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Adaptational Timespan Change

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When an adaptation has its story take place over a different timespan than the original. Most of the time, this is because the writers were doing a Pragmatic Adaptation, and for some reason or another they couldn't fit the events of the story in the same timespan as the original story did.

It is more common for the timespan to be shorter than it is to be longer. Written media is adapted to audiovisual media than the other way around, and since a book usually takes more time to read it can cover more content. Thanks to Show, Don't Tell, a book can specify "time passes" without any issue, but a film would likely not bother with this. Live-action adaptations may shorten a timespan to avoid issues like visible aging or the passing of seasons.

Compare Age Lift, which changes the timespan of the life of a character.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl: The book takes place over roughly a year, spacing out the 4 events composing the story: A pub crawl in Kyoto, a used book fair, a school festival, and everyone coming down with a cold. The anime adaptation makes all of these events happen over a single night.
  • Pokémon: The Series: In the Isle of Armor expansion for Pokémon Sword and Shield, a serving of Max Soup can be cooked in the span of a single load screen. In episode 92 of Pokémon Journeys: The Series, it takes overnight for Allister to prepare the dish for Ash's Gengar.
  • Ultimate Muscle: This sequel series to Kinnikuman is said to take place 28 years after Suguru won the Scramble for the Throne. In the 4Kids Entertainment dub it's only been 10 years.


    Films — Animation 
  • Sleeping Beauty changes the length of Aurora's sleep from a hundred years to one night, because otherwise the prince wouldn't live long enough to develop a romance with her.
  • The Snow Queen: In the original story, Gerda's journey is implied to take place over years; she and Kay have both grown to adulthood by the time they reach home in the end. In the film, they stay children from beginning to end.
  • In the original tale of Snow White, Snow White lives with the seven dwarfs for at least several days, if not weeks, months or years. Long enough for the Queen to make three attempts to kill her, at any rate. But in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Queen's first two murder attempts are cut, leaving only the famous poisoned apple, so Snow White's time living with the dwarfs is reduced to just one night and one morning.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Endgame: In The Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos' killing half the population of the universe is undone in more or less the same day he did it. In the movie, it took the heroes five years to undo the damage.
  • The Death of Stalin: Most of the real-life events that led to the ascension of Nikita Khruschev as Soviet Premier and the execution of Lavrentiy Beria took place over months. The film depicts them happening in the space of about a week. Lampshaded in one of the film's last lines of dialogue, where Mikoyan remarks that it's been a very busy week and he's exhausted.
  • Ender's Game: In the novel, the story takes place over a span of 5 years. The movie on the other hand compresses all the events into just 1 year. This was mostly for pragmatic reasons involving the casting — this way, the producers wouldn't have to cast multiple child actors to play the same character at different ages, and they could have the main characters be portrayed entirely by teenagers. However, this decision did lead to a lot of side plots and characters getting omitted from the story, and some Fridge Logic as to how Ender was able to accomplish so much in such a short time.note 
  • Eragon: In the book, the story takes place over months to give Saphira time to grow up. In the movie, time is compressed to a matter of weeks so a magical age-up was introduced.
  • Gone with the Wind does this for each section of Scarlett's life, so that the key events are clustered together. Most notably, her miscarriage/Bonnie's death/Melanie's miscarriage and death all happen with a few weeks of each other, whereas in the book, these events took place over the course of a year.
  • The Hobbit:
    • In the book, Thorin and Balin were young when Smaug attacked Erebor (24 and 7 respectively), and it's another 174 years before the dwarves set out to reclaim it. Here, the two look about the same age during the two events, so much less time has passed. It's implied to be sixty years ago, since it's said that the dragon was last seen at that time.note 
    • The scenes with the goblins and with Gollum originally took place one after the other, with many hours in-between, while here they take place at the exact same time.
    • In the film, the dwarves are imprisoned by the elves for only one night before Bilbo frees them. The novel had them there for three weeks.
  • Into the Woods: In the musical, there is a gap of at least nine months between the first and second acts, during which the Baker couple conceive and give birth to a child. In the movie, the gap is reduced to only a few days, with a magical handwave to explain how they got an infant in that time.
  • Jojo Rabbit takes place over the course of around a year, while the book it's based on, Caging Skies, covers over a decade. In both versions, the protagonist Johannes starts as a member of the Nazi Youth- but in the movie, he is only 11 at the end of the war, and mostly an innocent Child Soldier, while in the book he grows up to be a genuine member of the Nazi Party.
  • Most adaptations of A Little Princess, such as the one starring Shirley Temple, significantly shorten the time Sara spends at Miss Minchin's school. In the book, she stays there for about ten years. Most probably, it is done, first, for the sake of Lighter and Softer, second, to avoid Time-Shifted Actor (as it would be rather difficult finding an actress who would convincingly portray Sara all the way from seven to seventeen).
  • The Lord of the Rings: In the books, it's about sixteen and a half years from Bilbo's farewell party to Gandalf's visit where the Ring-inscription is revealed, and a few more months before Frodo sets out on the Ring-quest. On screen, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring seems to condense the first interval to exactly as long as it takes Gandalf to make the trip Minas Tirith and back, a few weeks or months, and Frodo sets out the next day. This results in a minor Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole as reuniting with Bilbo in Rivendell shows him to have started aging again due to separation from the One Ring, but the book clarified that a long time had passed while the movie his hair goes completely white after what seems to be a few weeks.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World compresses the time-frame to somewhere around four and a half weeks (Ramona re-dyes her hair every week and a half, and goes through three dye-jobs over the course of the movie), rather than the year-ish of the Scott Pilgrim comics.
  • The Shawshank Redemption takes place from 1948 to 1966, while the novella it was based on took place from 1948 to 1977.
  • In Spider-Man, the wrestling debut, Spider-Man refusing to stop a thief, and Ben's death all happen on the same night. In the original comic, Spider-Man spent some time as a celebrity before the incident with the thief, and Ben's death was a few days later.
  • Stardust: In the book, the protagonist's adventure lasts six months; he leaves home in October and returns home on the day of the annual fair in April. In the movie, it's cut down to about a week.
  • The Ten Commandments (1956): In the original story, the Israelites spend forty years wandering through the wilderness before they reach the Promised Land. The film cuts all that out to avoid having to age up the actors (and cast all the new characters born in that period).
  • In Troy, the Trojan War barely lasts a few weeks instead of 10 years.
  • The Vikings takes place over the course of a few weeks while its literary source, The Viking took place over a course of nine years.
  • The Wizard of Oz: It seems to take Dorothy only a couple of days to walk from Munchkinland to the Emerald City, and similarly from the Emerald City to Winkieland. In the book, all her journeys take much longer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Childhood's End: In the book version of Childhood's End fifty years pass between the arrival of the Overlords and the revealing of their appearance to humanity so that the religious fanatics who would mistake them for Devils have all died of old age. The Syfy miniseries shortens the interval to twenty years, allowing the writers to make Composite Characters of some humans from parts 1 and 2 and allowing religious terrorists to act as antagonists in part 2.
  • The first five seasons of Game of Thrones adapt the five published books in A Song of Ice and Fire, however each season covers a year of time in-universe while all five books together only cover two years. This was likely to account for the child actors visibly aging over time.
  • Inspector Morse: The events of the novel "Service of All the Dead" takes place over several months, with Morse having to take over the investigation mid-way through from Inspector Bell who comes down with the flu. In the TV adaptation of the same name, the entire case takes place over a span of a few days (save for the court sequence at the end, which is a few weeks later) and thus drastically cuts down Bell's role, having Morse leading the investigation from the start.
  • In the Lockwood & Co. novels, there is a period of approximately seven months between the end of The Screaming Staircase and the opening events of The Whispering Skull during which Lockwood & Co. has built themselves up somewhat thanks to a number of cases and are becoming more known throughout London. These events are briefly described as backstory by Lucy's narration towards the beginning of the novel. In the TV series, "Doubt Thou the Stars" ends with Lucy collapsing on the basement floor after the Skull first speaks to her. She wakes up in the opening of the next episode, "Sweet Dreams," after having slept for about 14 hours, having been moved to her bed, and the events of The Whispering Skull kick off.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power heavily compresses the millennia-long timespan of the source material's events to facilitate its writing. Nearly everything is designed to happen for around a single human lifespan instead of across many generations. For instance...
    • Elendil and his son Isildur, the ancient Kings of Gondor who fought Sauron in the backstory of The Lord of the Rings, were both born long after all the Rings of Power were forged in the writings, but here they are around before the Rings.
    • Durin III and IV of the Longbeard Dwarves are made father and son, living at the same time instead of ancestor and descendant (and possibly the reincarnation of the same Dwarf, like all Durins). Durin III mentions that the ancestors of previous kings flow into the new king when he's crowned as the adaptational explanation for the change.
    • Mordor had been Sauron's domain since at least SA 1000 when he begins building Barad-Dur with no reference to any preexisting inhabitants. Here what would become Mordor is inhabited by the Men of the Southlands well into the reign of Tar-Palantir in the late 3100s and early 3200s.
    • Tolkien's Olórin/Gandalf is sent to Middle-earth in the early Third Age. Here the character appears in the Second Age.
    • Numenor’s sea-faring culture lasted millennia, at first coming to the Men of Middle-Earth as mentors, then later, after the island’s people grew bitter and greedy for power, as conquerors and tyrants. Here the island appears to have been isolationist for generations and to have no contact with Middle-Earth. On the other hand, the colony of Pelargir is mentioned in a later episode, suggesting that the Númenoreans may only have been isolationist from the Elves, not Middle-earth in general.
  • The Magicians: The original novel takes place over more than a decade. Its television adaptation ages up the characters but takes place over a few years at most.
  • Red Dwarf: In a recurring sketch from Son of Cliché called Dave Hollins, Space Cadet, which the show is adapted from, Hollins was in stasis for 7 trillion years. In Red Dwarf, Dave Lister is in stasis for 3 million.
  • The Sandman (2022) has an example of a story taking longer for pragmatic reasons. The first issue of the original comic book opens in 1916 and depicts a sequence of events ending in 1988, the year the issue was published, setting up the rest of the series took place in the then-present day. The first episode of the series stretches the sequence of events out by a few extra decades so that it ends in the 2020s, setting up the rest of the series to take place in the new present day. Within that sequence, it also has a more usual example of shortening the timeline: in the comic, Roderick Burgess dies in 1947, but the series moves his death back to the early 1930s to avoid having to cast an older set of actors.

  • In Les Misérables, the timeline of the original novel is condensed throughout as part of the adaptational compression process. For example, rather than Marius and Cosette spending a year pining for each other after they first meet and then enjoying two months of secret romance between their reunion and the June Rebellion, they first meet the very day before the June Rebellion and have just one secret meeting in Cosette's garden.

    Western Animation 
  • In the comics, Clark Kent learns of his alien origins when he's a teenager. In My Adventures with Superman, Clark first learned of his alien status when he was a child, and doesn't learn of his origins as a Kryptonian until he's in his 20s.