European produced culture

This is a break from the usual technical sciency stuff!

I talked with John Fuerst about how weird it is that people all over the Western world were watching the same American produced cartoons as a child. A kind of pan-Western world environmental effect, if there are any long term effects of watching these, aside from seemingly trivial things like recognizing and singing the songs. Here’s some Danish versions of US produced cartoons:

Gummi bears

 Chip og Chap

Someone made a compilation of intros, Danish

Cultural imperialism

From a non-US perspective, it is also a little sad that everybody else is watching culture produced by mainly one country. Western Europe (depending on exact definition), after all, has more people than the USA (~413 million vs. ~320 million), especially if we only count European Americans (~198 million). It’s a function of global capitalism and dominant language mechanics. Following WW2, English came to be the dominant language of culture. As such, if one wants to produce culture and sell it for profit/maximize audience, it makes sense to do so in English since this opens up the market automatically. If one did it in a native language, one would have to do a translation, which is costly and hard to do well. The result of this is that production of culture tends to be English, even when produced in non-English countries.

The most obvious case of this is where musicians sing in English, not their own language. Some Danish examples:

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy – Love is a loser’s game

(I’m a cynical romantic, so this resonates with me)

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy – 67 seas in your eyes

DAD – Sleeping my day away lyrics

Veto – Built to Fail

Mew – Snow Brigade

Aqua – Barbie Girl

I cheated a little: It’s Dano-Norwegian, but Norway produces its best stuff when together with Denmark! ;)

Trentemøller – Moan

I picked the Danish-in-English music I like the most. There is a lot more, but I could not immediately find a list. I actually listen almost only to electronic, instrumental music. Music with intelligible song lyrics interfere with my thinking. As such, the above is skewed towards music with lyrics.

European produced cartoons

After going over some examples of US produced cartoons I watched as a child, we wondered which non-US cartoons I saw. It’s not something one can immediately know, because obviously the versions I saw were in Danish, and it’s hard to tell a good translation from native production, and in case it’s translated, it may be translated from non-English. However, I can think of some examples:

Asterix and Cleopatra 1968


The Twelve Tasks of Asterix 1976

Tin Tin


Lucky Luke

Also Belgian.


Swedish-Finnish. Danish intro.

Danish produced cartoons

Fuglekrigen i Kanøfleskoven 1990

A dark children’s movie, but also quite lovely. Unfortunately, I cannot find any English subtitles.

Bennys badekar 1971

A surrealistic children’s movie. Seems that no English version exists either. Features a lot of curious things like a scene with topless mermaids singing how about pretty they are. Seems that no one put a complete version on Youtube (add to todo list…), but here’s the mermaid scene:

Inter-language culture

[Linguists call this code mixing. I almost can’t speak pure Danish anymore. I have to concentrate when I speak with my grandmother (age ~85), who’s the only person I know that doesn’t speak English at all.]

The Nordic countries + Netherlands are becoming effectively bilingual. English class begins in first grade currently in Denmark, but will surely begin in 0th grade soon. It has been lowered in recent decades. When I started primary school in 1995, our school took part in an experiment to begin it in the second grad whereas before it was the 4th grade. In general, I think one should teach foreign languages in the early years of primary school because children are really naturally amazing at picking up languages, whereas they are not very good at math. So, one can simply delay the teaching of math to the later grades (opt-in basis to allow for gifted students to begin early). But I digress.

An interesting effect of this near bilingualism is that it allows for inter-language culture. Two examples:


Wikipedia notes:

The band uses an unusual mixture of Danish and English in their lyrics; they started singing mostly in English with just a few Danish lyrics, but gradually, they have been using Danish more frequently in their songs. In 2009, when interviewed and asked about the language mix, frontman Kvamm said: “It’s important for me to use the Danish kind of English that I speak…my mother tongue Danish, and my second language English, are very present to me in thinking and talking and speaking with others, and writing. Also in songwriting. And things just take form in one of those languages, or a mixture in between them. I can’t really find a system to what goes the English way and what goes the Danish.”

Still, most of the songs are almost entire in one language. The album version of this song is completely in English, aside from 1 word in the title, but the live version is a bit more Danified:

And here’s one in Danish:

(Title means: Again and again and)

De Nattergale – The Julekalender

This is an adult (not like that!) christmas calendar with a dark humor created by a comedy group. The language is standard Danish (narrator), rural dialect (farm people), mixed Danish-English (nisserne), and Copenhagen dialect (nåseren). To get to the mixed part, go to 5:00. Possibly sounds hilarious to people who don’t speak Danish as it’s completely mixed up of gibberish Danish and English.

Fun facts about Disney

So who did Disney copy and copyright? Well, there’s a list on Wiki, but some totally not cherry-picked examples:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, German
  • Pinocchio, Italian
  • Cinderella, French
  • Alice in Wonderland, British
  • Peter Pan, Scottish
  • Sleeping Beauty, French
  • The Little Mermaid, Danish
  • Beauty and the Beast, French
  • Aladdin, Arab folk
  • Mulan, Chinese folk
  • The Princess and the Frog, German
  • Tangled, German
  • Frozen, Danish

So, if we want to be a little trolly, we might say that this is American business as usual: take other people’s stuff and profit from it. Then tell everybody how great you are.

PS. I was a little inconsistent with my use of “European” to mean either from Europe or by Europeans, no matter where they live. Hopefully it is clear enough.

PPS. You figured it out: I like dark and surrealistic.