Have you ever noticed that some of the best or most recognised animated films and series in history are adaptations? Or even, that some of the best film and televised adaptations are from animated films?
I know this looks like a biased statement, since it’s not that hard to look at all the highly rated live-action films such as the Harry Potter series and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the latter one in particular is far superior to Bakshi’s animated version, but if you collected all the film adaptations of books, fairy tales, comics, video games and maybe even toylines, and compiled them in a ratio between critically acclaimed animated adaptations and critically acclaimed film adaptations, there would be a good chance that animation would outway the live-action, if I included mangas there would be no contest.
Normally, I wouldn’t give any opinion of films if they are an adaptation. In the end, no matter what the content is, it’s a story first, and the word adaptation means it’s “adapted” to work in other kinds of mediums, even if that means drastically changing the original creators ideas and story to suit a certain audience. Yes, I do get frustrated like other fans when a film adaptation is clearly different from the original story, but most of the time, when I watch a film, I watch a film. However for this case I’m gonna talk about how adaptations would work for the fans and critics who would normally complain about the changes made in stories, since they would probably think I lack any form of thought or previous research when I write reviews.
In light of this point, I would like to give my ideas for why each of the kinds of adaptations either work or not whether it can be for animated and live action films. So let’s dive right in!
Books – When you think about it, books should make very interesting films because of there storytelling. Since they all didn’t have illustrations, authors had to be very descriptive of their characters, events and enviroments in order for the readers to bring themselves into the world. In a way, this is exactly what a film writer has to do when writing a screenplay, but when it comes to adapting there is one major issue, length.
While childrens books can go up to 500 pages, novels can go into the thousands, and that doesn’t include series. Since a movie’s length effects the movie’s overall budget, films are limited to the 90 – 120 minute feature length, with high budgeted motion picture epics being up to 3 hours. With so much going on in a book, it would take too long to make it work as a motion picture, and series has to rely on the first film to be financially viable.
The best example is Lord of the Rings, you have the 2-hour animated feature based on two books by Ralph Bakshi, and the three 3-hour live action features based on all three books by Peter Jackson. While I enjoyed Bakshi’s more than Jackson’s personally, it’s easy to tell that the latter was much better looking and story driven, purely because there were three movies to broaden the story and add a few new elements and it had a much larger budget (three $94 million compared to one $4 million). It could lead to the speculation if Bakshi made a much better adaptation if he had a larger budget with more films to work on, instead of being forced to make only one.
Comics – In comparison to books, I think adapting in theory would be a lot easier, since outside of the complicated continuities, good comics can drive a story in much less words, any writer can explore the story without missing chunks of plot just to fit the story into an hour and a half movie at least. Since it also has detailed images, which are sometimes relied on to explain the story, art direction already have a good source to rely on when doing character designs and enviroments.
For some reason, the comic book film adaptations are almost always live-action, with the only few animated film adaptations that I can recall off the top of my head being All-Star Superman, The Hellboy Animated Movies and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and only the latter had a theatrical release.
While I have limited experiance with comic books, I can see why live-action tends to work better from an industry and financial standpoint. Most, if not all, of these adaptations are of action based comic books, and that means a lot more movement and faster pacing than any other genre. Now for film standards, if a production studio doesn’t want to overbudget and take too long on a film project, what sounds like a better way to make fight scenes for example, paying for 50+ animators and colourists, or hire a choreographer and a few stunt doubles. Along with the other cost the latter is easier and it takes less time, and while it is possible to make an action heavy animated feature, when you have high boundries to meet it will bump up production costs and time, such as the Phantasm when compared to episodes of the Batman: Animated series (Phantasm’s budget was $6 million and time took around eight months, compare that to the weekly TV show).
I think there’s also a pessimistic view on comic books being adapted to animation, treating it as a kids medium. While on some levels that is true, the examples I mention have shown that it’s not the case, although the box office records for them don’t back it up. As far as live-action goes, in my opinion most of them are great, with two of them being some of my favourite films of all time. Sure some like the Spiderman and Hulk movies have goofy moments and when compared to Burton’s Batman films, Christopher Nolan’s I believe are overrated, but more recently live action films have taken the more mature and serious approach, and many are getting the “gritty reboot” treatment which at the moment have created some decent results.
Video Games – As many people on the internet know, despite how financially successful these are, trying to find a really good video game film adaptation is like trying to find keys down a toilet, you have to dig deep. While Edgar Wright noted in an interview with a Nintendo Magazine that he believes it’s almost impossible to adapt a video game to film because of the amount of interactivity and the size of video game worlds being too huge to be expressed in a movie, but I dismiss that idea because the lack of interactivity doesn’t downgrade a visual experiance and original films have shown greatly explored worlds.
But the main reason I believe good films can be made from videos games is because Japan can do it. America and their live action always seems to have problems yet Japan have a great selection of video game anime films which are liked by many. Yes it is true that Japan isn’t perfect and lets face it, Pokemon has a long line of quite stupid movies, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they have good moments and that at least they try to be video game movies, not just bad movies with a video game attached to it.
In terms of quality, while live-action can use as much special effects as it wants, the animated ones have the advantage of having character designs which work better animated than live action, and in the case of Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, has the same animation team. You can also say that animation allows the opportunity of using the game’s original voice actors, but there aren’t enough examples to back that.
Others – As far as I know, most other kinds of adaptations don’t have enough examples to discuss in detail. The key one is mangas and anime, but I don’t think it’s worth it since the two have both a similar art style and structure so they work well together, and the few live action adaptations have a long way to go before they get good, hence why I said manga adaptations would be no contest.
Whether you love them or hate them, it seems adaptations are going to be around forever, so why can’t the industry consistantly make good ones, instead of ones that make money purely because of a demanding fanbase? I would like to see more American produced animated film adaptations, and I can still wait for a really good video game adaptation that isn’t animated, I mean Prince of Persia was close right?