Saturday, 25 January 2014

The many languages of Disney

I'm writing a piece at the moment on language policy and audiovisual translation, so I was interested to see this video doing the rounds on social media, featuring a twenty-five-language version of the song 'Let It Go' from the film Frozen:

It is a nice idea, even if it feels a little plastic (e.g. in the uncanny voice matching; or has this just been very carefully remixed for marketing purposes?). (And don't get me started on the costume/gender side of things - spontaneously slashing the dress halfway up the thigh as an empowering gesture? Really? Sigh.)

For the curious who lack the three and a half minutes necessary to watch the clip, the languages involved are: English, French from France, German, Dutch, Mandarin, Swedish, Japanese, Latin American Spanish (interestingly), Polish, Hungarian, Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Korean, Serbian, Cantonese, Portuguese, Bahasa Malaysia, Russian, Danish, Bulgarian, Norwegian, Thai, Canadian French and Flemish.

I find myself wondering is this really all the languages into which the film has been dubbed, or just a useful round number which fitted into the running time of the song? Will this film be released only with subtitles in Greek, Czech, Slovenian, etc.? (I guess very possibly, because some of these are traditionally subtitling territories; readers please feel free to confirm or deny). Or will it skip some of these territories entirely? In what languages, if any, will this film play in India? In Africa? What form(s) of translation might it have into Arabic? Enquiring minds want to know.

UPDATE 1 June 2014: There's been a lot more discussion of this online since I posted this, which answers some of the questions above. Jayne Fox kindly posted a link in the comments to this article confirming that the film had been localised in 41 languages.

There's an excellent post by Elias Muhanna on the New Yorker blog this week about the treatment of the film in Arabic - it turns out that there is only one dub and it's into Modern Standard Arabic rather than the more usual Egyptian Arabic. Muhanna gives some nice back-translations into English of what the characters can actually be considered to be singing. The comments are worth reading too.

Muhanna also links to a Youtube fan video which offers snatches of the film in English, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Canadian French, Cantonese, Castilian Spanish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Lithuanian, Malay, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.

I make that 39 languages. Modern Standard Arabic is not included, and apparently there's a Filipino cover of 'Frozen' as well which may mean the film was localised there too. The question of India and the rest of Africa still seems to be an open one.

UPDATE 29 August 2016: The article on audiovisual subtitling research and policy that I was writing when I originally posted this is now out and can be found in the journal Target (paywalled, alas) at


Jayne Fox said...

Your questions about localising Frozen caught my interest. Here are some answers:

sunny south coast said...

Thanks for this, Jayne! Very interesting. :) I'm off to look for the full list of 41...