Content changes: new ways of market expansion

Noodles or burgers? Such a little and unimportant item can change general perception of movie, where it appears. Similarly, witty joke can lose its meaning for audience from different part of world. Moreover, it may be offensive. All depends on cultural references, which every nation has. These cultural references are even more important for children, who have less experience in dealing with other cultures. So, issue of adaptation is extremely valuable for cartoons, which are aimed primarily at children.

Noodles or burgers? Such a little and unimportant item can change general perception of movie, where it appears. Similarly, witty joke can lose its meaning for audience from different part of world. Moreover, it may be offensive. All depends on cultural references, which every nation has. These cultural references are even more important for children, who have less experience in dealing with other cultures. So, issue of adaptation is extremely valuable for cartoons, which are aimed primarily at children.

First, idea of cultural adaptation was realized by comics publishers in 70-s, when American comics giants tried to conquer new markets. Much later, in 2015, cultural references found their use in animated cartoons. The latest example is Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out.

Pete Docter, director of cartoon, mentioned there are 28 graphics changed for foreign audiences.

An example of “Inside Out” adaptation:

All these substituted shots are background and have no affection to the plot. Though they still have a great meaning in earning trust of new markets.

While Pixar try to gain credence via such new models, other Disney products use proven approaches. One of such techniques is attraction of foreign audiences with local celebrities. For European children, who unlikely to play baseball more than twice in their lives, names of famous American baseball players tell nothing. Therefore, directors of popular animated series use instead of them worldwide known people or even celebrities from other parts of the world. Popular animated series “Phineas and Ferb” used cameo voices of British stars like David Beckham and Jamie Oliver. Such approach helps to attract new audiences without extra efforts. Still, it leaves many regions overboard.

The Simpsons
International version

The Simpsons
Arab version

The Simpsons
African version

Sometimes directors try to re-create cartoons almost completely. Despite of large amount of extra expenses, it still may be a justified decision for the most popular series. The greatest example of such full adaptation is American animated series “The Simpsons”, which held first places in different ratings for decades. While expanding the coverage, “The Simpsons” had no chances to get license and become popular in the most of Islamic countries. But directors accepted the challenge. Instead of simply renaming the characters (for example, Homer Simpson became Omar Al-Shamshoon), they decided to re-create environment. When Simpsons attend church, Al-Shamshoons prefer mosque. All references to alcohol, including one of the popular locations – Moe Tavern, are cut. Changes occurred in cuisine – there are no pork and hot-dogs in the Arabic version of cartoon. Finally, town, in which main characters live, in majority consists of Arab population.

Other versions of these series have also some changes, primarily in the names of characters and main phrases used by them. Some of localizations have interesting solutions. For instance, in Italian version several characters are dubbed with strong local accents, with some hints of their origin.

Still, all mentioned types of new audience attraction aren’t so widespread in cartoon production. Done in accordance with the strategy of expansion into new markets, it may turn out to be unnecessary as the most of them are not ready for new media goods at all. Middle East and Chinese ones, for instance, still have kind of governmental and/or moral censorship, so none of top 5 IMDb animated series could obtain license there at all. Another one is that there is a range of countries, where number of movie visitors per year is more than twice lower than world average. Directors have no reason to change graphics for such states, it’s simply not profitable. Therefore, while developing states are not interested in these adaptations at all, big ones could demand censorship. That is how it can be easily explained why such adaptations, unfortunately, are a rare thing.

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