Se7en's Sees: Pikachu! Pikachu!
by Kenneth Leung
Published: June 28, 2000
Tomorrow Titan A.E. will open in Hong Kong to coincide with the school summer holidays and Hong Kong’s National Day on July 1st. 20th Century Fox will hope the film will perform better in the Asian market than in the North American market. The film’s genre, sci-fi animation, should appeal to the teenagers here, as it is much alike to Manga/Anime movies that dominate the local and Japanese arena.
Yet, this column is not about the prospects of Titan A.E. in the Asian market but about dubbing foreign films into different languages. Without any questions, most of the cinemas in the region will screen the film dubbed in Cantonese (a local dialect of Chinese) rather than English, with some cinemas screening the film dubbed in Mandarin (another dialect of Chinese, being more prevalent in China). Only a few cinemas will actually screen the film in English. My hunch is Hong Kong will not be the only country to do this. Where English is not the first language, most films will be dubbed into the country’s main language to help the local population to appreciate the film and not to reduce the distributors’ profits.
In a personal opinion, I detest when films are dubbed into a foreign language. Even if the film was originally in Chinese and dubbed into English or vice versa, it makes no difference if I knew both languages. The film should be seen in its original format, in its original language, as the filmmakers envisioned it. I think it ruins the work of the filmmaker if the movie is dubbed into another language. The wrecking of the film includes the loss of accents of the characters, which can never be replaced by the new voices. It is really difficult to imagine a Chinese person imitating an Irish accent and I try not to think about it, dreading the thought of how it sounds. So there are no accents to be found when foreign language films are dubbed into Chinese. There is also the little problem of synchronization of the voices with the mouth movements. This will never be perfect, as no two languages will produce the same mouth movements for similar words. It pisses me off when the characters in the film start doing ventriloquist acts, talking when their lips are not moving. I am at least pleased that they put subtitles in all foreign films and that only certain films get dubbed into the local language.
Despite all these annoyances, I can understand why distributors dub films into the local language. Distributors do not want to limit a movie’s audience and see their profits diminished, so they dub certain films where the foreign language could be a problem, namely animated films. Most animated films are aimed towards kids, most of whom in Hong Kong do not have a level of English sufficient enough to understand the dialogue in a movie. The same happens for most Japanese anime films. To my knowledge, some studios are starting to address the issue and are now starting to produce prints of films with mouth movements to coincide with the local language.
So the next time you go to see a foreign language film and ask yourself why they do not dub the film into your local language, ask yourself what it would look and sound like if film was in your native language. Would it look awkward and horrible? If the answer to last question is yes, you have answered your first question. Despite this situation, it does not prevent the executives at Warner Bros. from dubbing Pokemon episodes. Please stop the ventriloquist act!!! For the sake of my sanity, ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Nervous breakdown has finished)
That is all for me this week. I’ll be seeing you next week, same time, same channel!
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