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The Wonderful World of Babel
November 12, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Unlike many cinematic exports, the Disney canon of films distinguishes itself with an impressive dedication to dubbing. Through an in-house service called Disney Character Voices International, not just dialogue but songs, too, are skillfully re-recorded, echoing the voice acting, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of the original work to an uncanny degree (while still leaving plenty of room for lyrical reinvention). The breadth of the effort is surprising, as well -- everything from Arabic to Icelandic to Zulu gets its own dub, and their latest project, The Princess and the Frog, debuted in more than forty tongues. Luckily for polyglots everywhere, the exhaustiveness of Disney's translations is thoroughly documented online in multilanguage mixes and one-line comparisons, linguistic kaleidoscopes that cast new light on old standards. Highlights: "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin) - "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Luau!" (The Lion King) - "Under the Sea" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) - "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast) - "Just Around the Riverbend" (Pocahontas) - "One Song" and "Heigh-Ho" (Snow White) - "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella) - Medley (Pinocchio) - "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2) - Intro (Monsters, Inc.)
posted by Rhaomi (31 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Took me more than two years to realize this might be a good FPP topic, btw.)
posted by Rhaomi at 2:48 PM on November 12, 2010


I had considered making an FPP about this very topic. This is great! One little piece I'll add: occasionally Disney redubs a film, which can lead to a fan schism over which dubbing is preferred.

Perhaps the best example is the German version of The Little Mermaid (Arielle, die Meerjungfrau). The original theatrical dubbing was used for the VHS release, but when the DVD was released in 1998, several songs and voice actors were changed. Disney also produced an Austrian-German dubbing for the DVD release with a whole other set of voice actors.

You can find songs from both versions on YouTube. Example: 1989 version of In deiner Welt and the 1998 version and 1998 Austrian version. Check out the description of the 1989 version for links to more songs from that version.
posted by jedicus at 2:58 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops, that Austrian version link is a fandub. Here's the proper Austrian version.
posted by jedicus at 2:59 PM on November 12, 2010


Meanwhile, Netflix Canada's Watch Instantly continues to showcase the most wretched anime dubbing imaginable at the hands of the "Funimation" group. And, no, you can't switch audio channels or turn on subtitles. There are dozens of movie and series I am dying to watch, except that the moment the first character speaks my entire family cries out, as one, in disgust, and we shut it off.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:07 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoa. I was just browsing through the really interesting previous thread Rhaomi linked, and came across this tidbit:
And when Germans talk about a King Ludwig, they mean Louis, the French guy. I would never have caught on to that without automatically checking in Wikipedia -- for all I know, there could easily have been a king named Ludwig somewhere. Why not?
Is that some kind of weird sarcasm? I would have assumed any German talking about King Ludwig would be talking about the Bavarian king, not any of the 17 or so French kings named Louis.
posted by kmz at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2010


This is something I have loved for a long time. The songs are what I really enjoy the most and sometimes I have spent an hour or two just listening to different versions. I haven't seen these multi-language compilations before and now, well, off to watch a few.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:00 PM on November 12, 2010


Oh, and I also find these songs come in very handy when learning or practicing a new language. Most people will know the tune already, even vaguely, so the lyrics jump out, and the repetitive nature of songs help as well.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:16 PM on November 12, 2010


On the other hand, there's the English dubbing of Arthur et les Minimoys which has Robert DeNiro giving one of the worst performances I have ever had the misfortune to hear. Snoop Doggy Dog blows him clean out of the water, if you can believe that.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:39 PM on November 12, 2010


Prince of Egypt, by Dreamworks, actually included the multilanguage mix of their big song When You Believe on the DVD. I think this is it.
posted by smackfu at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2010


Whatta fantastic post! Thanks so much, Rhaomi.
posted by missmary6 at 5:30 PM on November 12, 2010


Is this the post where we admit we secretly love big Disney animated musical numbers?

. . . No? Okay.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:39 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite is "Be Prepared" in German. Those Riefenstahl references are that much more delicious.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:50 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I worked at a start-up broadcaster in Italy I walked into one of the master control suites to find an Italian senior engineer (experienced and fricking awesome) staring drop jawed at an animated movie that was being broadcast in English.

I asked Enzo what was wrong: it looked and sounded ok to me, levels seemed fine. It was the lip synch of the animated characters he responded -- it was amazing. Of course it is I replied, they draw them to the soundtrack don't they, big deal. He knew that of course he explained, he'd just only ever seen them dubbed into Italian -- never seen it in original language before and was blown away by it.
posted by NailsTheCat at 7:12 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine from high school did the Turkish dub for Tiana in "The Princess and the Frog." I'd never really thought about how Disney did it until I saw stuff she posted on Facebook about the process.
posted by candyland at 7:12 PM on November 12, 2010


Very cool, thanks Rhaomi!
posted by Daddy-O at 7:22 PM on November 12, 2010


The dubbed in other languages Disney movies are much better than the English versions. The English versions suffer from using the same 5 actors doing the same 5 ugly, irritating voices for every role. The Spanish and French tracks are just prettier and make more sense to me.
Cenicienta- dream is a wish your heart makes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aMaek1GZIs&feature=related
Spanish - intro song
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxOvHNWfMTQ&feature=related
And I LOVED the voices in Cendrillon - it seemed to improve the entire movie measurably.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lraXyiU20I
posted by amethysts at 7:39 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is that some kind of weird sarcasm? I would have assumed any German talking about King Ludwig would be talking about the Bavarian king, not any of the 17 or so French kings named Louis.

not sarcasm.
posted by piratebowling at 7:55 PM on November 12, 2010


Ok, totally just spent like 40 minutes watching the multilanguage dubs of some of my favorite Disney songs. There may or may not have been some singing along.

Thanks so much for posting; this was really fun!
posted by chatongriffes at 8:40 PM on November 12, 2010


I've literally blown my entire morning exploring all the different versions of my favourite Disney songs. Brilliant post.
posted by so much modern time at 9:06 PM on November 12, 2010


What really surprised me is that they translate into dialects of languages. Three Chinese, two Dutches, two Frenches, two Germans, two Portugueses, and two Spanishes. No Tagalog or Singlish, though, which is surprising.
posted by clorox at 11:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


> My favorite is "Be Prepared" in German . Those Riefenstahl references are that much more delicious.

Considering German laws, I'm slightly amazed this wasn't cut. Amazing how changing the frame of reference moves that from "nice visual shorthand for evil" to "should not have done that."

I wonder how this went over at the time.
posted by Decimask at 12:31 AM on November 13, 2010


Was in my late teens when I saw "Der König der Löwen" in the theater and can't remember that scene at all. Any Nazi reference must have went totally over my head then, despite being a history major in college grade and Pa being a big fan of Nazi-Aera documentaries. Was probably busy laughing my ass of at the Hyenas. Being double that age now it's obvious of course and frankly seems a bit over the top. Scar is no Hitler, I'm just saying.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 1:11 AM on November 13, 2010


I decided to try my hand at (re-)translating one of these myself, taking an amended foreign dub and changing it back to English while sticking as close as possible to the foreign version's alternative wording. I picked a fairly short and straightforward song ("One Jump Ahead") in a language I'm familiar in (Spanish). But even with Google Translate, a copy of the lyrics, and a rhyming dictionary, it was pretty tough. I think this is close, though:
(I am...)
The guard matador/king
Today, I ran out of bread
Perhaps it's Ramadan, I'll pretend

(Still awhile till then!)

A king, immune to their swordplay
I'm shocked! What beasts they've been!
I'm poor, but I'm still a gentleman

Street rat! Hoodlum! Seize him! This one!
Just a few small hash browns!
You'll collapse if you don't get down!
Poor old Aladdin, he's come to his end
Thanks for saving me, Abu!

You!
What a rogue and rascal is this snot-nose
Always bumming around the bazaar
You girls got it pre-cise-ly on the nose


That just ain't the case, I just need some space
Only a snack, it's not a lot to chase

I'm a... master of dis-guise
No one... puts me in the clink
Perhaps I'm suited for the street, I think

The king, and not some baby sheep
The ace, that flees in the end
But I think that my doom will soon impend

Stop there! Cheeky! Ooh ooh! Sneaky!

Let us understand, guys
Come with me, little gentle eyes...
That just ain't the case, I just need some space
Can't you call off the chase?
No!

[interlude]

The king, deceiving the ambush
Street rat!
The law... wants to capture me
Hoodlum!
Who cares -- I've got decorum
Seize him!
There's more, but I'm ready for 'em
That one!
Bye-bye, I've a special stairwell
I guess this is farewell, all I have to do is jump!
Even then I had to reinterpret a few parts. I can't imagine trying to do the same with more adventurous lyrics, especially with a more distant language like Chinese. Also, it's interesting how the Spanish lyrics are only tenuously related to the English version -- there are only a handful of phrases that are even a little similar in both. The same is probably true of the lion's share of these dubs.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:40 AM on November 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't get over how incredibly awesome this post is! THANKS!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:15 AM on November 13, 2010


Also, 40 different languages?! WOW. Have you ever tried to make a list of all the languages you can name? Go ahead, do it. You think it's easy, but I promise you, you'll probably get stuck around twenty. Maybe thirty.

There are over 7,000 languages spoken in the world today.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:19 AM on November 13, 2010


@iamkimiam - wouldn't surprise me, there are around 200 languages spoken in Australia alone - sadly almost all are endangered.
posted by russmaxdesign at 2:26 AM on November 13, 2010


Can I just be the sole grouch in this thread and point out that the current trend towards showing only dubbed versions of 'kid' movies (in Chile, for example) is a massive fuck you towards those adults like me who love animation and would much rather watch the original language version with subtitles than some crappy, wierdly accented, jokes lost in translation, dubbed version.
posted by signal at 5:47 AM on November 13, 2010


A notable exception to this trend is "Hercules" (which I recently got on DVD from Netflix). My boyfriend speaks Spanish, and I'm pretty good with French, so we were curious about how the songs would be translated. The English version has some really exceptional gospel belters. The dubbed versions... do not.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2010


Though further YouTube research shows that the French version has apparently gotten an upgrade since I watched it, because these ladies are killing it, whereas the ones on the DVD were just killing me.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:35 AM on November 13, 2010


I'm partial to the bare necessities from the jungle book ( probably the best Disney soundtrack in French)
posted by motdiem2 at 8:53 AM on November 13, 2010


What really surprised me is that they translate into dialects of languages. Three Chinese, two Dutches, two Frenches, two Germans, two Portugueses, and two Spanishes. No Tagalog or Singlish, though, which is surprising.

A little, but the proportion of English speakers is high in the Philippines and Singapore. It may be that both countries are just used to watching American movies without translation and therefore no one bothers to do it.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:04 PM on November 13, 2010


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