Bookish Musings: Why I Don’t Watch Movie Adaptations of Books

 
 
It seems as though I'm rarely in the majority when it comes to bookish things. Sometimes I feel like my entire blog is like one big unpopular opinion :-P But this opinion especially seems to be the minority of the most minor minority.

I do not watch a movie adaptation after reading a book if I liked the book.

Yes, I know, you're probably gasping at me and clutching your pearls. Everyone (except for the ONE other person I've found who also doesn't watch adaptations) looks at me like I have three heads when I tell them this. After 14 years or so of telling this to people, I'm used to it.

But now is my chance to explain *why* I have made this decision! Of course I have reasons; I always have reasons. And then you can either tell me you feel the same way and we can commiserate on the woes of movie adaptations, or you can tell me why you love them and do watch them, and then we can all understand each other while we sing Kumbaya around the campfire :-)
 

 

It started when the first Harry Potter movie came out. That must’ve been the first movie adaptation I ever saw because I remember being so excited and expecting such perfection… only to realize the movie was wrong. It wasn’t that the movie was bad, it was just different. And I couldn’t handle that. I never re-watched it, never watched another Harry Potter movie, never again, that I can recall, watched a single movie based on a book that I liked.

I understand now that books and movies are completely different forms of media, and you have to think of adaptations as being separate things because what works in a book doesn’t always work on the screen. That’s why they’re called adaptations. But the little (or even big) ways in which books and their movies differ is not actually the problem for me. What I can’t deal with is how the movies differ from what’s in my head.

See, one of the things I love most about reading is creating my own picture in my head. Seeing the movie, or even seeing pictures of the cast, robs me of my own pictures. And once those pictures have been replaced, I can never get them back. Maybe other people are talented enough to keep their images separate from the actors, the sets, etc., but I am not. I will literally cover my computer screen with my hands while scrolling through an article, Pinterest board, Goodreads review, etc. if I have to in order to keep from seeing actors or dream casts. And while other bookworms are dying for their favorite books to become movies, I’m over here thinking that it would be my nightmare if that were to happen to my favorites! If I was a good artist and could draw from my mind, I would draw out every character I like just to make sure I’m able to keep them forever. Hell, I’d draw the settings too, just for good measure ;-)

But oddly enough, the reverse doesn’t apply. I have no issue reading a book after seeing a movie because there’s no picture in my head yet to be robbed of. I do end up picturing the actors most of the time when I read, but at least I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything.

I’ve had a few semi-exceptions recently though. When I started reading The Maze Runner and Divergent series, after being introduced to the characters, I looked up the actors figuring I’d inevitably end up seeing them on the internet anyway. But, for whatever reason, my brain never really pictured Dylan O’Brien as Thomas, and when I saw what Four/Tobias looked like? My brain pretty much just went, “What??? That’s not even remotely what he looks like,” and then it stuck to the original picture it created. So maybe my brain powers are getting stronger?

Regardless of my brain powers though, and regardless of how weird other people think it is, I still plan on sticking to my rule. It’s what makes me happy, and that’s what being a bookworm is all about!

 
 

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What are your thoughts on movie adaptations---love em' or hate 'em?
What are the things you like and dislike about them?

 
 
 
 
 

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    1. Kristen Burns

      I saw the LOTR movies when they first came out and enjoyed them, but I never read the books, so I didn’t have to worry about anything getting ruined for me. Good to know I’m not alone when it comes to not watching movie adaptations :-)

  1. Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing

    To be completely honest, I always complain about all the changes that they did when making movie adaptation comparing to the book. Still I watch them.
    In my opinion, books are always better. But I am not oppose to watching adaptations (even though noone wants to watch with me because I always point out all changes LOL).
    The ONLY movie adaptation that I watched after reading book that I loved and can tell that it is equallyy good (if not better) as book is Lord of the Rings trilogy.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha if I did watch them, I’d probably point out all the differences too :-P But I kind of have fun noticing the differences those times when I see the movie first and then read the book. I do think there are some movies that are better or at least equal to their books though. Big Fish and The Notebook are both better movies than books, in my opinion, and Interview With the Vampire is about equally as good as the book. But I did happen to see all those movies before reading the books, so maybe that affected my opinion? I’ve never read LOTR though.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Yeah but wouldn’t it be great if you ended up finding another fantastic book?! Or maybe you’ll just end up loving both! I doubt you’ll like The Notebook book version better though. I felt like it didn’t even have a plot and half consisted of letters. So you’re just better off not reading it for that reason. I honestly don’t remember Interview very well since I read it… over ten years ago? (That just made me feel old and I’m only 24 lol.) But I know it never made me stop loving the movie. If I recall correctly, the movie and book were actually pretty similar, so that’s a plus. But I don’t wanna tell you to read it and then be the one responsible if you end up hating the movie, haha.

  2. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    Ooo I’m learning so much about you Kristen! I agree that it’s hard not to have the movie actors portrayal replace your own idea of what the characters look like.

    I can’t stop the curiosity in me. I want to see how others envision a movie. And I especially can’t wait to hear the music they use .

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha yes, all my weird quirks and whatnot. I can understand curiosity. If I had a way to keep my own images separate, it actually would be fun to see how other envision books, how different it is from what I picture. I will concede that the movies do sometimes have good soundtracks though :-P

  3. Jen @ Books That Hook

    Sometimes I complain about the changes, especially if they cut out important scenes or characters, but I don’t mind if it doesn’t match up to the picture I had in my head. I guess part of the reason it doesn’t bother me is because half of the time they don’t stick to the author’s descriptions anyway. For example, Tris was supposed to be really small and child-like. She doesn’t look like that at all in the movie. And her character is braver in the movie, which I don’t mind because it made it more interesting. They even changed who did what at certain times in the story. So, I treat the movie and the book as separate in my mind.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think you kind of have to treat them as separate things in your head, but it’s still too hard for me to keep the visuals separate. But yeah, leaving out or changing big, important things is aggravating. I remember I saw Queen of the Damned before I read the books, and when I did read them I realized it only says about 7000 times how blonde Lestat’s hair is, it’s like his most defining physical aspect… and the movie made him a brunette, but even worse was that they COMPLETELY changed the whole ending and made it less climactic and really rather lame. It still aggravates me, and I haven’t read or seen these in at least 8 years lol.

  4. Daniela Ark

    I totally understand how your three heads feel about this :):):)
    Most people create an image of the settings, characters etc. in their mind. So, all three of you are not alone :)
    I rarely get a specific picture of the book in my mind [statement that causes people to look at ME like I have three heads LOL] so I can handle the movie adaptations. I actually LOVE them :).
    What I would dislike is the plot/story arc being altered.
    I usually don’t want to read the book after I watch the movie! how is that for opposites! :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Hahaha my three heads are glad you understand :-P

      No, I totally understand what you’re saying because sometimes characters are vague blobs in my head too, but other times they’re super vivid. And I think my brain is actually getting better at picturing things and making things less blobby.

      I mean, my preference it to just read the book, but the times when I see the movie first it’s pretty much always because I either didn’t know the book existed or just wasn’t interested until I saw the movie, so then I go read the book afterward :-) But yes, apparently we are opposites on this lol.

  5. Aditi

    Oh man! I LOVE reading the books first, it’s pretty amazing, and I’ve done it with everything except for The Hunger Games because EVERYBODY told me that Mockingjay was a really badly written book, so I just waited FIVE YEARS to see all of the movies instead.

    I get that they’re never just right (I mean TFIOS was there, but still not) (I was YELLING about how they changed the order of a few scenes while everybody else was crying. )

    So. No strong opinions really, but I guess it depends on the book/ movie!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha oh no, that’s funny that you were too upset about the differences to even be sad about the movie. But that’s kinda funny, Hunger Games was one of the movies I watched before reading the books. I actually hadn’t planned to read them, but after watching two or three of the movies, I was so damn confused about what was going on that I figured maybe the books would help. So then I read the books and just never ended up seeing the last film lol. But that makes sense that it depends on the book/movie for you :-)

  6. Greg

    I get this, even though I do watch adaptations. It’s one reason why I was leery of the Lord of the Rings movies- I did think they were pretty good (mostly) but I was afraid if I ever reread the books again i would have THOSE actors and places in my mind, and I preferred my own thank you very much. :) So yeah… although I’m happy to report that when I do read parts of those books (or others) I do seem to still imagine them the way I always have. I’m glad about that! As for the Divergent series, on the other hand, I saw the movie first so when I read it I did sorta imagine Tris and Four as the actors who play them. I kinda hate that so prefer to read the book first…

    Game of thrones is another one. I’ve been rereading those and I did NOT want to imagine the actors because I don’t think the show is even remotely as good as the books (lots of people love it, I know). The show does a lot of great things but most of the characters are not how I imagine them.

    The big issue for me is deviations from the book, but I guess that’s a separate topic. :)

    Greg recently posted: The 100

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s great that you managed to keep your images for LOTR! You’re more talented than I lol. I guess forming my own images and then briefly just checking out the actors works pretty well for me because that way I don’t really lose anything (since I’m not too attached), or my brain clings onto its image because a brief glimpse is a lot easier to overcome than watching an entire movie or three. But with books I’ve already read I’m super careful. I hate that I’ve accidentally seen a photo of Lupin from HP because he’s my favorite, but he looks completely different to me so I’ve managed to keep my image pretty well thus far.

      I get why deviations from the book would bother you, and it’s totally the same topic! I just didn’t go into that because it’s not what bothers *me* the most. But maybe it’s less upsetting to me since I always do the movie-first, book-second thing.

  7. Sara

    I’m not a big movie watcher to begin with, and thinking back I’ve only watched a few book adaptations. Most were pretty awful (I don’t even know what the Maze Runner movie was-it made no sense to me!). But, there are a few that have been really good, like the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies :) In those cases I think the movies were actually better than the books because they cut out a lot of filler the books had that dragged them down a bit!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Honestly, I’m not a big movie person either. I literally haven’t been to a movie theater in probably… 6-7 years? And I don’t have Netflix or any subscription service. I just rarely connect to movies the way I do with books. Lol I didn’t see the Maze Runner movie so I don’t know how confusing it was, but I actually enjoyed the book series. I felt that way about The Hunger Games though. I literally decided to read the books because I had no clue what was happening in the movies and thought maybe the books would clarify better. I haven’t read LOTR, but I enjoyed the movies, so I will take your word for it that they were better (and other people seem to have the same opinion about them being at least as good) :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha I would definitely also criticize and regret too if I watched them. Remakes are the worst! Most of the time anyway. Ugh, I heard recently they’re remaking Rocky Horror, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but that’s just a crime in my opinion!

  8. Megan

    I definitely understand all that. It’s hard to hold on to anything you’ve lost once you see the movie. My brain is weird and it just chooses to ignore things it doesn’t like. In my head, vampires never sparkled in Twilight because my brain was like ew that’s weird no way. I mean, they did but I just decided it was irrelevant so I never bothered to picture it. So even when I watch the movie, I completely just ignore the parts where they sparkle. Lol.

    I understand where you’re coming from, but also I feel like sometimes the movies can be different but better.. And it sucks that you don’t get that differing medium to enjoy a similar story. ( but we all know it’s rare)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Your brain is far more talented than mine! It’s fairly easy for me to not picture something in my head if I really don’t want to, but I can’t do the same with movies and usually can’t forget what I’ve seen once I’ve seen it.

      I get what you’re saying. I agree that sometimes the movies are better. At the very least, they might just be different but still good and provide a new experience or perspective to the story. I *would* watch them if I could without ruining my images, but I just can’t!

  9. Bookworm Brandee

    Awesome topic! I am one of those readers who, at one time, did go to movie adaptations but ONLY after having read the book. And I always did it after having read the book because, let’s face it, THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER. There are a few adaptations that I feel did the book justice – A&E’s Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth YUM!) and Silence of the Lambs come to mind. However, in recent years I’ve been so let down. I *know* nothing’s going to compare to how I envisioned everything in my head and I *know* they’re going to skip parts that I considered important and I’m *STILL* let down. So I’m picky now. I see very few. I took my older daughter to see The Spiderwick Chronicles (a long time ago) because she loved the series. She hated the movie and told me, all through it, “that didn’t happen”, “they changed that”, and “they SKIPPED an entire book!” (I think she was 8) So she’s like you – won’t see an adaptation no matter what. One thing that I think really applies to books vs movies – at least for my kids – when you’re reading, your mind only conjures what you can handle. So if there’s something scary or gory – you picture images that you can handle. In a movie, it’s the director’s interpretation and it’s in your face and it can cause a very different reaction.
    I love your discussion topics, Kristen! :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay your daughter is like me which means I’m not alone! Lol. I can definitely understand you still watching them but being picky though.

      Oh my gosh, YES to the brain only conjuring what you can handle thing. I can read some gory, gruesome crap, but in movies or shows I literally have to look away if someone so much as makes a shallow cut on his arm, haha. I’m just able to kind of tone down the vividness in my mind or not focus too much on certain things. Same for scary/creepy things. I cannot do scary movies. But I can handle a lot more scariness and creepiness in books, probably because there’s no building of background music or things jumping out at me (I startle easily, although have you read The Scorch Trials? Because one part in that book actually did jump out at me and startle me!). Thank you, I’m glad you like my topics :-)

  10. Lola

    I remember when we talked about this in the comments of my blog, so you probably already know that I totally agree with you on this point! I also watched the Harry Potter movies and I still remember pointing out everything that was wrong or not as the book. The movies are great, but they did forever ruined my image of the characters and things I had my head before seeing the movies. And since then I haven’t watched many movie adaptions anymore. I think that’s the part I hate most about watching a movie adaption losing my own image, if I would get my own imagine back after watching the movie I might consider watching them. When the movie for Vampire Academy came out I tried my best to avoid images of the actors, but I am not sure if I have been fully successful as now the first image that pops into my mind is the movie pictures I’ve seen online. I hate that.

    And yes if I was a good artist I would love to draw out how the characters actually look. I recently read the Amanda Lester series where the characters are drawn on the cover and my image is pretty close to the image there, so the cover can shape my image sometimes,but I also think the cover artist just did a great job there. And I might actually like watching the movie first better as that way my imagine in my head shows parts of the movie. i read the first star wars book after watching the movies and it was quite an unique experience. And indeed at least it doesn’t feel like I lost something. I might not create my own image, but that’s okay. That’s awesome when you can keep your own picture after seeing the movie picture, I’ve found that sometimes it works, but not always. I wonder why and on what that depends. Great post and topic :). It’s so awesome to have found someone who agrees with me on this topic.

    1. Kristen Burns

      You are the one person who also doesn’t watch adaptation whom I was referring to, so I definitely remember our conversation! Apparently Brandee’s daughter is also like us, so that now makes three people in the world lol. When characters are on the cover, if it’s original artwork made specifically to look like the character (not just a stock photo), I actually like that and am happy to use that image in my head. It’s like watching the movie first except better since it’s original and not an actor. At least, if it’s on the cover of the first book. But if I make my own image then suddenly the character is shows on the third cover, that would make me angry.

      Not sure why I was able to keep my image for those either. Maybe because I simply glanced at a photo instead of watching the actors portray the character throughout a whole movie? Also maybe because my image was soooo different, or maybe my image was just super clear. I don’t know, I wonder too. But we definitely agree on this topic!

  11. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I don’t picture the characters or scenes specifically enough for this to be a problem for me, but I can definitely see how it might be. I’m nervous for the Unwind movie because it’s probably my favorite book of all time – but I’m definitely curious to see what they do with it!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: February Recap

    1. Kristen Burns

      I guess I picture character pretty well, at least some of them. And those really vivid ones I especially wouldn’t want to lose! I can understand why you’d be nervous for your favorite book! But I’d also be curious if my favorites were being made into movies (even though I still wouldn’t watch them lol).

  12. Joan @ Fiddler Blue

    WOW that is quite an unpopular opinion, Kristen. The reverse is true with me: I don’t read a book once I’ve seen the movie, so I try to read the book first as much as possible. Though my problem with it mostly stems from spoilers, and though they are different experiences they will still boil down to having the same plot and ending. This is actually killing me right now because Game of Thrones the TV series will jump ahead of the books *pulls hair while sobbing*, but since GRRM said things will happen differently in the book I felt relieved that I could continue. :)
    Watching book adaptations always end up a miss for me too, but I still keep on watching lol.

    1. Kristen Burns

      So you’d rather have spoilers for the movie than the book? I can understand that if books have more weight to you. I guess I don’t have that issue though since I do read books after movies sometimes. It’s kind of like rereading I suppose in that I can still feel the emotion and all that even if I somewhat know what will happen, and I kind of have fun spotting the differences! Glad the GoT thing is working out for you though :-) And its seems like everyone ends up disappointed by movie adaptations but still keeps watching them anyway, so you’re not alone lol.

  13. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    I feel the same way about having unpopular opinions!! And I feel the same way about imagining my favorite books being made into movies… but sort of for a different reason. My reason is that I don’t want to share the awesomeness of my books with the general public. Once books get made into movies, they become real-life popular and not just popular among people who read. And I like having these special characters out of pop culture…. because I’m selfish like that.

    I have had a lot of the opposite problem as you. I see a movie first, then when I read the book, I’m like MEH. It was that way with Silver Linings Playbook, Girl Interrupted, American Psycho.

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books recently posted: New YA Book Releases For The Week Of 2/28

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha I love you reason. I sometimes feel that way about the books I love, but just if they were to become popular books. Like, I want them to be popular for the author’s sake since they deserve it, but, at the same time, I kind of want them to be mine and don’t want to share either lol.

      I’ve had that movie first, book second problem a couple times, but I honestly don’t think I would’ve liked those books anyway, so I don’t think it was seeing the movie that made it an issue.

  14. Nicola

    Hahaha, I have that same problem with my mental images being superseded by the movie ones (except, strangely, my head!Hermione looks nothing like Emma Watson, and hasn’t for 17 years). It doesn’t bother me, though, because I don’t tend to have particularly strong mental images of any characters or settings, so I don’t really feel like I’ve lost anything.

    Nicola recently posted: Equality in Worldbuilding

    1. Kristen Burns

      That is weird that Hermione stayed the same for you! But also awesome. I never thought I particularly great at picturing characters, but a lot of people have said the same thing, and it’s made me really think about this lol. I guess I do picture some characters really vividly, but even ones I picture a little more vaguely I wouldn’t want to lose!

      1. Nicola

        Maybe I had a better imagination when I was 9 ;)

        I’ve spoken to some people who also struggle to picture characters, but then there’s my critique partner, who’s also a visual artist. She goes into so much detail describing people that my brain just rebels and goes, “Nyuh uh.” And on the flip side she’s always telling me to describe things in more detail and asking what they look like and I’m just like, “…faces?”

        1. Kristen Burns

          Hahaha your last line made me laugh out loud. I mean, I don’t picture characters so clearly that I can describe the shape of their nose and how big their bottom lip is and all that. But, to be fair, I can’t describe that about people I’ve known in person my entire life either lol. I just… know what they look like, you know?

  15. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    This actually makes a lot of sense. If I know I’m going to watch a film or TV series based on a book I want to read I will avoid that film or TV series until I’ve read it otherwise I inevitably picture the actors in the roles and don’t get the same experience. I do still watch them, though. Some I’ve avoided, I’ve not seen Maze Runner mostly because the first book was alright but the series just didn’t appeal to me. I haven’t seen past the first Divergent film because I didn’t like it and the books got progressively work. I’ve not seen The Fault in Our Stars or If I Stay because I don’t want to be a weepy mess. There are lots of reasons for me avoiding them so I can understand why you don’t watch them. It’s each to their own, right? I like to compare the book and the film, but only if I’ve read the book first. I’m strangely specific in that way.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can definitely understand all those reasons for avoiding them. It makes sense not to want to see the movie if you didn’t care for the book, and I also have not seen or read TFIOS because I think it’d just make me too sad. But to each his own is basically my life philosophy lol. And plenty of people like to read the book first, so you’re not alone :-P

  16. Karen Blue

    I can also read a book after the watching the movie, but ONLY if I love the movie. I didn’t really enjoy The Maze Runner, so reading the book was impossible. On the other hand I love Divergent, so reading the book was easy for me after I saw the movie. I do watch movies after I read the book, if only to say “The Book Was Better!”. I usually find myself happy with the movie adaptation, usually. I always hope someone will love the movie enough to pick up the book, and maybe spark a love of books.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book after disliking a movie either. I would just feel like I was torturing myself to relive a terrible story all over again lol. I think you’re unique in being happy with the movie adaptations though, everyone seems to watch them but always end up being unhappy with them! But you do make a good point about how the movies garner interest in books for people who might not have otherwise tried them :-)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think a lot of people feel the same way, and even with the movies I’ve watched before reading the books, I felt that some of them were clearly not as good while others were amazing, so I get it! Thanks :-)

  17. Veronika

    I understand your decision 1000%! That said I watch ALL the adaptations of the books I’ve read, sometimes even when I didn’t enjoy the book all that much to begin with lol. I’m not one of those people who have a full thought out picture of the characters – I’m seriously jealous of those who can make up all those cool ‘dream casts’ -, so it doesn’t bother me THAT much if they’re different from their description. Sure, some adaptations end up being a disappointment, but in those cases it’s more about the movie being… not that good. However, I find that I usually enjoy adaptations, as I’m watching them with extremely low expectations.
    Wonderful post! :)

    Veronika recently posted: Time for a Hiatus

    1. Kristen Burns

      Haha so we’re opposites! I never make dream casts myself since that would still be ruining the picture in my head, but I do admit to sometimes, when I’m having trouble picturing a character, heading to Pinterest for inspiration. Sometimes I’ll even be like, “Ok, he’s gonna have this guy’s hair, this guy’s jaw, but a softer look like this guy’s face…” lol. I really do love picturing characters as clear as possible in my mind. But I’m glad you enjoy the movie adaptations :-)

  18. Alexa @ The Words Off the Page

    I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s always hard with things coming to life because it’s always someone else’s view and most likely they’re not the same as yours–but I kind of thrive on that. I love seeing how people interpret things differently. Maybe this is because I’m in theatre, but it’s just something I love seeing. Most of the time I get angry if adaptations get huge story plot lines wrong and warp them in some way. Anything aesthetic I don’t have much of an issue with. It’s the writing I usually have problems with.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I do get what you’re saying, it’s definitely fun seeing different interpretations of things… but I just can’t do it with books because they mean too much to me and it’s too easy to lose my own image. Different interpretations of movies, plays, etc. are enjoyable to me though. I suppose something like retellings are also a different interpretation of stories and I love those, but since they’re all still written words it works for me!

  19. Caitlin @ Words and Other Beasts

    Great discussion! I definitely agree that sometimes you’ll have such a strong picture of a character in your head and then when you see that character on screen it’s devastating if they don’t look like you imagined. I remember reading the Inkheart series when I was younger and they were eventually made into films. For some reason, I liked the character of Basta even though he wasn’t a nice guy, and I was excited to see his portrayal on screen because I loved those books as a kid. I’d imagined him as like a cocky twenty-something guy, and then I saw him on screen and he was a fat middle-aged man with awful facial hair and I just felt destroyed. It totally ruined the film for me. That will always annoy me! However, that’s only the really bad experience I’ve had. Otherwise, I really like seeing film or TV adaptations as I’m really into film, and it’s cool to see other versions of something. But I totally understand why you choose not to watch these adaptations. And I agree, Four looked nothing like I’d imagined him in the movie! It was so wrong!

    Caitlin @ Words and Other Beasts recently posted: Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh wow that sounds like a really unfortunate experience you had but also kind of funny lol. And I’m glad it’s not just me who pictured Four differently! But yeah, I can see why it’d be cool to see how what you pictured is brought to life, but I still like my own pictures better!