ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 3.9 - December 1998
Dubbing Can Be A Problem...
I have read Debra K. Chinn's "International Theatrical Dubbing: It's More Than Meets the Eye" (Chinn 3.6), and would like to share a few experiences with you. When dubbing is done properly, it enhances the movie experience, but when it is done wrong, it can kill a film. I am from the Czech Republic and all of the movies that come out here on video are dubbed. In the theaters, only about half of them are dubbed and most of my friends are thankful for each and every one that is not.
I remember when Harrison Ford spoke his first Czech lines in Clear and Present Danger. The voice was terrible and the whole theater began laughing. Moreover, the titles are sometimes translated without a true understanding of what they mean. For instance, Hot Shots was translated as Shots Which Are Hot and Private Parts was translated as Private Vice.
The dialogue almost always lacks the wit of the original. The double-headed dragon in Quest for Camelot originally says, "We are the reason why relatives should not marry." The dubbed version said, "We are a genetic problem." The joke is lost. The charm is lost. It is dull. I think "dull" is the word that describes dubbed versions best.
I remember most of the English lines from the Star Wars Trilogy. When I borrowed Star Wars on video, I was shocked to hear very polite dialogue with very little, if any, wit and sometimes a totally different meaning. For example in the English version, Luke says, "I am not afraid," and Yoda answers, "You will be!" In the Czech version Yoda says, "Really?"
These are some examples of why my friends always shudder at the thought of seeing another dubbed movie. In fact, some prefer to wait for a satellite channel to show the film in English. One of my buddies, a huge cartoon fan, stopped going to theaters to see the Disney movies because he hates what Czech dubbing does to them. Although he is quite extreme, I have to admit that listening to Czech versions of Ariel's songs was very unpleasant and painful indeed .
I have done quite a bit of translating and it is not an easy job. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to come up with the correct translation, something that really fits. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes energy. It seems to me that the folks who are doing the translating for movies here are quite lazy (or very badly paid) at best.
I hope my point of view will help you in your work, especially since the new Star Wars Trilogy is approaching. I hope Fox will not force them to be dubbed.
Richard K. Taufman
Editor's Note: I think Debra's article showed that some U.S. studios are placing a new emphasis on the importance of proper dubbing. By setting up complete internal departments to handle the dubbing process, the studios are being more involved and stringent in their standards. I will be curious to see if you see any marked changes in the near future. Please write back after you see The Phantom Menace. I'll be interested to hear what you think about the quality.
First, I do believe that the American animation industry has advanced in the past 10 years. We have advanced from only producing kids cartoons to producing more "adult" cartoons like The Simpsons.
I have noticed though that for the last ten years (1989-1998) the majority of "adult" cartoons on prime time are sitcoms like, The Simpsons, South Park, Bob and Margaret, etc. Why are most of the "adult" American cartoons produced sitcoms? It seems that year after year, the only thing animation producers can think to produce are animated adult sitcoms.
Have any of these American animation producers ever thought about producing something different? How about an animated drama aimed at adults? Or even an animated western aimed at adults? It seems that all the good writers are aimed at making viewers laugh instead of creating dramatic material.
You are probably saying to yourself, "The idea of dramatized animation is silly. Noboby would buy this idea." Well, there is such animation that does exist. It is called "Anime" or Japanese animation. The Japanese produce animation in every possible genre from children's material to R-rated material. In Japan, there are successful dramatic titles, which have shown more promise of breaking the animation mold than anything America has attempted to do.
Even if the people who are reading this letter do not like anime, most of them have to agree that mature animation is the wave of the future in animation. Whether it is American, Japanese, French or German, hopefully, someday Americans will not look at animation as just "silly kids cartoons."
I hope I have not offended anybody, but it seems that the American animation industry has not tried any new concepts, other than animated adult sitcoms and kids shows, in the past ten years.
Editor's Note: Anonymous, you are not alone. I receive quite a bit of similar mail, especially since we ran "The Color In Mind: Corto Maltese" (Bekins, 3.6). Let's hope someone out there is listening.
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