Some movie names don’t survive the translation from English to Japanese. ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ somehow became ‘Bus Man’. The whole ‘Fast & Furious’ series got renamed ‘Wild Speed’, and it stuck that way. (Tokyo Drift’s still Tokyo Drift, though.) Happens all the time.
Disney’s taken the hit with a bunch of their titles – but don’t worry, folks, ‘Mickey Mouse’ is safe. If you ever wanna talk about your fave Disney movies in Japanese, the clumsy katakana-Engrish won’t cut it. Check out what these famous films are called in Japan:
The King Who Became A Llama (The Emperor’s New Groove)
Wow, spoiler alert or what? Bad llama. Bad, bad llama.
The words for ‘king’ and ’emperor’ in Japanese are different. As it happens, there are loads of words for ’emperor’. (Like there are that many emperors in the world…) But not many use the ‘king’ kanji (王) that pops up in this film’s name. It’s so the title’s still a play on ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
Fashionable Cats (The Aristocats)
It’s true, everybody wants to be a cat. Start the music! (fun fact: if you try singing this in Japanese, ‘minna wa neko ni naritai’ has the same number of syllables.)
There’s something about France – about Paris – that Japan seems to be crazy in love with. Renaming the movie ‘Fashionable’ makes sense that way. Plus, the ‘aristocrat’ pun doesn’t work in Japanese.
Bianca’s Big Adventure (The Rescuers)
Followed by ‘Bianca’s Big Adventure: Save The Eagle!’ – better known outside Japan as ‘The Rescuers Down Under’. It’s the 3rd oldest Disney movie on our list. That’ll be why the trailers on YouTube are so LQ.
Poor Bernard didn’t get a namecheck in either movie title. Who exactly needs rescuing here? This film also came out in Japan over 4 years after the original US release. We know it takes longer for Hollywood blockbusters to get into Japanese cinemas, but that’s just stupid.
Woof Woof Story (Lady And The Tramp)
‘Wan wan’ is the ‘noise’ dogs make in Japanese, and it’s also a kawaii nickname for dogs in general. That slang shows the movie’s age – made in 1955! The oldest movie on our list. These days, you’re more likely to see film names use the kanji for dog (‘inu, 犬).
The name’s a literal one – this is a story about dogs. Can’t fault the translators there. The ‘lady and tramp’ thing could’ve worked in Japanese too, same way ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is ‘美女と野獣’.
Remy’s Delicious Restaurant (Ratatouille)
This one’s also kinda spoiler-y. Is the food delicious or not? It is, y’say? Right there in the title. Huh, there goes half the tension. But that means more time to drool over CGI cooking and not think too hard about the plot.
The ‘problem’ with Ratatouille is that it’s tough to say – and spell. More so in Japanese. More like ‘ratatweeyou’. And it’s aimed at kids, who are gonna have even more trouble. ‘Remy’ is easy to get, and some people say ‘oishii’ (delicious!) at least once every day…
This is maybe the cutest name of them all – we really like it. So we’ll be nice. Instead of that sad scene to make you cry, here’s the funnier trailer.
Another way to read the film’s Japanese name is ‘Old Man Carl’. Let’s agree ‘Grandpa’ is a cuter translation. The ‘up’ kanji (上) is nice and simple. Or at least, you’d think so. But it can also mean: ‘above’, ‘older’, ‘summit’, ‘surface’, ‘before’, ‘superiority’, ‘on further inspection’, ‘besides’, ‘concerning’, and ‘for that reason’. Yikes.
Disney stuff by any other Japanese name’s just as fun
None of these films are repped as attractions or merch at Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo Disney Sea. Which is a shame. Sure, you’ve still got loads of choice. But think how valuable goods with the ‘weird’ name on them’d be!
So if you’re interested in the Japan versions, you’ve gotta search a bit harder. Knowing what to look for’s important. Go back and click on any of the movie title subheads in this post, or find Disney goods on DEJAPAN.