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Magnum Opus Dissonance

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"Her first book, labored over for years, and launched full of the high hopes and ambitious dreams of youth, floundered on its voyage, though the wreck continued to float long afterward, to the profit of the publisher at least. The hastily written story, sent away with no thought beyond the few dollars it might bring, sailed with a fair wind and a wise pilot at the helm into public favor, and came home heavily laden with an unexpected cargo of gold and glory."
Louisa May Alcott's vicarious description of her experience writing Little Women, from Jo's Boys

The serious work that you lavish all of your efforts on and have the highest expectations for will not receive nearly as much acclaim or success as the one you just toss out to pay the bills.

What happens when a writer or artist deliberately tries to create their Magnum Opus? They slave over it for years, pouring 110% of their heart and soul and energy and sanity into it, and confidently expect it to be huge, monumental, Genre-Busting, and assure them eternal fame and honor... and what is the response? At best, "Meh, it's So Okay, It's Average". At worst, "Wow, this sucks".

But what happens when the same artist just writes or creates something for fun or profit or out of contractual obligation with no big plans, hopes or expectations for its success? Heck, they know it's not that good but figure it will at least pay the bills this month. They're so busy working on that inevitably earth-shattering magnum opus, they don't even give this other silly little project much thought. Whoever commissioned it is sure to be disappointed, but it's no big deal; the public won't even notice its existence enough to laugh at its pointlessness anyway.

Cue Situational Irony! That book, movie, or painting that the creator couldn't care less about becomes an instant sensation. They're hailed as a genius, worshipped for blessing the world with this wonderful new classic, immortalized in parodies and homages, and earn an eternal place in history for their brilliance and creativity. That masterpiece they had such high hopes for will quickly fade into obscurity, but they will be remembered and celebrated for this little hackwork forever.

There are multiple causes behind this. Creators have different expectations and standards they apply to themselves than the audience and critics do; their definition of a Magnum Opus might simply be the one that was the most perfect, smoothest, with the fewest hassles that went into making it. Some of them tend to be The Perfectionist, and where audiences might forgive one or two mistakes or blemishes, the creator can't and will keep striving to achieve that ideal. Often, the author put so much pressure on themselves that it actually damaged the creative process, whereas giving their creativity free-rein produced better results despite them paying less attention. Also, works intended to deliver a deep, profound, important message have a tendency to come across as Anvilicious-esque, while works that are written without such concern end up focusing more on the story itself. This can also be related to One for the Money; One for the Art; after succeeding with a crowd-pleasing work, a lot of creators get to work on their masterpiece, and said work may suffer from Protection from Editors due to a swollen ego or Development Hell due to the creator trying to get it just right.

Alternatively, writers are as human as the rest of us and, as individuals, can hold different opinions than their fanbase (or what they think is their fanbase); this includes both expectations of audience experience and perceived aesop importance/acceptance. And their tastes might evolve over time: their latest work is more likely to match what the creator currently prefers, as well as represent their accumulated experience throughout their career, but fans' tastes are much less likely to evolve in the same way as the creator, causing them to cry They Changed It, Now It Sucks! instead. In some cases, however, the author does indeed know better and over time the work of art they are proudest of might become Vindicated by History.

All of the above aside, this isn't necessarily as black and white as it sounds. As some of the examples below demonstrate, the opus can, in fact, have its own substantial fanbase and perfectly respectable sales and reviews...but it just ends up Overshadowed by Awesome compared to the other works. Some fans may even agree with the author and prefer the opus to the author's other creations.

When the effect is somewhat delayed, see Vindicated by History. For the inverse, see Old Shame.

Sub-Trope of Murphy's Law and the Centipede's Dilemma and Sister Trope to Creator Backlash (often a good source thereof, too). Breakout Character is sometimes related when a specific character rather than an entire work becomes far more popular than was ever planned. See also Creator's Favorite Episode, where that choice may potentially result in this.

Compare Self-Deprecation, Sweet and Sour Grapes, Springtime for Hitler, It Will Never Catch On, I Am Not Spock, Never Live It Down, and And You Thought It Would Fail. Some examples also drive on the Sunk Cost Fallacy as a creator can believe his best work is the work he spent the most time working on. May overlap with My Greatest Failure if the creator takes it hard. Also see Consolation Award for when the work that is considered the best by the public is not the most awarded. Can be the result of You Were Trying Too Hard. Compare Black Sheep Hit, where a work atypical of the creator's style attracts new fans... who often clash with the existing fan base. Often overlaps with One-Hit Wonder.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Guilty Crown, created by the minds behind hit anime including Death Note, Macross Frontier, Code Geass, and Attack on Titan was hoped to be the creation of the next generation of anime, and is admitted to be the favorite work of many of the writers. Many viewers have thought otherwise, however.
  • Osamu Tezuka's most beloved work is, indisputably, Astro Boy. At least by his audience. Tezuka himself eventually got fed up with Astro Boy, and only continued making it because it was such a Cash-Cow Franchise. His personal favorite of all his manga series was Ode to Kirihito. He also intended for Phoenix to be his Magnum Opus, but his own premature death prevented it.
  • Takashi Hashiguchi considers Saijou no Meii his most important work, having created it in an attempt to get young people more involved in the notoriously conservative Japanese medical establishment, but the world will always know him as the Yakitate!! Japan guy.
  • ChiChi ChiChi by Cool-Kyou Shinsha features an in-universe example where Hiraku gets depressed after an erotic novel he wrote sold better than his picture book series.
  • Masami Kurumada has said that his favorite manga he ever wrote was Ring ni Kakero, which was based on his real-life experiences as a martial artist. However, his longest-running and most successful series, and the one which he is known the world over for, is Saint Seiya.
  • Katsuwo wrote Hitori Bocchi No Marumaru Seikatsu as a gag-a-day side project while most of his attention was focused on his serialized manga Mitsuboshi Colors. But the anime adaptation of the former and genuinely entertaining and endearing characters caused its profile to rise much higher than the latter ever did. Colors ended quietly in 2019, while Bocchi still continued to run until 2021, having attained a level of popularity its sister series never reached.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai has an In-Universe example as part of the Back Story of Lon Berk, the Demon World's Ultimate Blacksmith. While working for Demon King Vearn he created a number of novel magic weapons, as well as the Staff of Edacity - a simple upgraded version of the common Somatic Staff (a weapon for mages which converts the wielder's Mana into physical attack power). Due to Vearn's immense mana, in his hands the Staff of Edacity becomes the most powerful weapon in existence; Vearn is so pleased by it that he outright tells Lon Berk to retire as a smith, offering to make him his top general instead. Lon Berk is honoured by the offer, but so deeply unsatisfied at the Staff being his greatest achievement that he instead leaves Vearn's service to continue honing his skills. After multiple decades of trying and failing to create a weapon superior to the Staff (now widely known as "Lon Berk's masterpiece"), he gradually loses all passion for his craft; by the time the protagonists meet him he's been reduced to a jaded alcoholic who makes a living by selling sloppily-crafted weapons to humans.
  • Aka Akasaka's debut manga ib: Instant Bullet was what he considered his life's work, as he had been writing the story since high school, but it was unceremoniously Cut Short and he was fired from his publishing house before he could even reveal the meaning of the title, resulting in him hastily wrapping it up with a wall of text. Searching desperately for work following that, he pitched a rom-com about "a couple of stupid children" to Shueisha because he knew that was what the executives wanted to see. That hasty pitch ended up becoming Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, which has sold 19 million copies and counting.

    Comic Books 
  • Peyo's favorite work, and actually his original main one was Johan and Peewit (Johan et Pirlouit in its original French title)... But, one day, in one of this series' album, appeared a certain band of little blue creatures. They were intended to be one-shot characters but quickly became Ensemble Darkhorses... And from then, The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs) became the single most remembered work of Peyo.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Co-creator Steve Ditko didn't like to talk about Spider-Man. More precisely, he preferred not to talk about the character and he vowed never to draw the character again after he left Marvel in 1967. He occasionally popped up to complain that Stan Lee takes too much credit for Spidey's creation, but that's the extent to which he discussed Spidey. Ditko preferred to promote his Ayn Rand-inspired comics, but most of the readers who even know about those works have judged them tedious and unreadable.
    • Marvel tends to place One More Day in high regard, with editorial (especially Joe Quesada) often defending the story and the decision to separate Peter Parker and Mary Jane, while also actively preventing writers from retconning the event and considering it "untouchable". This is despite J. Michael Straczynski not having made any secret of his dislike for the story and the comic being widely regarded by fans and critics as one of the worst Spider-Man stories ever, if not the worst.
  • Steve Gerber evidently considered the 1990-91 Foolkiller limited series his greatest work. However, it seems that he will always be known best for Howard the Duck.
  • Suske en Wiske creator Willy Vandersteen considered Robert en Bertrand to be his best work. This comic strip series never reached the same popularity Suske en Wiske did and was discontinued quickly after Vandersteen's death, while Suske en Wiske just keeps on publishing new stories.
  • Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo considered Asterix in Corsica to be the best entry in the series, and while it's a very popular entry in France, in other countries it's seen as a decent but unexceptional story.note 
  • Blake and Mortimer: The entire series was considered one by its author, who was trained as an opera singer and really thought it was his true calling.
  • Mark Waid does not mind that Kingdom Come is his most popular comic, but he has said that his favorite comic he has made is Superman: Birthright. Birthright's still very well-regarded, mind, but it didn't do as well as Waid had hoped when it came out.
  • Dan Didio listed his ten favorite moments as an editor of DC. Several of the listed comics are considered mediocre or controversial (Identity Crisis (2004), Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Batman: Hush, the Supergirl relaunch, Superman: Earth One, the entire New 52 initiative), and he even suggests that Before Watchmen would have made it in, had it come out a little sooner. More universally well-regarded projects, like All-Star Superman, DC: The New Frontier, Seven Soldiers, and Wednesday Comics were given nods, but didn't make it in. A lot of this is because he's an editor, and would consider his biggest successes to be cases that required some major wrangling of writers and artists, over something that took no more work than "take a good creator, let them do whatever they want for twelve issues."
  • An In-Universe example in Misfit City. Garth Hemming is an actor best known for his role in the universe's The Goonies Expy, "The Gloomies". However, he immediately takes a shine to Luther for knowing him in other roles he played, including the one he seems to have enjoyed the most in "The Spooky Squad".
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Ken Penders considers the "Mobius: 25 Years Later" arc to be his all-time best work, has a story in Development Hell that he claims will make heavy use of it, and has gone on record as saying that if he were to be reinstated on the title, he would declare it the only canon possible future. In fact, he banned another writer from his forum for suggesting that it was just a possible alternate future—not even that it was non-canon, just that it wasn't necessarily the One True Future. Most fans consider it to be one of the comic's biggest low points, as it had a massive amount of buildup making it out to be the fight of a lifetime, but its actual stakes and plotting were borderline nonexistent (a big chunk of its twelve issues is the cast getting ready for a dinner party) and the future versions of characters were just boring dads or housewives with boring Generation Xerox kids. Fan opinion varies on what the actual best part of Penders's years on the title was, but very few people would give the title to M25YL.
    • Penders also considers the "EndGame" arc to be among his greatest works, and the single most important story in the comic, thanks to it setting the stage for the rest of the comic. While it did receive praise when it came out, nowadays many fans generally hate it, due to it using, or flat out inventing, many of the worst cliches associated with Penders's run, the numerous contrivances needed to make the story worknote , and the plot hinging around Sally, the comic's female lead, being anticlimactically thrown off a building to her apparent death, which was originally meant to be permanent. Indeed, when Penders declared the story to be the comic's most important, many online began openly mocking him for saying it.
  • My Little Pony: Friends Forever #14 was self-described as "the most socially and politically conscious pony comic you ever read" within 10 minutes of its release on writer Jeremy Whitley's twitter... who went on to fiercely defend it and blocked the author of a scathing article that pointed out the many problems and complaints of the issue, which was almost universally disliked. Compare and contrast his FIENDship Is Magic issue that featured King Sombra's origin which, despite releasing with much less fanfare, was praised as not only the best of the entire Fiendship series but one of the best issues in the entire IDW comics run.
  • Alan Moore has a few notable examples:
    • Moore has once said that the only copies of his comics that are in his house are From Hell and Lost Girls. They are likely the works he is proudest of (and that he owns the rights to). Compare that to most fans gravitate to Watchmen or V for Vendetta.
    • The Killing Joke is one of the most famous stories that Alan Moore wrote in DC continuity, having gotten a film adaptation, sold incredibly well in trade, and regarded as the Joker story by many. Alan Moore, meanwhile, considers it one of the worst books he's written. He judged the overly-dark style to be unfitting for a character meant for wild adventure, the observations on Batman and the Joker shallow and low on Applicability (since it's dealing with two characters who don't act anything like any person ever has), and the blatant use of Collateral Angst something he should have realized was a bad idea from the get-go. In general, Moore doesn't seem to be fond of being regarded as an important Batman creator when he only ever wrote two issues starring him—he considers the other story he wrote, "Mortal Clay", to be much better, despite it being infinitely less well-remembered.

    Fan Works 
  • The brain-breakingly epic Tamers Forever Series (based on Digimon Tamers) was originally intended to be a mere side project while the author overcame his Writer's Block.
  • The Games We Play, a 379 page drama, while far from being an unnoticed piece of work, was promptly out-viewed by the author's later fic — a one-shot of the philosophical ramblings of Pinkie Pie watching paint dry, something the author wasted little time pointing out in a blog post.
  • Jade Ring, after dabbling in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic for some time, tied together most of his stories through shared references, forming The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity. While the eponymous "Dear Sweetie Belle" is the single installment he is most proud of and it and its sequels are rather well-regarded, it developed some backlash over the idea of Rarity being Sweetie's biological mother, and later entries in the continuity either encountered further criticism over character treatment or were largely ignored. Then, after watching Rainbow Rocks, he was compelled to create a small SunLight clopfic- straight into FIMFiction's feature box, fanart the same day, expansion on the actual clop by popular demand, and a sequel with another on the way. Once again, Sex Sells.
  • Kelly Green has deleted some of her funniest The Mansionverse comics over and over again, forcing fans to go out and tell her they love it and want it back every time. Even this failed for a few comics, but fortunately the fans Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • In 2006, while working on the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Fan Fic series that became The Midnightverse, Midnight Man expected the three-act novel Lost And Found to become his magnum opus. What he got the most praise for, however, was First Date and Last Date whose combined length would still remain below novel size, comparing it with award-winning fics (the Dates were nominated, but never won anything), in one case even seeing Last Date on par with the legendary Graphic Novel Of Mice and Mayhem from the same fandom. Even Midnight had to reconsider by 2008 when Diamonds In The Desert (that wasn't even planned yet when he wrote Lost And Found) neared its completion and slowly clocking in at more than twice Lost And Found's size, also since it's his only fanfic that ever won Golden Acorn Awards (one in 2007 and 2008 each).
  • Prehistoric Earth: In the retrospective released in July 2020 for the 4th anniversary of the story he and Nathanoraptor wrote together, Drew Luczynski has made it clear that he has largely come to immensely dislike how the story ultimately turned out once the writing for it ended up increasingly in the hands of Nathanoraptor. Specifically, he's made it clear that he believes that the chapters that made up 'Season 1' are the only good parts of the entire story since those are the ones that most closely adhered to his own personal vision of the story. The story's readers and Nathanoraptor have the complete opposite opinion (specifically, they consider the 'phase 1' to be a weak and aimless start, believe the 'second and third seasons' to be the moment the story reached its full potential and found all the 'side characters' arguably more interesting than the 'main protagonist').

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney:
    • Walt Disney naturally had a soft spot for his trademark character Mickey Mouse, but never understood the international success of Donald Duck.
    • During the early 1940s, Disney released the artistically advanced Pinocchio and Fantasia, then the relatively cheap Dumbo. The first two of those movies flopped at the box office (partially because World War II cut off overseas markets), while Dumbo proved profitable enough to keep Walt Disney Animation Studios afloat. Pinocchio and Fantasia did later become some of Disney's most acclaimed movies, though. Possibly, in Fantasia's case, it was because it was not exactly a broad-appeal film (in the 1940s, classical music was already considered a highbrow subject; the stories built around the pieces were intended to be agreeable to the masses and introduce them to classical music, which had positive effects for "Night on Bald Mountain", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", and "The Rite of Spring").
    • Discussed in Fantasia, when the host introduces the sequence based on "The Nutcracker Suite", he mentions that Tchaikovsky, the composer, did not consider it his best work, while it is unquestionably the most popular of all his compositions.
    • Among all the films made within Walt's lifetime, it is said that Bambi was his favorite. Though the film is indeed quite acclaimed today, it was a box office failure upon its release (for the same reasons as Pinocchio and Fantasia) and even to this day, his first venture into feature-length animation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is often considered his most iconic film.
    • Walt himself intended both Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland to be his joint magnum opus, but neither movie turned a profit during its initial box office release. In the case of Alice, Walt disliked the film even before it flopped due to its Development Hell issues and regarded it as a mistake for the rest of his life, and the Troubled Production of Sleeping Beauty (the reason they were his "joint magnum opus" is because they were both conceived at the same time. However, animation bottlenecks held up work on the film for five years; it didn't reach the cel-painting stage until 1957, four years after the live-action reference footage had been shot and the voice tracks laid down). Both of them have long since been Vindicated by History.
    • The Black Cauldron (1985) was Disney's most expensive film at the time and was hyped up by the company as being their biggest and most revolutionary film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Meanwhile, The Great Mouse Detective (1986), which was in production around the same time, was treated as a much smaller project and was relegated to the sidelines for most of its production. However, despite the internal hype and a huge marketing campaign, The Black Cauldron would become infamous for nearly killing Disney's animation department due to its poor critical reception and disastrous box office performance, while The Great Mouse Detective would go on to become a modest commercial and critical success, saving Disney Animation and paving the way for the Disney Renaissance a few years later.
    • Oliver & Company (1988) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Oliver & Company was given extensive focus by Disney as a tentpole release, while The Little Mermaid was dismissed by Jeffrey Katzenberg as nothing but a girls' film. However, while Oliver & Company received a polarizing response from critics in spite of its commercial success, The Little Mermaid exceeded it in both profit and acclaim, being hailed as a return to form and signaling the start of the Disney Renaissance.
    • In the early 1990s, Pocahontas was in production at Walt Disney Pictures, and everyone involved was convinced that this would be the great landmark animated feature of the revitalized Disney. By comparison, The Lion King was simply a filler project to tide things over for 1994. But The Lion King became the mega-smash hit that would prove to be the financial pinnacle of Disney's Renaissance, while Pocahontas in 1995 became more of a letdown that signaled the decline of the company's success.
    • After floundering in the 2000s, it's clear they had high hopes The Princess and the Frog would be the start of a Second Disney Renaissance (the first having been The Little Mermaid), releasing it amid a wave of publicity and hype regarding its protagonist Tiana, the first black Disney Princess. The movie did well, but, thanks at least partly to being released in an absolutely brutal winter season (Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel were all released around the same time), it didn't do quite as well as Disney had hoped. The next two Disney Princess films, Tangled and Frozen on the other hand, while not disliked, each spent a long time in Development Hell and dealt with heavy Executive Meddlingnote  Despite that, they each did infinitely better at the box office and got the praise that Frog was aiming for. Frozen especially so.
  • Though financially successful, Cars is usually regarded as one of Pixar's lesser efforts, and seen by most as an unapologetically Merchandise-Driven property of the sort that would be created by a marketing team, with its sequel being the first Pixar film to be considered outright bad. However, John Lasseter claims to have seen the film as a major passion project, being the first film he directed after Toy Story 2, and reflecting a lifelong love he held for cars.
  • DreamWorks Animation with The Prince of Egypt to Shrek. The former was Katzenberg's baby, receiving all of the talent and money, while the latter was the discount animation project, with production shut down several times. (In fact, the term "shreked" became a company term for someone who was sent to work on the film, presumably as punishment.) The Prince of Egypt had much critical and audience success that only got better over time and a fairly good box office return; it was the highest-grossing non-Disney 2D animated movie until The Simpsons Movie came out, so it can't be said to have been a failure. That said, Shrek became the start of the company's Cash-Cow Franchise and won the first-ever Academy Award For Best Animated Feature! It also didn't help that Egypt was focus-grouped to death (naturally, given its potential controversy as a Bible adaptation), whereas Shrek got a lot of stuff past special interest groups and critics because no one cared.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler was the 30-year labor of love of Richard Williams, better known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sadly, the copious Executive Meddling that the project received caused him to disown the film until the last few years of his life, giving his seal of approval to The Recobbled Cut.
  • Pannonia Film Studio's Son of the White Horse was an ambitious, personal work director Marcell Jankovics created strictly for his domestic audience in Hungary. Yet, the film flopped, never came close to topping his hugely popular Johnny Corncob, and he expressed dissatisfaction over it for years because it was hard to make and got nerfed by censors. Since then, he has come to regard it as his best feature film, and foreign viewers agree: in international circles, not only is it his most recognized work, it is the best-regarded Hungarian animated film of all time. But in his home, the studio's other creations, like Johnny Corncob the enormously popular Cat City and Vuk the Little Fox, and their numerous TV series (many of which also carry Jankovics's fingerprints) still overshadow it by a huge margin. Meanwhile, these have gotten little worldwide attention, and even that has been mixed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Something of a Zigzagging Trope with Adam West. He aspired to be a major movie star and considered his TV work as just a means of getting some media exposure, so he'd have a nice resume when casting directors started looking him up for their films. However, when he read the script for the very first Batman (1966) episode, he became so enthusiastic about that project that he accepted the role of Bruce Wayne immediately and continued to be proud of his Batman work until the day he died. However, it made him unhappy that the style of the 1960s show is often misunderstood, and that very few people give him the credit he thinks he deserves for reviving the character's popularity (Bruce Timm is one of the few that does, as evidenced by "Beware the Gray Ghost".) At the same time, West's big movie career never materialized, but he was pleased with his extensive TV work over the past half-century.
  • Many TV actors naturally want the prestige and profit of a movie career, but sometimes they find success in TV and become quite comfortable in that role. One example is Alan Alda of M*A*S*H fame.
  • Gene Roddenberry saw Star Trek: The Original Series as just the latest of a series of TV shows he hoped to create. He did produce others, but there's no Genesis II franchise or The Lieutenant conventions to go to today.
  • Referenced in an episode of QI. When discussing a bizarre gardening contraption that is, for all intents and purposes, a glass bottle with the top cut off, Stephen Fry mentions that it was created by the same man who invented the train - provoking David Mitchell (Actor) to bet he was "really tedious and wouldn't talk about the train in interviews, and would insist on talking about his bloody bottle".
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look had a sketch where Neil Armstrong has embarked on a new career as a singer-songwriter and his manager tells a prospective interviewer that he will not be taking any questions about walking on the moon.
  • While most viewers of Kamen Rider Zero-One consider the Workplace Competition the low point of the show (if they don’t consider it a Filler Arc), producer Takahito Omori is proud of it, as it allowed the creative team to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do in a Rider show.
  • John Cleese is not particularly fond of most of the Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes, mostly because it was all shot on a such a low budget and, in his opinion, was all made too quick "to get it right". He also felt the concept started to get stale after a few seasons, which is why he left after the third one. One of the sketches he's particularly remembered for is the fan-favourite "The Ministry of Silly Walks", yet according to the book "The Pythons", he never liked it all. He called it a very "ordinary sketch" and he even took legal action to prevent a sculptor from making a statue of him in the Silly Walk pose. The Die Another Day folks slipped one in, anyway. And in 2014, for a milestone anniversary, the remaining Pythons reassembled and John Cleese promoted the hell out of a "Ministry of Silly Walks" iOS game on his Twitter.
  • Dave Chappelle's distaste for the success of Chappelle's Show is fairly well-documented; he disliked the attention it gave him from fans and over time became disturbed at the jokes he was making in regards to race, afraid he was re-enforcing stereotypes rather than satirizing them. Chappelle himself preferred doing stand-up, regarding it as the most important part of his creative work. One of the many factors relating to his retreating from the show was that its popularity was starting to interfere with his ability to do stand-up; when at a show, his material was drowned out by the crowd chanting "Rick James," causing him to call his own audience idiots.
  • House of Cards (US) was Netflix's breakthrough in their original programming library and the show the company wanted to promote as their equivalent to Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. Plus, Arrested Development's comeback was one of most heavily hyped up returns in TV history and easily the most anticipated arrival on the network. But it was the underdog success of a prison dramedy targeted towards female audiences that would become the cornerstone of the empire — with the only shows of theirs that can compare to it in popularity being an interconnected universe of six comic book shows, and an '80s throwback sci-fi/horror series.
  • The standup comedian Sean Hughes first broke out as the star of No Fourth Wall sitcom Sean's Show and then spent ten years as a team captain on panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He left the show before any of the other regulars and turned to first novels (he published several) and then back to standup, which he considered his real talent. He said in at least one interview that he didn't want to only be remembered as the guy from Buzzcocks, but sadly, when he died in 2017 most of the headlines referred to him as "Buzzcocks star...".
  • In contrast with his successors on the show, Christopher Eccleston is not particularly fond of Doctor Who due to Hostility on the Set with the show's producers, and reportedly said that he didn't enjoy playing the main character, yet the Ninth Doctor remains his most famous role. When he returned to the role in 2020 for Big Finish Doctor Who, he said that he was genuinely very excited to the return to the role after so long in a different environment where he can "forget producers, forget politics".
  • Bea Arthur declined most interviews to talk about The Golden Girls, saying she didn't enjoy making the show, that it was from an unhappy period (she went through a divorce during production), and she had far warmer memories of Maude. Nowadays, Arthur is far better remembered as Dorothy Zbornak than her Star-Making Role as Maude Findley.
  • Father Ted co-creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews have both said that the show's second episode "Entertaining Father Stone" is by far their favorite episode of the series. Among fans, the episode is a lot more divisive — some considering it to be a masterpiece of Cringe Comedy, but others criticizing it for being very slow-paced and relying on the same main joke over and over — with "Hell", "Are You Right There, Father Ted?" and "Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse" being the more usual contenders for the show's best episode.
  • When doing Turkey Day 2018, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson and third series host Jonah Ray both expressed surprise when it turned out that the Netflix revival's second episode, featuring Cry Wilderness, was the fandom's favorite episode as Joel had expected the episode featuring Carnival Magic to be the popular episode.
  • Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak is not too fond of the shopping format the show had note , mainly because of how it slowed the game down and how much time it took for contestants to pick their prizes to shop for. Many of the fans think otherwise.
  • Saturday Night Live: Many people regard the 1990 "Chippendales Audition" sketch in which host Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley audition as Chippendales dancers with a lively dance-off as one of SNL's best sketches. Though some, including Chris Rock and writer Bob Odenkirk, dislike the sketch, thinking it tapped into insecurities that led to Farley's premature death in 1997. Though fellow writers Al Franken and Robert Smigel have defended the sketch, saying that it works because Swayze's character is genuinely worried that he's being beaten by Farley's character, the judges give a sincere evaluation of the performance, and praise his dancing abilities in of itself.
  • Parodied in an I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson sketch: Santa Claus tries starring in a violent Heroic Bloodshed movie, and is angered when an interviewer tries discussing his career as a gift-giver instead.
  • The Brady Bunch Hour is widely regarded as one of the worst TV shows of all time, but it's the only The Brady Bunch project that Robert Reed (actor) liked working on because it was the only one which didn't involve Sherwood Schwartz, whom he didn't get along with (Sid and Marty Krofft Productions co-produced it with Paramount).
  • In-universe example in Mythic Quest. Poppy spends a year working on Hera which she thinks is going to be the next epic game. She shows it to some coders who tell her the game is graphically brilliant, technically perfect and utterly bug-free. There's just one problem: it's simply not fun to play. Meanwhile, Playpen, a little puzzle game thrown together from unused data which Poppy herself calls "a piece of shit" ends up being addictive to anyone who plays it.

  • Jonny Sims of The Magnus Archives is surprised at how popular the Season 3 premiere episode "A Guest For Mr. Spider" became. Simms considers it to be one of the less inspired episodes of the story, referring to it as "horror on easy mode." Nonetheless, he's quite flattered at the attention it's gotten.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Most marks claim Mick Foley's best match to be his 1998 Hell in a Cell against The Undertaker. However, the man himself would vouch for either his 1996 match against Shawn Michaels or his 2004 bout with Randy Orton. This may be due to the fact that Foley has no memory of the Undertaker match due to all the blunt trauma he suffered in it. 'Taker himself doesn't like talking about the match, as he'd legitimately thought he'd killed Foley after one of the big bumps. Vince McMahon himself hated the match.note 
  • Molly Holly held two WWE Women's Championships, won and lost the Hardcore title at WrestleMania 18 and earlier managed Randy Savage. Her favorite part of her career? A Romeo and Juliet-style romance angle she did with Spike Dudley. That was Molly's favorite storyline, as well as Spike's. She considers getting her head shaved at WrestleMania XX to be her greatest single moment.
  • Ric Flair
    • The trilogy of matches that Flair had with Ricky Steamboat in 1989 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship are considered one of the best series of matches in history, with The Wrestling Observer Newsletter giving all three matches five stars. But according to his autobiography, Flair felt that his earlier matches with Steamboat at various house shows in the 1970s were better than that.
    • Speaking of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, despite Flair being the wrestler most closely associated with the Big Gold Belt, he has stated that he prefers the old "domed globe" belt over the Big Gold. (He did list the Big Gold as his second favorite title belt, however.)
  • Tony Schiavone is best known to wrestling fans as the voice of WCW, but Tony himself has stated that his one-year stint as a commentator in WWF from April 1989 to April 1990 was more enjoyable for him and he wishes that he'd have stayed longer.
  • Dave Meltzer has stated repeatedly he regards rating matches is the least important thing he does as a wrestling journalist, and doesn't understand why others make such a big deal out of it.
  • The Undertaker much prefers his reviled "American Badass" gimmick than the quasi-supernatural "Deadman" that fans love.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Richard Garfield spent a lot of time creating a variable-board racing game starring little robots that were controlled by programmed instructions set by their masters at the beginning of each round. But the heads of Wizards of the Coast thought they needed a quick money boost before they could put such a game into production, and asked Garfield to come up with something. He came back to them relatively quickly with a little card game that somewhat replicated a wizards' duel not unlike in D&D (even borrowing the Chromatic Dragons' colors of Red, White, Blue, Green, and Black for the game's energy-currency). These days, it's extremely hard to find someone under the age of 40 who hasn't at least heard of Magic: The Gathering, given how it's dominated the Collectible Card Game world since its inception and is lauded as important to modern popular tabletop gaming as Dungeons & Dragons, while very few people outside of the hardcore gaming community have heard of Robo Rally.

  • Stephen Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns" is thought by many to be one of his greatest songs, if not the greatest, and it's been covered many times, even by artists who don't usually do show tunes. Sondheim himself, however, considers it to be nothing special, just something he wrote in ten minutes or so. He also doesn't much care for his other most well-known song "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, though that has more to do with it not fitting the character or atmosphere of the show, rather than it being a bad or inferior song in general.
  • Roger from RENT spends the entirety of the show agonizing over creating one last song before he dies of AIDS, never being able to find the right words. When he finally plays it over the dying body of Mimi, it's...kinda bad. His final song is commonly thought of as the worst song in a show full of otherwise outstanding musical numbers.
  • Henrik Ibsen considered Emperor and Galilean his best work, though it's rarely performed and most people disagree, with other works like A Doll's House being more well-known.

    Video Games 
  • William Higinbotham, an American physicist, retooled his analog computer's oscilloscope program to run a very low-tech tennis game all the way back in 1958 (called Tennis for Two), creating the very first electronic game to have a video display (the first "video-game"). He stated before his death that he regrets being known for inventing the video game because he would have liked to be known for his work on nuclear nonproliferation.
  • Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has stated that Final Fantasy IX is his favorite in the series. Its sales were the worst of the PlayStation era, with Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII selling betternote . The fans, on the other hand, are a different story.
  • Nobuo Uematsu, known for making a great many soundtracks to JRPGs, has stated that he believes his greatest work was the soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX. However, while IX's soundtrack is well-received by the fans, most of them view Final Fantasy VI as his best overall soundtrack, particularly given the miracles Uematsu was able to work in getting such complex and diverse music to sound as gorgeous as it does on the limited SNES hardware.note 
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City features an In-Universe example on the radio. Claude Maginot stars in the lowbrow sit-com "Just the Five of Us" and the avant-garde play "In The Future, There Will Be Robots". When he's interviewed on K-Chat, he keeps trying to steer the topic towards "Robots" while the airheaded host only wants to discuss his sit-com, and he mentions being prouder of "Robots" while reluctantly admitting it's not doing as well as "Just the Five of Us".
  • Yoshio Sakamoto, series producer and co-creator of the Metroid franchise, directed Metroid: Other M so it would have the best story in the series and make protagonist Samus Aran a truly developed, rounded and sympathetic character. He was deeply hands-on with many facets of its production and, upon its release, considered it the best game he had ever made. However, Metroid fans are far more likely to give that title to the game he directed sixteen years prior, Super Metroid, which is still seen as one of the greatest entries in the Metroidvania genre. Meanwhile, Other M is widely viewed as the worst entry in the series, and the sheer vitriol that Western fans had toward it convinced Sakamoto to step away from the series for a few years.
  • This tends to lead to the downfall of many a game creator and/or studio. Many times, a game director will invest millions of dollars and mass amounts of time and resources into a game which they believe will become the game to which they will be remembered for. When the opposite happens, it usually spells doom for the studio and director, as when the returns aren't as good, it can lead to serious financial issues, which often bankrupts them and forced them under. To wit:
    • Silicon Knights' Too Human was the passion project of studio head Denis Dyack, having spent nine years in development across multiple platforms. Originally going to be a Sega Saturn /PlayStation game, it was first shifted to the Nintendo GameCube and then finally to the Xbox 360 due to its enhanced graphical quality, as Dyack was disgusted by the Wii's weaker hardware. The result? Mediocre sales and reviews, which lead to the studio's eventual decline. Meanwhile, most fans would agree that Eternal Darkness was their best game.
    • George Broussard, the head of 3D Realms and the creator of the Duke Nukem series, spent over a decade working on Duke Nukem Forever in order to ensure that it would be the most groundbreaking title in the series, which lead to multiple engine switches, delays, and very little to show for it. Needless to say, the fact that it not only took down his career and studio but also finally released to poor reviews calling it "outdated and immature" proved otherwise.
  • Arcane Kids, the developers of a freeware game called Zineth, and an as-yet unreleased game called Perfect Stride (initially announced in 2013), had also made a lot of joke games. One of them was a Bubsy fangame called Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective. It became their most popular game within a few days, and while Zineth videos linger around the 5000-10,000 views, many videos of the Bubsy fangame have hundreds of thousands of views. History repeated itself with Sonic Dreams Collection, which became a massive hit with Let's Players thanks to its weird, creepy atmosphere and satire of the Sonic fandom.
  • The lukewarm reception of Mega Man 10 can be partially attributed to the game maintaining 9's gameplay Reset Button to Mega Man 2, considered by the developers to be the best in the series. The game after that one was considered a relatively poor product by the developers partly due to being rushed (pun not intended), but several fans hold it in higher esteem than 2, in part due to concepts in that game that weren't repeated ad nauseam (unlike the ones introduced in the game following that one).
  • In Team Fortress 2, Hydro was one of the maps Valve worked hardest on. Go through it some time and look for the developer commentary; they spent a long time designing it and created a new game mode for it - Territory Control. When they included it in the original six maps, it... went nowhere. Turns out a series of very small maps, plus control points, meant that every match was either two minutes long or two hours long, not to mention how utterly confusing the layout is for anyone who hasn't dedicated hours upon hours to learn it. It was (and still is) very common for the defending team to lose a round within 45 seconds because none of them can find the point they need to defend. The map has been all but abandoned ever since; when Jerma985 did a basic search of total TF2 servers available, he counted over 1200 servers and only two Hydro ones, each of which had only three people on them. The only reason most players still go to Hydro is to go there for a short time to get the World Traveler Achievement.
  • As revealed in this interview, developer Seibu Kaihatsu expected Dynamite Duke to be their marquee title, but the game flopped. The company's breakout title ended up being their next game, a low-budget vertical shmup nobody involved had faith in.
  • Famous Commodore 64 designers Jonathan Temples and David Temples are most well-known for their work on Nobby The Aardvark, which is considered to be one of the best games for the Commodore 64. In an interview, they stated though that their favorite work was CJ's Elephant Antics. Though it is not as big as all other examples on the list since CJ's Elephant Antics is quite loved as well.
  • Dead Island: In-Universe, Sam B wanted to be a political, socially conscious rapper and considered his political material to be his life's work. Realizing that the only song he ever wrote that anyone wanted to hear more than once was a Horrorcore track he wrote as an elaborate joke for a Halloween party called "Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?!" made him very bitter. The only reason he's on the island of Banoi prior to the zombie outbreak is to do yet another show of that very song.
  • Fallout 4 has an in-universe example with a renowned pre-war painter transplanted into a Robo-Brain for immortality. He is responsible for all the prolific cutesy kitten/puppy paintings you see throughout the game... and he hates them and made them under an alias, despite them making him filthy rich.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog frequently calls back to the half-pipe special stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in an attempt to fuel some nostalgia for the longtime fans. Many fans, however, criticize them for their Fake Difficulty, touchy controls, poor implementation of Tails and reliance on Trial-and-Error Gameplay, generally preferring the blue spheres special stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Their implementation in Sonic Heroes didn't help matters and players got sick of seeing them repeated over and over again in every game. They were at least more warmly received in Sonic Rush however due to the stylus control giving players the precision they needed to make the stages challenging but fair and fun. The series has since gotten the memo, as they would stop using the half-pipe template after Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode II.
  • Despite the fan backlash to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Nintendo themselves have praised the game on occasion, stating that it should be the template for the Paper Mario series going forward. Indeed, the game's influence can be seen in its two successors Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and Paper Mario: Color Splash. To say the fans disagree is an understatement. Many would rather see the series return to the style of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, which is beloved for its story, Ensemble Dark Horse partners and battle style.
  • While Shigeru Miyamoto's most beloved franchises are Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, he's repeatedly expressed confusion that Pikmin has nowhere near the popularity or acclaim as either of those series, believing that Pikmin should be a global phenomenon rather than a mid-tier Nintendo franchise, and gushes about the titular characters whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  • After Worms 3D got a mixed critical reaction but sold fairly well, Team17 poured a lot of time, effort and money into making sure that the next main-series entry, Worms 4: Mayhem would correct all the faults of its prequel and be the best Worms experience ever, while having a smaller team work on a portable entry called Worms: Open Warfare, which was a throwback to the earlier 2D Worms games for portable systems, as neither the Nintendo DS nor PlayStation Portable was powerful enough to feasibly handle a 3D Worms game. As it turned out, however, Worms 4 got only slightly better reviews than 3D and flopped massively sales-wise, coming within an inch of being the Creator Killer for Team17... who were dragged back from the brink by unexpectedly strong sales of Open Warfare. Afterward, Team17 refocused themselves exclusively on 2D (and 2.5D) Worms games and, save for a Compilation Rerelease of 3D and 4, have made it very clear that under no circumstances will they ever make another 3D entry.
  • Neil Druckmann considers The Last of Us Part II to be the greatest work he's ever made and, within that game, Abby to be his favorite character. Fans, however, have a much more divisive view of both.
  • Shouzou Kaga, generally recognized as the creator of Fire Emblem and the director of its first five games, considers his best work with the series to be the Jugdral games: Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. While the general consensus among the fandom does tend to agree that the Jugdral games are his masterpieces (being the most ambitious, well-plotted, and feature-heavy), his most successful and famous game is Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, along with the game it has a remake of, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light (otherwise known as "the one with Marth"). Genealogy did rather well for itself and has a strong following, but isn't nearly as iconic or well-known (especially overseas), and Thracia 776 was an Acclaimed Flop due to launching extremely late in the Super Famicom's lifespan.
  • According to developer interviews, Fire Emblem Engage was intended as a broad-appeal Jumping-On Point that would cause a Newbie Boom similar to Fire Emblem: Awakening, while Fire Emblem: Three Houses was targeting older hardcore fans with its darker, more mature story. Fan reception turned out to be the exact opposite: Three Houses was a massive mainstream success due to its story and characters, while Engage saw more success among die-hard fans due to its high difficulty and references to past entries.
  • Bugsnax: Another In-Universe example. Wiggle Wigglebottom's only hit was "Do The Wiggle", a song she wrote in a sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled haze after arriving late to the studio, and which she admits to not even remembering writing (and even at the time she had no idea where she got the banjo for the background track). Her trip to Bugsnax Island was in part to seek new inspiration, but also to try to get over her bitterness about no-one else caring about the material she cared about.
  • The creators of Balan Wonderworld were strongly against the idea of including prerendered cutscenes, with them being handled by a different branch within Square-Enix who apparently insisted on getting involved with the project. Many people upon playing the game remarked that those prerendered cutscenes were by far the strongest part of the overall product, with the game the creators worked on being lambasted.
  • Orteil, a French game designer, considers his favorite project to be Nested, a rather fascinating bit of procedural generation that essentially creates an entire universe, down to the subatomic particles in a man's pocket lint. However, it's completely overshadowed in his oevure by a little project called Cookie Clicker, which was created as a joke and ended up spawning the entire Idle Game genre.
  • For a while, it was customary in Pokémon games for there to be a pair of largely-identical games released initially, and then a third game (or pair of games) released sometime later that added more content and addressed problems in the originals. Gamefreak has been fairly consistent in regarding the "original" paired versions as the "true" versions, which is evident in the various remakes: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were remade into Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were remade into Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, with both largely ignoring the alterations made in Emerald and Platinum respectively. Fan appraisal, meanwhile, consistently favors the third games as the "true" versions, with Emerald and Platinum being held in much higher regard than Ruby and Sapphire or Diamond and Pearl, and the refusal to utilize aspects of the third games is easily the most common criticism of the remakes.
  • A downplayed example is with acclaimed Capcom veteran Hideaki Itsuno. He is obviously very proud of his work on the Devil May Cry series (even having begged to create the third game to make up for the second's poor state). That said, his true passion project has always been Dragon's Dogma, a title that he had pitched and created the design document for even before his involvement in the former series, having come up with it while still in school. While it has indeed been Vindicated by History and is a Cult Classic nowadays, enough for it to eventually get a sequel greenlit, at the time of its initial release, it received a rather underwhelming response both critically and commercially. Even now, most will still point to Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening or Devil May Cry 5 as Itsuno's masterpiece.

    Visual Novels 

  • Jennie Breeden, author of The Devil's Panties has clearly encountered this trope.
  • Ryan Sohmer made a name for himself with the... divisive Least I Could Do. Then, he decided to do a little side project lovingly spoofing two things he enjoyed: World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons. With a more likable protagonist, a cool supporting cast, a good Myth Arc, some Growing the Beard and a certain Heroic Comedic Sociopath warlock, Looking for Group grew to vastly eclipse Least I Could Do in popularity and acclaim. Sohmer himself began to eventually view LFG as his magnum opus, as well.
  • Referenced in Married to the Sea. "Shakespeare got to get paid, son."
  • This is part of why RPG World has No Ending - the artist grew frustrated that the photo-comic "real world" sections weren't regarded as well as the drawn sections and stormed off the Internet.
    • He would eventually return to give it a proper ending and the character reappeared in his cartoon show, OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes.
  • Megatokyo originally started out as a way for Fred to improve his writing and drawing skills before starting on his main project Warmth. Despite Fred stating multiple times that Warmth is not abandoned and he plans to continue it in the future, Megatokyo is clearly the one that has attracted massive fan attention.
  • The One-Punch Man webcomic by ONE was a side hobby when compared to his second work, the actual serialized series Mob Psycho 100. But it became wildly popular and was adapted into a manga with greatly updated artwork by Yusuke Murata and later an anime series.
    • Actually reversed later on, with Mob Psycho 100 also receiving an anime adaptation, and a second season before One-Punch Man; while One Punch Man is still indisputably the more well known of the two, it's viewed as more one-note and comedic compared to Mob Psycho 100, which explores similar themes with more emotional depth.
  • Rich Burlew originally started The Order of the Stick as a small, fun side project to draw traffic to his website, which was mostly dedicated to game design articles. However, it quickly eclipsed his other writing and became the main feature of the website.
  • Played for Laughs in Hark! A Vagrant where the author Kate Beaton has poked fun numerous times at how her "Ooh Mister Darcy" bit, a deliberately bad comic, is easily her most well-known and beloved strip. The description of the comic now reads "Oh god, what have I done", and there's also a comic where she's pestered to write another Mister Darcy story while she's trying to write social commentary.

    Web Original 
  • Egoraptor claims that his best work is Sequelitis, as compared to Girl-chan in Paradise or the Awesome Series, due to both the time and effort he put into the episodes and the fact that he values an ability to make people think over an ability to make people laugh. Not that Sequelitis isn't appreciated, but it's overshadowed by the aforementioned works, the works that built up his fanbase for years before Sequelitis even existed. This was before Sequelitis began to become more controversial as time went on as well.
  • James Rolfe made amateur movies for most of his youth and intended to become a film director himself. Between making these films, he also made Angry Video Game Nerd, but purely as a form of entertainment for his friends. Ironically enough, the AVGN videos launched his career and remain better known and loved than his amateur movies. He considers Cinemassacre 200, The Dragon in My Dreams, Cinemaphobia, The Legend of the Blue Hole, and The Deader the Better to be the best of his hundreds of short films, but none of them are as recognized as the average AVGN episode.
  • Doug Walker's Demo Reel had been a project that he'd wanted to do since 2008, and finally came to fruition after sending off his first major series The Nostalgia Critic in the Grand Finale special To Boldly Flee. Despite a bigger cast, a larger location, a dramatic Story Arc and Pandering To The Feminist/Male-Attracted Base, the series proved not to be cost-effective enough to keep going; it had a much higher budget than anything done on the site before, at a time when a loud number of the fans had made good on their promise to flee the site after Critic died. The series wasn't particularly well-received either. A particularly sad example revealed on "The Review Must Go On" commentary, as apparently when Doug was told he had to bring Critic back, he was also given the option of keeping the dream project but was so upset that he torched it.
    • He considers the "Musical Trilogy" (Moulin Rouge!, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables (2012), with The Wall later on), to be among his favorite reviews, The first of the bunch was what convinced him to do Demo Reel, as he thought it had turned out so well that it proved he didn't need to rely on the Critic. Fan reception of them is a lot more negative, with most regarding them as overproduced, unfunny, and shallow (especially the last one).
  • Freeman's Mind began as an experimental "side series". Ross Scott's main project was Civil Protection, which began life a year earlier. Despite a positive response to Freeman's Mind, Ross planned to terminate it two episodes in, because he didn't like the creation process or the restrictive format. However, it was much faster and easier to make, and so he started putting out new episodes to tide people over between Civil Protection episodes. It became his most popular and famous series, and remains so more than a decade later, to the point that it's hindered his work on other projects that he cares about more, like Civil Protection and THE MOVIE.
    "I read before that Blizzard wanted to work on Diablo and StarCraft sequels for years, but they couldn't because World of Warcraft was so successful. They had to throw everything they had at it. Well, Freeman's Mind has been a little bit like that with me. On one hand, some people want me to make nothing but Freeman's Mind, forever. … On the other hand, I've had a lot of other things I've wanted to work on also, and I always have to sacrifice something."
  • SuperYoshi doesn't see the big deal behind "I'D SAY HE'S HOT ON OUR TAIL," outside of being the first YouTube Poop ever made. He considers this his poop masterpiece.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-3333, which had a tumultuous history. In its original form, it was one of the most popular articles on the site, but the author came to dislike several aspects of its writing, so they had SCP-3333 rewritten to a version they felt was an improvement. Unfortunately, the rewrite was almost universally disliked by the community, after which the author was forced to admit that people enjoyed the original version they hated more than the new version they felt better about, and reverted the article back to its original form. (The author expounded on their thought process in this essay.)
  • Krunkidile, the maker of Team Service Announcement, claims the series has become less fun for him to make and also doesn't think highly of his most viewed video One Step Ahead. His favorite of his videos is CARTOON DOG HAT, which is just the same clip over and over again.
  • Episode 10 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (the one with Panik, Yu-Gi-Oh DMX, "I'm just talkin' 'bout Yugi!") regularly places high on "best episode ever" lists. LittleKuriboh claims that it's not even a good episode.
  • Chuggaaconroy's Super Mario Sunshine Let's Play is one of his most popular works, and is widely credited with renewing public interest in a slightly obscure game that, prior to his LP, was considered divisive at best. However, Emile later went on to say that that he considers it one of his least favorite, due to him going through a rough patch in his life and faking a lot of his enthusiasm during the LP due to that.
  • Of all the Let's Plays created by Achievement Hunter, the most popular by far are their Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto IV/V series, which are updated weekly and bring in views unlike anything else they produce. However, most of the AH crew considers their Let's Plays of various Worms games, and 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures and its sequel to be their best works.
  • According to this video, two of Peter's five favorite Epic Rap Battles of History are from season 1, which was still when the series was finding itself. None of them are from season 2 despite that season containing more battles than any other seasons. Many, if not most, fans consider season 2 to be their favorite season.
  • The Runaway Guys have frequently cited their favorite projects are things like the Rayman and LittleBigPlanet LPs due to having more fun with them, but most fans gloss over those projects.
  • While Bad Movie Beatdown episodes tended to get more views then Projector during the time period when both shows were being produced, creator Mathew Buck confirmed after his departure from Channel Awesome that this show was his true passion, and much more the kind of thing he had wanted to do all along.
  • myNoise is a website dedicated to soundscapes that are mainly used to provide a soothing background noise for work, relaxation, sleep, blocking out unwanted external noises, and other self-care purposes, with its admin Dr. Ir. Stéphane Pigeon making it known that he takes pride in the high-fidelity multi-layered recordings he captures of nature sounds like rain, water streams, oceans, and wildlife. But during the COVID-19 Pandemic, his "Calm Office" generator, intended as a half-joke with the sounds of office machinery and activities, ended up gaining coverage on CBS. The surprising popularity of "Calm Office", caused by the aural simulation of office environments boosting the productivity of at-home workers who had come to associate common office sounds with getting tasks done, led him to create a sequel generator, "Vintage Office", which in addition to being tailored to sound like an office from the 1980s or 1990s, is noisier and thus better-suited for blocking out intrusive noises; the description for "Vintage Office" explains how bemused he was that for all the work he put into recording nature, he ended up getting praised for office sounds of all things.
    Dr. Pigeon: I was a little embarrassed though: devoting so much effort to traveling the world to record quiet nature ambiences, and being praised for noisy office sounds. Ouch!

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • The show in general is one of the most famous examples in Western Animation. Matt Groening created the show hastily in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office, after realizing that if he accepted his planned Life in Hell pitch, he'd lose the rights to the series. At the time, Life in Hell was his most notable work, and had been running for around 10 years in newspapers, so it was a logical move. Fast-forward a decade, and The Simpsons would become one of the most successful, beloved, and influencial TV series of all-time. In contrast, Life in Hell is now one of Groening's lesser-known works, with many not being aware that he continued making the newspaper strip until 2012.
    • Groening once made a list of his favorite Simpsons episodes, and choose mostly examples from the first and eighth seasons, while many fans consider the third to seventh seasons to be the show's Golden Age. The first season is considered to be mediocre at best since the show was still searching for its form in those days and fans feel that a few episodes from the first season are too slow, not particularly funny, and uncharacteristic.
    • On both sides of the coin, Groening has mentioned "Homer's Enemy" as being his favorite episode ever, while Al Jean, the current executive producer, has said that "Homer's Enemy" is his least favourite episode. The episode has, at least, a Broken Base between fans who agree it is one of the best and those who think it was the start of the Seasonal Rot due to being too dark and perceived Character Derailment of Homer and many secondary characters.
    • Ken Keeler has said that "The Principal And The Pauper" has been his best work for television, despite doing more-favorably received episodes on The Simpsons and Futurama, with then-showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein also defending the episode. Matt Groening, Al Jean, Harry Shearer, and a lot of Simpsons fans, however, hate this episode, often listing it as the worst episode in the entire series, and it's widely seen as the point where the show started to experience Seasonal Rot.
    • "Cape Feare" was an episode none of the creators felt very confident about; they couldn't come up with enough material for it and had to pad it out (including giving it a long Couch Gag). It's regarded as one of the funniest episodes of the series, and particular acclaim is lavished on the "Sideshow Bob steps on rakes" sequence, which was originally added solely to pad the runtime.
    • Writer Ian Maxtone-Graham blames himself for the show's downfall, as he admitted in a 1998 interview that he had "The City Of New York vs. Homer Simpson", the last episode to score more than 90% on IMDb. He also wrote four episodes that made IGN's list of the ten best episodes after season 13.
    • "Saddlesore Galactica"note  has been cited by many fans as the point in which the show stopped being realistic and started slavishly imitating the more surrealist tone of shows like South Park and Family Guy, and is often cited as one of its worst episodes. The DVD commentary, on the other hand, reveals the writers loved making the episode, noting that it was a deliberate, tongue-in-cheek mockery of such shows, and a piss take against The Simpsons itself for recycling old stories and the fans who complain about them (hence the part where the Comic Book Guy points out that the Simpsons taking in a horse as a pet has been done before, with Homer telling him nobody cares what he thinks).
    • Despite "Marge vs. The Monorail" often being considered one of the best episodes of the series, if not the best, Yeardley Smith has been vocal in her dislike of the episode. In a 1995 interview, she heavily criticized it for not fitting in well with the show's then-usual style.
    • While the production team certainly weren't complaining about season 9's "Trash Of The Titans" winning an Emmy, they were taken aback that it was this particular episode that won it, as most of them thought that if any episode from this season was going to win the award, it would have been "Lisa The Skeptic". The episode's writer, Ian Maxtone-Graham, theorized that it won the award because the episode's closing shot left such a powerful impact on the Academy.
    • Happens in-universe in "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore". Richard Dean Anderson arrives at Springfield for a Stargate SG-1 and encounters Patty and Selma, who are diehard fans of MacGyver, and he's left stunned that they're fans of that show, telling them "That show was a paycheck, and nothing more.". They take that very badly, kidnapping him and tying him to a chair, though this ends up a case of Gone Horribly Right for them, as he actually MacGyvers his way out before asking them to make that tougher again and again.
  • Family Guy:
    • The series has an In-Universe example with Brian Griffin. His labor-of-love novel, Faster than the Speed of Love, becomes a massive bomb due to its being an incredibly trite Cliché Storm that unintentionally rips off the Iron Eagle series. After he trashes schlocky self-help books and says anyone could make one, Stewie challenges him to do so, so he throws together Wish It, Want It, Do It, which becomes a smash hit — until Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, and Dana Gould criticize Brian and all self-help authors for peddling crap to naïve readers.
    • Another In-Universe example: in "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows", Brian is forced to care for a cranky shut-in after a DUI arrest, later telling her to drop dead after taking so much abuse from her. After watching a documentary on TV about how she was a famous singer who quit the business after fans wanted to hear her more well-known radio jingles rather than the operas she really wanted to perform, Brian stops her suicide attempt after telling her how much he loved her operas, which kickstarts their new-found friendship.
  • Dr. Seuss has claimed that Ralph Bakshi's TV special of The Butter Battle Book was the most faithful adaptation of all his works. It's also one of the most obscure. Arguably the most iconic adaptation made with Seuss' cooperation before his death is Chuck Jones' version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which Seuss expressed dissatisfaction with due to Jones' art direction taking over his own compared to Bakshi and Friz Freleng's works.
  • Tex Avery, despite eventually becoming an animator, originally wanted to become a comic strip cartoonist. Most of his cartoons were made with the intention of eventually making that other career choice. Finally, he was so burned out that he gave up the animation business all together and spent the final years of his life almost exclusively as an artist for TV commercials. Even when people lauded him with praise about the hilarious cartoons he always shied away. He never considered them to be that great and seldom gave interviews. He practically died in obscurity, despite his cartoons living on as examples of everything that defines Western animation: (wild takes, fourth-wall breaking jokes, Amusing Injuries, visual and verbal gags that aren't appropriate for younger viewers or prudes, Self-Deprecating corny gags, talking animals, etc).
  • In-Universe in Rocko's Modern Life. After finishing The Fatheads, Rachel Bighead (née Ralph) wants to move on from cartoons to make "real art," but is under contract for another show. She decides to hire Rocko, Heffer and Filburt as writers so that the show will quickly fail. The resulting nonsense, Wacky Delly (yes, misspelling and all), is a massive success that only becomes more popular when Rachel tries to sabotage it. When Rocko convinces Rachel to compromise and try to infuse the show with her artistic passion, it is immediately cancelled, freeing her to enter the art world. Years later, Rachel finishes her "real art" out in the desert, but the first person who sees it compares it to Wacky Delly: the first season, of course, before that new guy ruined it.
  • Season 5 of Beavis and Butt-Head is considered a weaker season by fans due to many episodes having meandering plots without resolution. However, it is a favorite of Mike Judge; on the Mike Judge Collection DVD sets, it is by far the season least affected by missing episodes or "director's cut" edits.
  • South Park:
    • Implied In-Universe—in "Free Hat," Steven Spielberg's home is decorated with posters of his least popular movies.
    • Out-of-universe, "Not Without My Anus" is the only episode from the first three seasons that Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren't ashamed of, and like it for being "something weird and different." It was an April Fools' Day joke interrupting a two-part episode (and this, after a season break), which infuriated fans at the time. Stone admits that this makes him like it more. While the episode is nowhere near as hated today, there's still some debate over whether the prank was funny.
  • Peanuts specials:
  • Both Cree Summer and Tara Strong have pointed to their characters in Drawn Together as being among their favourite voice acting roles. The series itself is rather polarizing and far from their most iconic roles.
  • Butch Hartman regularly cites Phantom Planet to be one of his favorite episodes of Danny Phantom, while the fanbase considers it to be the most polarizing episode in an already disliked final season.
  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird don't really care for the bumbling henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) cartoon that put their creation on the map, as they were new characters made for that adaptation purely to sell toys. They tend to be some of the most popular characters in the series among fans. Word of God is that Expies Tokka and Rahzar from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze were created for it rather than having Bebop and Rocksteady being used as per Eastman & Laird's request (partially because of the legal clearances required to use them), and why Bebop and Rocksteady were absent from most works between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), much to the disappointment of fans who grew attached to them.
  • While the Scooby-Doo franchise's most well-regarded installments among the fanbase are those that take the Mystery Inc. gang out of their usual "Scooby-Doo" Hoax comfort zone to face with real monsters or supernatural threats (such as Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated), most of the people who've worked on these various shows and films as producers and showrunners feel that the meddling kids and their mangy mutt are more in their element when the threats they deal with have a grounded explanation or Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane (ala the original show).
  • Danny Antonucci has stated that the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "If It Smells Like An Ed" is his favorite episode. Said episode is one of the most divisive, with many fans feeling that it was one of the few instances where the Eds didn't deserve the punishment they got.
  • The Loud House showrunner Michael Rubiner has cited the show's April Fools' Day episodes about Luan pranking the family ("April Fools Rules", "Fool's Paradise", "Fool Me Twice", etc.) as among his favorite episodes, with producer Karen Malach agreeing. Conversely, the show's fandom is mixed towards these episodes, mainly because of how Luan is portrayed in all of them.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command was reportedly barred from being referenced in future Pixar or Toy Story media because former studio head John Lasseter reportedly disliked the series immensely for not being what he felt a Buzz Lightyear TV show should have been, and even after Lasseter left the studio, Pixar is still adverse to referencing the series outside of the occasional Mythology Gag. This is in stark contrast to its Cult Classic status among the Pixar fanbase, who have come to appreciate the show more since the show's end and find it a much more entertaining and fun take on Buzz Lightyear and Star Command than Pixar's later attempt to reimagine the iconic Space Ranger.

  • Isaac Newton is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, and made multiple groundbreaking contributions to several scientific fields. His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which laid the foundation of classical mechanics is considered one of, if not the most important scientific works of all time. Yet the latter was only published due to the insistence of Edmond Halley: Newton considered his most important work to be his studies in occultism and esoterism, which comprised about two-thirds of his work. And in his own lifetime, Newton was best known for his work at the Royal Mint, which is why the design of his tomb in Westminster Abbey incorporates many references to coinage and currency, but none to science. Because of this, many historians claim that Newton wasn't the World's First Scientist; but rather the World's Last Alchemist (there being some overlap).
  • Photographer Eddie Adams was best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a Vietnamese police chief about to execute a Viet Cong prisoner, which became an icon of the Vietnam War protest movement. Adams later regretted the photograph's notoriety, particularly the demonizing of the Vietnamese forces and the specific officer depicted, wishing instead to be remembered for a series of later pictures depicting Vietnamese refugees to Thailand. Needless to say, they are nowhere near as famous.
    • Part of this stemmed from the lack of context around the photo—it was perceived as a pure act of brutality, whereas in fact, the man being executed was part of an assassination squad tasked with murdering South Vietnamese police and their families. When the photo was snapped, he had just been caught disposing of the bodies of the wife and children of the police chief's close aide and best friend... who were also the chief's godchildren.
  • Israeli photographer David Rubinger's most famous picture is undoubtedly the scene of soldiers staring in awe at the Western Wall right after its liberation from Jordan. However, he maintained that the photo wasn't very good because you couldn't make out everyone's faces. He preferred this image from the same event, of Rabbi Shlomo Goren blowing a shofar (ceremonial horn) in celebration. (Which is odd, because you can't see all the faces there either.)
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the epitaph on his own gravestone, which reads: "Author of the Declaration of American Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia." You might notice that "President of the United States" didn't warrant a mention. (Which makes some sense, given that he was in favor of a less centralized government.)
  • William Howard Taft was more proud of his time as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court than as President. It's just that modern Americans aren't exactly familiar with the Chief Justices as they are with the Presidents, so it's clear which office people knew him by.
  • An episode of QI brought up C.B. Fry, an ancestor of Stephen Fry's and a successful turn of the century British sportsman. He represented England in football and cricket, equalled the world long-jump record in 1893, and reportedly was offered — and refused — the throne of Albania following World War I. He could also jump onto a mantlepiece backwards without losing his balance. Much to Stephen Fry's growing irritation, that was the only thing that anyone on the panel for that episode wanted to talk about. This does give pause for wonder as to what he expected, however, seeing as the panel was composed largely of comedians and aside from the mantel-jumping, C.B's other cited achievements, remarkable though they may have been, weren't exactly the stuff of potential hilarity.
  • Aristotle is mainly remembered today for his works in philosophy and politics. However, he considered them secondary to his real work - the books on zoology. No one reads these today due to Science Marches On—though actually his zoology was pretty good, and, contrary to what's often claimed, definitely involved actual observation (he knew how octopuses reproduce, for instance, something we wouldn't rediscover till the late 19th century). It was his physics that was bad because they were derived from his biology.
  • Robert Ballard has admitted in interviews that his tombstone will state that he discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic, even though he's more proud of some of his other discoveries.
  • Benjamin Franklin put politics at the bottom of areas of knowledge he wanted to be known for, but he is best remembered as one of the United States' Founding Fathers and the man on the US $100 bill (to the point where their slang term is "Benjamins.") However, his best-known achievements are all science-related (the kite experimentnote , Poor Richard's Almanac, the Franklin stove, bifocals, etc.)
  • The Jesuit priest James Martin tells an anecdote in his book Between Heaven and Mirth; a homily he spent the week lavishing over got no reaction from the congregation. The following Mass he threw his talk together at the last minute and parishioners came up to him in tears, saying it was one of the most moving sermons they'd ever heard.
  • Richard Dawkins is widely known by laymen for either his book The God Delusion, or The Selfish Gene by more scientifically-minded people, but he considers The Extended Phenotype his most important contribution to the Evolutionary Theory. It is also the most technical of his books.
  • Mathematician G. H. Hardy loathed applied mathematics and was most proud of his works on number theory and mentoring the math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (he was slightly more proud of finding Ramanujan than all of his own achievements combined). However, most people remember him for the Hardy-Weinburg Theorem, a simple piece of applied mathematics (heavily used in genetics and ecology) he dashed off in a few minutes.
  • Pinball designer Claude Fernandez is a textbook case of this trope. His personal favorite game he designed was Baby Pac-Man, a hybrid pinball-video game arcade machine that was widely loathed by pinball players and video gamers alike. However, the machine pinball fans most appreciate him for, Flash Gordon, was merely a result of Bally wanting to play Follow the Leader with Williams and tasking Fernandez with building it, Fernandez largely going through the motions. During his speech at Pinball Expo 2014, Fernandez is admittedly puzzled but amused by this difference in opinion.
  • Olympic and World Champion sprinter Usain Bolt is perhaps best known for his exploits over the 100m (such as his 9.69s world record while slowing down or his current world record of 9.58s). However, it's the 200m that has remained his favourite event from when he was a teenager (although his favorite sport, and the one he originally practiced until a teacher recommended he give sprinting a go, is cricket).
  • Despite winning six Super Bowls overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers consider their 1976 team to be the best Steelers team, despite them losing Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw for the rest of the season, and were a game away from making their third consecutive Super Bowl.
  • Pope St. John Paul II's labor of love was a series of talks later published as Theology of the Body, in which he examines the nature of man and woman before the Fall, after it, and at the resurrection of the dead. He also explores the Catholic Church's teachings on sex, marriage, celibacy, and virginity, while expanding on the teachings of contraception as expounded in the encyclical Humanae vitae. Many Catholic theologians believe that it is one of the Pope's finest works, but it is not very accessible to the public due to the work's philosophical density.
  • Perhaps the most famous work by Søren Kierkegaard is Fear and Trembling, a book in which he, as Johannes de Silentio, talks about the teleological suspension of the ethical and uses the story of Abraham and Isaac as an example. Kierkegaard himself thought that Practice in Christianity, a work in which he talks about the importance of imitating, not merely admiring, Christ and critiques the Danish Church, was his greatest work, calling it "the most perfect and truest thing".
  • Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph and the Morse code, wanted to be a famous painter more than anything. He expected his epic 1822 painting, "The House of Representatives," which depicted every sitting member of Congress sitting in a meticulously-researched rendition of the chamber, to be considered one of the greatest works of American art and earn him great fame and attention, but it got scant praise and is little remembered today. Morse came up with the telegraph idea on something of a whim, mostly as a way to make money.
  • Alexander Graham Bell became world-famous for inventing the telephone, but he personally wanted to be remembered more on his work for teaching the deaf to speak, even if the deaf community were angered by some of his... controversial views on them.
  • Christian apologist William Lane Craig is most known for his defense of the Kalam cosmological argument for God's existence, to the point he's almost synonymous with the argument. Craig himself regards his most important work as a scholar to his later defense on the doctrine of Penal substitution.