For a few days now, Disney’ latest animated film, Big Hero 6, is in Swiss cinemas. Under the awful title of Baymax – Riesiges Robowabohu. Why is it so terrible? Let’s find out.
As much fun as Big Hero 6 ultimately is, Disney in the German speaking world put their foot into their mouth when it came to naming the movie. For some strange reason, the title Big Hero 6 wasn’t nice enough. Or cool enough. So they renamed the movie. It’s now called…
Baymax – Riesiges Robowabohu
This translates to Baymax – Big Robowabohu, a title that is leaning on the German word Tohuwabohu that is synonymous with chaos or an unmitigated disaster. Not only is this title misleading and has little to nothing to do with the actual movie, but it’s also manipulative.
Etymology of a Movie Title
The word’s origins date back to ancient Hebrew where tohu, which translates to barren as in a barren landscape, wa which stands for and as well as vohu which translates to empty. Thus, with this title, we get something like Baymax – Big Robot and Emptiness which sort of, kind of fits, seeing as it’s about one robot as well as the emptiness after a personal loss.
However, I do question whether or not children – because that’s who this movie is aimed at – will get the etymological nuances that went into the new title. Not that I think that children are stupid, but seeing as Tohuwabohu isn’t exactly a common word in any of the languages I know, it might lead to more confusion.
This Is Blatant Marketing and Thus Awful
Even worse, the title is misleading. There’s no chaos in this movie, the emptiness is filled by various coping mechanisms and by many a mission and – worst of all – Baymax isn’t the star of the show. The star is undoubtedly Hiro whose sidekick just so happens to be said Baymax.
But I do get it, I understand why they move Baymax into front and centre. It’s marketing. Let’s look at Baymax from a marketing perspective.
- Baymax is funny in a quirky and silly way – Boys and girls like that
- Baymax is caring and cuddly – Girls like that
- Baymax is a good fighter with rocketpunch an everything – Boys like that
- Baymax can be sold as both an action figure and a plush figure – Something for both boys and girls
- Baymax is also the most memorable thing about the movie and the centre of the marketing that has already hit
Right, before I get flak for enforcing gender stereotypes, here’s a little secret: This is how marketing is done, especially towards children. I’m not saying this is good or this is how it should be, I’m merely stating that that is how it is at this point in time. For a pretty good example, look no further than Lego. I know this isn’t directly related to Big Hero 6 (yet), but if you want to look at how marketing a nearly identical product to boys and girls respectively, the Lego advertisements are probably the best example. If you have a few minutes, feel free to watch Anita Sarkeesian’s, host of the Feminist Frequency, summing up of a situation that happened a few years ago.
Anyways, with that out of the way… Oh, wait.
Kids Understand English, Dammit
But let’s get back to the title and its words and leave the marketing strategy out of it all. I would like to claim that children these days are completely able to understand the words big, hero and the number 6.
- Big: Big Mac, Bigfoot, Big Guy and Rusty, Big Bang Theory, Big Brother…
- Hero: Lego Hero Factory, Legion of Super-Heroes, Avengers – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…
- 6: If a kid can count past five, which isn’t that hard to do, it will arrive at six fairly quickly
Besides, more and more anglicisms enter the German language every day. There are things that basically only go by their English words, especially in things that are globally applicable such as IT, gastronomy or fashion or, well, entertainment. Nobody would even dream of renaming the Big Mac to be the Grosse Mack. In fact, they did rename the burger somewhat, it was called the Big Mäc in Germany for the longest time until they ditched the umlaut a while ago.
I wouldn’t mind if they renamed the movie if it was called The Existencial Crises brought on by Grief, Loss and the Continuous Development of Advanced Robotics or something. Because that’s something I wouldn’t do to a child in terms of title. Or to anyone else, really. But Big Hero 6 is a good title. It’s a good, catchy and fun title that entices people to go see the movie. Baymax – Riesiges Robowabohu suggests a light comedy with funny hijinks and adds a word that neither adults nor children fully understand before they’ve seen the movie.
Of course, Baymax will be the only thing that will stick around in the memories of the audience, because he’s kind of the show-stealer. But that does not mean you should mangle the title of a movie that has a perfectly fine and perfectly understandable title. And, don’t worry, I’m pretty sure English speaking boys and girls will buy Baymax action figures and plushies despite the character’s name not being in the movie’s title. What a gross oversight on the part of the marketing department that was. Allowing a movie to come out with a title that does not name a product. How dare they.