Rendering Spanish Versions of Animated Movies

June 22nd, 2011 by Brian Leave a reply »

I love DVDs.

When they first came out, the big push in my neighborhood came from Hollywood Video, a video store franchise that has long since gone out of business. Their main argument was that DVDs offered so much more content for movie fans. When I bought my first DVD, the only bonus feature it had was the original theatrical trailer. Big let-down. Now, they have tons. Most Disney animated features include some sort of game. I’m sure people play them, but that’s not how we spend our free time.

One thing that I noticed today, though, was an awesome feature for those who enjoy other languages. If you’re like me and have a preschooler at home, I’m willing to bet that Tangled is in your rotation of Movies the Kids Can Watch that Won’t Drive Me Bonkers but May Very Well If We Watch It One More Time.

Having watched it a bajillion times, I was looking for some variety. Before the main menu, the DVD gives you three options: English, Descriptive English, and Spanish. Descriptive English is like VoiceOver on the Mac. It narrates everything that’s going on, which is especially fun during Tinkerbell’s flyover of the Disney logo. “There’s a burst of light and then pixie dust.” I visited with my friend at Accessibility Insights one day and that’s his entire computer experience. Every little detail on the Internet is read off at super-human speed. “Page load at 40%. Page load at 45%”. Crazy-making.

It was one subtle feature of the Spanish version that made me pause today. A character is holding up a wanted poster and I realized that every piece of text in the Spanish version is in Spanish. I know that sounds obvious, but it wasn’t always the case.

This is huge for me, someone who bought Spanish VHS tapes all through college. VHS never gave me the option to watch it in English if I felt like it. I’d have to buy another copy, which I was too cheap to do.

Rendering text in another language means that Disney re-did a scene. That costs time and money, albeit not as much time since the words are just a texture map applied to a 3D model. But Disney could have gone the easy route and put the Spanish translation of the wanted poster in subtitles like many movie companies have done. I know that Disney hired big-time voices from Latin America for the Spanish audio track on the DVD. The soundtrack is great. They re-wrote all of the songs so that the lyrics rhymed/flowed well. I’m just impressed that, if I didn’t know the original movie was in English, I could watch the entire thing in Spanish seamlessly.


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