What if I were to tell you what is thought of by many as M. Night Shyamalan's best film, The Sixth Sense, originated from one of the most unexpected pieces of source material that you could possibly imagine? You might not have realized this, but one of the top 100 highest grossing films of all time and a nominee for six Oscars, The Sixth Sense was actually based on a Nickelodeon show that most millennials probably remember.
That show? Are You Afraid of the Dark. Yeah, it was actually kind of unclear how such a scary show was given a spot on a kids' channel. But it was. And apparently Shyamalan was watching... researching... and observing what kind of stuff they were doing on the show. Specifically, the episode 'The Tale of the Dream Girl.' The story inspired the movie, and it was incredibly similar.
I guess I can't knock the hustle, M. Night. I see you...
So, just like The Sixth Sense, 'The Tale of the Dream Girl' had a character similar to Haley Joel Osment's who went by the name of Johnny Angelli. He too could communicate with the dead. In the short episode (because, let's face it... kids have short attention spans), at first it seems like Johnny is being stalked by a girl who is way out of his league.
He has a strange inclination that she's dead and is also going through all sorts of drama with everything in his life and with his family. He has a ring he can't get off his finger, nobody seems to recognize him at work, and his mother is very upset with how he's acting.
It's only Johnny's sister who believes in him. She's who he confides in and there ends up being a dramatic scene with the ring and a intense twist of sorts... she's dead! She fills the place of Bruce Willis' character in M. Night's adaptation.
M. Night Shyamalan went on to get numerous projects, but he never was able to harness the creative energy necessary to come through with a classic like The Sixth Sense. Maybe he should've spent more time watching Nick at Nite re-runs of Are You Afraid of the Dark. He could've benefitted from a little more research.
The funny thing is that he was nominated for Best Original Screenplay by The Academy. It's not to say he didn't deviate a considerable amount from the AYAOTD episode, but he certainly kept all the main bits. I wouldn't accuse him of stealing any ideas, but borrowing? Perhaps.
I can't be overly upset, because he took a half-hour kids' show episode and turned it into a classic film. Regardless, that takes talent. And it creeped me out considerably. I had nightmares for a few weeks after seeing it when I was a kid and I didn't scare easy back in the day. So, M. Night, I understand totally. You saw a great episode and did what you had to do. Respect. Love the movie.