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Inspiration for the Work

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Occasionally, a creator will share a story on how they came up with the idea for their work. Perhaps they attribute it to a specific event; perhaps they focused on one idea or character and built the story from there. Either way, it's often interesting to learn about.

Super-Trope to Based on a Dream (if the plot was based on someone's dreams or nightmares), Serendipity Writes the Plot (if it's inspired by a real-life technical difficulty), Ripped from the Headlines (if it's based on a real-life news story) and Follow the Leader (if someone came up with the idea based on something already popularnote ).

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Compare Real Life Writes the Plot as well as Reality Subtext.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was created after Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird stayed up late drinking and drawing cartoons. One of them drew a picture of a turtle on two feet with nunchaku strapped to his arms, and they decided to develop the idea further. The series also drew a lot of inspiration from Daredevil and a little from the X-Men, originating as a parody of Frank Miller's run on the former.
  • Watchmen:
    • Alan Moore cited Harvey Kurtzman's satire "Superduperman" as his main inspiration. He also described literary inspirations such as Moby-Dick, Thomas Pynchon and Bertolt Brecht for his attitude to the plot. Will Eisner's The Spirit for its humanism, its use of New York locales, and its focus on ordinary people and how they relate to the Spirit was also an influence.
    • Steve Ditko was a major inspiration for both Moore and Dave Gibbons. The characters are derivatives of Ditko's Charlton creations, while Rorschach was intended as a Deconstruction of Mr. A. Both Moore and Gibbons also took inspiration from Ditko's eye for character creation to create figures who were iconic and recognizable even if they were one-shot characters. Gibbons also cited Ditko's art on his run of Spider-Man as a major inspiration, especially for its blend of real places with the bizarre and fantastic as well as his use of the 9 Panel Grid.
  • In writing V for Vendetta, Moore drew upon a comic strip idea submission that the DC Thomson scriptwriting competition rejected in 1975. "The Doll" involved a transsexual terrorist in white face makeup who fought a totalitarian state during the 1980s.
  • From Hell was partly inspired by the title of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in that it explores the notion that to solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society in which it occurred.
  • Brat Pack was influenced by the publicity stunt for A Death in the Family in which readers voted to kill off Jason Todd, as well as long-standing criticisms of the superhero genre.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • The strip itself was born from a rejected strip from Bill Watterson, whose cast included a younger brother with a stuffed tiger. He was told these two were the strip's strongest characters and to develop them. Watterson thus cut the rest of the cast and reworked the strip to star those two.
    • Spaceman Spiff, Calvin's space man fantasy, came from an earlier comic idea by Watterson, where Spiff was an obnoxious space adventurer who traveled around space with his dumb assistant Fargle in a dirigible. That concept traced itself to an earlier two page comic he wrote while bored in college German class.
    • invoked The famous dead raccoon storyline (where it's generally agreed that the comic Grew The Beard) was inspired by Watterson's wife finding a dead kitten on their doorstep.
  • T.K. Ryan claimed to have created Tumbleweeds after reading Zane Grey's Western novels while recovering from an illness.
  • The Bash Street Kids of The Beano was inspired by the view from the D. C. Thomson & Co. office windows, overlooking the High School of Dundee playground. According to Leo Baxendale:
    In fact, the catalyst for my creation of Bash Street was a Giles cartoon of January 1953: kids pouring out of school, heads flying off and sundry mayhems. Straight away, I pencilled a drawing of "The Kids of Bash Street School" and posted it from my home in Preston to R. D. Low, the managing editor of D.C. Thomson's children's publications in Dundee. I received an offhand response, a dampener. It was only after I'd created Little Plum (April 1953) and Minnie the Minx (September 1953) that the Beano editor George Moonie travelled to Preston on 20 October 1953 and asked me to go ahead with Bash Street (he gave it the provisional title of When The Bell Goes; when it appeared in The Beano in February 1954, it was titled 'When The Bell Rings'').
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    Fan Works 
  • As Fate Would Have It was inspired by two things, namely the storytelling of a Visual Novel, as well as the fact that the Xtransceiver shipping was seen as criminally underrated in the fandom.
  • The characters of Cub Simba and Nala influenced The Lion King Adventures.
  • The Invader Zim fanfic In Short Supply came about when the author noticed that she had never seen a good mpreg fic and wanted to see if she could make one.
  • As mentioned in the Pony Fiction Archive, emkajii was first inspired to write Equestria Total War after reading a one-shot comic page by Equestria-Prevails.
  • Kkat wrote a blog post crediting an artwork by Dan Shive (of El Goonish Shive) called “Fallout Pony Vegas” as the original inspiration for Fallout: Equestria.
  • Green Phantom Queen wrote Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail because she was annoyed by the lack of Character Development Chloe Cerise had been receiving in the anime, and the partly number of fan works exploring the character (there was only one other Chloe-focused story on AO3 at the time). Ironically, the first chapter was posted just days before Episode 29, which turned out to a major Chloe-focused episode that delved a bit into her backstory.
    • The prequel story, ''Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily',' was inspired by how Gladion was treated in the Nihilego incident in the Pokémon Sun and Moon anime — where he was the Designated Hero because of how he sacrificed everything for his sister when it's revealed that he withheld critical information about her trauma — and wanted to have him face the consequences of his narrow-minded thinking.

    Films — Animation 
  • Steve Oedekerk got the ideas for Barnyard when he visited a friend's house and his dog followed him around as he was exiting. After he left, he imagined the dog standing up on two legs and saying "I thought that guy would never leave!"
  • The writers of Megamind got the concept from the following question: What if Lex Luthor defeated Superman?
  • Tim Burton got the idea for The Nightmare Before Christmas after seeing a local store put up Christmas decorations immediately after Halloween ended, which made him wonder what would happen if these two different holidays were mixed up.
  • Pixar:
    • John Lasseter got the idea for Tin Toy after seeing his infant son playing rough with toys, and wondered what it would be like from the toys' perspective. Toy Story started out as a spinoff with Tin Toy's protagonist Tinny, before being reworked into an original idea.
      • The idea for Toy Story 2 came from Lasseter's habit of collecting toys, and children always wanting to play with them whenever they visited his house, which made him wonder what toy collecting would be like in the Toy Story universe since toys are supposed to be played with.
    • Andrew Stanton got the idea for Finding Nemo from multiple factors, including from seeing the fish tank at his childhood dentist's office and wondering if the fish were from the ocean and wanting to go home; a visit to an aquarium in California and imagining a CGI-film set underwater; and a visit to the park with his son, where he ended up becoming overprotective and realizing that this was preventing him from having a good bonding moment with him.
    • Brad Bird not only took influence from various classic superhero comics for The Incredibles, but also based it off of his own experiences where he was both working at a job and trying to spend time with his family, and became concerned one would overshadow the other.
    • Lasseter said that inspiration for Cars came after he took a cross-country road trip with his wife and five sons in 2000.
    • Lasseter said that he was convinced of Cars 2's story while traveling around the world promoting the first film. He said:
    I kept looking out thinking, 'What would Mater do in this situation, you know?' I could imagine him driving around on the wrong side of the road in the UK, going around in big, giant traveling circles in Paris, on the autobahn in Germany, dealing with the motor scooters in Italy, trying to figure out road signs in Japan.
    • Up came about when Pete Docter developed the fantasy of a flying house on the idea of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating, which stemmed from his difficulty with social situations growing up. He selected an old man for the main character after drawing a picture of a grumpy old man with smiling balloons.
    • Dan Scanlon was inspired to make Onward after hearing a recording of his father who had died when Scanlon was young, which made him wonder what his father had been like when he was alive.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Will Smith conceived the story for After Earth when he was watching I Shouldn't Be Alive with his brother-in-law Caleeb Pinkett.
  • The idea for Aguirre, the Wrath of God began when Werner Herzog borrowed a book on historical adventurers from a friend. After reading a half-page devoted to Lope de Aguirre, the filmmaker became inspired and immediately devised the story. He fabricated most of the plot details and characters, although he did use some historical figures in purely fictitious ways.
  • According to Shirley MacLaine in her autobiography My Lucky Stars, the idea for All That Jazz was hatched when Bob Fosse was hospitalized for a heart attack. MacLaine claims she was the one who gave him the idea to do "a musical about his death", though she said Fosse seemed to not remember this later. However, Fosse did offer her the role of Audrey Paris, she wrote.
  • According to his Oscar speech, screenwriter Alan Ball was sitting at the World Trade Center plaza when he saw a paper bag floating in the wind and was inspired by it to write American Beauty, which was originally conceived as a stage play.
  • Paul Schrader first conceptualized American Gigolo whilst teaching screenwriting at the Film & Television School of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). During a class exercise, Schrader conceived of the idea of a male character working as a gigolo and that such a character could be called an American gigolo. Moreover, Schrader characterized his American gigolo character as an affection giver rather than one interested in just self-gratification. The title of the film ended up being "American Gigolo".
  • The initial concept for The Apartment came from Brief Encounter, in which Laura Jesson has an affair with Dr. Alec Harvey in his friend's apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Billy Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and I.A.L. A Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger's wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee's apartment. Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond's friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed.
  • John Milius was inspired to write Apocalypse Now because of his college English professor, Irwin Blacker of USC. Blacker challenged his class by saying, "No screenwriter has ever perfected a film adaption of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness".
    • Milius was influenced by an article written by Michael Herr titled, "The Battle for Khe Sanh", which referred to drugs, rock 'n' roll, and people calling airstrikes down on themselves.
  • The origins of Bachelor Party came from an actual bachelor party thrown by producer Ron Moler and a group of friends for fellow producer Bob Israel. In fact, several members of the cast and crew involved with the production of the movie were at that party when the idea began to take shape.
  • Bob Gale conceived Back to the Future after he visited his parents in St. Louis, Missouri. Searching their basement, Gale found his father's high school yearbook and discovered he was president of his graduating class. Gale had not known the president of his own graduating class, and wondered whether he would have been friends with his father if they went to high school together.
  • Baseketball was based on a real-life game that David Zucker created with his friends, literally played in the driveway of his home. Many of the reappearing teammates are friends of Zucker and actual original players of the Zucker-driveway game, asked by the director to be in the movie to pay homage to origins of BASEketball.
  • Screenwriter Craig Boloting got the idea for Black Rain while visiting a friend in Japan. While standing on a street corner, he saw big American cars pass by. His friend told him that they belonged to the Yakuza.
  • While film students at the University of Central Florida, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez were inspired to make The Blair Witch Project after realizing that they found documentaries on paranormal phenomena scarier than traditional horror films. The two decided to create a film that combined the styles of both.
  • Brian De Palma came up with the basic idea for the story of Body Double after working with a body double for Angie Dickinson's infamous Shower Scene in Dressed to Kill.
    • De Palma got the idea for Blow Out while working doing the sound mix on Dressed to Kill.
  • The idea for Breakin' came from Menahem Golan's daughter who one day while at the beach saw a group of break dancers performing before a crowd in Venice Beach.
  • Troy Duffy was inspired to write The Boondock Saints by his disgust at seeing a drug dealer taking money from a corpse across the hall from his apartment.
  • Eli Roth originally got the idea for Cabin Fever while working in Iceland on a horse farm. He got such a bad skin infection from the rotting hay in the barn that his face broke out in sores, bled and peeled off when he shaved.
  • First time screenwriter Lou Holtz, Jr. had the idea for The Cable Guy while working as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, declaring that he once saw a cable company employee in the hallway of his mother's apartment building and started thinking, "What's he doing here so late?"
  • Tom Hanks said he first got the idea for Cast Away after reading an article about Fed Ex. "I realized that 747s filled with packages fly across the Pacific three times a day. What happens if one of those goes down?," he said. He took that idea and combined it with his interest in how to survive without the five required elements for living - food, water, shelter, fire, and companionship.
  • According to Robert Towne, Carey McWilliams' Southern California Country: An Island on the Land (1946) and a West magazine article called "Raymond Chandler's L.A." inspired his original screenplay for Chinatown. In a letter to McWilliams, Towne wrote that Southern California Country "really changed my life. It taught me to look at the place where I was born, and convinced me to write about it."
  • Collateral: Australian Screenwriter Stuart Beattie was only seventeen when he took a cab home from the Sydney airport. It was on that ride that he had the idea of a homicidal maniac sitting in the back of a cab, with the driver nonchalantly entering into conversation with him, trusting his passenger implicitly. Beattie drafted his idea into a two-page treatment. Later, when he was enrolled at Oregon State University, he fleshed it out into his first screenplay. Titled The Last Domino, he put the script away, taking it out occasionally for revisions and re-writes over the following years.
  • The idea for Crocodile Dundee came about when Paul Hogan visited New York City and felt like an outsider and that people had thought he was Scottish and it inspired him to write the movie.
  • The idea for Dawn of the Dead (1978) began in 1974, when George A. Romero was invited by friend Mark Mason of Oxford Development Company—whom Romero knew from an acquaintance at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon—to visit the Monroeville Mall, which Mason's company managed. After showing Romero hidden parts of the mall, during which Romero noted the bliss of the consumers, Mason jokingly suggested that someone would be able to survive in the mall should an emergency ever occur. With this inspiration, Romero began to write the screenplay for the film.
  • Days of Thunder was conceived by Tom Cruise when he and Paul Newman were allowed to test one of Rick Hendrick's race cars. Tom's first lap was in excess of one hundred eighty miles per hour.
  • Doomsday: Neil Marshall lived near the ruins of Hadrian's Wall and fantasised about what conditions would cause the Wall to be rebuilt and imagined a lethal virus would work. Marshall had also visualised a mixture of medieval and futuristic elements: "I had this vision of these futuristic soldiers with high-tech weaponry and body armour and helmets—clearly from the future—facing a medieval knight on horseback." The director favoured the English/Scottish border as the location for a rebuilt wall, finding the location more plausible than a lengthy boundary between the United States and Canada. Additionally, Scotland is the home to multiple castles, which fit Marshall's medieval aspect.
  • Peter Fonda got the idea for Easy Rider after seeing a picture of he and Bruce Dern on their motorcycles in The Wild Angels. He got Dennis Hopper (who was planning to get out of the acting business and become a teacher at the time) involved when he promised him he could direct the film.
  • John Carpenter originally wrote the screenplay for Escape from New York in 1976, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Carpenter said, "The whole feeling of the nation was one of real cynicism about the President. I wrote the screenplay and no studio wanted to make it "because, according to Carpenter, "it was too dark, too violent, too scary, and too weird." He had been inspired by Death Wish 1974, which was very popular at the time. He did not agree with the film's philosophy but liked how it conveyed "the sense of New York as a kind of jungle, and I wanted to make a science fiction film along these lines".
  • Face/Off co-screenwriter Mike Werb got the idea for the face surgery from a friend who had a hang-gliding accident. They had to remove most of the skin from his face, reconstruct the bone matter, and put his face back on.
  • Rob Cohen was inspired to make The Fast and the Furious (2001) after reading a 1998 Vibe magazine article called "Racer X" about street racing in New York City and watching an actual illegal street race at night in Los Angeles.
  • John Carpenter stated that the inspiration for The Fog was partly drawn from The Trollenberg Terror. He has also said that he was inspired by a visit to Stonehenge with his co-writer/producer (and then-girlfriend), Debra Hill. While in England promoting Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Carpenter and Hill visited the site in the late afternoon one day and saw an eerie fog in the distance. In the DVD Commentary, Carpenter noted that the story of the deliberate wreckage of a ship and its subsequent plundering was based on an actual event that took place in the 19th century near Goleta, California (this event was portrayed more directly in the 1975 Tom Laughlin film, The Master Gunfighter). The premise also bears strong resemblances to the John Greenleaf Whittier poem The Wreck of the Palatine which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1867, about the wreck of the ship Princess Augusta in 1738, at Block Island, within Rhode Island.
  • Following: Christopher Nolan's home was broken into, and he found himself wondering about the identity of the burglars.
  • Billy Wilder came up with the idea for The Fortune Cookie when he saw a player run into a cameraman on the sidelines while watching a football game.
  • The inspiration for Four Weddings and a Funeral came when writer Richard Curtis was flipping through some old diaries and realized that he had been to 72 weddings in 10 years.
  • David Howard stated he got the idea for Galaxy Quest while at an IMAX presentation, and while waiting for the show to start, one of the trailers for an upcoming "Americans In Space" film featured the voice of Leonard Nimoy. The trailer got Howard thinking about how the other Star Trek actors had becoming pigeonholed in these types of roles since the cancellation of Star Trek, and then came up with the idea of what if there were real aliens involved. From there, he considered the rest of his script "that, in a lot of ways, just wrote itself, because it just seemed so self-evident once the idea was there".
  • Buster Keaton got the idea for The General from William Pittenger's 1863 memoir The Great Locomotive Chase, about the 1862 Great Locomotive Chase.
  • Charlie Chaplin claimed he got the idea for The Gold Rush when he saw pictures of gigantic lines of prospectors heading up to the Alaskan gold fields. He was also inspired by the Donner Party.
  • Gillian Flynn said she inspired to write Gone Girl after hearing about the Laci Peterson case, where the handsome, seemingly perfect husband of a heavily pregnant woman was shown to be curiously unfeeling and calm regarding the disappearance of his wife. Turns out he was having an affair, too, and attempted to continue the affair all throughout the search efforts. The difference is that the husband was eventually convicted of murdering his wife, while Amy was actually the mastermind behind her disappearance.
  • Charlie Chaplin was inspired to make The Great Dictator after viewing Triumph of the Will with French filmmaker René Clair at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Luis Buñuel reports that Clair was horrified by the power of the film, crying out that this should never be shown or the West was lost. Chaplin, on the other hand, laughed uproariously at the film, thinking Hitler was the greatest comedian he'd ever seen.
  • Chris Columbus' inspiration for Gremlins came from his loft, when at night "what sounded like a platoon of mice would come out and to hear them skittering around in the blackness was really creepy".
  • Grindhouse:
    I remember telling Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett, all these young actors, that zombie movies were dead and hadn't been around in a while, but that I thought they were going to come back in a big way because they’d been gone for so long. I said, "We've got to be there first". I had [a script] I’d started writing. It was about 30 pages, and I said to them, "There are characters for all of you to play". We got all excited about it, and then I didn't know where to go with it. The introduction was about as far as I'd gotten, and then I got onto other movies. Sure enough, the zombie [movie] invasion happened and they all came back again, and I was like, "Ah, I knew that I should've made my zombie film".
    • Quentin Tarantino came up with the idea for Death Proof when he was having a drunken hotel night with friend Sean Penn. Tarantino wanted to buy a Volvo because he "didn't want to die in some auto accident like the one in Pulp Fiction. In regards to the safety of the car, Penn said, "Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you." The "death proof" phrase had stuck to Tarantino after that.
  • Groundhog Day: While waiting in a theater for a film to start, Danny Rubin was reading The Vampire Lestat and began musing about vampiric immortality and what one would do with their time when it was limitless. He reasoned that vampires were like normal people without being forced to adhere to the same rules or moral boundaries. He questioned if and when it would become boring or pointless, and how a person would change over time, especially if that person was incapable of substantial change within their own limited mortal life. He singled out men he deemed to be in arrested development, who could not outlive their adolescence.
  • Halloween (1978) was based on an experience John Carpenter had in college touring a psychiatric hospital. Carpenter met a child who stared at him "with a look of evil, and it terrified [him]."
  • Hannah and Her Sisters was originally about a man who fell in love with his wife's sister. Then Woody Allen re-read Anna Karenina "and I thought, it's interesting how this guy gets the various stories going, cutting from one story to another. I loved the idea of experimenting with that."
  • Gregory Widen was inspired to write Highlander while visiting Scotland on vacation. He was visiting a museum in Edinburgh, came across a suit of armor, and wondered what it would have been like if the man who wore the armor were alive today.
  • Wes Craven got the idea for The Hills Have Eyes (1977) while looking up "terrible things" at the New York Public Library. While going through the library's forensics department, Craven learned of the legend of Sawney Bean - the alleged head of a 48-person Scottish clan responsible for the murder and cannibalization of more than one thousand people. What interested Craven in the legend was how, after Bean's clan was arrested, they were tortured, quartered, burned and hung. Craven saw this treatment of the Bean clan by supposedly civilized people as paralleling the clan's own savagery.
  • Tom Six claims that he got the idea for The Human Centipede from discussions with a friend on how to punish pedophiles. One of them came up with stapling the pedophile's mouth to the ass of a fat truck driver.
  • Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin got the idea for Independence Day while fielding a question about the existence of alien life during promotion for Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like that if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover fifteen mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world's largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, "I think I have an idea for our next film."
  • The idea for The Jerk came from a stand-up routine of Steve Martin (included on his debut comedy album, Let's Get Small), in which he claimed to have been "born a poor black child" and how, after hearing his first Mantovani record, he "decided to become white."
  • Denys Arcand was inspired to make Jesus of Montreal when he went to see a Passion Play, starring an actor who had auditioned for one of his works, performed at St. Joseph's Oratory, a church in Montreal.
  • Jingle All the Way drew inspiration from the high demand for Christmas toys, such as the Cabbage Patch Kids and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which often led to intense searching and occasional violence amongst shoppers. Randy Kornfield wrote the film's original screenplay after witnessing his in-laws go to a Santa Monica toy store at dawn in order to get his son a Power Ranger. While admitting to missing the clamor for the Cabbage Patch Kids and Power Rangers, Chris Columbus experienced a similar situation in 1995 when he attempted to obtain a Buzz Lightyear action figure. As a result, he re-wrote Kornfield's script.
  • In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Alfred Hitchcock revealed that The Lady Vanishes was inspired by a legend of an Englishwoman who went with her daughter to the Palace Hotel in Paris in the 1880s, at the time of the Great Exposition:
    The woman was taken sick and they sent the girl across Paris to get some medicine in a horse-vehicle, so it took about four hours. When she came back she asked, "How's my mother?" "What mother?" "My mother. She's here, she's in her room. Room 22". They go up there. Different room, different wallpaper, everything. And the payoff of the whole story is, so the legend goes, that the woman had bubonic plague and they dared not let anybody know she died, otherwise all of Paris would have emptied.
  • According to Screenwriter Jonathan Beutel, the idea for The Last Starfighter came about because he wandered into a video arcade and saw a young boy playing a video game, and also at that time, he read The Once and Future King and it occurred to him, that what if a video game had been a sword in a stone, and a boy had scored an incredible number in the video game, which sent out a ripple effect across the universe.
  • The Lavender Hill Mob: screenwriter T. E. B. Clarke is said to have come up with the idea of a clerk robbing his own bank while doing research for the film Pool of London (1951), a crime thriller surrounding a jewel theft. He consulted the Bank of England on the project and it set up a special committee to advise on how best the robbery could take place.
  • The Long Good Friday: Living in a Greenwich flat at the time, Barrif Keeffe could see the derelict Docklands from his window, and his ideas entwined following a chance meeting with an Irish Republican in a pub. Gangsters against terrorism soon became a going concern. Harold Shand's vision about how the Isle of Dogs could make Britain proud again was based on rumblings about the redevelopment of the Docklands that Keeffe heard from council officials.
  • Little Miss Sunshine was apparently inspired by a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he stated that the people he hates most in the world are losers. The screenwriter took offense to this comment, believing that everyone is a loser in some way, but that doesn't make them a bad person. He wrote the screenplay to refute that kind of black-and-white thinking.
  • Hal Roach came up with The Little Rascals when he looked upon the antics of a group of children from his office window and felt that a series of shorts about a motley group of moppets could make good comedy and have audience appeal.
  • Al Ruddy says that his inspiration for The Longest Yard came from a friend of his who was a promising football player. After a career-ending injury, his life took a downward spiral. He was working a minimum-wage job at a sandwich shop and was being mistreated by his snobbish girlfriend. Ruddy took the scenario from there.
  • Amy Heckerling was inspired to write Look Who's Talking after her husband and writer Neal Israel started playfully talking in a different voice to pretend what their new baby would say. Her husband also has a cameo as Mollie's boss.
  • The idea for Manhattan came when Woody Allen was listening to a George Gershwin album of overtures and thought, "this would be a beautiful thing to make ... a movie in black and white ... a romantic movie".
  • Michael Gottlieb got the idea for Mannequin when he was walking by a store window and was startled to "see" a mannequin move by itself. He realized it was just an optical illusion caused by a combination of lights and shadows, but began to wonder what would happen if a mannequin actually DID come to life.
  • Mark R. Burns got the idea to write Married to the Mob when he was ten years old, a house in his suburban Long Island neighborhood was raided, and the father was discovered to have been in the mob.
  • A Million Ways to Die in the West originated as an inside joke between Seth MacFarlane and co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wesley Wild while they were watching Hang 'Em High. The joke evolved into "riffing on the idea of how dull, depressing, and dangerous it must have been to live in the Wild West."
  • Charlie Chaplin got the idea for Modern Times while on a European tour promoting City Lights, from both the lamentable conditions of the continent through the Great Depression, along with a conversation with Mahatma Gandhi in which they discussed modern technology. Chaplin did not understand why Gandhi generally opposed it, though he granted that "machinery with only consideration of profit" had put people out of work and ruined lives.
  • Mel Brooks was a writer for the Sid Caesar variety program Your Show of Shows early in his career. Errol Flynn was a guest on one episode, and this real-life occurrence inspired Dennis Palumbo's largely fictional screenplay My Favorite Year.
  • The Navigator came about when Buster Keaton's Art Director Fred Gabourie was scouting shipyards in San Francisco for another project, The Sea Hawk. He was shown the former USAT Buford, a 5,000 ton, 500 foot ship that was being sold for scrap metal. He was told that a film production could do anything with the ship, including set it on fire or sink it. Gabourie rushed back to Los Angeles to tell Keaton about the ship. Keaton immediately began planning a film centered around the Buford and had producer Joseph Schenck chart the boat for $25,000 with a crew and sail it to Los Angeles.
  • Dan Gilroy conceived the idea for Nightcrawler in 1988, after reading the photo-book Naked City, a collection of photographs taken by American photographer Weegee of 1940s New York City residents at night. Often lewd and sensationalized in content, Weegee would sell these photos to tabloid newspapers. Intrigued by what he described as "an amazing intersection of art and crime and commerce", Gilroy wrote a film treatment with a "Chinatown feel". However, when The Public Eye was released, a film loosely based on Weegee's life, Gilroy shelved the idea. Two years later, he moved to Los Angeles, and noted the predominance of violent crime stories on local news stations. "I suddenly became aware of and intrigued by the idea that it must be a powerful force for a TV station, when they realize their ratings go through the roof when they show something with the potential for violence, like a police chase", says Gilroy. Sometime later, he discovered the stringer profession, and considered it to be the modern day equivalent of Weegee. Unaware of any film that focused on the livelihood of stringers, he began writing a screenplay.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was inspired by several newspaper articles printed in the Los Angeles Times in the 1970s about Southeast Asian refugees, who, after fleeing to the United States because of war and genocide in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, suffered disturbing nightmares and refused to sleep. Some of the men died in their sleep soon after. Medical authorities called the phenomenon Asian Death Syndrome. The condition afflicted men between the ages of 19 and 57 and was believed to be sudden unexplained death syndrome or Brugada syndrome or both. The 1970s pop song "Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright sealed the story for Wes Craven, giving him not only an artistic setting to jump off from, but a synthesizer riff for the movie soundtrack.
    • One night, a young Craven saw an elderly man walking on the sidepath outside the window of his home. The man stopped to glance at a startled Craven and walked off. This served as the inspiration for Freddy Krueger.
  • According to Thandie Newton, Eddie Murphy got the idea for Norbit after watching online videos of large African-American women beating their tiny husbands.
  • Nothing but Trouble: was based on Dan Aykroyd's personal experiences. In 1978, he was pulled over for speeding in upstate New York and was taken to the justice of the peace to stand trial in what Dan referred to as a "kangaroo court", and after he was fined $50, the justice of the peace invited Dan to stay for tea, and he ended up staying there for four hours.
  • The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure: After seeing Madea Goes to Jail in a theater, where he saw how the audience members would shout out advice to the characters on screen, Ken Viselman was partially inspired to create a children's film in the vein of Teletubbies with the interactive aspect, allowing the children to sing, dance, and respond to the characters on screen. He felt that "The idea of interactivity isn't new, but the idea of interactivity in a theater is."
  • Around 2009, Quentin Tarantino discovered the centerpiece for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood while filming a movie with an actor that had the same stunt double for 20 years. Even though there was nothing but a small bit for the stuntman to do, Tarantino was asked to use him, and he agreed. The relationship fascinated Tarantino and inspired him to make a film about Hollywood.
  • Pacific Rim: While walking on the beach near Santa Monica Pier, Travis Beacham imagined a giant robot and a giant monster fighting to the death. "They just sort of materialized out of the fog, these vast, godlike things." He later conceived the idea that each robot had two pilots, asking "what happens when one of those people dies?"
  • Paparazzi came about when a group of celebrities talked about their nightmares involving the paparazzi. One of them, Mel Gibson, thought that these stories had the making of a great revenge fantasy; he would become one of the film's producers.
  • Halfway through writing Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Paul Reubens noticed everyone at Warner Bros. had a bike to get around the backlot, and so he requested one of his own.
  • Brian De Palma got the idea for Phantom of the Paradise in 1969 when he was shocked to hear "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles as elevator muzac.
  • The inspiration for making Pineapple Express, according to Judd Apatow, was Brad Pitt's character in True Romance, a stoner named Floyd. Apatow "thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys".
  • Predator came to be as the writers decided to follow a joke regarding how Rocky was receiving so many sequels he would soon be fighting an extraterrestrial.
  • John Hughes was inspired to write the story for Planes, Trains and Automobiles after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home.
  • Paul Maslansky says he got the idea for Police Academy when in San Francisco filming The Right Stuff:
    I noticed a bunch of ludicrous-looking police cadets being dressed down by a frustrated sergeant. They were an unbelievable bunch-including a lady who must have weighed over 200 pounds and a flabby man of well over 50. I asked the sergeant about them, and he explained that the mayor had ordered the department to accept a broad spectrum for the academy. "We have to take them in,"...[he said]..."And the only thing we can do is wash them out."
  • The genesis of Pretty in Pink emerged when Molly Ringwald asked John Hughes to write a movie based on The Psychedelic Furs song "Pretty in Pink", which was her favorite song at the time.
  • John Carpenter became inspired to make Prince of Darkness while researching theoretical physics and atomic theory. He recalled, "I thought it would be interesting to create some sort of ultimate evil and combine it with the notion of matter and anti-matter."
  • Roar was conceived by Noel Marshall and Tippi Hedren in 1969, after she had starred in Satan's Harvest in Mozambique. During filming, they came across an abandoned plantation house in Gorongosa National Park which had been overrun by a pride of lions, and were told by their bus guide and local residents that animal populations were becoming endangered due to poaching; this inspired them to consider making either one or a series of films.
  • Edward Neumeier stated that he first got the idea of RoboCop (1987) when he walked with a friend past a poster for Blade Runner. He asked his friend what the film was about and his friend replied, "It's about a cop hunting robots". For him, this sparked the idea about a robot cop.
  • Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for Rocky in three and a half days, shortly after watching the championship match between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner that took place at Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio on March 24, 1975. Wepner was TKO'd in the 15th round of the match by Ali, with few expecting him to last as long as he did. Despite the fact that the match motivated Stallone to begin work on Rocky, he has subsequently denied that Wepner provided any inspiration for the script.
  • Harold Lloyd got the idea for Safety Last! when he saw Bill Strother climbing the Brockman Building in Los Angeles as a stunt one day. Lloyd - who had a difficult time watching anyone else perform a dangerous stunt because he had no control over that situation - hid behind a corner, peeking to check on Strother's progress every few moments. After Strother reached the roof, Lloyd went up and introduced himself.
  • Akira Kurosawa had originally wanted to direct a film about a single day in the life of a samurai. Later, in the course of his research, he discovered a story about samurai defending farmers. The result was Seven Samurai.
  • Writer Marc Norman got the idea for Shakespeare in Love when his son Zachary called him from Boston University and suggested doing something on William Shakespeare as a young man in the Elizabethan theatre. It took two years for Norman to come up with the idea of having Shakespeare struggling with writer's block on Romeo and Juliet.
  • The Shape of Water was primarily inspired by Guillermo del Toro's childhood memories of seeing Creature from the Black Lagoon and wanting to see the Gill-man and Kay Lawrence succeed in their romance.
  • Peter Howitt got the idea for Sliding Doors after almost getting hit by a car. He was late in meeting a friend, and innocently walking along London's Charing Cross Road. "I couldn't decide if I should run for the train or first call my mate at a public phone," Howitt recalled. "I impulsively dashed across the street, and was nearly hit by a car, and that brush with death got me thinking. Something inside my head thought, 'That's interesting. What if he had hit me then?' What are the knock-on effects, the domino effects."
  • Where did the idea for Smokey and the Bandit come from? Hal Needham, after being given a case of Coors by a friend, began to notice it vanishing from his fridge... and after installing a hidden camera, discovered his maid was stealing it. He pondered over the lengths people would go for Coors, and it spiraled from there.
    • At the time of filming, Coors would not ship beer more than 1000 miles from the brewery in Golden, CO. Possibly due to their beer not being pasteurized. Texarkana, TX, is roughly 975 miles from Golden.
  • Robert Rodriguez got the idea for Spy Kids: All the Time in the World from an incident on the set of Machete. Jessica Alba had her then-one year old baby Honor Marie and was dressed to appear on camera when her diaper "exploded". Watching Alba change the diaper while trying not to get anything on her clothes prompted Rodriguez to think "What about a spy mom?"
  • Two childhood friends discuss a taboo that's too "unfathomable" to begin with, where the son was molesting his father. The friend who came up with the idea later went on to play the main antagonist in the short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, which the other friend later wrote and directed as his thesis film.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020):
    • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was cited as an influence on the film's story.
    • The filmmakers have said that Ted was used as an inspiration for how to integrate a CGI character into a real-world setting.
    • In an AMA, writer Patrick Casey mentioned The Little Mermaid and Superman: The Movie as films that were used as inspiration for the movie.
  • For The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Tobe Hooper credited the graphic coverage of violence by San Antonio news outlets as one inspiration for the film and based elements of the plot on murderer Ed Gein. The idea of using a chainsaw as the murder weapon came to Hooper while he was in the hardware section of a busy store, contemplating how to speed his way through the crowd.
  • Christopher Guest was inspired to create the Nigel Tufnel character for This is Spın̈al Tap after waiting for a friend in a hotel lobby and seeing a British band checking in, when the bass player realized he'd left his bass at the airport.
  • The Tremors films were inspired by writers/producers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock after they were climbing a large boulder in the desert and suddenly wondered "What if there was something that wouldn't let us off this rock?"
  • The inspiration for TRON occurred in 1976 when Steven Lisberger, then an animator of drawings with his own studio, looked at a sample reel from a computer firm called MAGI (who would work on the film itself, handing the iconic Light Cycle scene and shots of the Master Control Program) and saw Pong for the first time. He was immediately fascinated by video games, and wanted to do a film incorporating them.
  • The basis for Videodrome came from David Cronenberg's childhood. He used to pick up television signals from Buffalo, New York, late at night after Canadian stations had gone off the air, and worry he might see something disturbing not meant for public consumption.
  • Michael Crichton became inspired to write Westworld after a trip to Disneyland, where he saw the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and was impressed by the animatronic characters.
  • Early drafts of My Spy used Kindergarten Cop as a model.

    Literature 
  • Scott Westerfeld came up with the idea for the Uglies series after a coworker moved to Los Angeles. The coworker sent an email discussing his trip to the dentist and how everyone in LA seems to have blindingly white teeth. Westerfeld began to wonder about a culture where modifications to beauty like that were the norm and those who didn't do it stood out.
  • The Warrior Cats series began when HarperCollins told Vicky Holmes to create a story about cats. She wasn't thrilled because she doesn't like cats all that much, but she decided to add things that interested her, such as lots of action.
  • The Nightshade Trilogy started with the invention of the main character, Calla. The author, Andrea Cremer, wondered what an Action Girl who could turn into a wolf would be afraid of, and built the rest of the story based on that.
  • Kenneth Oppel has a friend very obsessed with bats, and whose enthusiasm began to rub off. Oppel saw potential for a unique story, especially since bats had never been written about before, and started writing the Silverwing trilogy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island began as a watercolor painting done in front of his nephews, who were enthralled and delighted by the appearance of exotic locales with absurdly poetic names.
  • The Hunger Games developed when Suzanne Collins was watching TV one night and kept flipping between news coverage of war and a reality TV show involving young people; the two sort of blurred together in her mind until she came up with the series' premise.
  • Orson Scott Card got the idea for Ender's Game as a kid, when he tried to theorize what the military of the future would use to train soldiers in space, thus imagining the Battle Room. That manifested into the original short story, but the full novel didn't emerge until he was trying to decide who would be the protagonist of Speaker for the Dead, until his wife suggested it could be Ender.
  • Jim Butcher has told the story many times of how his Codex Alera series came from a bet made in an online discussion board. There was a debate about which was more important, a good setting or a good plot. He bet that he could take even the worst idea for a setting and turn it into a good story, and invited his opponent to suggest one. He got back two: the Lost Roman Legion and Pokémon. After looking into the background of both, Butcher started writing, but was unable to post the resulting story to win the bet because he thought it was good enough to publish (and get paid for). It grew into a six book series, by which point he'd completely forgotten where the bet was made and with whom.
  • Stephen King was said to have gotten the inspiration for Pet Sematary from his own daughter burying her cat in a pet cemetery and his own son nearly getting killed by running into a busy road. It's also been said that he may have been inspired by the 1902 short story by W.W. Jacobs "the Monkey's Paw".
    • He was inspired to write 'Salem's Lot when he had his English class read Dracula, and became curious about what would happen if vampires came to America, specifically in a small town.
  • Several books began as stories authors told to children:
  • Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin was inspired by the song "For Good" from Wicked. According to the author, it's specifically the part that goes,
    Like a stream that meets a boulder
    Halfway through the wood
    Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
    Because I knew you, I have been changed for good
  • A bit of an aversion: As Giovanni Guareschi related in the introduction to the first Don Camillo collection, he wrote the first Don Camillo story very quickly because he was under a tight deadline and had to fill a page in his newspaper pronto.
  • Steven Erikson cites Frank Herbert's Dune and Glen Cook's The Black Company as his main influences for the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
  • Anthony Burgess claimed that the inspiration for A Clockwork Orange was his first wife Lynne's beating by a gang of drunk American servicemen stationed in England during World War II. She subsequently miscarried.
  • Isaac Asimov:
  • Throne of Glass was inspired after Sarah J Maas listened to a piece of music from Cinderella and deemed it way too intense for the scene it was used for, deciding a thief or an assassin fleeing the palace would fit the score better.
  • Discworld has some examples.
    • According to Sir Terry Pratchett, he got the idea for Small Gods after watching a documentary about Khomeini's Iran.
    • If certain Australian fans are to be believed, the inspiration for Soul Music came during Pratchett's visit to Australia where, upon discovering that Pratchett had never seen The Blues Brothers, the fans promptly "abducted" him and took him to a midnight screening of the film.
    • Jingo was heavily inspired by Pratchett's feelings regarding both the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the Falklands War.
  • Chuck Palahniuk once had an altercation while camping, and though he returned to work bruised and swollen, his co-workers avoided asking him what had happened on the camping trip. Their reluctance to know what happened in his private life inspired him to write Fight Club.
  • Pierre Boulle was inspired to write Planet of the Apes by a trip to the zoo where the apes' mimicry of human mannerisms set him thinking about the relationsip between the two species.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The idea for The Prisoner (1967) came to Patrick McGoohan when, following the success of Danger Man, someone asked him, "What happens to secret agents when they retire?" Meanwhile, script editor George Markenstein came across a story from World War II about a village used to house POWs who knew too much.
  • Fawlty Towers was inspired when Monty Python stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay, run by Donald and Beatrice Sinclair. Mr Sinclair's irascible antics included: berating Terry Gilliam for eating his meals in "too American" a way; throwing Eric Idle's briefcase over a wall because of a "bomb scare" (the scare was that Idle left the briefcase in the reception area); disbelief at Michael Palin asking to pre-book the Gleneagles TV to catch a show; after Graham Chapman requested an omelet made with three eggs, Sinclair brought him an omelet with three fried eggs perched on top; when asked by John Cleese to call for a taxi, he argued with Cleese and took his time calling for the cab. Cleese was fascinated by what he described as "the most wonderfully rude man I'd ever met" and called Connie Booth down to experience it, and the rest is history.
  • Aaron Spelling admitted the original pitch for Fantasy Island was a joke. Spelling and production partner Leonard Goldberg were pitching ideas to ABC executive Brandon Stoddard. After the executive rejected all of their plans, at least six in all, Spelling blurted out: "What do you want? An island that people can go to and all of their sexual fantasies will be realized?" Stoddard loved the idea.
  • Bottom was developed while Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson planned their West End production of Waiting for Godot at the Queen's Theatre. The idea was to create a Spiritual Successor to Samuel Beckett...with swearing and knob gags.
    • They conceived The Movie Guest House Paradiso after staying at various hotels while touring Bottom live shows and thinking, "Wouldn't it be funny if Richie and Eddie ran a hotel?"
  • The concept for Breaking Bad emerged as Vince Gilligan talked with his fellow writer Thomas Schnauz regarding their current unemployment and joked that the solution was for them to put a "meth lab in the back of an RV and [drive] around the country cooking meth and making money".
  • Franc Roddam got the idea for Auf Wiedersehn Pet after he returned to his Teeside home to find that many of his friends were working abroad on German building sites.
  • Joss Whedon developed the concept for Firefly after reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara chronicling the Battle of Gettysburg. He wanted to follow people who had fought on the losing side of a war, their experiences afterwards as pioneers and immigrants on the outskirts of civilization, much like the post-American Civil War era of Reconstruction and the American Old West. He also read a book about Jewish partisan fighters in World War II.
  • According to Brandon Tartikoff, the head of programming at NBC during the 1980s, the inspiration for Knight Rider came about when NBC executives started complaining about the problems of casting handsome leading men in television series, because many of them couldn't act. Tartikoff and his assistant came up with a concept for a television show called, The Man of Six Words. Each show would begin with the leading man getting out of a woman's bed and saying, "Thank you". Occasionally, throughout the show, the leading man would say, "Okay", when receiving orders from his boss. Then he would chase down some villains and say "Freeze!" Finally, when the people he had saved from death would thank him, he would say, "You're welcome". For the rest of the show, the car would do all the talking. Although Tartikoff had meant the pitch to be a joke, the NBC executives liked the idea of a television show about a man with a talking car, and approved it for development.
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    Music 
  • SiIvaGunner leader Chaze mentioned in a video that he was inspired by the countless imitators of LittleKuriboh when Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series was at its peak. Said imitators would claim to have uploaded the next YGOTAS episode, but it would usually turn out to be lazy clickbait. Chaze decided to take the idea, imitating popular video game soundtrack uploader GilvaSunner, but actually put effort into the video, and thus a channel was born.
  • Billy Idol got the idea for his infamous 1993 album Cyberpunk after breaking his leg in a motorcycle accident. While in recovery, he was interviewed by Legs McNeil, who noticed the electronic muscle stimulator on Idol's leg and referred to him as a "cyberpunk", citing the cyborg qualities of his appearance. This led to an interest in cyberpunk culture.

    Radio 
  • Douglas Adams claimed that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came from a 1971 incident while he was hitchhiking around Europe as a young man with a copy of the Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe book: while lying drunk in a field near Innsbruck with a copy of the book and looking up at the stars, he thought it would be a good idea for someone to write a hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy as well. However, he later claimed that he had forgotten the incident itself, and only knew of it because he'd told the story of it so many times. His friends are quoted as saying that Adams mentioned the idea of "hitch-hiking around the galaxy" to them while on holiday in Greece in 1973.

    Theater 
  • According to Glen Berger's book Song of Spider-Man, Julie Taymor became committed to what would become Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark after seeing the first page of Ultimate Spider-Man's first issue, where Norman Osborn relates the myth of Arachne to his coworker. This led to Arachne's large presence in the first version of the show.
  • The first half of Hadestown's "Epic III" was originally a lengthy poem that condemned Hades' present-day actions and contrasted it with his love for Persephone. It was changed for Broadway due to Anais Mitchell seeing the climax of Ratatouille, where the food critic was moved by a simple dish, and deciding the song could afford to be a simpler expression of love.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing was inspired by developer Katsuya Eguchi's experiences with loneliness after moving away from his hometown in Chiba to work for Nintendo in Osaka; similar to how the player's humanoid character moves to a new community of anthropomorphic animals.
  • For Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, developers Darby McDevitt and Ashraf Ismail drew on Red Dead Redemption and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for influence. The former was cited because it was the definitive game about the cowboy rogue archetype and the latter because it was the only earlier example of an open-world sailing game, set in a world of islands. They also looked at Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World for its more accurate and well-researched portrayal of naval warfare so as to avoid hewing close to Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn took a lot of inspiration from western MMORPGs, particularly World of Warcraft and Everquest. Producer Naoki Yoshida was an avid player of such games, and encouraged his development team to play them as well and take ideas from them.
  • Half-Life took its inspiration largely from the Stephen King story The Mist.
  • While it was already part of a larger franchise, Todd Howard has stated that Bethesda Game Studios' main influence when developing Fallout 3 was Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
  • Hero Must Die was inspired by writer Shoji Masuda's father, who was ill with cirrhosis. The idea of a hero growing progressively weaker and trying to do as much good as they can with their remaining time came from his father's own failing health and his desire to make the most of his final years.
  • The Pokémon series is said to be inspired by Satoshi Tajiri's childhood hobby, bug collecting.
  • Tajiri's mentor, Shigeru Miyamoto, based many of his games on things within his own life:
    • Super Mario Bros. was inspired by a combination of Miyamoto exploring his neighborhood's countryside, and having an interest in Alice in Wonderland, during his childhood. The enemy called "Chain Chomp" ("Bow Wow" in the Japanese version) was even based off of Miyamoto having a bad run in with a neighbor's dog that was chained to a post.
    • The Legend of Zelda was also based on Miyamoto's childhood, but more so from him exploring the caves he would find around his neighborhood, leading to the series' famous dungeon crawling.
    • Miyamoto gained an interest in gardening sometime between making games in the 90s, and this is what led to the creation of his quirky real-time strategy series Pikmin.
    • He then took an interest in dog breeding, and raising his own shetland sheepdog led to him creating the pet raising sim Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS (and his later interest in cats led to the Nintendo 3DS sequel Nintendogs+Cats to add felines into the mix). It's also worth mentioning that the name of his dog, Pikku, is what led to the aforementioned Pikmin to getting its name.
  • Scott Cawthon, the creator of Five Nights at Freddy's, mentioned that the idea came from a review given to a previous game of his, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co., which mentioned the animation made characters look like creepy animatronics. He took the idea and ran with it.
  • Team Ico got the idea for The Last Guardian after noticing that players of Shadow of the Colossus tended to form a closer bond with Wander's horse than with Mono, the girl who was supposed to be their driving motivation. They thus decided to explore the concept of a game about a human and an animal working together.
  • Ken Lobb cited fighting games from SNK as the major inspiration for the combat system for Killer Instinct, specifically citing Dragon's ability to link a jump-in attack into his double hitting punch for the Opener > Auto-Double > Ender structure of combos, and Kim Kaphwan's Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs super move for Ultra Combos.

    Web Original 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Tom Siddell was drawing pictures one day, and he decided to draw one using the unused colors from a recently-purchased pack of markers. The colors were pink, drab green, and tan, so Tom drew a pink-haired girl in a school uniform. She ended up with a bored expression on her face that intrigued Tom, so he started imagining what she must be like and what sort of school she must attend. He decided he could make a webcomic about this, and Gunnerkrigg Court was the result.
  • The anonymous creator of Bad Lip Reading got the inspiration for it from his deaf mother, who had learned how to read lips. He started trying it by watching TV with the sound off, but what he thought was being said was so hilariously inaccurate that...
  • Red vs. Blue: Many of the series' classic jokes (like whether the Warthog looks more like a puma or not) came from conversations that series creator Burnie Burns had with his friends while screwing around on the Blood Gulch map in Halo: Combat Evolved. In fact, Burns was inspired to actually start filming their skits as part of a web series while recording gameplay and letter boxing without the HUD, realizing that doing so made it "kind of look like a movie."

    Web Video 
  • Brad Jones was inspired to create The Cinema Snob after watching Roger Ebert's review of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. He said that the review "made me think of how odd it is in general to see film snobs try to review horror or exploitation films...I'm reviewing these movies the same way a pretentious cinema snob would and I'm trying to give some laughs at the expense of the movies to people like me who really do love exploitation films."
    • He based the Snob's appearance and voice on an audience member he saw at a Q&A panel for George A. Romero, who told Romero how he had interpreted Monkey Shines as a metaphor for evolution and the bond between animal and man.

    Western Animation 
  • Seth MacFarlane came up with American Dad! when he and fellow Family Guy writer Mike Barker were frustrated following the results of the 2004 election and, rather than complain on end, vented their feelings into something funny. Though ironically, the show actually moved away from political humor after about only a season.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Dwayne Mc Duffie got the idea for the Highbreed from, of all things, bananas. Ben even references this by calling the Highbreed Supreme "the Highbreed top banana."
  • Cow and Chicken came about from a bedtime story Dave Feiss told his daughter.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends began when creator Craig McCracken adopted a dog and wondered what its life had been like before that. The result was a world where corporeal Imaginary Friends can be adopted like pets.
  • Several Futurama characters were based on Star Trek hypotheticals. Zoidberg was based on the question "What was it like for Spock seeing a doctor from a different species?" Zapp Brannigan is what the crew imagined William Shatner would actually be like as a starship captain, while Kif (who you'll recall was originally more of a Deadpan Snarker) was a version of Spock who hated Kirk.
  • Alex Hirsch was inspired to make Gravity Falls based on his own childhood experiences spending summer vacation with a great aunt. He's made it clear that Dipper and Mabel are basically just cartoon versions of himself and his twin sister Ariel.
  • Many of the stories seen in Hey Arnold! were based on experiences Craig Bartlett and his crew had as children. Plus, several characters are inspired by real people Bartlett grew up with.
  • Mike, Lu & Og came about when Cartoon Network executives saw Russian animator Mikhail Aldashin's short film Poumse, a satire on globalization about a salesman selling modern goods to a primitive people, and thought that the premise would be a good idea for a show. Aldashin would serve as supervising director on the series.
  • Lauren Faust, creator of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic used to play with the old My Little Pony toys, but felt the animated shows had little conflict. So when Hasbro gave her the opportunity to develop G4, she based many of the show's settings and characters' personality traits on her own childhood imagination. In her own words, she made Friendship is Magic for her 8-year-old self.
  • John Kricfalusi came up with The Ren & Stimpy Show through separate circumstances; Ren came about from a 1940s postcard with a picture of a chihuahua in a sweater, while Stimpy was inspired by the big-nosed cats from Bob Clampett's short A Gruesome Twosome. A friend suggested to him that he pair the two together and the rest is history.
  • Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo got the idea for Rugrats by watching their antics of their infant son. Nearly ten years later, their son would again inspire them, this time for Rocket Power, based on his interests in boarding sports.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Rebecca Sugar's brother, Steven, and the experiences had growing up with him is often her source of inspiration.
      Rebecca: If we’d get stuck for ideas, we used to bug him.
    • Beach City is based on the many Delaware beach towns the Sugars visited when they were kids.
    • The idea of Lars becoming a Space Pirate came from a cameo he made in Pug Davis. There Lars appeared as an extra in a bar on a space station, and they wondered how he could have gotten there.
    • The landscape of the moon in "Jungle Moon", especially the giant flower-like plants, was inspired by Joe Johnston visiting a garden full of succulents and playing with his camera to make them seem enormous in pictures.
    • invoked White Diamond's character was heavily inspired by a scene from the 1946 educational short The Story of Menstruation where a woman is crying in front of a mirror, the narrator encourages people to be/act happy because "no matter how you feel, you have to live with people", and the woman's reflection walks off happily while the real one is still there crying. Rebecca Sugar and other crewmembers she showed it to were fascinated by how dissonant and unintentionally horrifying the scene comes across as.
    • Much of the aesthetic of Homeworld, specifically the Diamonds' palace, came from looking at how The Golden Age of Hollywood (especially the works of Busby Berkeley, including Ziegfeld Girl) was "this era where the idea of person as a beautiful piece of furniture was very appealing". The show basically takes that concept to the extreme, as many Gems seem to exist to be living furniture or dance around like cogs for a Busby Berkeley Number.
  • According to Walter Lantz's press agent, the idea for Woody Woodpecker came from when Lantz and his wife were on a honeymoon in a cabin in California. A noisy woodpecker kept them up all night with its pecking, and, after a heavy rain started, the couple saw that the bird had pecked holes in the roof. There is some debate over whether this is true or an Urban Legend.
  • Owen Dennis came up with the idea for Infinity Train on a return flight to the United States from China. Partway through the flight, he awoke to a darkened plane cabin while the plane was over the Pacific Ocean, and was only able to see the faces of other passengers illuminated by TV screens. His immediate thought was “If I had no idea what this was, this would be pretty terrifying.” Early drafts even had the season one protagonist awake up in a similar situation, albeit on the titular train.

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