The Same… but Different



The Same… but Different

I recently got to seeing Inside Out with the family, and we all absolutely loved it. There is definitely more than a little truth to my belief that Pixar can do no wrong. While someone in the audience behind me complained that it didn’t have the emotional punch of other Pixar efforts, and another viewer said it wasn’t as funny as others, I didn’t see any problems with it in that vein. In fact, I would suggest that it is their most “mature” feature to date. While all their films work on that kid/adult level, Inside Out, perhaps takes it a stage further, exploring more “adult” themes while addressing the issues of Riley growing up and changing as she gets older. I can’t recommend it enough.

However, that isn’t what it inspired me to write about.

What it got me thinking about, or has had me thinking about ever since it I first heard about the film, is the old UK Comicstrip the Numskulls which followed the adventures of a group of tiny men living inside a man’s head, controlling his actions.

I’m not saying that the PIXAR team were necessarily inspired by or plagiarised this comicstrip, I am simply recognising that the concept behind Inside Out is not wholly original. For example, the idea can be seen in Meet Dave and I am sure there are many other films/TV shows that also use the device. I am pretty sure one of the Men in Black films involved a tiny alien controlling a character from inside his head.

What it made me think about was some screenwriting advice that I heard early on when I started out writing.

“Give us the same, but different.”

Many may argue that there are no original ideas, and no one is going to argue that the idea of little people inside your head, controlling you is on original concept. However, what PIXAR has done is take an existing concept and give us a different take on it.

The same…. but different.

And they aren’t the only ones:

Dante’s PeakVolcano

ArmageddonDeep Impact

The DoubleEnemy

are all examples of films, released at similar times, that deal with very similar themes and stories, but are delivered in different ways, focusing on different aspects of their stories. Just because Armageddon and Deep Impact have dealt with asteroids, does that mean there is no room for another story involving such a threat? No, it doesn’t, it just means you have to think harder about how you would deal with such a story.  We just need something different.

And that is what PIXAR gave us with Inside Out; a new take on an old theme – and done in such a great way as to not care if the concept has been dealt with previously – they just wanted to give us a great story. Which they did.

So, while some genres may have been done to death (literally) with  Zombies and Vampires or be getting a little tired (found-footage) there is always room for a new story covering old ground if you can do it in new and interesting ways. Chronicle did this with found-footage and Warm Bodies for zombies – they both looked for a slightly different angle, and made the most of it.

So if you are struggling for what you think is an original concept, or find that you like writing about subjects that are perennial favourites, don’t worry, there is always a way, just think outside the box and give us the same, only different!

Do you mind seeing multiple takes on similar concepts?

What stories, that have been told many time before, do you think could stand another retelling?



Posted on August 26, 2015, in Structure, theme, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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