Disney and the Magic of Localisation

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Content Strategy, Translation & Localisation

Most people hearing the words “magic” or “dream” will think about Disney. There is no need to say what an incredible job Disney does at creating, communicating, branding, and marketing its products. Disney is a multinational mass media end entertainment company founded on October 16, 1923, by brothers Walt and Roy O. Disney. Its mission “is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company”.

In order to be successful worldwide, Disney has a localisation strategy that includes having departments in different countries that help in better adapting scripts to various cultures.

What is localisation?

The main goal of both localisation and translation is to make content accessible in a language other than it was originally created in. While translation focuses on the words and their meaning, localisation ensures that that same meaning will be understandable in another context. This implies that also images, logos, colors, format etc are taken into consideration. Most important, localisation ensures that different targets of people will have the same reaction to the content, whether they are in the USA or China.  

Localisation is key to Disney’s success

Disney songs, for example, are well known across all cultures and languages. This is thanks to the job done by their localisation and translation teams. 

When it comes to songs, it is impossible to focus only on their translation. In fact, the songs need to convey the same meaning to the target audience while being culturally appropriate. A word-by-word translation would not be acceptable. This gives the translators a great dose of freedom in terms of transcreation. Nevertheless, they also have great responsibility. This is because in Disney movies songs tell a story, express an emotion and are clue to understanding the plot. For this reason professionals need to put great attention and perform deep research.

For example, the phrase “a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view” from Aladdin is localized to:

  • “Il mondo è mio, è sorprendente accanto a te” in Italian, which means “the World is mine, it is surprising next to you”
  • “新的世界,奇妙的新视角” in Chinese, which means “a new world, a wonderful new perspective”;
  • “大空 雲は美しく” in Japanese, which means “sky is large, cloud is beautiful”;
  • “โลกใหม่สวยงาม ตื่นตาเร้าใจกว่าที่เคยมอง” in Thai, which means “a new beautiful world, it’s more dazzling and exciting than it used to be”.

Disney is an incredible example of how a well done localisation job can have a huge impact.

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