What does a creator do when they've got a perfectly fine character, but then an unrelated big and famous intellectual property comes along with an iconic character who shares the same name as the creator's character? Or a celebrity with a similar moniker becomes very famous? A common response is to change their character's name.
While not all creators do this, there are some benefits to renaming your character in response to a more famous one who shares their name:
- Avoiding legal disputes. It doesn't matter who came first; two things sharing the same name has the potential to get thorny. If one creator is significantly smaller than the other, renaming their character may be a lot less of a hassle than fighting it out. Writing Around Trademarks might be utilized.
- Getting around the One Mario Limit. An incredibly popular character or person is likely to monopolize this name. A Google search, for example, is more likely to return results about the more famous one and deprive the lesser-known one of attention. Renaming to a unique name can circumvent this, while also avoiding confusion from people who mix up the characters.
- Avoiding thorny associations with the newer name-user, especially if they are controversial, too adult for your family-friendly character or, in the case of real people, well-known political figures. If the notoriety is recent, this is a method of Distanced from Current Events that can also avoid accusations of Ripped from the Headlines.
If done while adapting a character (perhaps from an obscure source material that predated the newer, more famous name-using work/person/group), overlaps with Adaptation Name Change. It can also overlap with Dub Name Change if a character's name is well-known in a foreign region thanks to a different work/person/group. No matter the reason, the two parties must be unrelated for this to apply. Tweaking the name of someone or something to create an Expy or Fictional Counterpart of them does not count. If a character has a Code Name just for the heck of it (for example, a superhero who does not have much of a Secret Identity), a subtle way is to drop the codename and have the character use just his real name.
Anime and Manga
- My Hero Academia: The Mad Doctor usually known simply as The Doctor was initially intended to have the real name of "Maruta Shiga". This was changed to "Kyudai Garaki" after it was pointed out that the old name was a reference to Japan's infamous Unit 731.
- One Piece:
- In planning stages, Sanji was initially named Naruto (as he is a chef, and "naruto" are a type of fish cake). He was renamed as not to overshadow the release of Naruto.
- Buggy the Clown was originally named "Boogie", but Eiichiro Oda realized the name was already taken after watching The Nightmare Before Christmas
- DC Comics:
- Deathstroke's alias was initially "Deathstroke the Terminator". This was quietly shortened in the '80s after The Terminator essentially monopolized the term.
- The Flash supporting speedster Max Mercury was initially named Quicksilver, but the character dropped into obscurity after the Golden Age. By the time the character was rebooted in the '90s, Marvel Comics had already made significant mileage with their speedster named Quicksilver, and so the character was renamed.
- During the New 52, DC Comics finally renamed their Captain Marvel Shazam! (which was the book's title prior to the rename, and the trope namer for I Am Not Shazam) after decades of the character coexisting with Marvel Comics's Captain Marvel.note This rename coincided with Carol Danvers' rise to popularity as Marvel's new Captain Marvel.
- For a brief period of time, Black Panther was renamed "Black Leopard" to avoid associations with the Black Panther Party of the Civil Rights Movement.
T'Challa: I contemplate a return to your country, Ben Grimm, where the latter term has political connotations. I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T'Challa is a law unto himself. Hence, the new name — a minor point, at best, since the panther is a leopard.
- Miracleman was initially named "Marvelman" before a dispute with Marvel Comics, by then a major player in the comics industry.
- Project Superpowers revived several Golden Age heroes, but had to rename them to avoid confusion with several more popular modern characters who had arisen in the meantime. Thus, Daredevil became "Death-Defying Devil"note , Blue Beetle became "Big Blue"note , Yellowjacket became Jacknote , and Hydroman became Hydronote .
- An In-Universe example: Miles Morales' black father was called Jefferson Davis, like the Confederate president who owned slaves. In Miles Morales: Spider-Man #22 by Saladin Ahmed, he changes his name to Jeff Morales, wondering why his parents called him Jefferson Davis in the first place and pointing out how tainted it is.
- Dennis the Menace (US) and Dennis the Menace (UK) just coincidentally happened to both release on the exact same day in 1951 (the US version released roughly 4 hours ahead). The UK version would eventually rename itself to Dennis the Menace & Gnasher to international publications to give more attention to Dennis' dog Gnasher, who was already serving as something of a deuteragonist anyway. It's still known as just "Dennis the Menace" in the UK though.
- Italian translations also had to make up something to distinguish them. The dub of the 80s cartoon adaptation of the US Dennis renamed him "Danny" while UK Dennis kept his name in the dub of his cartoon. In the comics the opposite happened: US Dennis kept his name, but the short-lived translation of UK Dennis renamed him "Mino".
- After the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the character Roger Roderick Rabbit in the comic Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! was much more frequently referred to in-story and out by his middle name than his first.
Films — Animation
- In the Hungarian dub of Anastasia, Bartok the bat, the villain's animal sidekick, was renamed "Bartek", to avoid association with famous Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.
- Moana (both the movie and the character) was renamed to Vaiana in most of Europe and parts of Asia to avoid a trademark conflict with a cosmetics brand. The movie was further renamed Oceania in Italy (while the character is still "Vaiana"), which is believed to be a move to disassociate with famous porn actress Moana Pozzi.
- The Secret of NIMH is based on a book called Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, starring a mouse named Mrs. Frisby. The film changes her name to Mrs. Brisby because the original name sounded to similar to "Frisbee", the name of a popular toy in the 1980s.
- Wizards was originally meant to be titled War Wizards, but was changed before release as a personal request from George Lucas to Ralph Bakshi as to not cause confusion with his upcoming feature, Star Wars. Bakshi accepted it as a trade of favors, as Lucas let Bakshi borrow Mark Hamill while he was on set to do voicework for Wizards.
Films — Live Action
- Following the precedent set by the stage version, film adaptations of And Then There Were None change the name of General MacArthur to avoid associations with Douglas MacArthur.
- Braveheart: Wallace's wife in The Wallace, which the film is based on, was named Marion Braidfute. Her name was changed to Murron MacClannough to avoid confusion with Maid Marian of Robin Hood fame.
- The books Nanny McPhee was based on named the titular character "Nurse Matilda". To avoid confusion with Matilda, also a magic-user, the character underwent an Adaptation Name Change to "Nanny McPhee" for the movies.
- Astrid Lindgren's Emil was re-christened "Michel" in Germany due to there being another popular Emil in children's literature, the title character from Erich Kaestner's Emil and the Detectives.
- There is a Great Gusliar story named Lyonechka-Leonardo, about a Child Prodigy who is forced to conform to normal standards. In his published comments for the story, Kir Bulychev recalls that, as Lyonechka is a pet name form for Leonid, the Soviet censors decided it was somehow a stealth mockery of Leonid Brezhnev, and Bulychev was forced to rename the main character Lyoshen'ka (short for Alexey).
- An In-Universe example appears in the novel Small Steps, when singer Kathy Spears uses the stage name Kaira DeLeon because of Britney Spears.
- The name of the title character of The Greatest American Hero was briefly changed from Hinkley to Hanley following the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley. It was reverted back after a few months.
- Legends of Tomorrow: Zari Tomaz is an adaptation of a superheroine named Isis (who was originally from The Secrets of Isis and then adopted as a Black Adam character), but the "Isis" codename was dropped as by then the name was also used by a terrorist organization.
- Red Dwarf: When Rob Grant and Doug Naylor adapted their radio sketch series Dave Hollins: Space Cadet for television, they decided to change the main characters last name to Lister, as a football player by the name of Dave Hollins had become famous.
- In the 1960s, one young British man named David Jones took on a Stage Name to avoid confusion with another British singer, Davy Jones of The Monkees. That stage name? David Bowie.
- The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr changed the spelling of his surname from "Maher" to avoid confusion with the drummer of fellow Manchester band Buzzcocks, also named John Maher. Ironically, after The Smiths broke up, drummer Mike Joyce joined the Buzzcocks.
- blink-182 were forced to change their name from just "Blink" by an Irish group of the same name.
- During the Surf Rock craze of the '60s, two separate bands called themselves The Surfaris. There was a relatively obscure band from Orange County, California—and there was the band from Glendora, California, who had the mega-hits "Wipeout" and "Surfer Joe". The legal dispute over the name resulted in the Orange County band getting forced to change their name, in spite of the fact they had the name first. So they rebranded themselves The Original Surfaris.
- Havalina Rail Co. were initially named just Havalina, but expanded their name to avoid confusion with another California band, The Havalinas. Where things get funky is, years later HRC felt the need to change their name once more after several members departed, and they believed The Havalinas had disbanded by that point, so they felt it was safe to shorten their name to just Havalina again. Which just led to confusion a few years later when a completely unrelated Mexican band formed, also calling themselves Havalina.
- Rapper Kitty started out as Kitty Pryde, but shortened her name because of associations with the Marvel Comics character of the same name.
- The late 80s Californian Christian new wave band Morella's Forest was the debut for brothers Ronnie Martin and Jason Martin. They recorded one album, Tales, but it disappeared onto the Shelf of Album Languishment for a few decades. Jason Martin eventually left to start Starflyer 59, and Ronnie Martin eventually rebranded himself as Joy Electric—and around that same point in the 90s, another band named Morella's Forest popped up, a completely unrelated Christian indie band from Dayton, Ohio. This new Morella's Forest even signed to the same record label as both Joy Electric and Starflyer and released four albums. Fast forward a few decades, and Ronnie Martin once again acquired the original master tapes from his Morella's Forest album. Ronnie and Jason finally released Tales in 2021—and to reduce confusion with the Ohio Morella's Forest, they released the album under the slightly tweaked name "Morellas Forest 1988".
- From '91-'95 there were two groups known as the Dust Brothers; one was an already successful US writing/production duo, and the other was an upstart UK duo how used the name as an homage to the first group. When the UK pair went on their first international tour, the US pair threatened legal action, and so the UK band renamed themselves music/The Chemical Brothers.
- The Country Music duo Maddie & Tae would likely have been known as Maddie & Taylor if not for the fact that there was already a world-famous young, female country superstar named Taylor, and so Taylor Dye abbreviated her first name to Tae to avoid confusion.
- Van Halen went through a lot of potential band names when they were first starting out; one of those names was Genesis, which they decided not to use after learning that a band from the UK was already using that name.
- BattleTech started out in its first, mostly lore-free edition as BattleDroids, which promptly got FASA an angry letter from George Lucas due to his trademarking the word "droid." Not wanting to risk a legal battle with him, FASA immediately changed the name.
- An interesting example in Warhammer Fantasy. Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, happens to share a name with Marvel's Malekith, who is ALSO the leader of the dark elves. With Marvel's rise to even higher fame, and power of Disney, Games Workshop renamed Malekith to Malerion in the shift to Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, and the character has not had a major story focus since Age of Sigmar dropped.
- The 1943 stage adaptation of And Then There Were None changed General MacArthur's name to General McKenzie, as by that time General Douglas MacArthur was playing a prominent role in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
- Hero Factory's flagship character was originally named William Blaze, but he was renamed to William Furno to avoid confusion with Billy Blazes of Rescue Heroes.
- In 2021, Activision Blizzard became involved in a major sexual harassment lawsuit, and had a few characters, objects and places renamed, mainly in World of Warcraft and Overwatch. They have since made a stance on not naming characters after real people going forward.
- WoW developer Alex Afrasiabi (the biggest offender targeted by the lawsuit) had a number of NPCs named after him in the game (including "Fras Siabi", "Field Marshal Afrasiabi", "Lord Afrasastrasz", etc). All were renamed.
- Jesse McCree from Overwatch was named after the Blizzard developer of the same name as a Permanent Placeholder. His name was also linked to the lawsuit, and because he's a major character in one of their franchises, Blizzard decided to write an explanation for his name change, saying Jesse McCree has always been his criminal alias and he decides to use his real name to come clean for good. His new name was finalized to Cole Cassidy.
- Piston Honda from the NES version of Punch-Out!! was renamed Piston Hondo in the Wii installment, likely to avoid any legal trouble with the Honda motor company.
- Ken in Street Fighter did not have a last name until action figures based on the second game were released, at which point it was felt prudent to add the surname "Masters" so there would be no confusion with the Ken of Mattel's Barbie line of toys.
- Smite is a MOBA featuring Gods from various mythologies duking it out in an arena. One of them is the Egyptian Goddess Isis, which also unfortunately had the same name of a terrorist organization later. Thankfully, said Goddess has several alternate spellings, therefore, she later got name changed into one of those spellings: Eset.
- No More Heroes III features the major antagonist Damon Ricotello, who was renamed from Damon Riccitiello from predecessor Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. In both cases, the character is a very targeted caricature of former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, so it seems the change was made to avoid potential legal retribution.
- For The Dragon Prince, Ezran was originally going to be named Ezra, but was changed because the name Ezra was already being used by the lead character of Star Wars Rebels.
- In pre-production, Mateo from Elena of Avalor was originally named Marco, but this was changed to avoid further similarities with one of the main characters of fellow Disney cartoon Star vs. the Forces of Evil, who was also a Latino boy in a red jacket named Marco.
- An early promo of Loonatics Unleashed introduced the six-member squad of superheroes lead by Buzz Bunny. After the creators learned that "Buzz Bunny" was also the name of a women's personal vibrator in the United Kingdom, the character was renamed Ace Bunny.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Starlight Glimmer was originally going to be named Aurora, but was renamed as Disney had a lock on the name Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and related properties.
- Thunderbirds Are Go: The character Tin-Tin from Thunderbirds was renamed Tanusha (nicknamed Kayo) to avoid confusion with Tintin.
- The Screen Actors Guild does not allow duplicates in its roster, so some actors have to be credited as something else to avoid overlapping with a more established actor. For example, Michael Keaton's Stage Name is to avoid duplicating Michael Douglas, Elizabeth Banks changed the surname to distinguish from Elizabeth Mitchell, and Michael J. Fox added the "J." middle initial (his real middle name is Andrew) because there was a Michael Fox.note And even then, there are some that slip by: one time both Peyton List and Peyton R. List (who doesn't use her middle name/initial as part of her stage name, but is listed as such on this site because there was already a Peyton List page) were in the same hotel, creating great confusion as they received daily call sheets and voicemails for each other.
- Also true with Equity in the UK. For example, David Tennant was born David McDonald, but there was already an actor with that name. The "Tennant" came from his fandom of Pet Shop Boys, whose lead singer is Neil Tennant.
- Albert Brooks is a stage name not because of SAG rules, but because his real name is the same as physicist Albert Einstein.
- Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King. In order to avoid accusations that he's riding on his father's coattails (and to avoid the Narm of a horror writer named "Joe King"), Hill uses a shortened form of his middle name, Hillstrom, as his last name.
- Proving how commonplace this is, Harpo Marx changed his first name from "Adolf" to "Arthur", leading to an understandable misconception that he didn't want association with you-know-who. In fact, he changed his name back in 1911, before either World War and nobody had even heard of Hitler at the time; it was just because even back then, anti-German sentiment was growing in America, and as the boys were half-German on their mother's side, they decided to make the change to help their careers. Decades later, Harpo no doubt realized the king-sized bullet he had dodged.
- When Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, they renamed it 20th Century Studios, to show that that it was now fully divorced from the Fox Corporation that owns the TV channels Fox, Fox Sports, and Fox News.
- The New York town of Sing Sing renamed itself Ossining to lower the stigma related to the Sing Sing Correctional Facility located there.