No room for African or Indian languages in Disney’s multilingual version of ‘Let It Go’

Images from the Tumblr, “This Could Have Been Frozen”

Images from the Tumblr, “This Could Have Been Frozen”

Disney has released a version of the Oscar-nominated song “Let it Go” from the animated movie Frozen that includes lyrics sung in 25 languages. It sounds global and inclusive, but most of the languages are European.

This is the Epcot World Showcase of songs: a trip around the linguistic world — or at least the one according to Disney.

The song opens with a line in English, followed by French, German and Dutch. That sets the tone.

Seventeen of the languages are European, including some that are not exactly widely spoken — Catalan, for example, and the dialect of Dutch spoken by the Flemish of Belgium. Regular Dutch is also included, as well as Serbian (but not Croatian), Bulgarian and many more.

Danish is represented too — appropriately enough, given that “Frozen” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”

From Asia, there’s Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian and Thai. And from the Americas, Latin American Spanish and Canadian French. (Interestingly, there is no Brazilian Portuguese, or for that matter, British English.)

From Africa there’s … nothing. Not one language. The same goes for South Asia. Between them, these two regions acccount for for more than 3,000 of the world’s languages.

I contacted Disney to ask why they ignored such a huge part of the world. But no one returned my calls and emails. (One Disney representative did say to me as she connected me to a colleague’s voicemail, “Thank you, Sir. And you have a magical day.”)

Disney, of course, has long been criticized for its preference for white-skinned heroines. Before the release of “Frozen,” a Tumblr called This Could Have Been Frozen re-imagined Elsa the Snow Queen as black, Tibetan, Mongolan, Iniut and other ethnicities.

Given that dissatisfaction, the release of this song seems like a missed opportunity. It wouldn’t have taken much to have had “Let it Go” recorded in say, Zulu or Yoruba, and included in the multilingual mash-up.

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  • 3 Comments

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    3 responses to “No room for African or Indian languages in Disney’s multilingual version of ‘Let It Go’

    1. Jane Romey

      It’s only logical that the main character be fair and white, as the story was based on a traditional European tale involving white people. Why would anyone just arbitrarily make her color anything but white? I’m sure that most of the people in traditional African tales and myths are darker and wouldn’t be Given blonde hair and blue eyes.

    2. “It wouldn’t have taken much to have had “Let it Go” recorded in say, Zulu or Yoruba”; do you have any idea what you are asserting? The voice clips in this mashup are taken from some of the official dubs of the movie. For a movie to be dubbed into a certain language, there has to be a market for it. Dubbing is not free. It costs money to hire translators and voice actors. The demand for a dub of “Frozen” in Zulu or Yoruba is obviously not high enough to generate any income, so the movie doesn’t get dubbed into those languages. It’s all very fair and simple. You, on the other hand, are basically trying to claim that racism has something to do with this, and I just… UGH. It’s nothing but ignorant & aggravating when people try to create a conflict out of a non-issue, so please get your facts straight & your head out of your butthole. European dubs bring in money; African dubs don’t. This is not something Disney are making up because they are racist. It’s just reality. PS: Do you honestly think that Disney movies get dubbed into British English?? Like, for real? Do you have a basic grasp of reality???

      • Interestii

        Garfield, you ask if the author of the post has a basic grasp of reality. Yet your comment implies that dubbing this movie in Thai has more potential of making money than dubbing this in Hindi (which is an Indian mainstream language in case you are wondering)! Do you have any idea how popular Disney movies are in India and how many millions they generate?

        Racist or not, the idea to not include an Indian language has to be a deliberate decision from Disney, and this is certainly disappointing.

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