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

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Patrick Cox: Hi, it's Patrick here. I'm on the big show today. I chatted with host, Aaron Schachter. Here's Aaron. Aaron Schachter: If you have kids of a certain age, and even if you don't, you're probably all too familiar with this song. ["Let It Go" song audio] Schachter: Yep, it's the Oscar-nominated song from Disney's animated blockbuster, "Frozen." Now Disney has released a version of the song, which is called "Let It Go," sung in 25 different languages. [German "Let It Go"] Schachter: That's German. The previous line was sung in French, and this is Dutch. [Dutch "Let It Go"] Schachter: The World's language editor, Patrick Cox, joins me. And Patrick, is this Disney's way of showing us how global it is? Cox: Oh, very much so. It really is, you know, the Epcot world showcase of Disney songs. But it also tells us a lot about who Disney is marketing to, and who it's not marketing to. Of the 25 languages showcased in this song, 17 of them are European, including some that are not exactly widely spoken. Catalan, for example, and the dialect of Dutch that's spoken by some Belgians, sometimes called Flemish. There's also Danish, though they'd be in trouble if they didn't include Danish, given that Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." Schachter: So 17 of the 25 languages are European. What about outside Europe? Which languages are represented in song, and which aren't? Cox: Well, this is where it gets really interesting, 'cause six Asian languages - Mandarin, Cantanese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, and Thai - there's also Latin American Spanish, and French-Canadian. But then take a look at which languages aren't there. We're talking about some pretty widely spoken ones. No Arabic, no Hindi, in fact no languages at all from India, and no languages at all from Africa. Schachter: It seems very strange, because they're putting in languages, as you say, spoken by very few people, and missing out on these huge markets. Any idea what the reasoning is behind the choice of these languages? Cox: Well, I did contact Disney to ask just that, and I couldn't get anybody to talk about it. Though, when I was on the phone with Disney, I did have one representative say to me, "Thank you, sir, and you have a magical day." Schachter: [Laughs] Cox: But it is an odd one. Disney has already been criticized for creating, with "Frozen," yet another blonde, blue-eyed princess in a lead role. And given these sensitivities, it might not have been a bad idea to have had the song recorded in, I don't know, Zulu or Yoruba, or something like that, and included it in this mash up. Schachter: The World's Patrick Cox, thanks very much, and you have a magical day. Cox: I'm already having one right here with you, Aaron. Schachter: And you can see Disney's multi-lingual video, and hear Patrick's podcast, "The World in Words," at ["Let It Go" audio]