Warped Reflections in an Icy Mirror

Disney's animated Frozen has just hit the American theaters at this writing. The Japanese opening is still some three months away, but comparing the American and Japanese movie trailers shows some interesting cultural differences.

One is the overall thrust of the trailer. You can tell the difference even if you don't understand English or Japanese. The American trailer plays up the humorous angle, while the Japanese plays up the adventure and romance angles. Both of these are misleading in their own ways, but the Japanese trailer seems to come close to the true spirit of the movie. The difference in emphasis is consistent with what I have said earlier about the American penchant for irony versus Japanese earnestness.

Or then again, the difference may represent a difference in marketing strategy. Perhaps in America it is expected that kids will dictate the movies the family sees, whereas in Japan the parents choose (I merely speculate). This latter seems even more likely when you consider the printed text of the Japanese trailer:

 ディズニーの映画の (Of Disney movies...)

歴史が変わる (...history is changing...)

Very dramatic, but this hardly seems calculated to appeal to the little tykes.

There is more to be seen than just a difference in marketing. The very titles of the movies are significantly different. In English it is simply Frozen, whereas in Japanese it becomes the more conventional アナと雪の女王 (Anna and the Ice Queen).

There is also a particular line of dialog that coincidentally appears in both trailers. The Japanese translation is slightly off. In English it comes around the 1:39 mark:

That's no blizzard, that's my sister!

The Japanese version comes around the 0:39 mark:

Tada no fubuki ja nai! Nē-san no mahō yo! Literally: That's no ordinary blizzard! That's my sister's magic! (Italics mine)

The Japanese version inserts a couple of extra words. To me the effect is to make the Japanese seem serviceable, but dumbed down and unimaginative. I'm not sure why it was done this way. Perhaps Japanese people just don't get metonymy?