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Walking away with the movie right from under the title characters' eyes.

"The action is intercut with human scenes that seem dragged in kicking and screaming from another movie... If there is one thing everyone in Hollywood thinks they know for sure, it's that the three most important words in movie development are story, story, story. This is not a story: A group of inconsequential human characters watch animation."
Roger Ebert, regarding Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

So a Live Action Adaptation of your favorite childhood Funny Animal cartoon is coming out. You go to see it, and... what's this? Who's this guy? Where's the cartoon character? Why should we care about this guy? Can you move it along and get to the cartoon character now? Oh, there he is! And now they're back to that guy again. Looks like it's gonna be another Human-Focused Adaptation.

Family movies that are live action (and sometimes even animated) adaptations of cartoons that otherwise probably wouldn't work as a live action blockbuster, or actually would, normally seem to focus more on a newer human character and his love life, rather than the character from the series the movie is adapting. More often than not, the plot has an Unlucky Everydude with a crappy job and a crush on his hot co-worker, having a run-in with the cartoon character of the day, or having said cartoon character as a pet. Hilarity Ensues, and the cartoon character's hijinks somehow bring Everydude and his love interest together, and they live Happily Ever After.

These subplots mostly, if not always seem to do with the unlucky new guy in love. This even applies to already existing human characters who never had a love interest, and are either given a completely new one, or they take an existing character and pair them up, accuracy be damned.

This is probably caused by a combination of the costs (both time and money) of CGI and the beliefs that a human character might be more relatable or that people want to see a love story--no matter how much it has to be shoehorned in. This trope, while common to live action, is not exclusively a live action trope. There are many examples within anime, comics, and Western animation itself. If any adaptation reduces the importance of the major characters (or major non-human characters) to focus on more humanistic or traditional characters, it should count as being this trope, regardless of the medium. Note that this doesn't always mean "non-human characters are barely in it" but that the ratio is shifted considerably. The amount of human importance may shift from 10% original to 60% adaptation, it still leaves 40% of the movie to the non-human characters. It isn't always about "making it relatable" but being a Pragmatic Adaptation if you are going to make something in a different medium.

Related to Adaptation Decay, Most Writers Are Human, Developing Doomed Characters, Romantic Plot Tumour, Just Here for Godzilla, Spotlight-Stealing Squad, Demoted to Extra.

Examples of Human-Focused Adaptation include:

Anime and Manga

  • The anime Sonic X during first two seasons has Chris Thorndike taking the spotlight and filling roles which in the actual game adaptations were filled by Tails and Amy. This turned off quite a few fans as a result.
  • Similar to the Sonic X example above, Kirby of the Stars gave a lot of focus and screentime to humanoid looking Fumu and Bun (Tiff and Tuff in the dub), though since Kirby was basically a baby in this continuity, pretty much everyone at some point got more focus over him. Kirby sometimes didn't even do anything until the climax of the episode.

Fan Fiction


  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Though the Chipmunks get a fair enough amount of screentime and focus, it still follows the "unlucky guy in love has cartoon characters as pets" formula. The "Squeakquel" introduced some reason why he couldn't be there and then replaced him with some completely random loser.
  • The first live-action Garfield movie came out at a time when in the comic, Liz looked down on Jon, when somehow she's madly in love with him in the movie. The comic would later follow suit.
  • The Rocky and Bullwinkle movie gave less screen time to the cartoon moose and squirrel than their traditional human villains and new human characters. Rocky and Bullwinkle are on a very small part of the DVD cover (pictured above) while the human characters are front and center.
  • Two Looney Tunes live action movies.
    • Space Jam puts its focus on bringing Michael Jordan into the Looney Tunes' world to save them from aliens by playing basketball. The first part of the movie plays like a Biopic of Jordan before the Looney Tunes show up.
    • Looney Tunes: Back in Action introduces two human characters to team up with Bugs and Daffy and even gives them a romantic subplot.
  • Masters of the Universe: Although everyone in the cast basically is human (or at least Human Aliens given that the main characters are from another planet), the live-action adaptation still manages to have some of this going on. The first half hour of the movie focuses on the eponymous heroes, but once they journey to Earth, the story becomes more about the mundane Earthlings Julie and Kevin up until the final climatic battle, and then afterward returns to them for the conclusion.
  • The Smurfs Live Action Adaptation has the Smurfs taking refuge with a husband and wife in New York after being teleported there. Pretty much follows this trope to the letter.
  • The title character of Yogi Bear takes a backseat to Ranger Smith, of all people. Yogi and Boo-Boo are all but reduced to walking, talking plot devices, while most of the story focuses on Smith's efforts to save Jellystone Park from being demolished and turned into farmland. Perfect example of this trope played straight.
  • The 1932 film adaptation of The Call of the Wild focuses on the character of Jack Thornton, played by Clark Gable, over Buck the dog. In the book, he only factors into perhaps a third of the plot.
  • Some of the Muppet productions fall under this trope:
    • Played with in The Muppets where the trailer makes it look like a human-focused romantic comedy, only for Kermit the Frog to show up and reveal the real nature of the film. It still technically qualifies for this trope, though; most of the screentime is given to Jason Segel and Amy Adams , although the humans' subplot takes a backseat to the main plot for most of the movie. That said, a concerted effort was made to give the Muppets enough screen time and have them qualify as main characters.
    • Referenced when Jason Segel hosted Saturday Night Live, and The Muppets were upset that they weren't asked to host.
    • In Muppet Treasure Island, the main focus is on Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, played by Tim Curry. Originally the "Jim Hawkins" part was going to be played by Rizo and Gonzo (being named Jim and Hawkins as two characters), before it was decided to make it into a Coming of Age Story with an actual human kid as Jim. And in Muppets Wizard of Oz Ashanti's amount of focus makes The Muppets themselves feel like an afterthought. In this case both are based on stories where the main characters were humans, and the trope is just a side-effect of staying faithful to the story. The more original Muppet outings, however, tend to avert the trope by including major human characters but keeping the focus on Kermit and the gang.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog. The only character from the games other than Sonic, Tails and the Echidnas is Robotnik, who is a human.
  • Zig-zagged in Dr. Who and the Daleks. While now well-established that the Doctor and Susan Foreman were not human, this was only ever implied until 1969. In the films however, Doctor and Susan Who are firmly established as human beings, making the natives of Earth the stars of the show.
  • The theatrical film adaptation of Thomas the Tank Engine, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, is primarily told from the POV of Alec Baldwin, with the engines having precious few scenes where a human isn't nearby. A lot of this can be blamed on the fact that the film is also an adaptation of Shining Time Station[1]and thus its own cast, namely Baldwin's Mr. Conductor, was featured quite prominently.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Given the cost of constantly having a CG Hulk on-screen, The Incredible Hulk, unlike animated Hulk films, focuses more on Bruce Banner. It continued on until Avengers: Endgame.
    • A major complaint about Thor and Thor: The Dark World, the latter in particular, was that Jane Foster and her ilk were given quite a bit more focus than the Asgardian sidecast.


  • While the 2007 Transformers film and its sequels are often mocked for this due to its high visibility, the franchise in general has a long history of it. At least part of this is due to the need for some Audience Surrogates and/or Necessary Weasels to get the plot moving. Though Western Transformers media has taken steps to reduce the human presence, slashing the role of humanity greatly in shows such as Beast Wars, who only had a few guest appearances by a race of stone age anthropoids, Beast Machines, which was set on Cybertron and didn't mention humans, and Transformers: Cyberverse which, barring a kid for three seconds, reduced humanity to The Ghost.
    • The original show was very human focused since the Autobots were learning Earth culture through their human friends and exploration. Also, very few plots were because the Autobots stumbled upon a Decepticon plot, and Teletraan-1 intercepted human communications for possible Decepticon involvement. And until Simon Furman took over writing duties, the Marvel comic also had quite a large human presence, as writer Bob Budiansky considered the most interesting part of bringing Cybertronians to Earth was to have them interact with humans, arguing that there was no point in setting the story on Earth if they didn't.
    • The first half of Transformers Armada was almost more about the humans than about the robots, and Transformers Super God Masterforce takes it Up to Eleven, gradually morphing into a Henshin Hero series as the actual Autobots are displaced by an increasing number of humans in Powered Armor. Admittedly, this can be laid at the feet of a Japanese audience generally preferring mecha piloted by humans rather than fully sentient Mechanical Lifeforms.
    • In the case of the live-action movies, if they didn't have humans as part of the plot and focused more on the Transformers, there would really be no reason to make a live-action adaptation, as opposed to just going all CG. Plus there's the fact that the CGI for every frame with a Cybertronian in it took about twenty-four hours to render and Devastator melted a computer, so it would be pretty much impossible to be more robocentric without setting parts of Hollywood on fire. It got slightly better in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, where (apart from Sam's role in the first act) the Transformers are treated as actual characters rather than plot devices to help Sam get the girl and satisfy his sex drive. Although unhealthy amounts of time are still given to human characters, the main plot definitely focuses on the Transformers and their history (most of the human screentime consists of subplots). Transformers: Age of Extinction mercifully gave the Cybertronians more screentime, though Transformers: The Last Knight leaned into this trope hard, while the Bumblebee reboot dedicated the majority of its running time to showing both Charlie and Bumblebee equally, never allowing the human subplots to steal focus from the Autobot/Decepticon action.
    • Largely averted in the Transformers comics. While the vast majority of comic timelines have humans, they're generally Demoted to Extra once enough basic information is Info Dumped, keeping the action largely on the robots in disguise. The closest time it's played straight is, unavoidably, in crossover comics which naturally feature humans from other franchises as prominently as the Autobots and Decepticons.
    • This trope was lampshaded in the first panel of this VG Cats comic.

 Starring a cast of two-dimensional characters no one cares about! With special guest stars the Transformers.

  • By default, every Digimon adaptation with the sole exception of Digimon X Evolution - though the existence of human Tamers for the Mons was part of the original fluff for the virtual pets, said fluff didn't mention any specific human characters, and the majority of adaptations - most prominently the various anime - tend to focus much more on the interactions and struggles of the humans, relegating their Digimon partners to more of a support role. This is also averted by Digimon Xros Wars where Digimons actually managed to end up being more developed than some of the human cast.


  • Greg Farshtey has stated this as the main reason why LEGO never allowed a theatrical Bionicle movie to be made. They received several pitches for it, and all of them involved human kids somehow ending up in the BIONICLE universe - which is supposed to be a Constructed World in which humans do not and never will exist.

Western Animation

  • A fully animated example is the Tom and Jerry: The Movie, whose title characters take a backseat to a little orphan girl, in a plot that seems like they were trying to remake The Rescuers as a musical with Tom and Jerry thrown in as an afterthought.
  • My Little Pony actually sorta inverts this trope. The original show had a human girl named Megan who helped the ponies in their fight against whatever apocalypse was threatening them at the moment. Most of the later reboots are Slice of Life series that focus solely on the ponies (it might be noted though that even in the original series, while the human girl Megan was nearly always around and involved in the ponies adventures, she was actually very seldom the main character of an episode). So all things considered, the My Little Pony franchise can be said to have largely avoided this trope.
    • Equestria Girls however plays it painfully straight. Most of the cast are humans, even Sunset Shimmer, who was subject to a Humanity Ensues Baleful Polymorph situation by the magic of the portal. Every once in a while you get a short scene in Equestria, but then it's back to the humans, and Legend of Everfree features no Ponies at all (except for Sunset Shimmer). Spring Breakdown downplays this, with a large chunk of the special set in Equestria.
  • Pound Puppies has another similar inversion. The show originally focused on an orphan girl named Holly who helped the eponymous talking dogs, while her Wicked Stepmother served as the main villain. The remake now focuses mostly on the dogs.
  1. An American show created around the four-minute Thomas episodes that required more running time to gain a spot on American TV schedules