Iceland’s Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir has written to Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek urging the company to add Icelandic subtitles and dubbing to its Disney+ streaming service. Disney films and TV shows have been subtitled and dubbed in Icelandic over the past several decades and Disney owns the rights to that material, but it has not been made available on the company’s streaming service, which entered the Icelandic market last September.
In her letter, Lilja describes how she was “disappointed to discover that neither Icelandic dubbing nor subtitles are available on Disney+.” She described the Icelandic language as “the core of the nation’s culture and identity,” adding: “We work hard to maintain it, especially among children and young people who are heavily exposed to other languages daily, mainly English.” The letter is available in full on Lilja’s Facebook page.
Important for Language Preservation
Icelandic actor Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (Game of Thrones) has also been vocal about the service’s omission of Icelandic subtitles and dubbing. “As all of us who have watched it know, Icelandic dubbing [of Disney movies] is absolutely fantastic, and no less so the translations, both of dialogue and lyrics,” Jóhannes stated in a radio interview today. While those subtitles and voiceovers are available on VHS and DVD, they have not been made available on Disney’s new streaming service.
The omission is not a question of rights: all Icelandic translations, subtitles, and dubbing of Disney material was produced under strict contracts ensuring Disney retained the rights to all of the material – worldwide and in all formats. “Disney absolutely owns all of it down to the letter but simply hasn’t gotten around to putting it in [to the streaming service].” Jóhannes says it’s important to pressure the company to do so as soon as possible. “We can’t let it happen after 10 or 15 years, we need to have it now. We have this language that has changed very little in over 1,000 years and is one of the oldest languages in the world that is still spoken and we want to take care of it.”
Jóhannes hopes that other members of Iceland’s government take up their pens to contact Disney on the matter.