In the past, it was reasonably common practice for producers to add new scenes to foreign films that they were importing. This was done for several reasons: to add name actors to what would otherwise be a cast of unknowns, to disguise the fact that the film was foreign (at least for the duration of the trailer), to increase the running time, or any combination of the above.
The "expansion" is related to the adding of new footage, not to the actual length of the "expanded" film. Indeed, the "expanded" versions of some films can be much shorter than their original versions.
This has been a Dead Horse Trope since the mid-1970s, when distributors realized that most audiences didn't actually care enough to justify the time and expense of shooting new footage. This is in danger of becoming a Forgotten Trope in the United States, with the near-disappearance of foreign films from mainstream theatrical releases and television airings.
Note that to be an example of this trope requires substantial original footage; simply adding insert shots of translated signs or the like doesn't count.
For whatever reason, Japanese films seem to be particularly prone to this treatment.
- The Ur Example of this trope is probably Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the American version of Gojira, which was completely re-edited to tell the story from the perspective of Raymond Burr as Steve Martin, a foreign correspondent who had been following the story. Notable for actually being very well done, as far as these things go, with considerable care taken to match the Burr footage and the original film.
- The second Godzilla film, Godzilla Raids Again (released in the United States as Gigantis the Fire Monster), managed to avoid this, suffering only the addition of considerable amounts of Stock Footage. However, it was almost turned into a film called The Volcano Monsters that would have been a prime example of this trope. Read about it here.
- King Kong vs. Godzilla had scenes with "U.N. News Reporters" talking about whatever had previously occurred.
- The Return of Godzilla, in keeping with its status as a direct sequel to the original film, had Raymond Burr reprise his role as Steve Martin, as well as product placement-laden scenes where American military personnel crack wise about Godzilla.
Officer (after watching Godzilla destroy a building): That's one hell of an urban renewal program they got going on over there!
- Varan the Unbelievable was subjected to a particularly extreme case of this. Its American version was completely rewritten around newly shot American footage with Myron Healey. Varan is an excellent example of a film that ended up shorter despite its Importation Expansion; the original Japanese version runs 87 minutes, while the American version, despite adding 40 minutes of newly shot footage, runs only 70 minutes.
- Toho's Big Foot movie Jû jin yuki otoko was brought to the US as Half Human: The Story of the Abominable Snowman, with over 40 minutes cut and and scenes added of John Carradine and other American actors spouting Techno Babble and (in a rather squicky scene) dissecting one of the monsters.
- When New World Pictures picked up the rights to the disaster epic Japan Sinks, they cut it down by 40 minutes, added scenes of Lorne Greene sitting at a desk, and released the resulting mess as the legendarily awful Tidal Wave.
- UPA performed similar duties with Conflagration, adding scenes with Peter Graves and releasing it to TV as High Seas Hijack.
- Gammera the Invincible
Non Japanese Films
- Godfrey Ho was pretty much the king of this - by his own account he made about 40-50 movies this way. He and producer Joseph Lai would buy up the rights to various 70s/80s Asian films which would usually be unmarketable elsewhere, shoot about 15 minutes of original footage with Western actors (usually as Highly-Visible Ninja) then attempt to tie the whole thing together into an vaguely coherent plot via a Hong Kong Dub. Needless to say this was usually unsuccessful.
- Jerry Warren
- Soviet Science Fiction films
- Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
- Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
- Battle Beyond the Sun
- Queen of Blood, although similar in genesis, doesn't really qualify, since it only really used footage from the original Russian film as stock footage for its original story.
- When Journey to the Beginning of Time was released in the United States, it got an entirely new beginning for the film. The new footage featured lookalike actors (carefully shot to avoid showing their faces) going to the New York Museum of Natural History and taking a boat ride in Central Park before segueing to the original Czech footage.
- Horror of the Blood Monsters started life as a black and white Filipino caveman epic called Tagani. To make it saleable to American drive-ins, hack director extraordinaire Al Adamson added color scenes with American actors (including John Carradine) as astronauts exploring a "prehistoric planet". The fact that said "prehistoric planet" (the Tagani footage) was black and white was solved by tinting the film day-glo colors, which, the newly added footage explaned, was caused by "Involuntary shiftsin Spectrum Radiation".
- That shot of Margot and La Môle on the American DVD of La Reine Margot? That whole scene was shot for the American release to strengthen the love story.
Anime and Manga
- Battle of the Planets, in addition to the heavy Bowdlerisation that it suffered underwent when it was imported, featured additional animated footage of the Amusing Alien 7-Zark-7, who cracked lame jokes and explained how everyone got away safely.
- A truly bizarre example of this occurred when New World Pictures brought over Angel's Egg. Instead of giving it a straight dub (which would have been more or less impossible given the nature of the film), they cut the film heavily and added about 45 minutes of live action footage. The resulting mess truly must be seen to be believed.
- The 4th Pokemon film, Celebi: The Voice of the Forest added three scenes to the English version. Two of them served to over-explain a plot point in the story. The other was a comedic Team Rocket scene that served no purpose to the plot.
- The English dub of Mapletown had live-action segments added to the beginning and ending of each episode, featuring a human person named Miss Maple.
Live Action TV
- Power Rangers
- VR Troopers
- Masked Rider
- Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad - from Gridman
- Fraggle Rock - various markets (including the UK, which didn't redub the Muppet characters) had their own version of Doc. They all had Sprocket, though.
- This was actually part of the plan for the series, however.
- Kamen Rider Dragon Knight
- The Soviet animated film The Snow Queen had a live-action prologue added featuring Art Linkletter "reading" the original story to some children.
- Albums released in Japan usually have Bonus Tracks, a lyric booklet in Japanese and an exclusive Obi Strip. This is to justify the high cost of new CDs (and previously vinyl records) in Japan. Record companies quickly discovered this was a lucrative business and albums in Australia and the UK often have bonus tracks as well (albeit without the additional booklet and obi strip). It rarely happens in the US and mainland Europe, but has been known to on occasion.