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Discussion of Children Literature to Film Adaptation: Why there are large changes to storyline?


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Discussion of Children Literature to Film Adaptation:

Why there are large changes to storyline?

兒童文學到電影改編: 為什麼劇情有了巨大的改變?

Author(s): Hui-Min Yeh

Class: 3rd year of Depart ment of Forei gn Languages and Li terat ure Student ID: D0295730

Course: English Writing (6) Instructor: Dr. Wei-Wei Shen

Department: Forei gn Languages and Lit erature Academic Year: Semester 2, 2015



This paper is to explore the potential reasons and causes for adaptation from literature to films. You may have once watched a movie adapted from a household work, but you couldn’t realize why it was totally different from the story you used to know. Here I will discuss further and analyze different aspects of features by

providing some convincing sources written by experts and scholars, and then give you a comparison between original and adapted ones to see the difference clearly.

Moreover, as now the younger generations rely too much on film versions to read a literary work, I found it important to indicate to the public. My analysis will be surprising you because the factors include tensions from life, stereotype and benefits of box office are three major reasons that movies tend to change the original literature. I initially explain the intent of children literature and take Charles Perrault as an example to make it clear, and compare lifestyle to different eras. Later in the paper you can see a gigantic change of the notion that men and women are equal and people shouldn’t decide their social position and personality by gender. Lastly, adding or deleting plots, movie producers increase people’s propensity to watch the adapted films. If people view this change as a new way to appreciate literature works, they will ruin the chance to feel the original production of emotions, meanings, or it will be hard for them to engage in the story with their own minds. Shallow and superficial edited versions easily misguide audiences’ understanding of original versions. My paper may help understand the significance of reading and critical thinking, and so that the public does not ignore the problem of changing storyline. After reading this paper, I assure that it will be more fun to have a taste of literature before watching adapted movies.



Children literature, gender relationship, literature, film

adaptation, movies



此份研究報告目的在於探討文學改編電影大大修改其劇情的潛在原因,我們 也許都有過相同經驗,就是當你看著大螢幕上播映著膾炙人口的故事時,卻發現 電影的劇情發展與你所知道的故事內容完全不同。為了用不同角度更進一步討論 分析,將提供許多專家和學者的文獻資料並且比較原著和改編後電影的不同之 處。再者,因為現代年輕人太依賴從電影中去閱讀經典文學,我們忽略了其中的 問題和危機,理應藉由這份報告讓大家重視這個問題。文章內提及的劇情改編原 因可能令你感到訝異,原因包括三點: 我們日常生活中的壓力、性別刻板印象的 突破、電影公司的利益考量。第一點以 Charles Perrault 為例,比較不同年代生活 方式和風格,促使現代的高壓症候群。第二點是近年社會對男女生定義的改觀, 性別平等對待和性別角色的改變。最後一點為電影公司對劇情刪刪減減,以便增 加觀眾對改編電影的興致和興趣,衝高票房。如果大家認為看電影去了解一個文 學作品是新的方法,他們將會失去一個去了解、感受作者內心意涵的機會,而且 他們會更難融入劇情產生共鳴。許多膚淺粗糙的文學改編電影誤導民眾對一些作 品的欣賞,希望能藉由此份報告讓大家了解到閱讀和批判思考的重要性,別忽略 的電影改編的潛在問題,我也相信閱讀完此篇文章,必定會促使大家在看電影之 前,有了更多動力和熱情去閱讀原著的精華和靈魂。




Table of Content

Introduction and Statement of the problem

Research questions

Purpose and significance of study

The first factor: tense lifestyle drive people to find comfort

through movies

The second factor: different definition of male and female

The third factor: attract more viewers by exaggerating plots



Discussion of Children Literature to Film Adaptation:

Why there are large changes to storyline?


Hui Min Yeh (Sefina)

English Writing (6)

Professor Wei-Wei Shen


Introduction and Statement of the problem:

Every time when I watched movies, I noticed that film production company

preferred to change plots of original books. I started wondering why they omitted the essence of literary works, and they made a large change of storyline. What’s more, I had read some stories before the movies were adapted. It was enjoyably evocative

while I watched these films. So why does film production change the storyline from

the original ones? “Literature offers insight into culture, relives important events in

history, and lends people different interpretations and viewpoints”(Christine A.

Nelson, 2013). Nowadays we are situated in common effect used in cinema─

surrounded sound, which could make an aircraft fly over the heads of the audience or

lead people to travel through different times. Does the meaning of the work change?

Does the meaning become clearer and more powerful, or weaker and more perplexed?

Although both of films and works reach the same goal─keeping the central idea of

the work, they evoke some problems such as a monologue of adapted movies, and

reduce the chance for students to think on their own.

Research questions:

So, why are there large changes to storyline? It is roughly divided into three

major factors. First, nowadays people long for happy, wonderful, and perfect ending


Relieve Stress, 2012, December). To get comfort, they need to find a new way to

evacuate themselves from the real world. The result is that there are full of positive

influences over the movies rather than end the stories miserably. Second, there are

different characteristics of female or male in modern times. Women in the fairytales,

for example, they always represented fragility and vulnerability, but there seems to be

a huge changeover for these few decades. For instance, women have increased their

ranks in the top management jobs, compared to a Margaret Gallagher study in 1995

that showed women occupying on average of only 12% of the top management

positions in 239 nations. The new global study shows women in 26% of the governing

and 27% of the top management jobs (Global Report on the Status of Women in the

News Media, 2011). We recognize one thing: more and more gender issues and the

topics of controversial gender discrimination have gained attention in the public. At

length, the stories focus on exaggerated plots. Companies have to attract more

attentions from audiences by visual effects.

Purpose and significance of study:

As for literary works we chose for this discussion, Oz: the Great and Powerful,

Maleficent, Into the Woods and Alice in Wonderland, all produced by Walt Disney

Pictures, and they were based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Sleeping Beauty,


Wonderland respectively. We will explore further from the key elements of these

children literature to their film adaptations in different aspects. The significance of

this study will reveal social problems related to film adaptation, and it makes people

know the real value of literary works. Most important of all, the research encourages

everyone to appreciate the original text instead of understanding classic works

through the movies, specifically focusing on the decisions the director has made and

compare those to the original version of the work. In this paper, it will first analyze

reasons that people need to relieve their tension from the fast life-pace by watching


The first factor: tense lifestyle drive people to find comfort through movies

The exaggerating plots in the movies help relax the viewers. The pace of life

does change tremendously from the past to the present, while we can observe it

through each story and films. The Sleeping Beauty, for example, focuses on pure and

innocent love that possesses such tangible strength which can defeat anything. The

plot puts much emphasis on love; it means that love can conquer all. The sleeping

beauty was written by a French Charles Perrault in 1697. From the very beginning,

thousands of years ago, tales were told to create communal bonds in the face of

inexplicable forces of nature, to the present. When introduced to fairy tales, children

welcome them mainly because the stories nurture their great desire for change and

independence (Jack Zipes, 1991). Early fairy tales were told for adult entertainment.

They were often gruesome and sometimes suggestive in nature. Charles Perrault

reworked the old fairy tales and adapted them to his times and society. “Perrault

transformed the stories from adult entertainment stories to tales for children, with

clear morals and lessons”(Mark Wheeler, 2012). This phenomenon caused the

simple storyline at that time, it represents that the story spread the concept of love and

benevolence instead of complex humanity or greedy desire of human from stressful

lives. On the other hand, let’s get back to the modern time. Take Maleficent as another


supernatural beings, from the neighboring human kingdom. Having befriended Stefan

when they were children and slowly falling for each other, Maleficent was betrayed by

Stefan and she decided to take revenge on the king Stefan by placing a curse on the king’s newborn Aurora to fall in a forever sleep until she received the kiss of true love. To make sure that her curse was completed, she was in a company of the child till she

turned to eighteen. However, Maleficent felt regretful because she realized the girl

was totally innocent. After Aurora fell in a deep sleep, Maleficent became the person who woke her up to save her life. “True love kiss” is not a romantic kiss of prince anymore. Curse can be broken by an affectionate deed of anyone. We may notice the

significant theme of being genuine and kind in this film. Nowadays we are situated in

a competitive generation and society so that stressful people work too hard to care for

their beloved ones. The point is that we forget how to love, to give, to cherish, to share.

They can only relieve their daily pressure by watching movies or doing other leisure

activities to comfort. This is called comfort movie, a movie that a person likes to

watch and fall asleep to and feel comfortable doing so, but they may have seen the

movie countless times and they know it forward and backward (Urban Dictionary).

The feature of modern comfort movies includes pursue of dramatic development of

films and inextricably woven storyline. People need a compensation for their


viewing a film transports the person into a different world where he can forget his

problems even for a few hours. Though it must be said that viewing a film will not

erase the problems that you have in real life, it will at least enable you to stop thinking

of those problems for a while which means your mind will be able to unclench itself


The second factor: different definition of male and female

Another reason is a new concept for gender stereotype. For fairytale heroes, they

are celebrated for their acts of bravery and some demonstrations of their power. Also,

men are counted on to take care of their families. While for women in the fairytales, they always represented fragility and vulnerability. They didn’t even have the rights to choose their lives and destiny. Take Into the Wood for example, which is inspired by Cinderella, the protagonist Cinderella is the epitome of “subservient roles” (Russell, David, 2012). Women are typically associated with cooking, serving, and subordinate.

Women have been cast as the fairer sex, but also the weaker sex, weaker physically,

emotionally, and intellectually. The storyline is guided in the direction of Cinderella’s

dream coming true by meeting her prince-charming. Again, the male character is

viewed as being the strong, fearless rescuer for the damsel in distress. However, there

seems to be a gigantic breakthrough for recent years. Different points of view toward

gender characteristic become a main stream in the society. According to Emma

Watson, who gave a speech on Gender Equality at the UN in 2013, claimed that

stereotypes of and expectations for masculinity have got to change.

“Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain, and I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right


women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that will affect my

life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.”

Not like we mentioned as the fixed perspective for gender, modern females get

more unbending and persevered with their destiny, future, or rights.

“Women’s economic agency as a force for poverty reduction continues to be overlooked in the policy discourse. However, enhancing women’s access to various resources and ensuring that greater social value is given to their contributions lies

within the domain of policy-makers and its pay-offs are likely to be enormous.”

(Kabeer, Naila, 2003)

Thousands of cases on gender discrimination gain its attention in various events globally. So let’s get back to films, we can easily feel through adapted source from Oz:

the Great and Powerful, the protagonist Oscar Diggs is a magician and gets involved

in wars between naive witches and wicked witches. This time it happens on Oscar’s

decision of bad and good within three witches. Namely, the situation is controlled by

three women instead of men. Male is portrayed as a weaker and insecure side in real /


The third factor: attract more viewers by exaggerating plots

From original sources, we realize that authors only expressed the essence and

main concept of stories. As we mentioned above, early tales were told for adult or

children entertainment. There was no need to take profits into account since the works

were ways of freely imagination at that time. Stories provided people a chance for

making decision on their own as they could get a fantasy on everything including

voices, smells, or visions from books. Original textual sources keep simple and

reasonable trials such as saving a damsel in distress or escaping from somewhere you don’t know. By contrast, nowadays adapted films gain audiences’ attention by

exaggerating the plots to make profits. Whereas they constrain and delete the detail of

works, films usually have to fit the central theme of a work of literature into a time

frame of less than two hours. But we miss out that a work of literature is normally the

result of one specific person, the author. In films, you will see how director performs a

literary work and how director feels from the same book you read. “Their usefulness

is that they offer a different viewpoint/interpretation of the original work of

literature”(Leitch, 2007). Furthermore, students don’t allow having their own

perspective after watching the films even though the movies are more powerful

through a visual representation.“Many critics list the failure of film adaptations to be that it doesn’t follow the exact frame in which the original work was created. Film


adaptations are already in a compromising position with people uneasy about an interpretation that doesn’t remain completely true to the original work”

(Mehmood-Arshad, Anila, 2013). Adapted films spend much money on star cast, visual effects, or sound effects to satisfy audiences’ imagination of works. However, “(e)ven though this engages audiences initially, the real meaning comes from a project that allows for dialogue. It’s easy to find celebrities, but it’s hard to create works that contribute to finding meaning that keeps audiences engaged”(Tweeddale

& Kelly, 2012). There is much competition everywhere and also in film industry.

Producers will stand out only by creating a fascinating film to make it as a blockbuster.

If the film company followed the original plot, it might be too mild for audience. Or

the company cannot assure a stunning box office success, and it is possibly to lose



Finding and discussion:

As we realize that more and more people prefer to understand the literary works

through adapted films, they miss out a chance to read and appreciate textual source, an

initial passion from author. I am also surprised to figure out that there are three

reasons, which cause this huge change to storyline. The reasons include a typical

high-stress lifestyle, a transition for gender definition, and potential worries over

companies and students. What’s more, too many shallow and superficial adapted versions misguide audiences’ understanding of original versions. Those grand

contributions of literature shouldn’t be viewed as useless sources. Product companies have already shown what they want people to think about the movies, and they

inculcate a fixed spirit of films without giving them an opportunity to feel inner

essence. Also, what if we previously known gender positon by reading original texts,

and then fight for our new perspectives of male and female with more knowledgeable

and convincing argument?


This paper demonstrates and supports many viewpoints from professors, teachers, and

literary scholars. Most of them were retrieved from internet, articles, books, or


management and did some research on literary background and academic reports.

Further development:

By exploring new knowledge of different fields, I realized the significance of reading

and critical thinking. In the future, I would need to interview some people about their

ideas for children literature toward relevant adapted films. We may as well get an


Works Cited


“Analysis - Cinderella and Stereotypes” retrieved from

< http://childrenslitfinalprojectchung.weebly.com/analysis.html > on May 8, 2015. Byerly, Carolyn M.“Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media. ” 2011.

Charles Perrault. “The Sleeping Beauty.” Histoires ou contes du temps passé, 1697 retrieved from

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty> on May 1, 2015.

Christine A. Nelson. English and Comparative Literature. “Hamlet, Film Adaptation, and the

Interpretation of Original Works of Literature.” November 18, 2013.

Jack Zipes. Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture: 235, December 1,

1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1991).

Kabeer, Naila. Naila Kabeer. “Gender mainstreaming in poverty eradication and the millennium

development goals: a handbook for policy-makers and other stakeholders,” executive summary:


Leitch, Thomas M. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of

the Christ, 2007. Print.

Maristela, Jojo. “Watching A Movie Will Relieve Stress.” April 18, 2012 retrieved from

<http://ezinearticles.com/?Watching-A-Movie-Will-Relieve-Stress&id=7008835> on April 20, 2015.


Maristela, Jojo. “Watching a Movie Will Relieve Stress.” April 18, 2012 retrieved from

<http://www.slideshare.net/ordercattle7/watching-a-movie-will-relieve-stress> on April 17, 2015.

Mark Wheeler. "Perrault's Fairy Tales." August 19, 2012.

Mehmood-Arshad, Anila. "How Can Films Be Used to Popularise Classics for Teen Audiences.”


Russell, David. Literature for Children: 77-79. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2012 retrieved from

< http://childrenslitfinalprojectchung.weebly.com/analysis.html> on May 12, 5015. Tweeddale, Kelly. "What Does Audience Engagement Really Mean?" Jan. 2012.

Urban Dictionary retrieved from



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