1922) and Dracula. This goes so far that any departure from the vampire tropes of these two films is likely to be seen as "breaking the rules" and may confuse the audience. Never mind that neither film is strictly consistent with traditional vampire folklore, nor that any two cultures' vampire legends are the same. The Wolfman (1941) had a similar effect on werewolf conventions.
  • The 2007 film of I Am Legend is an adaptation of 1971's The Omega Man much more so than of the Richard Matheson novel from which it draws its name. Right down to ghouls instead of human-looking vampires (capable of speech, wearing clothes, rebuilding society, etc). All film adaptations since The Last Man on Earth have also kept the idea of Robert Neville being well educated and fairly urbane rather than the rough factory worker of the original story who learned all of his science through excursions to the library and was concerned more over a lack of sexual fulfillment than over the idea of the world ending.
  • Except for the Hungarian comic, there has never been a faithful adaptation, sequel or parody of Pierre Boulle's novel Planet of the Apes. All references are to the 1968 film. In the novel, the story is a message in a bottle found in space. There are three French astronauts (Merou, Antelle and Levain) and their test chimpanzee, Hector, that travel to a distant Earth-like planet named Soror in the year 2500. Upon arrival, Hector is killed by Nova and the men are captured by primitive humans (butt-naked and behaving like chimpanzees) who tear off their clothes. Hours later they are hunted by intelligent apes with 20th-century technology. Levain is killed, Antelle is placed in a cage in a zoo (where he somehow loses his intelligence), and Merou is sent to Zira's research facility where he proves himself to be intelligent and is taught the apes' language. Merou then becomes a celebrity, makes Nova his partner and has a child with her. But archaeologic evidence and brain surgery in humans reveal that humans created civilization in Soror and were overthrown by apes they used as slave labor, leading to mankind's degeneration. Zaius decides that Merou is a threat, since his son is intelligent and even Nova has become smarter in his presence, so the three leave in the same spaceship for Earth, and Merou finds it has also been taken over by apes in his absence. They then leave again in search for other planet to live. That message in a bottle? It is being read by two ape scientists that find the idea of intelligent humans ridiculous.
  • Both remakes of Carrie take more hints from The Seventies movie rather than the actual source book. Noticeably Carrie's Roaring Rampage of Revenge happens right after the prank in the movies, but in the book she goes outside before she snaps.
  • Films based on the biblical Exodus tend to borrow a lot from Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, most notably the Pharaoh being called Ramses (he's referred to only as "Pharaoh" in the Bible). It's also common to depict the Pharaoh as bald, apparently just because Yul Brynner was.

     Folk Lore  
  • Arthurian Legend gives us the trope of Excalibur in the Stone, which is a very good example of how this can happen.
  • In Romanian folklore, vampires and werewolves aren't really distinct—the word in Romanian that comes from the Slavic for werewolf, vârcolaci, is a type of vampire (it eats the moon to cause eclipses). However, many other cultures do distinguish them—other than that both are often witches, for instance, French loup-garous and revenants don't really have much in common. Bear in mind also that the tenuous connection of vampires to Vlad the Impaler is non-existent in Romania (bar Pop-Cultural Osmosis) and was included by Stoker almost as an afterthought. This caused a minor scandal in Romania when somebody suggested building a theme park that would conflate Dracula and Vlad the Impaler, who is considered a national hero for doing his best to keep the Turks out of the country.

  • Cthulhu is the most frequent Shout-Out to the works of HP Lovecraft, and even in Lovecraft Lite depictions is usually referred to as a god. However, in the original novels, Cthulhu, while a "Great Old One", is actually only a few steps up from humans in the grand scheme of things. Cthulhu is actually nothing more than the high priest-king of an entire race of beings like himself, and most of his powers could be argued as stemming from his worship of the even-more-terrible Outer Gods, such as Azathoth and Shub-Niggurath and Yog-Sothoth. Justified, though, in that Cthulhu is the biggest Ensemble Darkhorse of Lovecraft's creatures, to the point that... well, they call it the Cthulhu Mythos, don't they?
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's first major adaptation, 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has cast a shadow over later versions. The 2005 film, in its effort to be Truer To The Text, wound up drawing criticism from viewers unfamiliar with the book. The 2013 stage musical struck out in its own, largely book-faithful, direction but threw in a few Internal Homages to and (due to Executive Meddling) one song from the '71 version. But three '71-specific details stick like glue to parodies, adaptations, etc.:
    • Practically every parody portrays the Oompa-Loompas as orange-skinned, green-haired, Germanic clothing-wearing Little People, but in the original 1964 novel, they were actually African pygmies (males wore skins, females wore leaves, and the children were naked)! The '71 film changed their appearance to one that was "exotic" yet significantly different. Roald Dahl subsequently made an Orwellian Retcon to the book that made the Oompa-Loompas Caucasian Lilliputians and residents of the Fictional Country Loompaland, though their clothing preferences remained the same. Later adaptations tend to dress their Oompa-Loompas in uniforms/costumes of varying, often wacky designs rather than hold to the book's description and most hold to the change in their stature from Lilliputians to Little People, a pragmatic choice in terms of staging them for live theatre. The 2005 film hewed a little closer to the novel in this regard, but was subject to Your Size May Vary.
    • The 1971 film, unlike the novel, assigned specific nationalities to the four bratty kids: Augustus is German, Veruca is British, and Violet and Mike are American. The 2005 film, a 2005 stage musical (Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka), and the 2013 stage musical keep to these, though the specific cities they're stated to be from vary from version to version.
    • Finally, the conceit of a clean-shaven Willy Wonka comes from the '71 film. In the novel, Mr. Wonka has a pointed black goatee. While illustrators avoid this trope — some even give him more facial hair, usually a neat little mustache — almost all film and stage Wonkas are clean-shaven, to say nothing of the parody Wonkas. The principal exception is Douglas Hodge, the actor who originated the role in the 2013 stage musical (he wore a prosthetic chin tuft and mustache).
  • In the original The Count of Monte Cristo novel, the eponymous count isn't Albert's father and doesn't get with Mercedes in the end. The Count also humiliates Fernand Morcerf with evidence of his war crimes, instead of having a totally awesome sword duel.
  • A major complaint from Tolkien fans about The Lord of the Rings movies was that Gimli's more comical and somewhat cruder depiction borrowed more from the accumulated exaggerated stereotypes of dwarves in modern fantasy than Tolkien's 'original' dwarves. Even so, however, Gimli was the butt of a joke or two in the original. Gimli and Legolas keeping score of their kills at the Battle of Helm's Deep comes straight from the books.
  • Would you be surprised to know that Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not primarily a love story between the hunchback and the gypsy girl? Quasimodo is rather sweet on Esmeralda, and indeed dies in her tomb, but this is just one of several plots running through the story. The actual primary character of the book, as stated by the author, is — wait for it — Notre Dame Cathedral itself, as the original French title Notre-Dame de Paris implies. Fans of the Disney version may be distressed to hear that Phoebus was a right bastard in the original. He actually turned up to watch Esmeralda hanged for his murder and didn't even think to say "Excuse me, Mr. Hangman, but I'm not dead."
  • Dracula got hit with this hard, as referenced in the quote above. It is claimed to be the origin of all modern vampire stereotypes and the definitive line between the vampires of folklore and the vampires of literature, film, and fiction, but most of his archetypal image - slicked black hair with a widow's peak, black high-collared stage cape, tuxedo, off-tempo Eastern European accent - is 100% Bela Lugosi, compounded by endless imitations. In the book, Dracula was a gaunt old man with dead-white hair and skin, a hawky face, and a flowing moustache, who grew young when he drank blood and spoke English more flawlessly than the native English speakers (to the point where it mildly creeps them out). Also, the origin of sunlight killing vampires outright was introduced by the silent German film Nosferatu. In Dracula, the only difference it makes is that they lose access to their powers until they get out of it.
    • Jesus Franco's rather unfortunate Dracula movie is one of few in which Dracula maintains his original mustache and de-aging.
    • Dracula's signature cape has its origins in stage adaptations of the story, added simply so the Count could twirl it dramatically to cover up his mystical exit by theatrical trapdoor, and to signify that he was biting someone without actually doing it onstage. Needless to say, it stuck. It was an Episcopal clerical funeral cloak. The "cape" portion of the cloak was flipped up in a collar so the actor's head couldn't be seen as he disappeared.
    • The stage play was the inspiration for a lot of the modern interpretation of Dracula— buying the rights to the stage play was cheaper for Universal, and so that's what they did. (In fact, both of Universal's Dracula films— the Lugosi and Langella films— both featured actors from stage versions of the play in the title role.) Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris? Dropped from the stage play, and so not featured in the movies. Ironically, legal research for Universal later established that the novel was never copyrighted in the States!
    • Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation was possibly the most loyal to the original story, most notably Dracula's frequent appearances during daylight. The thick Eastern European accent introduced by Lugosi remains, though the character's Transylvanian origin makes this a bit justified. The film's major departures from the book and most other adaptations comes from making Dracula's character and backstory much more sympathetic. Ironically, the movie was criticized by some for breaking the "no vampires in sunlight" rule and then Handwaving it away.
      • Supposedly, Coppola wasn't planning on giving Dracula an Eastern European accent, but Gary Oldman said he would only play the part if they allowed him to do the accent.
      • Although Coppola is partly to blame for another part of the original novel being lost - his was one of the first films to focus on the idea that Mina Harker was a reincarnation of Dracula's lost love, an idea that has been repeated again and again through modern adaptations of Dracula, despite there having been no mention of any connection between Dracula and Mina in the original novel (short of him trying to turn her into his next bride).
    • The BBC's 1977 TV adaptation is the most accurate, except in dropping Arthur Holmwood and in the depiction of the count, himself.
  • Adaptations of The Prisoner of Zenda such as Dave and The Moon Over Parador always present the identical characters as strangers who just happen to look alike. However, in the original novel, the two are distant cousins who look alike due to features introduced by adultery of a previous generation of their families, which crop up every couple of generations.
  • Moby-Dick; just about every adaptation or, more frequently, parody features the great whale as an all-white behemoth, despite the fact that he's described to retain only a white forehead and a white hump in the original novel. It doesn't help that that the book repeatedly refers to Moby Dick as the "white whale" almost exclusively. By the time they actually find it and the reader realizes that only parts of it are white, the image of a completely white whale is too powerfully engraved. Most book covers depicting the whale also make it completely white. Let it be noted that the reader should know that as early as chapter 42 (of 136 chapters), called "The Whiteness of the Whale", in which even the book itself recognizes the falseness of calling it a "white whale", justifying that, the whale being a creature that lives under the water and only lifts its body out of it slightly to breathe, the forehead and the hump are the only parts of it you see most of the time.
  • The original The Legend of Sleepy Hollow short story is about an annoying Connecticut schoolmaster who invades a Dutch community and gets run out of town by the prank of a clever local. The story was actually about cultural tensions in the new American society. Since the Disney version of the story, however, most adaptations focus on the ghost story exclusively, although it did manage to keep the subtle implication that the ghost was, indeed, a Scooby-Doo Hoax.
    • The Tim Burton film is clearly based more on the Disney version than the original story. Though Crane has a cowardly personality, he is ultimately the hero of the story. The villagers, on the other hand, are mostly turned into corrupt villains, and the prankster Brom Bones is a bully. The scene where Ichabod rides across the covered bridge is a direct reference to the Disney adaptation, complete with the frogs seeming to croak "Ichabod". The shot where he ends up on his horse backwards is also borrowed from that version.
  • Traditionally, Robin Hood is a brilliant archer who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, a noble outlaw fighting corrupt officials, and sometimes even a brave Saxon fighting against the Norman oppressors... or is he? This myth largely originates in 19th century Romantic adaptations of the Robin Hood legend (such as Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Walter Scott's Ivanhoe), many of which were developed specifically for children. In the original ballads, Robin is a trickster outlaw who steals for himself, couldn't care less about helping the poor, doesn't care about class differences (likely because by the time the stories were born the Norman population had already long assimilated), and can be pretty callous and cruel. Pretty much the only thing Robin's current and original image have in common is him being an outlaw and a great archer.
    • Robin Hood, in every version, symbolizes principled resistance to unjust authority. What form that takes varies with the era, but it's always there. Originally it was simply taking from the rich. "Robbing from the rich to give to the poor" wasn't specifically added until John Major's Historia Majoris Britannae (1521).
    • Robin Hood is one of those that seems to pick up elements with each iteration. For example, it's become common to include a Moor amongst Robin's men and to portray Marion as an accomplished fighter, herself. Also, Robin's role as a returning Crusader is "borrowed" from the title character of Ivanhoe.
      • The first such "borrower" was Douglas Fairbanks Sr. for his movie version in 1922. He spent the first several reels trudging along in chain mail on Crusade before receiving an Urgent Message from back home in Merrie Old....
      • The Moorish companion and the feisty Marian, alongside several other elements, can be traced down to the excellent Eighties series, Robin of Sherwood. The Kevin Costner version ripped several of these elements off (to the point where there was talk of a lawsuit) and brought them into the worldwide mainstream.
    • Lampshaded in Peter Is the Wolf: The characters there explain yet ANOTHER old version of the myth, and mention some of the issues, if not others. It's not treated as the original story, either. For one thing, Robin is a werewolf!
    • Robin's identity as "Robert, Earl of Huntingdon" dates from a 17th century play by Anthony Mundy. "Robin of Locksley" isn't much older. Alan-a-Dale was added around this time as well.
  • Don Quixote is explicitly stated in the first paragraph of the novel to be almost, but not even, 50 years old; later he's said to have graying hair and a black moustache. Yet any adaptation depicts him as a bumbling old man in or around his 70s, often with completely white hair and beard.
    • Also, for the people who didn't read the novel may come as a surprise to see that the so much iconic windmill scene lasts barely a page.
    • He's also a Jerk Ass in the book, whereas nowadays everyone remembers him as only a Wide-Eyed Idealist. He's mainly a Cloud Cuckoolander, whose particular Cloud Cuckoo Land is "Romantic (in the stylistic sense) novels". Most of his Jerk Ass moments come as a result of him being outraged that the "peasants" he meets are failing to give him what he regards as only the proper and appropriate respect due the Knight Errant he believes himself to be.
  • Most versions of The Wizard of Oz are based more on the 1939 film (The Wizard of Oz) than on the original novel (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.)
    • The silver slippers in the book were changed to ruby for the movie in an effort to show off the new-fangled color film they were working with and by having Glinda be the witch who directs Dorothy to the Emerald City (in the book it's the Good Witch of the North, who appears only in that scene and succumbed to character composition).
    • Wicked splits the difference, claiming the slippers were crafted from silver treated with ruby dust. The stage version manages to incorporate both by having the shoes be silver, but shining a red light on them when they're enchanted.
    • Averted in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz: Dorothy is correctly given silver slippers, and Glinda is not the witch who first sends Dorothy off to the Emerald City.
    • There's also a long-running animated series based directly on the first three or four Oz books, and not based on the film. TinMan, a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series, also draws heavily from the book canon.
    • This might also be a case of pragmatism, as the original book is in the public domain, while the 1939 film version and all new concepts introduced therein, including the ruby slippers, are still under copyright.
    • Oh, and the iconic line, "You wouldn't have believed me"? That originated from the film, in which for whatever reason the writers decided to flanderize Glinda into a total Jerkass, and for equally unknown reasons, most people took it as an actual reason why she wasn't informed of the real way to return home. Originally, the witch who sent Dorothy on her quest was different from the one who told her about the slippers' powers, and knew nothing on the subject.
    • Just try finding any Oz Adaptation that mentions the Tin Woodsman's backstory. Even better, try explaining Ozma spending her first years as a boy to a modern audience.
    • Just about the only exception to this is Marvel's Oz comics, which are extremely faithful adaptations of the books. This means that only the first miniseries, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", has anything to do with that movie you might have seen, and even then resembles it only slightly. Of course, again, the movie is still under copyright, so it's not as though they could have used much from it in the first place.
  • The version of Oliver Twist which most people think they know is notably different to the novel. Since the 1960 musical, the public perception of Fagin is as a Loveable Rogue rather than like the original who betrays his cohorts to the hangman to avoid sharing the spoils and manipulates Sikes into killing Nancy. The first two sound films, in 1933 and 1948, introduced the practise of removing characters and simplifying the plot: In the original, Oliver is not the grandson of Brownlow but (concentrate now) the son of an old friend of Brownlow's, the paternal half-brother of Big Bad Monks (who is often left out) and the maternal nephew of Rose (ditto...and when she is included she's often Brownlow's daughter to tie in with the traditional but non-original back story). Most surprisingly of all, Oliver spends the last two thirds of the novel completely safe with his family while they try and get his inheritance for him. Adaptations usually can't resist keeping him in peril to the end.
  • The novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a mystery story about a solicitor who turns detective to discover why a client has made a will leaving everything to a mysterious ne'er-do-well. Almost invariably, the subsequent adaptations... aren't. In fact, many leave out the central character, Mr Utterson, altogether.
  • Captain Nemo will invariably be portrayed as European in adaptations (usually French, as a result of confusing the character with the author) but he was an Indian prince in the books. Amusingly, Verne's first version of the character was a Polish nationalist that fought the Russians, but had to change it because of Executive Meddlingnote . In the 1954 Disney film, the one that has inspired most the later iterations, Nemo's nationality is a mystery, but his claim of being an escapee of Rura Penthe (not that one, but a fictional Russian penal colony mentioned in War and Peace) makes him compatible with Verne's original 'Polish rebel' idea. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kept the Indian nationality, however, and received much undeserved flak as a result (not that the rest of the film doesn't deserve any, on the contrary). On the other hand, they depicted him as a Sikh but had a scene of him praying to Kali, a Hindu (not Sikh) goddess, so by all means, get mad.
    • The 1973 Italo-Hispano-French series "L'Île mystérieuse" took some liberties with the source material, but Nemo correctly appeared as an Indian prince (played by Omar Sharif).
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was mostly black-and-white with some red added for emphasis, so the Grinch wasn't a specific color. As of the animated version, he is depicted as being green.

    Live Action TV 
  • The syndicated TV show Beastmaster has more in common with the B movie than the Andre Norton novel, in that it has absolutely nothing in common with the Andre Norton novel, and the only things different from the movie are that Dar doesn't wear a crown or use a sword (for the early part of the series); it takes place in the jungle instead of the desert; and Dar's loincloth doesn't have fringe on it. Oh, and Ruh's a tiger instead of a puma (probably because the black paint killed the one from the movie).
  • Once Upon a Time has a tendency to do this by adapting fairy tales to resemble the Disney Animated Canon versions, even having actors that resemble their animated counterparts. For example, in "Ariel", which adapts The Little Mermaid, not only do they use the names of the characters in the animated film (all characters were originally unnamed), but the mermaid was also cast as a Red-Headed Heroine. "Quite a Common Fairy" and "The Price of Gold" included Tinkerbell and Cinderella's Iconic Outfits from the Disney films, respectively.
    • One arc explicitly focused around the characters from Frozen instead of the characters from the original Snow Queen story (although parts of that have been added in too). Most likely done because of the enormous popularity of the movie, and since ABC is owned by Disney they can get away with it.

  • A musician well noted for being significantly innovative and well-regarded for their technique, style, sound, or choice of equipment to produce that style or sound, who becomes very influential to other musicians of a certain era, can fall victim to this as whatever made that musician unique or influential is exaggerated or misinterpreted by imitators. This can especially be true with innovators with a constantly evolving technique, style, sound or choice of gear, or one that has a certain amount of mystique to them.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • A minor example occurs for Peanuts. Lucy is usually depicted as less bombastic in modern derivations of the comic, including the merchandise, with 'crabby mode' Lucy items being rare because they're objectively less marketable. Most people forget Schulz intentionally made Lucy extremely argumentative from the get-go, making the gentler concessions only because she sounded more severe to the ear than on paper. Even in the animated adaptations, it's implied that Lucy is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.

  • In its original radio series incarnation, The Green Hornet posited no remarkable skills of The Hornet's valet, Kato. In particular, he was not characterized as either a skilled fighter in general or a martial arts master in particular. However, after the producers of the 1966 television adaptation cast Chinese martial arts master Bruce Lee as Kato, they used every chance they could to show off Lee's martial arts mastery in the series. The television characterization of Kato has been so influential that it is now probably mandatory that Kato be a skilled martial artist in any subsequent adaptation of the property. In the 1990s NOW Comics series of Green Hornet comics, all the Katos were skilled in martial arts, and rumors of various movie adaptations since the 1966 series have always mentioned some prominent martial arts star as having the inside track to being cast as Kato.
    • Some references to the Hornet and presumably Kato knowing judo and jiu jitsu did occur in the radio show and/or comic book tales, usually adapted from the former.
  • The 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger introduced the idea of John Reid as a lawyer or law student prior to his taking on the role of the Lone Ranger, an idea carried forward by the 2003 WB pilot and the 2013 films-which met with similar rejection as that of the 1981 film.

  • The musical Jekyll & Hyde is based on Spencer Tracy's and earlier movie versions of Stevenson's novel more than the text itself. Almost all adaptations have a Betty and Veronica Love Triangle with Jekyll engaged to Sir Danvers Carew's daughter, and Hyde hooking up with a good-time girl ... all entirely absent from the book... to say nothing of the fact that Jekyll and Hyde being the same person was the twist ending of the book, while in practically every adaptation, the duality is known and played up from the beginning of the story, and indeed becomes the point of the plot.
  • The Phantom of the Opera:
    • Most depictions nowadays include a half-mask, either leaving the Phantom's mouth free (as done in Lon Chaney's silent film) or the diagonally cut mask because that's what was used in Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous stage version, though his entire face was deformed in the original novel, not just half, and the rest of his body was abnormal. The stage version only used a half-mask because the first actor to play the Phantom found it too difficult to sing while wearing a full mask. (A full mask is depicted on the poster.) His mask was also black, instead of white as in many adaptations.
    • Averted quite nicely in Maskerade, where the full face mask (and the stupidity of "not recognising someone because they are wearing a mask") is a plot point.
  • The 1954 Broadway musical version of Peter Pan was apparently the first adaptation to call Neverland "Never-Never Land."

    Video Games 
  • Neither Sonic the Hedgehog's love for chili dogs nor his nemesis Eggman/Robotnik's famous line, "I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!", come from the games. It was Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog that came up with both of them. In fact, when Sonic's co-creator, Yuji Naka, was asked in an interview what Sonic's favorite food is, chili dogs didn't even come to his mind. This didn't stop other Sonic adaptations from using them and the Robotnik line: later American Sonic cartoons featured them (due to them being produced by the same company as AOSTH and their writers being told to use previous cartoons as a basis for the characters), and so did the American Sonic novels and comics (due to them being adaptations of the aforementioned cartoons, rather than the games). The chili dogs eventually made their way to the games, but that was in 2008, way after the aforementioned adaptations were produced, so they're still an example of the trope. Similarly, many of the lines that some think of as Sonic's catchphrases, such as "Way past cool!", "Let's juice" or "Let's do it to it!", were never used in a Sonic game. They, too, originated in the cartoons and made their way to later American adaptations based on them.
  • Some adaptations of Pokémon, most notably The Electric Tale of Pikachu, feature a Pikachu who stays outside its Poké Ball. It was just another of the various mons in the original game, but ascended to Mascot Mook status from the anime, which itself had Pikachu walking outside the ball.
    • It's also worth mentioning Pokemon: Yellow, which was heavily altered from Red/Blue to resemble the Anime, including using Pikachu as the starter. Much fan-art to this day still includes Pikachu as the odd one out among the starters, despite excluding other unusual examples like Eevee (the starter in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness and another fan favorite).
    • There's also the idea of Pokémon Speak. The fact that the trope is named after Pokémon should tell you something about how widespread the trope's use is... in adaptations. The anime popularized it, and it's even used elsewhere like in Super Smash Bros.. This is despite the fact that it is an Averted Trope in the actual main series games, where each pokemon has its own sound and cry. Most people, even people that play the main series more than anything, assume that Pokémon actually do simply repeat their name over and over again.

    Web Original 
  • Some people are puzzled as to why the antagonist of Marble Hornets is called "the Operator", because "he's exactly the same as The Slender Man". However, the Operator is actually a little different to the original Slender Man from Something Awful; Marble Hornets spawned so many imitators that their portrayal became the standard.
    • Then again, the Slender Man was an Interpretive Character from the start, with creator Victor Surge creating multiple posts giving him differing appearances and modus operandi in each post.

     Western Animation  
  • References to fairy tales generally have more to do with the Disney adaptation than to the original story. The Seven Dwarves will have names, Cinderella only goes to one ball instead of two, and the wicked stepmother will inexplicably not be put to death (though that probably had also been removed from earlier Bowdlerised editions).
    • In The 10th Kingdom, Virginia (who knows the child-friendly versions) has to have originals explained to her to understand what's going on. And, including the 1987 live-action movie, an animated movie by Jetlag Productions, and one animated series, this remains one of only four works that included the stepmother's other attempts on Snow White, including the poison comb.
    • In an episode of 30 Rock when Liz was going to a ball with Jack, Jenna insisted that Liz couldn't be Cinderella because "Cinderella is blonde. You could be Snow White and party with the little people." These hair colors, of course, reflect the Disney versions.
    • Good luck finding anyone who knows that Aladdin's mother is still alive, the vizier and the sorcerer aren't the same person or genies don't always live in lamps and grant exactly three wishes. Or that Aladdin was originally Chinese. Granted, it was Chinese In Name Only. Notably averted in the British pantomime tradition.
    • Disney themselves actually did it once: Their adaptation of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame owed far more to the silent and 1939 film versions than it did to the novel. This, perhaps, is why it's a fair bit easier to forgive its inaccuracies than, say, Pocahontas.
    • Most modern adaptations from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves tend to portray Snow White with short hair, in many cases also wavy. It is rare to find a version of the princess that doesn't draw inspiration from Disney's version in the portrayal of the titular character, like giving her long, straight hair or with a dress that isn't similar to the german-inspired gown that makes the character so iconic.