Here’s a little cautionary tale about how filmmakers change scenes from one country to the next:
Two friends—one in the U.S., the other in Japan—each go to see Pixar’s classic Inside Out in their respective countries on opening weekend. Afterwards, they FaceTime or Skype or whatever it is young people do these days to discuss the film, which they both loved.
“I could really identify with Riley,” says the American. “I loved the scene where she refused to eat her broccoli.”
“What are you talking about?” asks the Japanese friend. “I don’t remember any broccoli. There was that scene where Riley wouldn’t eat her green bell pepper slices, which I totally understand, but…”
“Why are you lying?”
“This friendship is over.”
If only we could intervene and tell these international buddies that they were both right. But we can’t because it’s too late, and besides, those people are imaginary and their argument, too dramatic for us to get involved anyway.
The point of our little parable is that Pixar pulled a fast one on these viewers. They changed the scene. In the United States, Riley can’t stand broccoli. In Japan, she hates bell peppers.
Director Pete Docter later fessed up in a statement, quoted by Business Insider.
“We learned that some of our content wouldn’t make sense in other countries,” Docter said. “For example, in Japan, broccoli is not considered gross. Kids love it. So we asked them, ‘What’s gross to you?’ They said green bell peppers, so we remodeled and reanimated three separate scenes replacing our broccoli with green peppers.”
It turns out that stuff like this happens all the time. Here are a few more famous scenes from Hollywood films that were altered for audiences in other countries. May this list save your intercontinental friendships:
1. All of “Red Dawn” (The 2012 Version, Not the Original)
If changes are made to a film for its international release, it’s usually only for a few minor scenes. But what happens when the executives realize they need to change the entire movie? After it was shot? Check out the video below to see how producers of the Red Dawn remake narrowly avoided a billion-dollar box office blunder.
2. Jack Torrance’s Novel in “The Shining”
All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but it was just fine for Stanley Kubrick. The notoriously perfectionist director didn’t think the phrase that makes up the whole of Torrance’s novel would translate into other languages, so he came up with original phrases that would speak directly to people of different nationalities.
For instance, when Shelley Duvall’s character, Wendy, finds the hundreds of pages that read “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in English, German audiences got their thrills from the phrase, “Was du heute kannst besorgen, das vershiebe nicht auf morgen.”
That translates into “Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”
The Spanish version of the manuscript, which gives Wendy her first inkling of the depths of her husband’s madness, reads, ” No por much madrugar amanece más temprano,” which means, “No matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner.”
True enough. But our favorite version, by far, is in Italian. “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca,” the pages read, over and over again. In English, that’s “The morning has gold in its mouth.” And with that, one of the creepiest films ever made gets even more creepy.
3. Buzz Lightyear’s Speech in “Toy Story 2”
Before Andy’s toys take off on a madcap adventure across town in Pixar’s Toy Story 2, Buzz Lightyear stands up and gives them an inspiring speech. If you saw this film in the U.S., you might remember that an American flag appears behind the plastic astronaut. The “Star-Spangled Banner” even plays during the scene.
That wasn’t going to do much for international audiences, so the studio decided to replace the images and the music. Instead of a flag, a spinning globe forms Buzz Lightyear’s backdrop during this rousing speech. Instead of the “Star Spangled Banner,” international viewers were treated to a brand new Randy Newman tune called the “One World Anthem.”
So the rest of the world gets that much more Randy Newman than American audiences, which hardly seems fair.
4. A Little Background for “Lincoln”
Most Americans don’t know much about the Spanish Civil War. Why should foreign audiences know anything about the American Civil War?
Steven Spielberg assumes that they don’t, which is why he added a minute-long introduction to the international release of his biopic Lincoln.
The added footage gives viewers some background information on the U.S. Civil War using title cards and actual photographs from the era.
John Williams scored the segment, which based on this description sounds remarkably like a bit of a Ken Burns documentary. That’s something we could all use a little more of.