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Director Displacement

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Wait, what did Tim Burton do, then? note 

"It was nothing but producers then. Sam Goldwyn..." Willy started to wheeze at the name. "The Goldwyn touch. That's what his publicity people called his picture. His pictures? Finally, I said to him, "Sam, has there ever been a picture with the Goldwyn touch that I didn't direct?"
Gore Vidal (quoting William Wyler), Palimpsest

When a work — usually a film — is better known as the work of its producer than as the work of its director. Often a result of marketing, as the name of a well-known producer may be used prevalently in advertising a film where the director is a rookie or largely unknown. In some cases, the director can also be displaced by the screenwriter if the writer is well-known (and neither the producers nor director are). More rarely, all of these can be displaced by an actor if the movie is seen as a star-vehicle.

This trope tends to happen more in America than elsewhere due to Hollywood being a very producer-focused system, as opposed to other countries where directors get much more clout. The Auteur Theory was formed to avert and correct this trope, however, and it has generally succeeded in giving more attention to the work of directors and craftsmen.

Compare with All Animation Is Disney, when a director or producer wasn't involved in a work despite its strong similarities with their productions.


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    Films — Animated 
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines has an example perpetrated by the trailers and ads for the film even; Phil Lord and Chris Miller have been pushed as the masterminds of the movie, to the point of it being called "Lord & Miller's The Mitchells vs. the Machines" in some sources. The two are among the film's three producers, and it was actually directed by Michael Rianda, who also co-wrote the film.
  • Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas - actually directed by Henry Selick. Burton merely produced it...which helped confuse people fifteen years later when Selick's Coraline was being advertised. The marketing stated correctly that it was from the director of Nightmare. Because of the earlier muddled marketing of Nightmare, people mistakenly assumed Coraline was a Tim Burton film (in reality, Burton had precisely nothing to do with it). It got to the point where Neil Gaiman had to address this in his blog, while Selick himself has subsequently expressed frustration with the lack of credit he gets for his work on the film. This was probably intentional by the marketing team since Tim Burton's name pretty much sells to his own little niche, whereas the only people who have heard of Selick tend to be hardcore animation fans.
  • If you talk about the earlier films in the Disney Animated Canon, nearly everybody in the world will think about Walt Disney. Only hardcore animation fans know the names of the actual directors (Walt himself rarely directed cartoons and never directed any of the movies). It didn't help matters that when much of the early Disney animated films were released, they were generally made by a team of segment directors under the command of a supervising director, who was himself answerable to Walt. Under that system, each segment director would direct a single portion of the film, and then report back to the supervising director so he could edit all the portions into a single, cohesive film.
  • Strange Magic is produced by George Lucas and comes from Lucasfilm Animation, so naturally, Lucas' name overshadows that of director Gary Rydstrom, who is primarily a sound designer and never directed a full-length film before.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has three directors. None of them are Phil Lord & Chris Miller, who were the film's producers. The directors are Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rothman. Lord did co-write the screenplay with Rothman, though. The displacement likely comes from Spider-Verse being a project that felt like it should have failed but succeeded, with Lord and Miller having a history of pulling such a trick.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Author V.E. Schwab is credited as the creator of First Kill, which is true only to the extent that she wrote the short story the show is based on and serves as one of the executive producers. The showrunner, however, is Felicia D. Henderson, and Shwab has stated that though she was present in the writer's room herself she intentionally did not contribute much.
  • Paul Henning, executive producer of Green Acres, actually took out an ad in Variety to make it clear that not he but Jay Sommers was the showrunner. (Neither, of course, was the director; Richard L. Bare covered that job for most of the series).
  • Sam Raimi produced Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, but didn't create either of them, and never wrote nor directed a single episode. The primary creative force behind both shows was his longtime producing partner, Robert Tapert (the eventual Mr. Lucy Lawless).
  • Sesame Street is associated with Jim Henson; while he created the Muppet characters, performed some of them and even directed some shorts for it, he didn't actually create the show or direct any whole episodes.
  • Michael Mann
    • Mann was show-runner for Miami Vice in its first two seasons and co-wrote one episode, but didn't create the series or direct any episodes.
    • He was a producer and main creative force on Crime Story, but didn't create the series, though he did direct at least one episode.

  • The wildly popular funk throwback "Uptown Funk" is officially released under Mark Ronson's name, but (outside the U.K.), most people consider it a Bruno Mars song despite him being a featured artist, given his status as a pop megastar whereas Ronson is a largely obscure figure. It's somewhat understandable considering Bruno Mars has established himself as a specialist in Genre Throwbacks, with his "Treasure" being a funk disco track in the same vein.
  • To the majority of the public, Amy Winehouse's cover of The Zutons' "Valerie" is solely hers, when it was actually recorded for Mark Ronson's album with Winehouse as a guest.
  • "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is almost universally considered a Jennifer Lawrence song, as she sings it in character in the movie, even though it was released under James Newton Howard's name. That didn't stop Billboard themselves from hyping the song's chart performance as a Lawrence song while relegating Howard to a footnote.
  • Likewise, many David Guetta songs are less associated with the French producer than the guest singer ("Sexy Bitch": Akon; "Titanium": Sia; "Turn Me On" and "Hey Mama": Nicki Minaj; "Without You": Usher).
  • While most of Calvin Harris's songs are often seen as his songs, some of them are more associated with the featured artist, namely his collaborations with Ellie Goulding ("I Need Your Love" and "Outside") and Rihanna ("This Is What You Came For"; "We Found Love" isn't an example as it is officially a Rihanna song).
  • The song "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee tends to be associated with Justin Bieber in the Anglosphere instead of its original artists. This case is more extreme than most others, as the song in question became a major hit after Bieber's involvement in a remix (the original didn't have Bieber at all), and the original artists still sing on the remix. Unfortunately, the song's ensuing popularity coupled with Bieber's inability to speak Spanish has led to much disappointment at his concerts.
  • Music video example: Peter Christopherson is often mistakenly believed to direct the entirety of Nine Inch Nails' Broken Movie, but in fact only directed the wrap around segments and the "Wish" and "Gave Up" videos. The videos for "Pinion" and "Help Me I Am In Hell" were directed by Eric Goode and Serge Becker, while "Happiness In Slavery" was directed by Jon Reiss.
  • Brian Eno did start an interesting creative collaboration with David Bowie on the Berlin trilogy—Low, "Heroes", and Lodger—but Tony Visconti was the producer on all three albums. Eno's only credit as Bowie's producer is the album Outside.

  • On Your Toes: While George Abbott did direct the 1954 and 1983 revivals of the show, he was merely a co-librettist in the original production, which was directed by Worthington Minor. The original producer, Dwight Deere Wiman, was also credited for "supervision" of the "entire production." (Abbott famously mocked this style of credit later in his career, when it was taken up by director-choreographers Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, as "entire part of mother played by Lizzie Flop.")

    Video Games 
  • Nintendo:
    • Shigeru Miyamoto largely stepped back into a producer/advisor role starting with the Nintendo 64 generation, the last game he directed being Mario Artist Paint Studio in 1999. Despite this, sequels in various franchises he created, such as Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, still get attributed to him to some extent (the torch of Mario games was given to Yoshiaki Koizumi, who then became an example in his own right when he passed that torch to series director Kenta Motokura, while that of Zelda games was given to Eiji Aonuma and later shared with Hidemaro Fujibayashi). This is especially the case with the Pikmin games, which he created after backing away from the directorial role and thus never actually directed a single installment.
    • Nintendo R&D1's early games (Metroid, Kid Icarus (1986), Wario Land... etc) are often credited to executive producer Gunpei Yokoi, who was more focused on hardware development and had little input on the games his department produced.
    • Jose Luis Márquez of MercurySteam directed Metroid: Samus Returns and Metroid Dread, a role he shared with Takehiko Hosokawa for the former and Fumi Hayashi for the latter. But the two games are primarily considered projects of Yoshio Sakamoto, who produced the games. This is likely because Sakamoto had a much longer history with the Metroid series before then (he directed the games up through the controversial Metroid: Other M, after which he became a producer), and Dread is admittedly based on a game concept he had worked on as far back as the Nintendo DS long before ever considering a collaboration with MercurySteam.
    • Balloon Fight was directed by Yoshio Sakamoto but is far more associated with its programmer, the late Satoru Iwata, due to it being the first-party Nintendo game he worked on.
  • An example in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty comes from the game's soundtrack. The game was heavily promoted to have famed movie composer Harry Gregson Williams as the man behind the game's score. And while he does compose the official theme of the game and some cutscene music, all of the in-game music and even majority of the cutscene music was done by Norihiko Hibino. This became confusing when fans of the music purchased the official soundtrack, only to discover that all of the in-game music was missing, causing Konami to release another soundtrack, which included all of Hibino's work, meaning majority of the music found in the game. There is also the fact that Williams' name is shown in big bold print during the openings of both part 1 and part 2 of the game, while Hibino's name is shown in small print during the ending credits.
  • Zone of the Enders is far more commonly associated with producer Hideo Kojima than it is to either Noriaki Okamura or Shuyo Murata (respectively the directors of the first and second game).
  • For all that the Mega Man series is associated with Keiji Inafune, he actually only acted as the game director on two entries, Mega Man 4 and Mega Man X (and even then he co-directed both games with Yoshinori Takenaka). Starting with Mega Man 3 he did take on a loose role as the creative lead for the series, but other people handled the actual direction of the games.
  • The Tekken series is always associated first and foremost with Katsuhiro Harada, even though he only started to direct the series with Tekken Tag Tournament.
  • Chrono Trigger has writer Masato Kato (probably because he was the one who ended up directing the sequel), its main artist Akira Toriyama, and its composer, Yasunori Mitsuda; those three tend to overshadow the three directors Yoshinori Kitase, Akihiko Matsui, and Takashi Tokita in terms of association with the game in particular.

    Western Animation 
  • Exosquad's producer Will Meugniot is often credited as the series creator (and not in a My Real Daddy kind of way), though he clarified in multiple interviews that the series was created by Jeff Segal.
  • Many people are under the impression that Inside Job is created by Alex Hirsch. In actuality, it was created by Shion Takeuchi, while Alex Hirsch is the executive producer.