Is Hausa Homer more Hilarious?
October 9, 2010 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Multilingual Mefites: Which English language cartoons have better voice acting (funnier or more talented, etc) in an over-dubbed foreign version than in the original? Conversely, how often are the over-dubbed voices simply terrible compared with the times the quality is comparable? Are certain cartoons ruined in translation due to unfortunate acting choices?
posted by dgaicun to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In the first couple seasons of Simpsons DVDs, they include clips from the foreign language dubbed versions of the shows. They are...not good. But if you want to see them for yourself, they're there. You can also search for "Simpsons dubbed" (as well as, I imagine [show of your choice] dubbed) to see what's available. In my opinion, Homer never sounds fat or dumb enough. (Whatever that means.)

A big problem is that in American cartoons we have a huge range of accents to convey different personalities--the dim-witted guy might have a southern accent, the well-to-do guy might have a British accent, and those are just the two most obvious ones. Not speaking any language other than English I can't tell you if they do this in the dubbed versions or not, but it's something the voice actors would have to pay incredibly close attention to to pull of correctly.
posted by phunniemee at 12:18 PM on October 9, 2010

As far as I know, the voices of the characters get recorded before the animations are done; lip syncing is easier this way. So, any dubbed cartoon will have the problem the movements of the mouths don't follow the text spoken.

I doubt that there'll be cartoons that can overcome this single but huge obstacle by funny lines or crazy voices.
posted by ijsbrand at 12:21 PM on October 9, 2010

When I was in Russia, I saw "Duck Tales" dubbed in, well, Russian.

It really messed with my mind.

The sync between the mouths moving and the sound was just as good as the original version. Scrooge McDuck, as far as I could tell, wasn't speaking with a Scottish accent in Russian which is minus points, but the inflections and general sense was pretty good. As far as the voice acting overall? I can't really remember I was so startled by even seeing "Duck Tales" in Russian.
posted by zizzle at 12:24 PM on October 9, 2010

One thing I love about many notable cartoons is that their Spanish, French, Japanese, etc counterparts will often be chosen partly on how similarly they can voice the character to the original actor.

I lived and studied in Spain, and used to watch dubbed cartoons frequently. The Simpsons, South Park, Powerpuff Girls, Pokemon, and others. Almost all the dubbing was pretty good, and most characters sounded similar to their counterparts. Not exact, but it wouldn't sound too weird to an American ear in many cases.

A big problem is that in American cartoons we have a huge range of accents to convey different personalities

This is also the case in other languages.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:59 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Many Mexican cartoons are heavily adapted with local jokes, which make them very popular.

For example, Top Cat (Don Gato) was extremely successful, as all the names of the cats were changed and each one had a different accent (one had a typical Yucatan accent, for example). This show is still broadcasted.

Cow and Chicken (La vaca y el pollito) had many racy jokes, not easily understood by children but hilarious for adults.

Shrek's donkey was dubbed by a popular comedian, who inserted his usual jokes in the dialog. He even sings in parts where the original is silent, but not on screen, so there's no problem matching the sound with the character's lips. In my opinion, it ruined it, but it's very popular.

The anime cable channel Animax uses a very limited number of voice actors, so you'd recognize the same actors in all of its shows, making it really boring to watch, in my opinion. However, this has also been advantageous in other aspects. For example, there is a single actor who always dubs all of Will Smith's shows and movies, so there's always a connection between the actor's face and his voice.

A big problem is that in American cartoons we have a huge range of accents to convey different personalities--the dim-witted guy might have a southern accent, the well-to-do guy might have a British accent, and those are just the two most obvious ones.

This is also done in Spanish, there are posh voices, accents similar to valley girl speak, northern and southern accents, etc. In Mexico, instead of a British accent, they might use a Spanish (from Spain) accent, so it still sounds foreign.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:28 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Probably not quite what you're looking for, but I can't resist mentioning Samurai Pizza Cats, for which the English dub made frequent reference to the fact that it was dubbed:
Unique to the English version is that supposedly due to lost translations, the comedic tone of the series was further exaggerated by releasing it as a dubbed parody. Throughout the series, characters and the narrator constantly break the fourth wall by commenting on the Japanese attributes such as the written language, sight gags, and complaints to the writers and producers regarding the strange plots.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:05 PM on October 9, 2010

I recently watched an other-language dub of Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it wasn't great. They did try to mimic some of the vocal gags- for instance, the voice of Ash (Jason Schwartzman in English), did have a somewhat fast, quiet monotone delivery- but a lot of the inflections and ironies didn't translate well, and many of the male actors' voices sounded alike. The voices of the teenaged characters also sounded too rich and adult-y. The lip-synch was reasonably good, which might also have contributed to the problem- the language I watched tends to use more syllables than English to convey the same ideas, so they had to rush a bit to fit the dialogue into the English lip-flap. Overall it was a bit of a disappointing dub (Brazilian Portuguese, by the way).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:16 PM on October 9, 2010

I live in Italy and Italian dubbings are always HORRIBLE. They seem to count on a very limited number of voices so for example, De Niro and Al Pacino have the same voice...
posted by uauage at 2:22 PM on October 9, 2010

Best answer: The Hungarian version of the Flintstones is really superb. The guy who did the Hungarian scripts (I assume someone else did the rough translation) was the well-known and respected writer, poet and librettist József Romhányi, so famous for his wordplay that he was known at Rímhányó Romhányi, that is, Romhányi the Rhyme Spitter (that rhymes in Hungarian). His scripts are fulls of puns and wordplay, more so than the English originals, in my opinion. The voice actors are also all well-known, decorated Hungarian actors and actresses that really make the most of the script.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 2:38 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate all the older Russian dubs I've seen. I am convinced they only hire two men and one woman to do an entire production, including stuff like Star Wars. I gave up watching Russian dubs altogether (I used them for language practice) for this reason.
posted by SMPA at 5:02 PM on October 9, 2010

This is tangential, but the intro song to the Greek version of Dragonball is better than the original. It was sung (and composed, I think) by a famous comedian-singer and it's both catchy and conveys the childish spirit of the anime. Its lyrics are original.
posted by ersatz at 8:30 PM on October 9, 2010

I'm not sure whether you're really after examples from kiddy cartoons, but for what it's worth, our family far prefers the Spanish (Latin American) dubs of the Backyardigans to the original US English. The US version employs young teenage voice-over talent and seems to favour a more understated natural/authentic voice performance rather than something more cartoonish. The LA Spanish dub, to my surprise, also uses teenagers for 3 of the 5 characters, but they all appear to be quite accomplished dub artists, having worked on many other projects, whereas it seems to me that the US performers have theatrical experience but no prior dubbing experience (though I could be wrong!). It's likely that the US version uses a more natural approach to the voice performance in order to relate better with their young audience, but I always expect animated voices to speak more cartoonishly (as they do in the Spanish dub) so it's a little jarring to me.

The other big factor is that the US version seems to use a lot of autotune in their songs and the songs end up having a distracting artificial synth effect in the vocals. To my ear, the LA Spanish dub doesn't use autotune at all and the songs are more enjoyable. I also suspect that the actors in the US version aren't actually recording together while those in the Spanish dub are, thus resulting in flatter performances and perhaps a need to use autotone, though that's largely conjecture.

There are some jokes that just fail in Spanish, without any attempt to work in a substitute gag, but the show, being for pre-schoolers, generally doesn't employ a lot of wordplay (at least, not that I've noticed), and the better performances make up for it.
posted by bunyip at 9:22 PM on October 9, 2010

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