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I greatly enjoyed Minions... and hearing words apparently from a number of languages, including Japanese and Spanish, that form the strangely comprehensible gibberish of “Minionese”.

I didn't realise, though, quite how many languages that French director Pierre Coffin actually plundered (and voiced) for his “Minionese”. Click the image above if you would like to know more!

Constructing realistic languages for books and films, on the other hand, seems to me to be an awesome task. The supreme example of this must surely be J.R.R. Tolkien's Elvish languages (among others) that underpin The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings - a massive work of scholarship, love and time.

(Click the image to the right for an in-depth article.)

Tolkien, it is said, wanted to write The Lord of the Rings entirely in Elvish, but (fortunately for us) was persuaded that the result would not be saleable...

I was very grateful to Peter Jackson's team for letting us hear these beautiful languages (both Quenya and Sindarin) in the screen version of The Lord of the Rings.

The next most impressive example of such a language (corrections gratefully received!) must be Klingon, originally created as a basic sound and a few words by James “Scotty” Doohan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but developed considerably thereafter - much further than I had imagined.

Like Star Trek itself, Klingon has found its way into all kinds of other popular culture (e.g. it appears several times in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). However, I had no idea how far it had spread - if you're interested, take a look here.

Along with many people, I enjoyed the remark from High Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, who said, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

Also like many other people (I suspect), I hadn't realised that you can read him in the original Klingon - it's a real book called The Klingon Hamlet. It is written with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but it represents a considerable tribute to the development of the language. There's also Much Ado About Nothing: The Restored Klingon Version. Check them out!

Constructed languages, it seems, can take on a life of their own...

At a much earlier stage of development than Klingon, but obviously gaining momentum, is Na'vi, the constructed language of the sapient inhabitants of the planet Pandora in the film Avatar.

Unlike Klingon, Na'vi is intended to be only a spoken language, passed down orally from one generation to the next. Nevertheless there is a growing community interested in learning it - a strange phenomenon, but perhaps a tribute to the work that went into its construction (and is still ongoing), and to the film itself.

In following these links I came across an amazing resource:

for both real and constructed languages. You can delve there into the various varieties of Chinese, for example, and also into Klingon.

Which shows that you never know where a trip to the cinema is going to lead you...

(Original post: September 17th, 2010)

Zoe Saldana playing Neytiri (through the movie magic described here) in the 2009 blockbuster Avatar

Seeing this awesome movie on a large screen in 3D (several times) was one of my personal highlights of this year (and I don't plan to miss the recently-released extended version). Possibly one of the most visually beautiful movies ever made, the combination of technical and artistic achievement still boggles my mind.

Reading this article reminded me that it is so easy to watch (and comment on) a production like this, without appreciating a fraction of what went into its making.

If you like this...

[My movies page]

(Original post: March 26th, 2010)

I see that James Cameron and Sir Richard Branson (an interesting combination) are among the many speakers at the upcoming Business for Environment Global Summit, which takes place 21-23 April 2010 in Seoul. If I had the money, it would be worth visiting the conference just to hear what these two speakers had to say.

With Avatar, James Cameron (with a huge contribution from WETA Digital) has produced what must be the most popular environmental-message movie of all time, and possibly the most awesomely beautiful movie ever made. His technical and artistic master-work has inspired countless environmental activists, as well as (apparently) infuriating some people who see it as threatening their particular belief systems.

The person I would go to Seoul to hear, though, is Sir Richard Branson, one of my personal heroes. From the programme notes:

"In the summer of 2004, Richard launched Virgin Unite to pull together all the resources of the Virgin Group internationally and, most importantly, Virgin's best asset - its people - to tackle tough challenges facing the world. He and on-the-ground partners participate in efforts such as sustainable health clinics in Africa and the fostering of new entrepreneurs through the Branson School of Entrepreneurship in South Africa. He helped incubate the Disease Control Room, a new health resource for South Africa and the sub-Saharan African region that will help transform responses to devastating diseases such as HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria.

"In 2006, Richard pledged 100% of profits of Virgin transportation companies to clean tech investments through Virgin Green Fund. In 2007, he joined Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders, a group of independent leaders that seeks sustainable solutions to global humanitarian issues. In December 2007, Richard was recognized by UNCA as Citizen of the Year.

"Richard recently helped start the Carbon War Room, which taps into global entrepreneurs to mobilize capital, innovation, expertise and international collaboration to fill in the gaps of climate change efforts already underway. Its Green Capital - Global Challenge is mobilizing capital and resources into city-led energy efficiency initiatives."

In Avatar, and in some of his previous movies, James Cameron casts greedy corporations as the stupid and reckless villains. In the form of Sir Richard Branson, and many other representatives at this conference, he will be meeting corporations that are a major force for good in the world, and others that are at least moving in the right direction. I would really like to be in Seoul in April.

[My "Environment and Technology" page]
[My movies page]