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.