>On my bookshelf as a young kid I had a book called Bambi by Felix Salten, another called The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. I suspect my parents bought them for me when the Disney movies came out. However, these were ‘real’ paperback editions, not movie tie-ins. So, from an early age, I was very conscious of how adaptations play with the source material.
Thanks to their popularity – not to mention the power of the Disney marketing machine – it’s the animated features that most people think of when you throw them the title. And that’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong – I love these movies – but they’re just one studio’s interpretation of the texts. And for all the rewards movie success may (or may not) bring to an author, it’s a pity if it’s at the expense of the original work.
Adaptations can lead to some fairly bizarre situations. PKD famously refused to write a novelisation of BladeRunner and no wonder – why novelise a screenplay adaptation of a book you wrote yourself? Just read the damn book! Or take Michael Crichton’s novel of the The Lost World, written concurrently with the movie script, which is a sequel to the movie version of Jurassic Park rather than his original novel, and amongst other things has to deal with the tricky problem of resurrecting Ian Malcolm, who dies in Jurassic Park the book but not the film! Confused? Let’s not even go into the different iterations of The HItchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (although the mutability of that particular sequence of stories has a charm all its own, and seems entirely appropriate given the rather unreliable reputation of the Guide as a definitive source of knowledge).
Of course, it’s not a given that the original is better than the adaptation. There are plenty of movies that spin literary flax into cinematic gold. But seek them out all the same, if only to see what you’ve been missing. And ponder, for example, why this scene never made it on to the Disney storyboard:
“(The assassins) tied Pinocchio’s hands behind his shoulders and slipped the noose around his neck. Throwing the rope over the high limb of a giant oak tree, they pulled till the poor Marionette hung far up in space. Satisfied with their work, they sat on the grass waiting for Pinocchio to give his last gasp. But after three hours the Marionette’s eyes were still open, his mouth still shut and his legs kicked harder than ever … The rocking made him seasick and the noose, becoming tighter and tighter, choked him. Little by little a film covered his eyes … He closed his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched out his legs, and hung there, as if he were dead.”