Differences in marketing from the United States to overseas are actually pretty commonplace. Some are more egregious than others, both humorously and unpleasantly. The changes are made for a variety of reasons due to language, culture, or style. This begs the question: How much of an impact do these title changes make on the people who see them?
For fun, our friends at Rocket News 24 took 10 movies from other countries that have had their names changed for Japanese audiences, translated them back to English and put them in their original posters. Do these new titles make the sale? You be the judge!
First up, we have "Despicable Me." Now, sometimes the names are changed to be more detailed than the originals. Apparently, simple titles like “Frozen” or “Despicable Me” raise concerns that potential moviegoers in Japan won’t get hooked. In the case of other animated works, giving a little more of the plot was in order. After all, titles like “Despicable Me” don’t really tell audiences an awful lot…
1. 怪盗グルーの月泥棒 (Despicable Me)
2. マルコヴィッチの穴 (Being John Malkovich)
While doing this to titles can get rather lengthy, it certainly doesn't stop those in charge from adding in as many extra details as possible. Check out these wonderfully verbose efforts!
3. カールじいさんの空飛ぶ家 (Up)
4. 世界で一番パパが好き! (Jersey Girl)
It's almost as if the negative space in these posters was made for a Japanese version!
Of all these, "The Butler" received the rawest deal. As if poor Cecil hadn’t had a rough enough life, now the Japanese title makes him out to be some kind of cry baby.
5. 大統領の執事の涙 (The Butler)
Undoubtedly, the most common reasons to change a movie title are due to linguistic and cultural differences. Something that can be summed up in a few words like an English or Chinese idiom would take a lot more explaining in another language. In cases such as these, it's probably best to just flat out change the titles like these movies did below:
6. ショーシャンクの空に (The Shawshank Redemption)
7. 恋はデジャ・ブ (Groundhog Day)
Finally, we have the title for the cult classic, "Army of Darkness," which has taken quite a few liberties.
8. キャプテン・スーパーマーケット (Army of Darkness)
Contrary to the others in this list, I'd say the original Japanese poster may have outdone it's American counterpart in this case. The cans of Bruce Campbell Soup that Ash is standing on are a particularly nice touch.
Visually, Japanese viewers might be used to processing lots of text on a regular basis, which might be why Japanese posters are sometimes wordy. That’s probably why the Japanese in the “Army of Darkness” poster might look like the other international one-sheets, but has more text. More context, even.
Not all Japanese movie poster designs take this approach—in fact, many of the best don’t. So while people online in Japan might be quick to poo-poo their country’s movie posters, they shouldn’t! This might explain, however, how localization changes the way even promotional images look.
Have you come across any translated posters that gave you a good giggle? Let us know below!