Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's in a name?

I'm always happy when another stop-motion film is released, and besides the fantastic script and animation, the latest film from Aardman has raised the bar in terms of the incredible level of craftsmanship and artistry. 

But, as this post suggests, I'm writing more about the name card than the film itself. 

In South Africa (as with most of the world) we get to see it as "The Pirates! Band of Misfits". Interesting that even Aardman is not immune to the name-change US studios sometimes feel necessary for international audiences. I do wonder what was wrong with "In an Adventure with Scientists" though besides the fact that it's a little more wordy? 

Surely there is more value in aligning a title with the existing intellectual property on which it's based rather than saving a few letters?  Although if this were the case, "The Secret World of Arrietty" would probably have been called "The Borrowers" killing two birds with, well, two words.

Perhaps it marks the decline of the one or two-word title that has been common for most animated films since the first days of Disney starting with "Pinocchio". It is a real challenge to evoke the story of an entire film with just one word and I have been amazed by the ingenuity of some (I didn't think you could get much more clever than "Antz", but then along came "Up".)

For our own film I can understand why we had to change it to "Adventures in Zambezia": keeping it as the simpler "Zambezia" would have put us last on any alphabetical list, plus now anyone seeing the title for the first time immediately understands the potentially obscure, foreign word is actually a place

This does raise the question about our next film however. "Khumba" is another foreign word and it's likely that it would need a similar addendum. This time it's the name of the lead character and although there is a lot of precedent for this, it's usually based on a known character or IP ("Pocahontas", "Coraline"). 

If I do have to change it, I have yet to come up with an alternate that I'm happy with "Adventures with Khumba" would not exactly sit comfortably. It's more likely it will become "Khumba and the…." which might just make it sound like a Harry Potter movie or the first in a series which wouldn't be all bad. 

The colon also seems to be increasingly popular (yes, I'm talking about those other Pirates movies). The longer the title, the more it gets abbreviated though, especially with the attempt to keep most information below 140 characters nowadays - the latest Mission Impossible for example becomes MIGP. 

No matter what it's called, people often refer to a shortened version of the title anyway - I doubt anyone is actually going to say "Two for The Pirates! Band of Misfits" to the lady at the ticket counter. Either way, do yourself a favor and catch it on the big screen!