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Pragmatic Adaptation

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"Not everything in a book will work in a movie... I think it's the director's duty to keep what he can use and throw out or change the rest."
Roger Ebert, Questions for the Movie Answer Man

When you're doing a version of a story, sometimes the writers are smart enough to know that for whatever reason — budget, censors, pacing issues, et cetera — there are things that just aren't going to make it through. They make the best of a bad situation and explore other aspects of the story. Hopefully, this will put a new and interesting spin on the series.

Time is often a factor in this. When you're adapting a 600-page book (or, for that matter, an eighty-year-old comic series) into a two-hour movie, something's gotta go. The reverse can also be true; stretching out a relatively short book into a much longer film, TV show or both often results in changes.

As with the Roger Ebert quote above, what works on the printed page doesn't necessarily work on the screen, which is another major reason that things in the story get changed.

Fans, rational or otherwise, tend to be greatly annoyed or even pissed off by this kind of change, although the rise of DVDs and bonus production commentary often include rationalization (or guilt-passing) for this sort of thing.

Video game adaptation can also fall into this, such as when one is adapting a PC game to a console game, or vice versa, due to any number of issues concerning the target machine that the game is being adapted to. In that case, gameplay elements as well as story elements would have to be adjusted to accommodate the translation. If done poorly, this can lead to a Porting Disaster. If a story is mishandled in its adaptation to a video game, it can lead to The Problem with Licensed Games.

This is a given when adapting works such as the Epistolary Novel or a Scrapbook Story. Many of these rely very much off of things that are collections of In-Universe texts and publications, told by a variety of narrators with various different reliability. Even adapting something done in first-person can fall into this. With visual elements, the viewer has something of a frame of reference. These can often skip entire bit(s) of time, and thus sometimes new scenes may need to be added to fill in the holes and show the audience rather than let them view an event through a recap.

Various signs of this include:

  • Ability over Appearance: Casting the most talented actor for the part, regardless of whether or not they look exactly like the character. Often occurs in adaptations of Superhero comics, where it's hard to find actors and actresses who fit the improbable physiques of the characters they're portraying.
  • Adaptational Protagonist: One particular character is chosen to be the protagonist in a film from an otherwise equally-weighted Ensemble Cast to make the story easier to structure into a screenplay.
  • Age Lift: Upping the age of a certain character where you can find an actor more capable of playing them without resorting to Dawson Casting.
  • Adaptational Hairstyle Change: Changing a character's general hairstyle, especially for adaptations of works that feature fantastic hairstyles difficult to animate or wouldn't be practical for live-action.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Toning down the sexual content to meet the new medium's stricter standards.
  • Adaptational Mundanity: Supernatural and fantastical elements in a work are toned down, or even completely discarded, in the adaptation.
  • Adapted Out: Removing a character, location or object that would hold back the plot if left in.
  • Canon Foreigner: Adding a new character, often to play the role of The Watson in the adaptation of a book with a lot of dense exposition.
  • Composite Character: Combining character roles (and subsequently enlarging the role of one character) to make a simpler narrative to follow. Alternatively...
  • Decomposite Character: Splitting the role of one character to two or more.
  • Woolseyism: Dramatically altering key points but holding to the spirit of the original.

Contrast with Adaptation Distillation: in a distillation, a complex story is simplified, without much substantive change. In a Pragmatic Adaptation, the story is changed with the shift in medium.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey has a puzzle in which Mr. Benedict provides the society a clue with a total of six lines, the first letter of each of which spells out the word "cannon." After Reynie solves the puzzle, he explains it to Kate, telling her to "Go down the hints—read the first letter of each line." At this point, the reader is supposed to go back a couple pages and do the same thing, assuming they haven't already figured out the puzzle themselves. This obviously isn't as easy to do in an audiobook, so instead in the audiobook, the lines of the puzzle are instead re-read by the narrator, with each letter said afterwards, and then the answer "cannon."
  • The Invention Of Hugo Cabret has a large opening portion consisting entirely of wordless illustrations telling a story before switching to a novel format. The audiobook renders the illustrations section as sound effects.

    Comic Books 
  • The comic adaptation of Beavis And Butthead couldn't replicate the trademark music video segments of the show in a printed medium, so instead, it had the duo read and either praise or make fun of various Marvel comics being printed at the time.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): After a major lawsuit forced the book to undergo a small reboot via Cosmic Retcon, it had to erase nearly twenty years worth of characters, some of whom were integral to the current story arc. How did it get around this? By making a few games from the video game series officially tied into the new continuity to establish most of the game cast (i.e. Shadow debuts in Sonic Adventure 2, so his current personality and motives are tied to that in the book) and by altering the past of the remaining Canon Foreigner characters (i.e. the Freedom Fighters). It results in something of a hybrid of the video game series and some of the televised western adaptations, mainly from Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) and Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.
    • Its first major story arc is adapted from Sonic Unleashed, but accommodated for the new continuity. Namely, Dark Gaia's release is a completely unintended effect of Eggman's attempt to take Sonic with him at the end of the Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide crossover that kicked off the reboot. Knuckles is the one who meets and bonds with Chip as opposed to Sonic, and his status as Light Gaia is established from the start. More characters that weren't present in the original game have a larger role, like the Chaotix, Knuckles, Team Dark, etc., and Sonic's Werehog form is triggered by incredible stress and makes him severely more agitated due to The Corruption of Dark Gaia, something only alluded to at times in the original game.
    • The Sonic the Fighters adaptation, done during the Unleashed storyline, also had some changes, excising the Excuse Plot involving eight Chaos Emeralds and the Death Egg II in favor of a Tournament Arc and putting in Dummied Out character Honey the Cat and Canon Immigrant Breezie the Hedgehog.
  • In Warlord of Mars, the comic book adaptation of John Carter of Mars, is relatively faithful but it contained a couple of changes:
    • When John meets his long-lost son Carthoris, whom he has never met before, they recognize each other almost immediately. In the books, the two spend an extremely long time together before realizing the true relationship between them. This was done to save time and compress as much material as they could.
    • The Black Martians are depicted as grey-skinned humanoids rather than looking like black humans, to avoid any racist connotations since they are depicted as a race of bloodthirsty cannibal raiders that steal from others rather than creating anything of worth, and the males' favorite pastime is to capture women from other races, mainly the Red and White Martians.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy:
      • Ellis redesigned Galactus as a Hive Mind because he thought that a giant man with a purple helmet would not fit the grounded tone of the Ultimate universe.
      • Captain Marvel's suit is the original suit (the least known one, white and green Kree military uniform) with Tron Lines.
    • The "War of the Symbiotes" arc in Ultimate Spider-Man adapted the events of the now-non-canon Ultimate Spider-Man (2005) video game. Among other things, the arc shortened the plot and omitted characters like Wolverine and Green Goblin, while also reconciling the fact that the game and comics had two entirely different versions of Carnage (in the game it was Peter, while in the comics Carnage was established as Gwen Stacy).
    • Ultimate X-Men: Storm's crippling claustrophobia is absent. Also, as she's reimagined as a regular city girl, she has never lived in Africa deluding herself about being a climate goddess, and as a result she does not make Innocent Fanservice Girl scenes.

    Fan Works 
  • Breath of the Wild, an identically titled fanmade novelization to the game of the same name, mostly distills the game's extraneous elements, but does use a little bit of this to allow the story to move smoothly. The three biggest examples are as follows.
    • For example, Hylia immediately activates all the Sheikah Towers herself and downloads the entire map into Link's Sheikah Slate, allowing Link to warp around Hyrule immediately.
    • Since most the Sheikah Shrines are removed, Hylia doesn't trade four Spirit Orbs for one Heart Container or Stamina Vessel. She instead grants Link both for every one Spirit Orb he brings her, and as a reward for vanquishing a Blight.
    • Also, instead of Link being left to his own devices to find the locations in the picture, Hestu instead uses his magic to mark the various locations on Link's map so that he can find them more easily.
  • Code Prime: In order to justify Megatron acting as a mentor to Charles, the Exodus from Cybertron is bumped up from happening during the Mesozoic to approximately fifty years before the start of the story.
    • Due to Britannia having a great capability of actually harming the Autobots, Optimus Prime's normal unwillingness to attack and kill humans is amended to Would Not Shoot a Civilian.
  • Creamed Cherries is a Bambi fanfic that serves as a lighthearted retelling of the "Steamed Hams" Simpsons skit, and given the story is set in a forest with normal woodland critters, several of the original story elements are tweaked to match the setting. For starters, the eponymous hams are replaced with apples, since it would be rather nonsensical (and disturbing) for Bambi and Faline, who are deer and thus herbivores, to eat meat. The threat of Skinner's oven being left unattended is replaced by the threat of a swarm of angry bees terrorizing Thumper and Flower. And most of the lines are completely rewritten to better suit the characters.
  • While many things are changed in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, it still carries the spirit of the series. At the same time, it also condenses hours of long, drawn-out fights into about one tenth of the time.
  • Due to adapting games dozens of hours long, Paper Mario X had to cut out a lot of item collecting and sidequests to keep the stories a reasonable length. Fortunately, between the crossover elements and main plot, there's still plenty of story to tell in the first place.
  • The Next Frontier, being a crossover between Kerbal Space Program and (Spoil at Your Own Risk folks!) Firefly, has some very big Acceptable Breaks from Reality to Hand Wave away. Quoth Word of God:
  • According to Digimon Adventure 02: The Story We Never Told, TK's original novel is a more idealized and radically altered version of what truly happened in their real life. His wife Kari calls him out on it and prefers that TK wrote the true version of their experience. And thus this fan fiction is born.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures fanfic The Ultimate Evil has a couple of examples.
    • While Uncle's spell banishes Shendu's astral form from Jade's body in the retelling of the episode "Project A, For Astral", the Demon Sorcerer isn't trapped in his statue prison. He's still able to wander around in his spirit form, allowing him to spy on his eventual love interest Valerie Payne (though for the sake of not altering the plot too much, Uncle's spells render him unable to go anywhere near the Chans or their home).
    • Unlike in canon, the Book of Ages is actually guarded by a powerful entity whom Shendu must outsmart before he can tamper with the reality. When the Demon World arc concludes, the Guardian uses the Book to seal the gateway to the Book and render Shendu's spirit unable to leave the Netherworld. This gives legitimate explanations to why the Book is never again sought out by the villains and why Shendu never again leaves the Netherworld until Daolon Wong resurrects him.
  • Past Continuous doesn't follow "Of Bajor" precisely, but it makes multiple references to events of the mission. A stand-in for the Klingon Player Character, a fellow named Commander Yarik, is captured trying to bug Starfleet or Bajoran Militia areas for Klingon Intelligence (it went off without a hitch in the actual mission), and there are anti-Federation and anti-Klingon protests going on in Hathon accusing them of creating a renewed Occupation (in-game, one side mission is to defuse these). There's also an appearance by Ensign Jirelle Kav, who appears in the mission and later becomes the ops officer of the USS Enterprise-F.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfic West of the Moon, East of the Sun is an adaptation of both the Norwegian fairy tale of the same name and the Greek myth "Cupid And Psyche", and takes place in an alternate season 5. It makes a lot of changes to the story in order for it to fit in the Buffyverse, though for the most part it stays faithful to both stories, at the same time being very well written.
  • The Dark Lady: In-canon, Belle's complex relationship with Rumpelstiltskin takes place after Snow White and Prince Charming succeed against Regina and Emma being born and raised in their kingdom. Regina has already been reformed and raised Emma's secret love-child Henry up until he is four-years old by the time Belle became pregnant with Gideon.
    • Unlike in the series, the Curse of the Dark One cannot be broken by True Love's kiss.
    • The Dark Realm here lacks the Narnia Time it had in-canon.
  • The Imaginarium setting that Empath and Smurfette enter into in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "The Smurf Of Solomon" is basically this kind of adaptation of the Song of Songs from The Bible, where Empath plays King Solomon living in the king's palace and Smurfette plays the Shulamite who lives in a village with a father and a few siblings working as farmers.
  • Hunters of Justice:
    • Due to how infamously convoluted her backstory is and as they'd given Wonder Woman her New 52/DC Extended Universe backstory of being the daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, the authors simply decided to give Donna Troy Diana's original Golem origin.
    • Likewise, given the nature of his resurrection in the comics, the authors simply gave Red Hood the same story from Batman: Under the Red Hood of being resurrected by Ra's al Ghul.
  • Universe Falls. Due to it being a Fusion Fic of 2 shows with vastly different lengths and timelines. Events that transpire over 3 seasons in SU (which took place over roughly a year) have to take place over the 3 months of summer vacation in Gravity Falls.
  • Greggo, who adapts and hosts various Game Shows for fan conventions, oftentimes drops, streamlines or modifies elements of the shows, as he doesn't use much in the way of props (due to lack of budget) and mostly runs things on his computer; for example, his adaptation of All-Star Blitz has the contestant using a buzz-in device to stop a randomizer in the Blitz Bonanza, as opposed to spinning a wheel in the actual show.
  • Chapter 12 of Luz Belos: Princess of the Boiling Isles adapts the events of "Sense and Insensitivity", but it mostly follows the B-plot with Eda and Lilith, with Luz offhandedly mentioning her brief stint of fiction-writing with King to her parents at the end of the chapter.
  • Pokémon Crossing, being a fanfiction that combines two different franchises, modifies character roles for the Pokémon world. For example, Crazy Redd works in the black market trafficking Pokémon instead of fake art, while Tom Nook is the regional professor instead of a businessman. Sable Able works at a Pokémon day care instead of her seamstress role in the Animal Crossing games.

    Films — Animation 
  • While Old English purists loathed the 2007 Beowulf adaptation's plot changes, from a modern standpoint, the original story would be a tough sell, simply because of its one-dimensional character development and basic plot (though understandable, given its epic poem status). Even with the major alterations, the core story didn't change entirely. The plot liberties were only created to suit the new theme (i.e., making the title protagonist a more ambiguous hero), while respecting existing ones (like warriors seeking to create legacies through their heroic actions). The liberties are taken mostly in the parts where the storytellers would have nothing to go on except Beowulf's word. Further consider that the written piece is mostly Christian propaganda meant to convert "barbarians" and you're in a situation where you really can't take anything as the honest truth anyway. Ripping the Christian values out would likely be rendering the story more accurate to the original versions. Note that Beowulf being humbled at all for his "slaughter everything in my way and achieve glory!" is a Christian theme, in most ancient myths he'd be treated as a hero so long as he showed proper deference to the gods.
  • DC Universe Animated Original Movies:
    • Both adaptations of The Death of Superman:
      • The first half of Superman: Doomsday runs The Death of Superman fairly straight, save for the absence of the Justice League, but the second half, based on The Reign of the Supermen, gives us a single replacement Superman, who's a clone like Superboy, but with elements of both the Eradicator (crimefighter with extreme zero-tolerance policy) and the Cyborg (a villain secretly working with another villain). This half also drops the complex Mongul plot entirely in favor of a straightforward battle of the Supermen. It also manages to squeeze in a little of Funeral For a Friend, which took place in between the two halves. One effective choice was leaving out Pa Kent: this cut his heart attack subplot and intensified Martha's mourning by leaving her without both of them (it also ties in better with the Superman movie franchise, which contemporary audiences would be familiar with).
      • The self-titled redo of The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen are Truer to the Text in many areas, including more than one battle against Doomsday; the Justice League being present for the battles with Doomsday; and the presence of Steel, Superboy, the Eradicator, and Cyborg-Superman, instead of a clone that's a fusion of the latter three—but in part because it's set in a universe originally inspired by the New 52, it features a League with A-listers, and plainly themselves versions of Lex Luthor and Martian Manhunter (whereas the original story was still during the Justice League International days, Luthor was involved in a subplot where he transferred his brain into a clone body and pretended to be his own sonnote , and J'onn who was mind controlled into acting as Bloodwynd). And because it's set in the same universe started by Justice League: War, instead of Doomsday being created by Bertron and Mongul being the one backing Cyborg-Superman, both roles were given to Darkseid, seeking revenge against Superman and the League for his defeat in War.
    • Green Lantern: First Flight breezes over Hal Jordan's classic origin story in about 5 minutes to focus on the intergalactic dealings of the Green Lantern Corps. This was partially because the Live-Action Adaptation of Green Lantern was planned to delve into said origin, but also because they examined much of the same story in Justice League: The New Frontier, and they didn't want to rehash his origin with every new DTV. Ironically, it turned out to be much, much better received than the live-action film.
    • Batman: Under the Red Hood did this to its original story, "Under the Hood", as well as "A Death in the Family". Among the changes were: omitting everything from "Death" unrelated to Jason Todd's death, removing or altering things related to Infinite Crisis to make it more standalone (including changing how Jason Todd was resurrected to the more-familiar Lazarus Pit), and replacing then-current Gotham City police commissioner Michael Akins with the more familiar James Gordon, who'd retired from the post and wouldn't return until after the aforementioned Infinite Crisis.
      • DC Showcase: Batman - A Death in the Family retains these changes, then adds one more of its own: one of the movie's Multiple Endings turns into an adaptation of sorts to A Lonely Place of Dying with Jason-as-Red Robin replacing Batman (who dies in this story saving Jason) and Tim Drake becoming the new "Batkid" instead of the third Robin.
    • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight took some liberties to make its version of the Jack the Ripper mystery work better than simply adapt the suspect of the original comic. Namely, limiting Jack's crimes to Gotham, and demoting Jack Packer, the book's Ripper, to a voiceless cameo and making Commissioner Gordon the film's Ripper.
    • Unlike the comic series it's based on, Batman vs. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has both Batman and the Ninja Turtles exist in the same universe rather than meeting through dimension hopping, which streamlines things a bit.
  • Several films in the Disney Animated Canon fall into this:
    • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: Very much so in the Mr. Toad segment. It does avoid being an In Name Only adaptation by keeping Toad's personality the same as in the book (even if other characters are very different) and staying true to the basic story structure of the Toad parts of The Wind in the Willows, but it does change a few things, attempting to make Toad more sympathetic by having him be innocent of the crime he's imprisoned for. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment, on the other hand, is quite true to the original tale, both story- and character-wise, though a few other liberties were taken.
    • Alice in Wonderland: The film is actually a combination of the original book and its sequel, Through The Looking Glass. Retaining every character from both books would be too much for a feature-length film to handle, so the movie uses the most iconic ones from each book. While the plot itself is based off Wonderland, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Walrus and the Carpenter, and the singing flowers are originally from Through The Looking Glass.
    • Hercules: The original Heracles myth — and Greek mythology in general — were as family-unfriendly as you can get, and had a lot of built-in Values Dissonance. The basic conflict alone was unacceptable for a family-friendly film, since Hercules is a product of Zeus' adultery with a mortal, and Hera, Zeus' wife, is the villain who constantly makes Hercules' life miserable because of this. The studio was forced to heavily rework the concept: It borrows the character names (not so much the personalities), plot points, and setting from the myths, but throws out and adds in things from other parts of Greek myth (such as Pegasus and the Muses, who were not in the original Heracles story) and reworks everything else, such as expanding Hades's role in the story by turning him into the main villain. Ultimately, this makes the film less an adaptation of Greek mythology and more like a mashup of Superman: The Movie and Rocky set in a burlesque of Ancient Greece.
  • To make Planet Hulk fit the length of a feature film, the animated movie removed large parts of the story, such as visiting the shadow people and acquiring the stone ship, and Brood's character is removed altogether. The Warbound section is also condensed and, due to rights issues, the Silver Surfer is replaced by Beta Ray Bill and Mr. Fantastic is hidden in the shadows.
  • Son of the White Horse was originally meant to be a mashup of several old Hungarian and Avarian folk stories and origin myths, with which the director wanted to express his beliefs about the cyclic nature of time. Given that this idea didn't sit well at all with the communist censors, he was forced to dial it back, and so the movie became a drastically reimagined version of the fable it shares its name with. Many folklorists were not amused.
  • Despite being a main character in The Ultimates, Hawkeye is excluded from both of the Ultimate Avengers animated films in order to keep the movies from featuring too many characters. The adaptation also streamlined the plot of the first Ultimates mini-series, provided an entirely new plot for the sequel involving the Black Panther and Wakanda, and made the characters more likable by toning down some of their more Jerkass traits and blending them with aspects of their mainstream counterparts.
  • In The Magic Pudding, the backstory of Albert (the titular pudding) involves being created by a monstrously fat and malignantly gluttonous Chinese chef (and amateur wizard) named Curry and Rice, who was willing to hide Albert and watch his crewmates Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff slowly starve to death, despite their having saved him from drowning when their ship hit an iceberg and sank. When the two found out about this, they accosted Curry and Rice, and in the brawl, they knocked him into the sea to drown. None of this would get past modern censors. So, in the 2000s The Magic Pudding animated film, Albert is instead a mystical object of unknown origins, whilst Curry and Rice is replaced by Buncle the Wombat — a Villainous Glutton who serves as the film's Big Bad.

  • The Warcraft novel Tides of Darkness is an adaptation of a Real-Time Strategy with two opposing campaigns with conflicting storylines, consisting mostly of generic "destroy the enemy base/capture an object" missions and scarce on memorable characters on the Alliance side. So the novel took the most memorable and significant parts of the campaigns, forming them into a cohesive narrative, interleaved them with heavy references to later canon, and "enlisted" the Five-Man Band from Beyond the Dark Portal for the protagonists. While the orcs are still the villains in the novel they aren't all the same Always Chaotic Evil, and we do see that some orcs (namely Gul'dan) are more evil than others. If not for Doomhammer's honor, he would've won the war and destroyed Lordaeron (Gul'dan betrayed him during the siege of Lordaeron, and Orgrim decided to sacrifice victory in order to punish the traitors by sending a large chunk of his army after them). The final fate of Anduin Lothar was also changed in order to have him go out as a hero instead of simply being killed in an ambush. Here, he dies in a Combat by Champion with Doomhammer (this also shows that Doomhammer is more honorable than originally), only for Turalyon to pick up his broken sword and curb stomp Doomhammer.
  • Revenge of the Sith, the novelization of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith written by Matt Stover. Obviously a book of the film loses the visuals, the music, and any appeal from various actors, so Stover takes advantage of the medium by delving far deeper into the thoughts and mindset of the characters than a film can, expanding on the motivations for Anakin's Face–Heel Turn,note  explaining the machinations the Jedi and Sidious have going, and giving more focus to characters that lacked much screen time in the film, like Grievous and Padmé. The result is a combination of an adaptation and a supplement, glossing over things the film covers and focusing on things the films gloss over, as well as filling in some plot holes and returning cut sub-plots, such as the "Birth of the Rebellion."
  • The novelizations of the Star Trek: The Animated Series by Alan Dean Foster flesh out the half-hour episodes with considerable additional detail, while reducing a few of the more ridiculous outings to All Just a Dream.
  • S.D. Perry wrote a series of novels based on the Resident Evil games. The four that were straight adaptations (of 1, 2, 3 and Code Veronica, two of the novels were original stories) streamlined the events considerably by adding in an original character named Trent, who provided the protagonists with intelligence on the sites in question, thus allowing the signature (if somewhat nonsensical) item puzzles and fetch quests to remain in place while not bogging things down and also making a bit more sense. These were also streamlined a bit as well. For example, the crest door from the first game became an emergency lockdown system, and Wesker forced Barry to collect some of them instead of Chris/Jill finding them all.
  • Some of the old Target Doctor Who Novelisations broaden the stories and provide insights into the characters' thoughts and evoke wonderful moods not necessarily shown in the televised stories. The novelisations for "The Crusade", "The Silurians" and "The Daemons" are particularly good examples.
    • The nature of the novelisations in general required some level of Pragmatic Adaptation; they were, almost uniformly, about 100 pages long — which, considering the length of the stories they were adapting ranged from two-to-six (or in some cases ten or twelve) episodes long, meant that they would often either have to compress or add things in order to meet the page requirements.
    • The novelisation of Development Hell episode "Shada" is something of an extreme example, incorporating information from what footage was completed, the known script, some Word of God, Tom Baker's copy of the script into which he had handwritten a bunch of extra jokes and stage directions for himself, two pages of notepaper with an entirely unknown scene handwritten by Douglas Adams, the Big Finish audio adaptation (which starred the Eighth Doctor) and even some borrowings from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which a lot of ideas for "Shada" were reused - and that's before the copious changes Gareth Roberts made to update the story to feel more like a modern Doctor Who story, expand on the characters, add Call Forwards and fanservice, and fix plotholes. Gareth Roberts wrote in the afterword about how he thought the weaknesses of "Shada" were not down to any weakness of Douglas Adams himself, but a result of the tight deadline the story was written in originally, evidenced by how well-done the groundwork was even where he had to fix things. For instance, the original has a part where Chris figures out The Reveal that Professor Chronotis is secretly the dangerous Time Lord criminal Salvayin, placed just as the Doctor has worked out that the villain needs Salvayin's unique Exposition Beam Psychic Power for the plot to work, and just as the villain thinks Salvayin is lost forever. It seems obvious that Chris is going to announce this to the Doctor and the villain, with the best intentions, at the worst possible time - but Chronotis instead just announces his secret identity to everyone for no reason. Roberts changes this so that Chris blows it (bursting in on an added funny scene where the villain is in the throes of a Villainous Breakdown over his plan's failure and the Doctor is giving his enemy a cuddle and reassurance), saying that this is certainly what Adams wanted to happen anyway, but probably was forced to keep an earlier draft of the scene due to time pressures. Roberts also gives Skagra a proper backstory, which was omitted from the show for time reasons, and deals more with the fallout of Eccentric Mentor Chronotis actually being a legendary Outlaw in disguise.
    • Probably the most extreme adaptation was The Massacre, which quickly departs completely from the televised story. Original writer John Lucarotti, who wrote the novelisation, had his scripts completely rewritten, partly for practical reasons: The story had William Hartnell playing both the Doctor and Identical Stranger the Abbot of Amboise, and the way the story was filmed (with each episode recorded on a single night, essentially in order and in real-time) meant there couldn't be too many changeovers, resulting in the Doctor only appearing at the beginning and end of the story. The novelisation instead has the Doctor aiding the fugitive Huguenots by impersonating the Abbot, preventing the assassination attempt on Admiral de Coligny, and ultimately causing the Abbot's death in a case of Mistaken for an Imposter, rather than him getting a straightforward You Have Failed Me. The ending is also far more upbeat, with minor villain Simon Duvall getting a Karmic Death and both the Doctor and Steven accepting how things have to play out.
  • Crysis: Legion played around with the plot of Crysis 2 a bit, such as having Alcatraz encounter a Ceph very soon after getting the Nanosuit whereas the first combat encounter ingame is later. There's a short note in front that points out the need to rework some things for the prose experience.
  • The first three BIONICLE Chronicles books by C. A. Hapka, based on the story told through the comics and the Mata Nui On-Line Game, are generally this, with some examples of Adaptation Expansion and Compressed Adaptation thrown in here and there. A lot of the lines are recited word-for-word, and some classic scenes survived intact, but several other scenes received a unique spin, and the thoughts of the characters are explored better. Sadly, they are also ripe with Continuity Snarl, especially the first book (which, despite being the longest by far, had to leave out too many details), and a lot of the material is considered Canon Discontinuity.
  • The Death of Superman was given a novel treatment while the story was still going, just to be released when the finale was. Doing this compressed a lot of the story and excised a lot of things, including everyone in the DC Universe outside of the then-established Justice League, Wonder Woman and Batman, removed anything involving the monstrous Underworlders and the orphan Keith by replacing them with the Newsboy Legion and condensed a lot of the adventures of the four replacement Supermen before getting into the meat of the story. Oddly, despite Coast City being obliterated still, Green Lantern does not show up.
  • Batman: No Man's Land had a few moments removed to streamline the story, including Superman's involvement, anything to do with Azrael and Tim Drake Robin's rescue from NML.
  • The Rainbow Six novel deviates from the game in a number of ways by having different missions, plot points, snipers that were not available in the game, and a different ending. This is because the book and game were made separately and the game came out first, after which the book's ending was changed.
  • The novel to Civil War condenses some of the backstory, implying that the New Avengers are still just the Avengers and that Spider-Man is their newest member.
  • In the original Kingdom Hearts II, the Struggle in Twilight Town had a mechanic involving knocking your opponent about, then collecting colored orbs that seem to come out of the Strugglers' bodies, with the winner being the one with the most orbs. In the manga adaptation, this was depicted as the Strugglers wearing suits of these orbs. For the novel, the rule is "fight with the provided weapons and whoever gets knocked over first loses."
  • Every adaptation of The Lord of the Rings has left out the Tom Bombadil chapter, as this offers little to advance the plot and remains an enigmatic and perplexing digression from the story.note  The BBC radio adaptation was otherwise absolutely faithful to the book but was only allowed a standard series of 13 one-hour episodes - therefore something had to go. Bombadil was also omitted from the major film adaptation.

  • Cover songs run the spectrum from awful to tolerable to better than the original. One example is "Jolene." A good song from the beginning, Dolly's version was a very light-sounding, upbeat song... about a woman begging Jolene to not steal her man. When it was covered by Mindy Smith, she turned the song into a slow, sad, painful ballad, which makes more sense with the song's lyrics. The White Stripes' cover, rather than monkeying around with the lyrics, has Jack White simply sing it as is, and it became a song about a nebbishy gay man worried about losing a bisexual lover to a woman.
  • Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" has been covered many times to varying qualities- a few that stand out are the Rufus Wainwright version and the Jeff Buckley version; while the original was more of a scathing, sarcastic love song, both Buckley's and Wainwright's versions turned it into songs about searching for God in desperate times.
  • Megadeth covered Led Zeppelin's Out On The Tiles as a Japanese bonus track for their album United Abominations. Dave Mustaine could not sing anywhere near as high as Robert Plant, so he sang the song in a lower key and adjusted the music accordingly. Dave made this even more apparent in later years. To mark the 20th anniversary of each album, the band performed Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction live and released them as live albums. Both are significantly downtuned compared to the original album versions, in order to make up for Mustaine's inability to sing that high anymore. Sometimes the effect works, and other times, it sounds really bad.
  • When New Order plays "Love Will Tear Us Apart", they raise the key since Bernard Sumner's voice doesn't go quite as low as Ian Curtis's did.


  • Dimension X's "Pebble in the Sky": In order to fit an entire Novel into one ~25 minute episode, much of Pebble in the Sky had to be cut, such as the rotating POV followed in the original book. Bel Arvardan instead narrates the events like a private eye and only the events from his point of view are shown.
  • Lux Radio Theatre, a show that ran for twenty years from The '30s to The '50s, was a weekly program that adapted popular Hollywood films into radio plays. The show was only an hour long, and the actual performances were closer to 40 minutes long after allowing for studio chatter and Product Placement, so the radio plays had to be carefully condensed from 90-120 minute movies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Victory Games's James Bond 007 Tabletop RPG used this constantly, since it was assumed the players saw the movies many of the modules are based on. For example, in their version of Goldfinger, instead of blowing up Fort Knox with a radioactive bomb to increase the value of his gold holdings, Auric Goldfinger plans to detonate hundreds of atomic bombs hidden in South Africa and other gold-producing regions to contaminate the groundwater near the ore.
  • Amarillo Design Bureau's Star Fleet Battles games are based on the Star Trek universe. However, unlike the traditional Trek universe, where the conflict between the Federation, Romulans, Klingons, and other races is more of a Cold War relationship, open war and direct conflict are a regular part of the game universe. It also includes ship designs that have not been seen in the Trek universe such as Federation Dreadnoughts, Battleships, and Carriers. These designs arguably conflict with Gene Roddenberry's philosophy that such ships would not be built by Starfleet. But there wouldn't be much of a game if they could solve everything through diplomacy and communication.

  • Wicked the Broadway musical, in addition to being generally Lighter and Softer than the original novel, also included a few of these.
    • More than a few characters are Demoted to Extra or cut out altogether. After all, a novel can have as many characters as the writer desires, but a stage show needs to factor in the realities of casting.
    • In the book, Elphaba's sister Nessa was born without arms. Since this would be exceptionally difficult to portray with actual actors, the musical changed it to her having been born with deformed legs and being in a wheelchair.
    • The original book covered Elphaba's entire lifespan, from childhood through middle age. Except for a brief flashback to her birth in the opening number, the story begins with Elphaba as a young woman, and the events at the end are moved considerably earlier, allowing the character to be played by a single actress throughout.
    • In a sense, the entire Adaptation Distillation is this, as the story from the novel would be almost impossible to tell onstage; not only would it be far too long, but the book's multiple, overlapping plot arcs create a narrative that would be too hard to follow in a format that lacks the benefit of exposition paragraphs. The musical condenses and streamlines it into a story that can be told in a reasonable timeframe and that most audience members would be able to keep up with.
  • The Most Happy Fella abandoned most of the social commentary of the straight play it was based on, They Knew What They Wanted, so it could focus more on the love plot, which provided better opportunities for singing.
  • The Takarazuka musical adaptation of Ace Attorney only dealt with a single case (written for the play), unlike the multiple case formats of each game. They also ditched the spirit channeling plot device, having Phoenix mock Maya for believing she was a spirit medium, and made Edgeworth a simple ruthless prosecutor rather than Phoenix's childhood friend in need of redemption.
  • Beauty and the Beast does this in regard to the Enchantress's curse. Instead of instantly transforming the servants into talking objects, the spell slowly changes them into fully inanimate bric-a-brac, gradually replacing their human features and clothing with parts of their item. While largely a pragmatic choice—it's a lot easier to costume a woman to resemble a teapot than it is to build a believable special effect—it also makes the curse more painful, as the castle's inhabitants are aware of what's happening to them, but completely powerless to stop it.
  • Dirk, the stage adaptation of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, strips out an entire subplot involving the Electric Monk and his horse, partly to simplify the plot and partly to avoid having to represent a horse on stage. Also, the novel's complicated denouement is replaced by Dirk punching out the villain at the key moment, which has the advantage of looking interesting and not requiring expository dialogue to understand.
  • Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw is described in subtitle as "A Chronicle Play in Six Scenes and an Epilogue". Each scene depicts a key moment in the life of Joan of Arc. Some of these 'moments' actually took place over days, weeks, or months, but as Shaw points out in the preface to the published playscript, that's not something you can faithfully reproduce on a theatre stage.
  • Noah Smith's stage version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: In the original novel, Utterson's investigation is the main plot, but now Hyde's secret is too well known for that to work. The play keeps Utterson's investigation, but only in the second act, and plays it mainly for dramatic irony as Utterson struggles to catch up to what the audience already knows.
  • National Theatre's 2014 production of Treasure Island:
    • Blind Pew is stabbed to death, which is easier to stage than being trampled to death by a horse.
    • Long John Silver only displays his missing leg in full on his first appearance. Before boarding ship for the voyage, he acquires a metal prosthetic leg that he wears for the rest of the story, avoiding the need to keep the actor's leg out of sight for the full two-hour show.

    Theme Parks 
  • Due to Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure being a stage show, the scene when the Grinch lifts all the Whos supplies off the edge of Mount Crumpit is cut for this reason. This is also lampshaded when the Grinch asks the Narrator to skip past the parts of the story that would require the Grinch to do extensive physical work.

    Web Videos 
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre is a web series adaptation of Jane Eyre, a Gothic Novel. In the book, Jane is a narrator and an adult mature woman who is looking back on her life from her unhappy childhood, harsh and later kinder school days, her employment, and above all her mysterious love story. The narrative voice of the web series, which is Jane's vlog presenting events as they happen, is naturally changed. It started with Jane deciding to change her life and seeking new opportunities in life, and accepting to work as a live-in tutor. Her back-story is revealed in some episodes when Jane mentions her uneasy relationship with her abusive step-family or when she reminisces about her school days or her friend Helen.
  • Likewise there is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modernized adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Because society has changed so much in the centuries in between, especially the roles of women, Diaries had to update many aspects to keep them relevant for the audience yet equivalent to the book. For instance:
    • There are only three Bennett sisters now, Jane, Lizzie and Lydia. Mary was later included as their cousin and Kitty becomes Lydia's cat.
    • The theme of social stifling and small opportunities for women is now a more general one about the difficult economy and slim job and field opportunities.
    • In the book, Wickham was a militia officer who claims Darcy swindled him out of his promised fortune. In the web series, he's a swim coach who claims Darcy refused to pay for his promised college tuition.
    • Lydia and Georgiana are both made older, since Wickham seducing teenage girls would have gotten him in jail today.
    • Lady Catherine De Bough is the most prominent antagonist in the book, not wanting the Bennetts become connected to the Darcys or Bingleys. In the web series, De Bough role's is greatly reduced and it's instead Caroline Bingley who becomes the instigator of strife between the families.
  • 8-bit Theatre Chaos, a voiced adaptation of 8-Bit Theater, have occasionally had to rejig a joke so that it translates better to the video format - or update the comic's imagery to fit better with present-day events. For example, one Doctor Who joke from the comics (which originally used Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor) was updated for Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor.
  • In Noob, Précieux started out without his Talking with Signs via the text chat gimmick. The gimmick started out as a one-off gag in the live-action version but ended up sticking. The comic version, which uses the text chat function much less frequently, has him talk like everyone else.


Video Example(s):


Watchmen Adaptation

Watch Mojo praises Zack Snyder's Watchmen film for providing a more pragmatic alternative ending to the Watchmen comic's more fantastical ending.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / PragmaticAdaptation

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