Disney sends Japan re-cultured ‘Pearl’

'Insensitive' words altered or cut, source sez

In the U.S., it will be “a few less dirty Japs.”

In Tokyo, it will be “a few less Japs.”

Disney said Tuesday that it has crafted toned-down versions of the film for its release in Japan and Germany, an indicator of the international marketing challenges Disney will face with its megabudget World War II epic “Pearl Harbor,” opening in the U.S. on Friday.

“There are a few, slight modifications in the German and Japanese versions of the picture,” a Disney insider confirmed. “Most of the changes have been made with an eye for consideration for those countries.” Another source said, “Words that would be culturally insensitive to the country where the film is playing have been altered or deleted.”

While it’s not unusual to make minor changes in films for foreign release when scenes or idioms, for example, simply won’t translate, tailoring a film to a territory based on sensitivity issues is highly unusual.

Reached in Hawaii, where the film preemed Monday night, producer Jerry Bruckheimer told Daily Variety that one change was simply that a shot of the date — December 7, 1941 — had been replaced with December 8, 1941, since when the attack occurred on Pearl Harbor it was already the next day in Japan.

Bruckheimer acknowledged that Disney’s overseas marketing campaign would play up the love story and downplay the battle. The most used poster in the international campaign will be one of Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck in an embrace.

A British tabloid reported that a closing speech by Kate Beckinsale had been cut for the Japanese version of the film. But a Disney rep said that the speech had not been cut, it had only been altered — for all international versions of the film. Instead of closing the film with Beckinsale saying something to the effect of “World War II changed the course of history for us,” the international version changes “us” to “Americans.”

Aware of the sensitivity

The studio realized early on that portraying such an emotional saga would present sensitivity issues.

While developing the project, Disney showed a draft of the “Pearl” script to John Tateishi of the Japanese American Citizens League, who made a few suggestions to Bruckheimer that were incorporated in the shooting script.

The event pic opens nationwide in more than 3,000 theaters. It will unspool in Germany on June 7 and in Japan on July 14.