What started off as a story from an author’s imagination has become completely different to the point that he is no longer credited as the creator… That is what I call The Fox and the Hound Effect.
I’ve really wanted to write about this for a while. It took me quite some time to ponder about this subject, and I think I’m ready to explain it. First of all, I want to ask you a few questions:
What comes to your mind when you hear about Mary Poppins? Bambi? or 101 Dalmatians? What do these stories have in common? Who is credited for such titles? You’re probably thinking that these are Disney movies. That’s correct. We often see these loving classics brought to life by Walt Disney. We like to praise Disney’s amazing storytelling. But what else comes to mind other than the movie? Small storybooks? Other merchandise? Is there anything else?
You may or may not have been aware of this, but these three stories were originally children’s books and novels of their own. Mary Poppins was written by P.L. Travers, Bambi, a Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, and 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. How many of you have read these books? The example I like to use for this effect is The Fox and the Hound. We all know and love the whimsical, emotional movie. I think it’s a great movie myself. But after reading the original novel by Daniel P. Mannix, I found that I enjoyed the book even more. It may not be a happy fairy tale (in fact it’s pretty dark and very sad), but it was an interesting book to read. Some people may have heard about the novel, but many haven’t read it. What started off as a story from the author’s imagination has become completely different to the point that he is no longer credited as the creator. We credit the Walt Disney Company for The Fox and the Hound, not Daniel P. Mannix. That is what I call The Fox and the Hound Effect.
Again, I’m not criticizing the movie adaptations of these stories, but I feel that the original stories are sadly underrated and deserve to get more credit, respect, and realization. I was once at Disneyland, waiting to rendezvous with my group. I was in one of the shops in the Downtown center. In there I saw a t-shirt with an image of Tod on it. It got me to thinking that hundreds of thousands of people probably see these shirts for sale, and connect the character of Tod to Disney. There was nothing about Mannix’s work, and I felt bad. He probably liked seeing his book get turned into a movie, and if I knew for sure that he liked it I would feel a lot better. P.L. Travers didn’t like the adaptation of her work, and now the adaptation gets far more attention and respect than what was really her’s!
Now does every adaptation of an original work; be it a comic to a book, a movie to a toy line, or a card game to a TV show, fall under the category of The Fox and the Hound Effect? Of course not. Most of us know the film franchise Jurassic Park, and we may have read the novel by Michael Crichton, too. But Universal Studios had the film rights even before the book was published. Technically, the book was meant to be a movie in the first place. Michael Crichton even produced the first film. Sometimes adaptations can do the opposite of The Fox and the Hound Effect. It can draw more people to the original work. When Dracula was first published in 1897, it wasn’t very popular. It was the movies and western culture that brought people to Bram Stoker’s novel. Think of Redwall by Brian Jacques. Most of us who know about Redwall know the book series. There was an animated series based off it, but it did not draw people away from the books, it drew people to the books!
In the end, whatever version of the story we know or love; be it the book, the movie, the traditional oral story, or something else; it doesn’t matter. Stories have been passed down from generation to generation. And over time, these stories change to fit with the changing culture. That’s the nature of storytelling. But the books I have mentioned above are not old stories like Snow White or Cinderella. These were recent works written by fresh minds, and I feel bad for the authors who have had their work become something that is not theirs anymore; not like they had given it away, but as if it was stolen. That’s The Fox and the Hound Effect: not given away, but stolen, and most often unintentionally. I’ve been asked many times if I would like to see The Tales of Draco make it to Hollywood or TV. First of all, the chances of that happening are very slim. Second, I think an adaptation to my books would be great, but I don’t want to give out my work only to have it get swiped from my hands. I wrote The Tales of Draco. I don’t want it to become a media frenzy. I just want it to be a book series; a book series that people know and love.
It isn’t bad to adapt books to film. It’s a good thing. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Not everyone are avid readers, but we can know where these stories have come from and respect that.
(You can check out some of these books below.)
The Fox and the Hound
Bambi, a Life in the Woods
Jurassic Park and The Lost World