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Disney Risk Japanese Rage in Colossal Twitter Mistake

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Oh Twitter, ever the source of the kind of dramatic foul ups only a combination of short-sightedness and a broad, tactless audience can muster. Corporations make mistakes on Twitter all the time and nobody ever lets them get away with it, even if the error isn't immediately obvious, somebody will dig it out. Disney have found a way to soar to new heights of inappropriate as a deadly cocktail of awful timing, poor translation and inexplicable referencing sought to turn them into the most hated company in Japan (except Microsoft, obviously).

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and regardless of the conflicting views about the need or needlessness of those attacks, it's impossible to deny that the victims deserve to be honoured and that they left a stern warning about the perils of nuclear weapons. Disney clearly didn't take that into consideration when they posted the offending tweet, but it's a fair bet they have now.

As is often the case, it started very innocently, the Disney Twitter account simply wished all its followers a 'very merry unbirthday'. It's a reference to Through the Looking Glass, mentioned by Humpty Dumpty and subsequently reworked into a song sung by The Mad Hatter in the Disney animated Alice in Wonderland film, it refers to any day which isn't your birthday. It's a neat little callback to one of Disney's most beloved features, and it would have been fine to post on literally any other day except last Sunday (August 9th).

You see, August 9th was the actual date when the 'Little Boy' atomic bomb hit Nagasaki, and I can already hear you wondering out loud about exactly how that has anything to do with Alice in Wonderland. Well, the gulf between English and Japanese is wide, to say the least and abstract terms like 'unbirthday' don't necessarily translate literally. As such, when it came out the other side, Japanese users found themselves being told to have a merry 'day of nothing'. Wow.

Far from just being culturally insensitive, the mistranslation made it look like Disney were actually instigating a mean-spirited attack on one of the most significant memorial days on the Japanese calendar. Obviously it was a complete mistake and Disney rightly apologised after the inevitable backlash got under way, but you would think there would be at least one bilingual person on their social media staff who would have spotted the error. Or perhaps it was the ghost of Walt Disney, he wasn't terribly fond of foreigners. In any case, it's just another testament for the explicit need for proper social media quality control, preferably done by an actual human.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Disney Risk Japanese Rage in Colossal Twitter Mistake Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 Rating: 5
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