Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ghibli versus Disney

A few more Kiki comments. I earlier linked to the Japanese version of Kiki's Delivery Service on YouTube with English subtitles. I wanted B to see a little this morning, but he neither speaks Japanese nor reads English and so I found the Disney version that's been dubbed as well. It's really interesting comparing the two.

The best I can guess is that who ever did the dubbed version thinks Americans are either really stupid or have the attention spans of sparrows. I know that's overstating it, but virtually any point of silence in the original is dubbed over with new dialogue in the English one. For instance, when Kiki flies into the town, in the original, she simply flies into a flock of birds and the audience is left to imagine the pleasure of flight. In the English version, they have Kirsten Dunst going, "wheee! wahoo!" Then in the original she waves at a passing boat. In the Disney one, she waves, then yells hello down to them and they yell hello back. A bit later, she's admiring the bustling city, and in the original we simply see what she sees, lots of cars, a bustling market, etc. In the Disney version, she has to say, "look at all the cars!", "wow, a market!" Can we not see that it's a market without her telling us? Apparently, we must be told her reasoning and emotions at all times.

So I'm linking both versions this time. To see what I'm talking about, watch just the first two minutes of the top one which is in Japanese. It's not so much the different translations that annoy me, since I don't know which is better, and translation is a really tough business, but it is plain when she is speaking and when not, and she does a lot more talking in the English. Then look at the bottom one which is the dubbed one. You will notice, additionally, that the English cat has a very different character. Unfortunately, the clips don't sync perfectly, so, while it's the first two minutes to watch in the Japanese one, it is from 2:50 to 4:50 in the English one below.

Japanese, watch 0:00 to 2:00

English, watch 2:50 to 4:50 (OK, time seems to be backwards on this, so it's 7:30 to 5:30.)


Robin S. said...

Hi paca,

Admitting this hurts, but I can't help wondering if 'the dubbers' are on to something with the "fillings all silences" bit.
Examples abound, and they don't have to be in another language.

I'm in Britain quite a bit - there are rarely, if ever, laugh tracks for comedies, and there are silences in both dramas and comedies on television.
The same shows here, on BBC America, often have filler background, such as laugh tracks, to help we Americans keep up with the joke. Apparently we need to be prompted in order to understand humor.

I don't know when the decision was made to dumb us down, en masse - but I do believe it was done. I'm not talking conspiracy theory crappola here - I'm talking about marketing practices - cutting the widest swath possible- to draw in large audiences. Instead of raising the bar (the rising tide lifts all boats idea), or holding it at some reasonable stasis point, it's lowered, and lowered again, to draw the largest possible audiences, and long term scoietal consequences be damned.

The frightening thing is, I think that when a human being, a set of human beings, or a society of human beings, is dumbed down long enough, this does, in fact, create a culture of, well dumbness.

And I think we're seeing the results of that - coming at us from many angles, and I believe we are going to pay the price for it.

It makes me sad.

writtenwyrdd said...

Robin's points strike home. Ouch.

I thought the Disney versions of Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky and the other Studio Gibli films were really well done. It didn't bother me that she makes inane comments in Kiki.

If you haven't seen Spirited Away, though, that's the best of Kirosawa's (I think I got that right) films. Although My Neighbor Tortoro, which does have a lot of silence, was wonderful. I watched that with subtitles, come to think of it.

moonrat said...

but also, japanese is a b***h to translate, and she actually says some of those really inane things in the original. but in japanese those lines are somehow more appropriate.

what's your take on japanese to english (and vice versa) as a linguist? because i have OODLES of untutored unscholarly opinions.

December/Stacia said...

Ugh, I hate that, and I hate the assumption on everyone's part that Americans are stupid. They're not. Trust me. :-)

pacatrue said...

It's not the translations so much that bugged me; it was the addition of all the extra words. Look, the market! Look at all the cars! I can see, actually.

I agree with moonbat that translation is immensely difficult and, having no knowledge of Japanese, I can't even pretend to guess which translation was better.

I'm not sure it really has as much to do with Disney thinking its customers are stupid as thinking we need constant and total stimulation at all time. Part of it, however, is probably just performance tradition for lack of a better word. People expect movies to be a certain way, and Disney is afraid to let them be slightly different.

I should not be bad-mouthing Disney, however. After all, they are the company who stepped up to distribute these films on a pretty wide basis across the U.S. And while I do question their dialogue additions, there is no questioning Disney's skills at distribution and marketing.

Ello said...

Paca, I just tend to enjoy watching the original of anything rather than the dubbed version. The voices are better, the synching is better, etc. You know what I mean. It just is better in the original.