Sign Language in Cartoons

I sometimes wonder how come there have been so few animated TV-shows and films that feature any sign language. I only know of one, and only in one episode of the show, The Little Mermaid, one of my favourites as a child.

Taking a look at this video, I can see why:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5xidTnXgZw]

It seems hard! Watching the clip as someone who has learnt JSL, Gabriella’s signing is sort of slow, and shows up fairly infrequently, if I remember the episode well enough. I can’t imagine the effort that went into animating signs.

(If you haven’t figured it out yet, the vid is in German. I don’t know any German, so I kept it muted and waited for the signing to pop up. You might want to skip ahead to 1:13, if you prefer to just go straight to the signing.)

Nonetheless, I think it’s cool, and I wish more animators/producers/whatever would make the effort. Gabriella’s story is a cool one. She is based on a real person, a fan of the show who died during its first season.

Her signing’s sort of a mix of ASL and Signed English, and I have to wonder about that. Was that a mistake on the animators’ part? Did they want Gabriella’s signing to be ASL, Signed English, or both? Did they have a native signer as a consultant? It’s not a problem, though; some Deaf truly do sign like that, especially around hearing people.

By the way, Ariel’s name sign is pretty cool! Take a look at 1:51, where Gabrielle says, “Thanks, Ariel.” What more perfect name could there be for her than one emphasising her luscious hair?

It would be cool to see more Deaf characters featured in animated shows. But I admit it might be hard to animate, but have you seen Mérida’s hair? If they can do that, surely this isn’t so hard as it was in 1993.

What do you think?

By the way, Gabriella shows up in another episode, in which she works with Ariel to break a spell cast by Ursula.

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2 Responses to Sign Language in Cartoons

  1. read.robin says:

    If the writers of That Deaf Guy can manage to translate Sign Language to comic panels then animators have no excuse. Lol at your reference to Merida’s hair though.

    Like

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