Sunday, October 14, 2012

Toy Story 3's Dubbing Dilemma

If you speak English, you've probably only seen dubbing in kung fu or anime films. Dubbing is the process of rerecording the original dialogue for a film or television show, usually into a different language for new audiences. It's more common than you'd think... we've just found out that Bob the Builder (the English children's show) is dubbed for American audiences. Apparently television executives believe that American children are incapable of understanding British accents. No wonder so many great British programmes are remade with American actors... from childhood, they're never given the chance to hear any accent but their own!

So imagine you're responsible for dubbing a film. What happens if a character in the film is already speaking the language you're dubbing into?

A good example of this dilemma is Toy Story 3. There's a large part of the film in which protagonist Buzz Lightyear is reset into "Spanish Mode". He speaks Spanish and acts typically Hispanic, complete with flamenco movements reminiscent of warm summer evenings spent drinking copious amounts of sangria.

Buzz Lightyear was dancing like this in the
film, if you don't know what flamenco is.

If you're dubbing the film into Spanish, what to do? In the South American dubs of the film, they gave Buzz a Castilian Spanish accent, which is typical in Spain. If you're South American, hearing someone speak with this accent would conjure up the Spanish stereotype, complete with flamenco, bullfighting and whatever other stereotypes you want to convey.

But what if you're a Spaniard? Hearing your own accent probably wouldn't make you think of tapas, bullfights and the rest. So what area is the most "Spanish" part of Spain? The decision was made to go with Andalucia, the southernmost region of Spain. Most things people consider to be typically Spanish are Andalusian. It's home to bullfight enthusiasts, free tapas with every drink, and of course, the Sevillana. The dance, not the girls of Sevilla... Seville to you monoglots! For shame!

We couldn't resist adding a photo of one of our
favourite tapas, croquetas!

Still, as is often the case with dubbing, bits of the film are lost in translation. While it was a clever fix to have Buzz speak in an Andalusian accent in the Spanish version, the scene simply doesn't have the same humour to it as the original version. We're not sure what more Pixar could have done though... had they chosen to switch Buzz to a completely different language (French, perhaps?) they'd have needed to redo the animation so that he did typically French things, like surrender! You can see clearly in this example that language, as varied and all-encompassing as it can seem, does have its limitations at times.