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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 something that happened to them, someone they know or one idea or character captured their attention and built the story from there. Either way, it's often interesting to learn about.

A 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 ).

Compare Real Life Writes the Plot and Reality Subtext. See also Homage and Pastiche for when one work intentionally draws influence from another. Lastly, there's Inspired by…, for when it's more loosely Based on a True Story or similar.


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    Anime & 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 The Amazing 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.
  • V for Vendetta was witten in response to Margaret Thatcher being elected Prime Minister for a third term and Moore wondering what it would take to push Britain into Germany of the 1930s.
  • 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.
  • Strange Adventures (2020), according to writer Tom King, was cooked up as a result of an angry tweet targeting his past as a CIA operative, accusing him of having committed war crimes and taking up writing to hide it. The story for the series was effectively King going "but what if he really was hiding his past?", and used the character of Adam Strange as a retired space hero to explore the division between his superhero adventures and the truth of what his life was actually like.
  • Alan Moore got the idea for Lost Girls once he started thinking about how to approach pornography in comics and started thinking about Peter Pan, while Melinda Gebbie was fond of stories that had three protagonists.
    I thought it might be interesting to sexually de-code the Peter Pan story. I was thinking about Freud's insistence that to fly in dreams is a sexual symbol and I started thinking about Peter Pan and Wendy, and how Wendy is at that kind of age where she probably would be starting to experience sexual feelings...Melinda happened to say, quite by chance that she, in the past, had written a couple of stories that had three women as the main characters. She said she liked the idea of having three woman as protagonists. So consequently that was when it all crystallized; Melinda’s three women idea collided with my Peter Pan idea and I suddenly thought, well, what if you have three women? What if Wendy was just one of them? Who would the other two be?

    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'').

    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 author later admits that she was also increasingly annoyed with all of the Double Standard going on between Goh and Chloe.
    • 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 all the blame was thus plased on Lusamine's shoulders for not being aware of this — and wanted to have him face the consequences of his narrow-minded thinking.
  • Infinity Train: Boiling Point was inspired by Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail and was originally going to be a Pokémon and Infinity Train fanfic before it was swapped with The Owl House.
  • Infinity Train: Star Finder was inspired by Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus and Infinity Train: Crown of Thorns, according to the author notes of the story.
  • Paradoxus (Winx Club, World of Warcraft''):
    • The authors met each other on a fan page about Winx Club and World of Warcraft, proceeded to roleplay their respective favorite Winx girl, and then started wondering about how the Winx's children would be and what kind of adventures they'd live. These ideas slowly wove into the fanfic we can read nowadays.
    • Crowgirl is a fangirl of Sylvanas Windrunner, thus prompting the idea of having one of the OCs as her apprentice, a.k.a. Trisha.
    • In the same vein, Popsicle enjoys the "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion, which is why Altalune gets to use the iconic Froustmourne.
  • The Gravity Falls fanfic "Where The Light Is" was mainly inspired by the Direct Line to the Author scenes in Gravity Falls: Journal 3, creating a story about what might happen if someone were to buy it and then go to Gravity Falls.
  • The developer commentary for the Steven Universe fangame Flawed Crystals lists several. While Attack the Light (a Licensed Game of Steven Universe) is an obvious inspiration, greater inspiration was taken from Alter A.I.L.A. and several games by RPG Maker developer Craze. In particular, the aversion of Arbitrary Headcount Limit was inspired by Czarina Must Die! doing the same.

    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 Hungarian film Habfürdő (Foam Bath or Bubble Bath) came about when director György Kovásznai, an experimental artist with anti establishment views wondered if animation could surpass the confines of fantasy and whimsy (a la Disney) and tell a completely down to earth story about Budapest life. His wanted to flip Disney on its head; instead of an immaculately and appealingly animated fantasy story about one-note characters, he wanted a movie where the story and characters are realistic and mundane and the animation is grotesque and detached from reality.
  • Wes Anderson has said that he was inspired to make Isle of Dogs by seeing a road sign for the Isle of Dogs in England while Fantastic Mr. Fox was in development.
  • 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.
  • Patlabor: The Movie: The Biblical symbolism that permeates the script was inspired by Mamoru Oshii noticing that Noa Izumi's given name sounded like the biblical Noah.
  • 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.
      • Much of the premise of Toy Story 2, as well as Al's character, is based on Lasseter being an avid toy collector in real life. Specifically, he recounted a day where his children visited his office and wanted to play with all the toys and he was constantly trying to stop them from messing with what he considered too valuable. This led him to wonder what it must be like from a toy's perspective being a collectable who isn't meant 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.
  • Wolfwalkers was first inspired by legends of the Werewolves of Ossory, which director Tomm Moore first learned about when taking part in the Young Irish Filmmakers program. Years later, after watching a documentary series about Oliver Cromwell and his aim to wipe out Ireland's wolf population in order to "tame" the country, Moore was inspired to combine those events with the stories of the Werewolves of Ossory.

    Literature 
  • George R. R. Martin heavily based the political intrigue of his A Song of Ice and Fire on Maurice Druon's The Accursed Kings. It is no surprise if Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon exhibit such influences. As Martin himself said in the introduction for 2013 English edition (which he lobbied for):
    "The Accursed Kings has it all: iron kings and strangled queens, battles and betrayals, lies and lust, deception, family rivalries, the curse of the Templars, babies switched at birth, she-wolves, sin and swords, the doom of a great dynasty and all of it (or most of it) straight from the pages of history. And believe me, the Starks and the Lannisters have nothing on the Capets and Plantagenets."
  • 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 the Iraq 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 the Del Ray Online Workshop 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.
  • The works of Stephen King have a few examples:
    • He 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. Jacob's "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.
    • He first got the idea for Doctor Sleep in 1998 at a book signing when somebody asked him what happened to Danny Torrence from The Shining. This was a question King had often asked himself as well as what would have happened to Jack Torrance had he found AA. King started thinking about how old Danny was and where Wendy was now, and decided to find the answers with a sequel, but it was a tall order.
  • 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 deserves an entire section here:
  • 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.
  • The Discworld series 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.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: While listening to a piece of music one day, Legrand got a vivid vision of a woman surrounded by fire. A story started to take shape around that image, and the woman herself would later be named Rielle Dardenne. Legrand also took inspiration from various myths in Catholicism.
  • According to the author Xiran Jay Zhao, the idea for the Chinese Mythology-infused Humongous Mecha Iron Widow came about from spite and dissatisfaction at the direction DARLING in the FRANXX took after the first thirteen episodes. The book was also pitched as Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid's Tale. They also included a "Bonus Summary for Weebs" naming various other anime influences.
  • American Psycho came about when Bret Easton Ellis met with Wall Street bankers as research. They took him out to lunches, dinners and clubs, but not once did he see them work or spend time in their offices. The one-upmanship between them inspired him to change the course of the story.
  • Lolita is said to have been inspired by Charlie Chaplin's marriage to Lita Grey. Author Sarah Weinman makes a compelling case that many details of the novel came from the story of Sally Horner, who was kidnapped at age 11 in 1948 and taken on a cross-country road trip for a year and a half before finding the courage to make a phone call that led to her rescue. Many of the events in the novel actually happened to Sally.
  • Although The Beach is set in Thailand, Alex Garland wrote the book while living in the Philippines and, in particular, was inspired by similar geography on the island of Palawan.
  • Michael Azerrad decided to write Our Band Could Be Your Life, a nonfiction book on underground rock of the 80s and early 90s, after watching a rock history documentary that jumped directly from Talking Heads to Nirvana, which he had found jarring.
  • Seanan McGuire has stated that part of her inspiration for writing her urban fantasy series InCryptid was a Take That! against Supernatural for the writers' poor treatment of Jo Harvelle. Verity in particular is partially a tribute to Jo.
  • Enid Blyton came up with the idea of the Noddy series after taking an annual summer holiday at a small village of Studland (which ToyTown is designed after) in Dorset sometime between the late 1930s and 1940s. Mr. Plod was even inspired after a police officer she meet during one of her trips known as "PC Christopher Rhone".
  • Animal Farm is quite famously based on The Russian Revolution and George Orwell's opposition to Stalinism as a diehard socialist. However, the story was also inspired by Orwell seeing a boy leading a cart-horse, whipping it all the while. Orwell had then thought that if animals ever realized just how strong they are, they could defeat the human race and end up running the world, with him then realizing that this could potentially become a Full-Circle Revolution and he could use this to write a Beast Fable critiquing the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Franc Roddam got the idea for Auf Wiedersehen, Pet after he returned to his Teeside home to find that many of his friends were working abroad on German building sites.
  • Black Books came about because of Dylan Moran's view of bookshops as doomed enterprises. Moran said "Running a second-hand bookshop is a guaranteed commercial failure. It's a whole philosophy. There were bookshops that I frequented and I was always struck by the loneliness and doggedness of these men who piloted this death ship", while Graham Linehan said his belligerent personality reflected a sign he once saw in a bookshop stating "Please put the books anywhere you like because we've got nothing better to do than put them back". Moran said of the series, "We just wanted to cram as much elaborate stupidity into a half-hour that could make it be coherent and that you would believe".
  • 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".
  • The Doctor Who story "Enlightenment": Barbara Clegg's extended family spanned several social strata, and she noted with interest the way that her wealthier relations interacted with their poorer kin. Clegg was reminded of gods toying with lesser mortals, and this led to her creation of the Eternals. She also sought inspiration in The Bible, deriving the prize of Enlightenment from the Tree of Knowledge in the Book Of Genesis. Finally, Clegg seized upon the image of solar winds — actually streams of charged particles ejected from the Sun — to develop the premise of the Eternals racing through the solar system.
  • According to Mark Wahlberg, Entourage was initially conceived when his assistant asked if he could film Wahlberg and his friends, calling them "hilarious." Other reports credit Eric Weinstein, a long-time friend of Wahlberg, with the idea of filming the actor's group of friends. However, according to Donnie Carroll, who was the inspiration for the Turtle character, the idea for a show involving an actor and his friends had come from him. It had originated as a book idea, centered on Carroll's own life and his experiences with Wahlberg, titled From the 'Hood to Hollywood, A Soldier's Story.
  • 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 sarcastically 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 that he has said was greatly influential on his writing of the main characters aboard the Serenity.
  • Graham Linehan was inspired to create The IT Crowd after a PC tech with questionable interpersonal skills paid a house call.
  • 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.
  • Tony Robinson came up with the idea for Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, after watching his daughter playing with other kids and it occurred to him that if she had been in Robin Hood's gang, she would had been the one who was running it, not Robin Hood.
  • The inspiration for Minder came from stories creator Leon Griffiths had heard in North London drinking clubs.
  • According to Matt Ficner, Aunt Agatha in The Noddy Shop was inspired by Miss Piggy from The Muppets.
  • The Outlaws: Stephen Merchant was inspired by the experiences of his mother, who ran a community service programme and told him about the disparate personalities this brought together.
  • Lynda La Plante made Prime Suspect after watching reality-television crime shows. After calling Scotland Yard and learning that there were only four female DC Is, she interviewed one of them (Jackie Malton), who impressed her so much that La Plante decided to base the plot on Malton's experiences during her career.
  • 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.
  • Stranger Things was in part inspired by the Montauk Project, a conspiracy theory which alleged that children were being kept in a government facility in Montauk, New York, and having strange experiments such as time travel performed on them. In fact, the show was known as Montauk early in development.
  • The series' creator Ashley Lyle was inspired to create Yellowjackets when Warner Bros. Pictures announced an all-female film adaptation of Lord of the Flies (that seems to have since fallen into Development Hell) and noted the huge number of commenters who claimed it would never work since they believed teenage girls couldn't be as vicious as boys.
  • The Season 1 director of Loki (2021) — Kate Herron — based the Time Variance Authority's Obstructive Celestial Bureaucracy on her own experiences working in admin offices as a temp. The show's art style was also based on her love of the Science Fiction and Film Noir genres, with her even imagining TVA Agent Mobius M. Mobius as a detective-like character when pitching the character.
  • Jeremy Slater, the head writer for Moon Knight (2022), cited both Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones as major influences for the show, particularly in regards to their horror elements. Executive producer Grant Curtis also noted how Kevin Feige drew on a childhood experience with visiting a globetrotting Egyptian art exhibit in Manhattan and being fascinated by the architecture on display there.
  • Damon Lindelof has said on the podcast for the miniseries that he decided to base Watchmen (2019) around race and specifically the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's book Between the World and Me. He didn't even know about the massacre until he read Coates's essay "The Case for Reparation" a few years before he read the book.

    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.
  • Bruno Mars came up with "The Lazy Song" during a recording session at which he and his production crew were feeling burnt out, having not come up with anything for several days. Mars idly remarked, "Today I don't feel like doing anything at all"... and suddenly had the idea of writing a song about not doing anything.
  • The impetus for Anamanaguchi's 2019 album [USA] came in the form of a comment that guitarist/songwriter Peter Berkman read, which was along the lines of "I love Anamanaguchi's music, but it sucks that they're white dudes," related to how their aesthetic was very inspired by Japanese culture, but they themselves were four white New Yorkers. This ended up sending the band into a mini-identity crisis, with [USA] being the result of them reconciling what it means for them to specifically be an "American" band, eschewing their prominent Japanese references in favor of a sound that's purely their own.
  • When producer James Anthony Carmichael visited Lionel Richie, the singer greeted him with "hello, is it me you're looking for?". Carmichael asked 'finish that song', and even if Richie replied I Was Just Joking, he insisted it was a good verse start. The result was "Hello", whose chorus starts with that line.
  • While Lori Lieberman watched Don McLean perform, she was downright taking notes on how his music was making her feel, which formed the basis for "Killing Me Softly With His Song". McLean would later say he was "very humbled about the whole thing."
  • After Paul McCartney read Pete Townshend saying The Who's "I Can See For Miles" was "the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song" his band had recorded, he heard it and found the result too melodic and sophisticated, taking it upon himself to write a song that was basically just noise. This resulted in The Beatles song "Helter Skelter", often considered a proto-heavy metal.
  • AC Newman was talking to a Spanish woman he'd met when he asked her to sing something in her native language to him. When she protested the only songs she knew with Spanish lyrics were Techno, he just asked her to sing him Spanish techno; he made a mental note that "Sing Me Spanish Techno" would be a good song title, and it became one for The New Pornographers.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The countdown clock featured in Chris Jericho's WWE entrance for many years was inspired by a similar clock he saw at a post office that was counting down to the new millenium.

    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.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE
    • The brand was a collaborative effort and its inspirations came from different sources, but the main story concept and title came from Danish concept artist Christian Faber's earlier battle with a benign brain tumor. In his medicine-induced feverish state, he imagined the capsules he ingested as pods transporting miniature warriors battling an infection to save the world that was his body. These became the Toa warriors (sold in pill-like plastic containers) battling Makuta and his forces to save the ailing deity Mata Nui whose body housed an entire universe — hence the title, "Biological Chronicle".
    • Umbra's toy was inspired by the LEGO design team attending a skate derby. In their excitement, they wanted to make an entire line of toys with roller skates, but the execs had other plans, so only one figure was outfitted with them.
    • Pridak was inspired by designer Brian Ellis' terrifying experience of accidentally misadjusting his diving gear, plummeting deep into water and bumping into a shark during a team building exercise.

    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.
  • During a brainstorming session for Backbone, developer Nikita Danshin, who lives in Vancouver, scared off some raccoons from his compost bin by using a trumpet. This inspired the game's protagonist who is a raccoon detective, as well as its noir setting of Vancouver.
  • Bravely Default's combat system was inspired by how the designer felt it was unfair for bosses to have multiple attacks in when the player characters don't.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 gameplay itself was inspired by Pac-Land and Kung Fu Master (the NES port of the latter had been directed by Miyamoto).
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Last of Us Part II:
    • According to Neil Druckmann, some of the dialogue for Part II is inspired by dialogue from The End of the F***ing World. He has also stated that a lot of inspiration for Part II came after watching The Revenant.
    • Druckmann had reportedly made a presentation of female role-models from an episode of Feminist Frequency, which might explain Abby's design.
    • The twist that Abby is a playable character in the game's second is directly inspired by Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty's own surprise player character.
    • A very specific and personal example was also responsible for some elements of the game's plot: Namely, a video of Palestinians lynching two Israeli soldiers. Neil Druckmann (who is Israeli) admitted to initially being extremely angry at the people who did it and wanting to make them suffer after the first time he watched the video, but eventually regretted wanting to act out on his "gross" thoughts. He then decided that this message of realizing how unhealthy and self-perpetuating passion-induced violence is should form the game's central message: To support this Aesop, the game would have players live a power fantasy of hate for characters committing similar murders in game, wanting to see them suffer, but when all was said and done make the player seriously question whether or not their blind, hate-fueled retribution was justified.
  • Tactics Ogre was inspired by The Yugoslav Wars; both involved a civil war caused by ethnic conflicts.
  • Vampire Survivors was inspired by the creator's past work in the gambling industry, with the point of VS being to make a game that uses the same psychological manipulation tricks that make gambling so addicting, minus the actual dangers of gambling.

    Web Original 
  • An Ordinary Princess: Was due to the inspiration of The Ordinary Princess.
  • 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.
  • The works created by Hank Green such as SciShow were a major influence on the style of David Johnson's web series Economy Watch.
  • VG Myths predecessor Hyrule Myths, says on its first video, referencing the Yandere Simulator Myths debunkings, which appear to have been started by Kubz Scouts in 2015, and Game FAQS post, presumably this one a few weeks before the video:
    Idea originally inspired by Yandere Simulator Myths, though I didn't go full on parody as I originally planned.

    Original idea for this episode was from some random post on GameFAQs I lost track of a while back. I'm sorry, Lost Poster, your legend lives on.

    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 2000 election and, rather than complain on end, vented their feelings into something funny. Ironically, the show actually moved away from political humor after about only a season.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Dwayne McDuffie got the idea for the Highbreed from, of all things, bananas. Ben even references this by calling the Highbreed Supreme "the Highbreed top banana."
  • 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. Stan was inspired by both the great aunt and their grandfather and Soos is modeled after a college friend. The Mystery Shack was inspired by a Real Life tourist trap in Northern California named Confusion Hill.
  • 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, the first executive producer of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, used to play with older My Little Pony toys, but felt the animated shows had little conflict. When Hasbro gave her the opportunity to direct the development of My Little Pony (Generation 4), 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.
  • The idea for Stan Lee's Superhero Kindergarten came from Stan Lee's love for Arnold Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop and Schwarzenegger's desire to make a sequel to the movie.
  • Elizabeth Ito, creator of City of Ghosts created the series as a counterpoint to most media’s portrayal of Los Angeles as a predominantly white and famous city, instead focusing on a realistic and diverse view of the city.
  • Kid Cosmic was inspired by both Silver Age era superhero comics and Tintin.
  • Craig Bartlett got the idea to make Ready Jet Go! an astronomy-based show after working on a project for NASA called the Shuttle Launch Experience, and hearing the astronauts describe how beautiful Earth is. The show was originally a buddy kidcom about a humanoid alien pitched to Cartoon Network titled Lenny and Nate. After it was rejected, the NASA project inspired it to become educationally appropriate for PBS, while still having the basic premise of human-like aliens.
  • Elinor Wonders Why: The show's art style is based on Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes according to Jorge Cham.
  • Jorel's Brother is largely based on the childhood of the series' creator, Juliano Enrico, who had an older brother named Jor-El note  who was much more popular and handsome than him; as such, he was often known as being just "Jorel's brother". The other members of the family were also based on his as well; an actor dad who fought for freedom during a dictatorship, an athletic, gymnast mom; a gross, lazy older brother who plays the drums in a band; a grumpy grandma who spends most of her time watching TV, especially action movies; and a sweet, naive grandmother who has a garden and loves fruits. Several episode plots were also based on things that actually happened to Juliano or the other writers, albeit ramped up to whimsical proportions to make the cartoon sillier and funnier.
  • The central premise of El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera—that Manny has the choice to use his powers to be a superhero like his father or a supervillain like his grandfather—is a metaphor for Jorge Gutiérrez’s own conflicts about which of his admired family members to follow in the footsteps of, with his father being an artist and his grandfather being in the military.

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