It’s not always easy having an incredibly diverse audience. Here’s a look at some of Disney most magical localisation efforts to date.
Have you ever considered how blooming difficult it must be to localise a Disney movie so that it makes sense and is still good, clean family fun all over the world? You haven’t, have you?
Making Snow White attractive to Hondurans and giving Aladdin street cred in Mongolia isn’t just about translating everything they say word for word using local voice artist actors. Take those all-important songs, for example. Each one has to continue to work with the rhythm and the overall story while appealing to wildly different cultures.
Then you need to think about the broccoli, the ice hockey and the porn stars. Hang on a second, I might be getting ahead of myself here so let’s start at the beginning. Once upon a time…
“Let It Go” Gets 41 International Versions
Who didn’t love the stirring “Let It Go?” No, that’s not a tear in my eye, I am just, err, cutting onions while I type. Interestingly, for the worldwide release of Frozen this modern classic was re-recorded as 41 different international versions.
For instance, in Spanish there are 3 different official versions. While one version is directly translated as “Suéltalo”, there has been some creative freedom used with the one called “Libre Soy” and targeted at Latin American audiences.
This translates as “I am Free” and it actually works far better than the directly translated version. In fact, as someone who has unashamedly belted out both versions very loudly in the shower I can say that I definitely prefer the lyrics of “Libre Soy” to the English original. So do my neighbours, I hope.
In each of these cases, a young and well-known local pop star did the voice over recording and also sang the song, making it even more appealing to the pre-pubescent public.
Moana – Not to be Confused with the Porn Star
Moana is a great name for a Disney heroine, isn’t it? Apparently, it means “ocean” or “open sea” in Hawaiian, which is just fantastic for the theme of the film.
There was just one problem in Italy, though: Moana Pozzi. If you aren’t familiar with his lady’s career portfolio then it would seem that you aren’t a huge fan of 80’s Italian porn movies and that even her Love Party of Italy political career passed you by without you noticing.
However, surveys revealed that the Italian public automatically associate this name more with “open-minded, consenting adults” than “open sea”, and more with “oceans of raging nudity” than “oceans of water”.
Ironically, it seems that the actress’ parents gave her a name based on the Hawaiian word before Disney had even realised that the world wanted a Hawaiian Princess movie.
Anyway, Moana was changed to Vaiana in some European countries where Pozzi’s starring roles are well-known, with Oceania being the inoffensive name given to it in Italy.
Do You Hate Broccoli or Green Peppers?
If you saw the movie Inside Out then you may remember the scene in which young Riley doesn’t want to eat broccoli for her dinner. Who can blame the little tyke?
This scene makes a lot of sense, as who doesn’t hate broccoli more than any other food on the planet? The Japanese, that’s who.
In the Land of the Rising Sun, this part of the movie was changed so that it was green peppers that the girl didn’t want to touch. Apparently the Japanese hate green peppers with the kind of passion that most of us reserve for, well, flaming broccoli.
At another point in the film they also made a character’s hands move from right to left when reading a sign, to appear natural in those cultures where people read in this direction. Little touches like this are vital in localisation of any movie.
High School Musical in Chinese
The High School Musical movies were a bigger hit in China than you imagined. Well, assuming that you have ever spent any time idly imagining how successful these films were with Shanghai and Shenzhen audiences and guessed “not very”.
The biggest part of the localisation attempt here was with new songs sung by local actors. Rather than just using Chinese voice actors to dub over the original with an audio translation they made everything from scratch with the Chinese audience in mind.
However, Disney also made changes to a lot of the themes and context, even going as far as to consider replacing the movie’s basketball scenes with kung fu. A better idea was the change of the high school jock from the US version to more of an intellectual character with a penchant for poetry.
Monsters University: Hockey or Football
Did you see the trailer for Monsters University? If you did then whether you saw ice hockey or football in it tells us where you saw it.
The original movie trailer features an ice hockey game, which makes sense due to where it was set. However, the big cheeses at Disney decided to make the UK trailer show a jolly good game of footie instead.
They then decided to use football in the trailers for other regions too, since it is more universally popular than ice hockey. As with all of these changes we have looked at, it was pretty seamless and if you only ever saw one version then you would have no idea what had been changed.
The next time you are abroad why not pop in to a cinema to watch a Disney movie? You might get a surprise with what you see in terms of localisation.