Certain media, including Real Life, tend to have the time and space to utilize a large cast of characters, a large number of individuals with significant and/or necessary contributions to the storyline. But in an adaptation it can be difficult to offer adequate time and space so that each and every character gets their just due for how they impact the story. To be faithful to these characters may, at worst, make them come across as a living Plot Device, existing only for the sake of the plot and not a fleshed out character of their own with individual talents, interests, and backstory.
A solution is to invoke artistic license and compress two or more such figures into a single character with traits drawn from all of them. For the sake of telling a proper story those contributions are relegated to the actions of only a few. Instead of showing the legwork of an entire team of intelligence officers to decipher important information, it's rolled up into one person putting it together. Instead of having three different smart guys on the team divided up into distinct fields, you make one of them an Omnidisciplinary Scientist and discard the others. It's a method of streamlining both the plot and the character interactions; there are fewer people to follow and everyone who is still around has more to contribute to the story.
This is frequently done in works Based on a True Story, since no medium can compete with the amount of people featured in Real Life. A fictional character also gets around any legal issues involving the depiction of real people. Whereas most of humanity's most interesting achievements have involved lots of people with different motivations, it suits the Rule of Drama to simplify things to a handful of characters with well-defined objectives. Though there may be nameless individuals wandering around with their own story to tell, the core plot is dictated by the people with names. Some might object to removing an important character and his or her contribution to the story, but on the other hand it means the story has a chance to be told.
This can sometimes get complicated, as the removed character may have his or her personality split up among the remaining characters (Deadpan Snarker given to character A, TV Genius attributes given to character B), or it is something as simple as someone actually having the removed character's appearance and personality but given a different name. In some extreme cases with certain stories that have regular adaptations every few years, an Era-Specific Personality gives them the opportunity to fuse specific versions of the SAME character in different adaptations, making someone a composite character of him- or herself.
Commonly involved in Adaptation Distillation and Adaptation Decay. Adaptation Origin Connection is a subtrope wherein a character important to the series that wasn't involved in the Hero's Origin Story in the original is in the adaptation, replacing a character who usually either got Demoted to Extra or was just a Starter Villain. See also Economy Cast. Sometimes a cause of an Adaptation Personality Change.
The inversion, where an adaptation divides a single character's attributes among multiple characters, is Decomposite Character.
For cases where two characters literally combine to form a single composite, see Fusion Dance.
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- Chevy Colorado, after being discontinued in North America for years, has returned there, but it's based off of a Thailand-Brazilian GM project that had been released three years before.
- The Ford Ranger is also from a similar background, only being available to this market after more than six years. The new North American Ranger is built on the international T6-based Ranger chassis which the rest-of-world Ford Rangers are based on, as opposed to previous-generation Rangers which were vastly different vehicles.
- In Fairy Tale crossovers:
- The title characters of Snow White and Snow-White and Rose-Red are commonly depicted as the same person. Their names are slightly different in the original German, and while the more famous one is a princess with a Wicked Stepmother (or mother), the latter is from a poor but far more functional family. (Also, they're explicitly described as a brunette and a blonde, respectively.)
- The Big Bad Wolf that appears in these sorts of stories will combine aspects of the ones from The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and other stories featuring a wolf as the antagonist. Some even combine the Wolf's role in Little Red Riding Hood with the role of the woodcutter, her own family, or even Little Red herself.
- Any prince that shows up in a fairy tale might be rolled up into one for convenience, usually depicting him as a Prince Charmless or a philanderer. (Surprisingly, the crossovers often leave the Forced Transformation princes separate.)
- In the "Blogs of Doom" feature in Doctor Who Magazine, which gives the diary entries of very minor Doctor Who characters, Robinson from "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" reveals that, after the collapse of Operation Golden Age, he had to create a new identity for himself, and promptly ended up involved in another sinister conspiracy as Short from "Robot". This is an Actor Allusion of sorts, as both characters were played by Timothy Craven.
- The Bangles created "Anna Lee" as a composite character on their 2011 album Sweetheart of the Sun, for the song "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)":
Susanna Hoffs: Interestingly, a character sort of developed in the song. We had all just read Girls Like Us, the book about Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell, and we were inspired by it. We sort of made up a portrait of a person based around those women — it's kind of mythical.
- Jesus Christ Superstar has Mary Magdalene combine elements of herself with those of the unnamed woman whose "waste" of costly perfume on Jesus in Bethany was condemned by the disciples in the New Testament, but just by Judas Iscariot in the rock opera. However, Mary Magdalene has been traditionally identified with the unnamed woman of Bethany for centuries, so this wasn't the first time it happened.
- !HERO: The Rock Opera's Maggie is Mary Magdalene combined with the Samaritan woman at the well.
- In Pink Floyd's The Wall, Pink is based on Roger Waters, with a bit of Syd Barrett.
- WWE's Randy Orton is a strange example. He has the snake motif of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, with a similar fighting style and devil-may-care whoop-your-ass attitude, but he's also the youngest world champion in WWE history and a third-generation superstar. Sound familiar?
- Trish Stratus started out as something of a hodgepodge of Sunny (hot manager of a Tag Team that stood no chance of getting over), and Terri Runnels' more heelish tendencies. She even ended up feuding with Runnels over Runnels thinking her a cheap knockoff, including one match where Runnels and Stratus worse similar gear(if you can call what they wore "gear")
- Cheerleader Melissa still dressed like a cheerleader but had not done anything related to her name sake for years. Alissa Flash debuted on TNA Impact paying tribute to Sensational Sherri Martel in addition to being a zipper happy tease. As Flash's TNA career wound down though, she started wearing new, zipper less gear and using Cheerleader Melissa's moves, and stopped using Sherri makeup. In post TNA appearances Melissa would wear that same gear and openly refer to Flash's actions as her own.
- ERLL had a luchador known as Alberto Dos Rios, a composite of El Patron Alberto's former gimmicks Alberto Del Rio and Dos Caras.
- Due to CMLL owning the Místico gimmick, the luchador with the most success using said gimmick wrestled in Lucha Liga Elite as Carístico, a combination of his Místico gimmick and his much less successful but still well known Sin Cara gimmick.
- In The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, the cruel former owners of the animals are also the bandits they scare away from the house.
- The Muppets:
- In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins also serve the role of the Field Mice in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, rescuing Dorothy and friends from Poppyfields and explaining to Dorothy how the Witch's magic cap works. Which makes sense, since they're played by the rats (with Rizzo as a composite of the Mayor of Munchkinland from the MGM film and a Gender Flipped Queen of the Field Mice).
- In The Muppet Christmas Carol, the two unnamed young boys in the book (the one who sings a carol and the one who buys the turkey) are the same character, played by Bean Bunny.
- In the Sesame Street song "Born to Add", Clarice, the female saxaphonist Bruce Stringbean is singing to, is a sort of composite of Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band saxophonist and Wendy, the girl Bruce Springsteen addresses in the lyrics of "Born to Run".
- Dimension X: In episode fifty, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall", the original Sor was never on-screen. This adaptation merges him and the cultist who attacks the observatory into one character, then reuses Latimer's name for a Canon Foreigner.
- In the Quintessential Stage of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Van Harl, the Vogon who's taken over the Guide in Mostly Harmless, is combined with Zarniwoop, who was the editor-in-chief in the Secondary Phase and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. This does not appear to have been done to simplify the story (it doesn't); they simply liked Jonathan Pryce's portrayal of Zarniwoop and wanted him back.
- In the Finnish version of The Men from the Ministry the characters Mr. "Whizzer" Wilkins and Mr. "Creepy" Crawley (two civil servants of neighbor offices who were pretty much the same one already, never appearing together and both voiced by John Graham) into "Vinku" Wilkins, taking the former's name, stuttering and absent-mindedness and the latter's Verbal Tic.
- Comparing X Minus One's episode twenty-eight, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall (1941)", the original Sor was never on-screen. This adaptation merges him and the cultist who attacks the observatory into one character, then reuses Latimer's name for a Canon Foreigner.
- In "What if DC and Marvel Share the Same Cinematic Universe":
- Steve Rogers is combined with Steve Trevor, as the one who crashed into Themyscira, and later befriended Wonder Woman.
- The Red Skull is an avatar of Ares, the God of War.