by Ana G. González Meade
Why movie trailers?
A growing number of people all over the world are making use of an assortment of audiovisual products, particularly subtitled media, which raises doubts about the limited research in the field. Therefore, it seems imperative to subject a medium with such wide-ranging ramifications to much more detailed analyses that focus on its global importance and grasp its difficulty.
Despite the great number of published academic works in the (film) subtitling field, there is still a significant academic research scope yet to be covered, just as Díaz-Cintas points out:
“Approaches to translation which have made a large impact on areas such as literary translation, area still yet to be applied to subtitling” (Díaz Cintas, 2004, p. 63).
Furthermore, he states:
“Most studies into subtitling concentrate on films, forgetting a myriad of other audiovisual programmes that are considered inferior, such as documentaries, cartoons or series” (Díaz Cintas, 2004, p. 67).
So, in a nutshell:
- Given my background as subtitling translator, I opted for the unexplored movie trailer genre since it is a highly original, individual and predominantly expressive audiovisual piece with different forms of conventions, therefore posing an array of specific problems to the translator.
- As the movie trailer is a sub-category of the film genre, the underlying normal generic conventions are not as clear cut as in specific categories such as feature films, documentaries, short films, animation films, TV series, action films, thrillers, among others.
- In view of the vast classification of cinematographic productions, I opted for focusing in a more specific group: children’s films trailers, which show a specific set of features that shall help illustrate this genre translation process.
- The comparative corpus I have chosen is made up of five actual trailer templates in their SL (English) I have translated professionally for Disney, providing for all of them the corresponding rendition in the TL (Spanish):
- SL & TL Cinderella 2 & 3 International Trailer
- SL & TL Tigger Movie Domestic Trailer
- SL & TL Finding Nemo 3D Trailer
TOTAL LENGTH OF CORPUS: 1764 words
SL= source language TL= target language
TA= target audience TT= target text
The main aim of the film’s advertising campaign is to get the public decide to buy a ticket to watch the movie in question, and in order to achieve that the trailer must provide a sense of urgency within its content as well as a buildup of tension in it, which must be properly conveyed into the TL.
What is a trailer?
A trailer plays a vital role informing potential audiences about a film in order to entice the desired target audience, thus establishing the following elements of the advertised film:
- Target audience
- Special/visual effects
Nils Granlund produced the first trailer for film advertising purposes on 1914, for a Charlie Chaplin film. Since then, film trailers have evolved from a mere set of scored images, narration and a cast run such as the trailer for Casablanca to a more elaborated and dynamic style.
Observation and recording produced the following impressions:
- Time constraints cause trailers to push the extremes of their genre.
- Derived from films, trailers seem to follow the same pattern: An opening sequence, after which a plight is set out in the following segment; to finally conclude with a final sequence pointing in the direction of the thick of the plot.
The functional level
Distributors launch a marketing campaign because they want their films to succeed as much as possible.
As a critical part of a film’s marketing campaign, among printed advertising, interviews with stars, making of documentaries, reviews, news stories, websites, and merchandising, a trailer plays a vital role informing potential audiences about a film in order to entice the desired target audience, thus establishing the following elements of the movie:
The main aim of the film’s whole advertising campaign is to get the public to buy a ticket to watch the movie in question. In order to achieve that there has to be a sense of urgency within its content and tension has to be build up as well. The release of each new movie produces a new brand. In some cases there is a series of movies based around a previously established brand or franchise, which is easier to market. A clear example of this would be the Star Wars saga.
Moreover, the trailer is useful for selling purposes since it shows the cast of the film, and in this case of children’s animated films you can actually hear the voices of famous actors playing the characters in the movie.
Therefore, it involves a balanced combination of informative and persuasive functions as per Halliday’s theory (2004).
The genre of the film plays a vital role in the films people choose to see. Film trailers can be seen in any of the following places:
- A movie theatre, before the films people are there to see.
- On TV, as commercials.
- At the beginning of a Blu-ray or DVD’s feature.
- Online, on websites such as YouTube, IMDB, film critics sites, among others.
In a comedy film, for instance, the trailer would be edited at a fast pace, as well as the music in it, n order to magnify the tone of the film. Yet a horror film trailer would be edited with slow shots and low key lightning.
GENERAL FINDINGS 1
Use of set phrases and familiar formulations; use of direct and impersonal language, anglicisms, client-approved glossaries native to the film’s mythology in many cases with foreign and/or fictitious words; use of technical cinematic, animation, and movie marketing lexicons; use of creative, emotive, innovative language, unusual words and neologisms, metaphors, similes, idioms, puns; specific word combinations and collocation typical of the genre.
FINDING NEMO 3D TRAILER
LONG TIME NO SEA!
¡TE HE EXTRAÑADO A MARES!
In the trailer, the viewer can see the underwater image of Crush the turtle swimming along Nemo. Crush is turning to face him to say the following:
– Grab shell, dude.
– Grab what?!
– Péscate del caparazón, viejo.
– ¿Que me pesque del qué?
GENERAL FINDINGS 2
- Irregular nominal construction, word order (e.g. unusually expressive or suspense-filled advertising formulas), different use of connectors, conjunctions, and punctuation.
- Use of telegram-like language; use of imperative and informal forms of address (for marketing purposes), text made up almost entirely of declarative statements, use of modal, time and place adjuncts, finite modal operators.
TIGGER MOVIE DOMESTIC TRAILER
WITH NEW TIGGERIFIC BONUS FEATURES
The above comes up onscreen after forced narratives about the new Blu-ray format, the main title and the new special edition alternated with short dialogue clips.
CON NUEVO MATERIAL ADICIONAL
CINDERELLA 2 & 3 DOMESTIC TRAILER
Lady Tremaine is shown taking the magic wand from Anastasia’s hands , then the forced “For the first time on Disney Blu-Ray” comes onscreen and cuts to Lady Tremaine at night, under a tree, pointing the magic wand to the sky and saying:
Unravel Cinderella’s happily ever after.
Revela el secreto detrás del “vivir felices
para siempre” de Cenicienta.
GENERAL FINDINGS 3
- Subtitles in both languages are fairly equal in content; the set format and lexical structure in the ST must be reproduced on the TT, which is always more complicated to establish in the TL (Spanish), given both languages have different collocation patterns, which must be met, too. Rich in transitivity, thematisation, and passivisation.
- Culture-specificity as much as TA: intercultural communication is brought to bear. Since trailers contain clips from the movie in question, as per client’s specifications the translator is generally asked to either: crossreference from the original feature film’s translated file for consistency purposes, which involves inserting foreign translated text; or to translate such excerpts from scratch, which entails context knowledge.
A personal record in trailer translation has produced the following discoveries:
Any case study of audiovisual translation, because of its bilingual sphere of action, can serve to illustrate the relationship between translation management and translation quality of a specific product of communicative and instructional importance, such as movie trailers.
A professional translator’s approach on this genre calls for a more cultural-shift-in-translation approach, which is directly influenced by target audience’s expectations, and a domestication approach has proved more useful; all of which endows this genre with a singularity feature that must prevail during the whole decision-making process of the translator; thus producing properly translated utterances and textual conventions that are familiar to the intended target audience and conform with TL genre conventions.
Furthermore, given the colloquial and culture-specific nature of the source text in most trailers, translation strategies should focus attention on producing on the target audience an effect as close as possible to that obtained on the audience of the source content. Therefore, the most suitable approach is communicative accordingly to:
Communicative translation … is often mandatory for many culturally conventional formulas that do not allow literal translation (Hervey et al, 1995, p. 13).
In parallel, the approach that usually constitutes the basic tenets of the communicative strategy is:
A translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of expressions, and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant within the context of his own culture … (Nida, cited in Venuti, 2000, p. 129).
Consequently, there is nothing minor or inconsequential about a trailer, other than its duration. Certainly not translation-wise.
As per academic use-ethics in publication and under the Fair Use Doctrine, credit and source for each of the trailer mentions used in this research piece are as follows:
1) Cinderella II and III: Disney copyright.
2) The Tigger Movie: Disney copyright.
3) Finding Nemo 3D: Disney/Pixar Animation Studios copyright.
Díaz Cintas, J. (2004). Subtitling: The long journey to academic acknowledgement. Journal of Specialised Translation, Issue 01, 50-68.
Halliday, M.A.K. (2004) An introduction to functional grammar. London: Arnold.
Hervey et al (1995) Thinking Spanish Translation, London: Routledge.
Venuti (2000), The Translation Studies Reader, London: Routledge. (Chapter 9: Nida Principles of Correspondence)
Ana Gabriela González Meade holds an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Portsmouth and certified by the Universitat de Barcelona on Spanish Proofreading and Style, is an audiovisual translation and quality control specialist with over 20 years of experience in leading studios, LSPs, and streaming content. As an AVT educator, she speaks at international conferences and AVT courses. She is currently the Territory Manager for Latin America at Pixelogic Media. As founding member of the ATA’s Audiovisual Division, she is the acting Deep Focus newsletter editor.