Adaptation Decay?

Friday, November 26, 2010


With Tangled opening, I thought it would be a good time to touch on fairy tales again, this time to talk about interpretations thereof.

One of the complaints I've always heard about Disney flicks is that they 'tone down' or 'sanitize' the old stories. While I understand where the idea is coming from, sometimes I want to ask, tone down compared to what?

Fairy tales and folk tales have been altered, changed, made more or less sexual, more or less violent, etc. throughout time. The people who finally collected and wrote down the stories had their own agendas and made their own changes.  Tales change from region to region. There is no true “original” version, just the oldest we have extant.

I'm not saying I always approve of Disney's editorial decisions, just that you can't fully justify the argument that the writers are being “untrue” to the “original” story.

Well, not when the story is a fairy tale.  When it's a history, okay.  Then I completely understand the objections to drastically altering the story. (Pocahontas is one particularly troubling example.)

Adaptation in general is a sticky subject, and whether or not I can mentally separate a book and film and appreciate them each for what they are is completely dependent on my personal experiences with the subject matter.  Even then, context matters.

For example: I had an extremely negative reaction to Disney's Hercules when I first saw it, because they threw out so much of the myth, but I enjoy Hercules:The Legendary Journeys, which plays fast and loose with both myth and history.

I am interested in adaptation in general, what makes a good one, which ones people enjoy, etc.  I know there are a few films I admit to liking better than the original books.  How about you?

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