Ordinarily one does not think of the special problems of making a foreign version of a film until after the initial release, when the box office receipts indicate whether the venture is justified or not. At Disney's the foreign market always has made up a large percentage of our revenue, starting with that first recording of Show White in another language.
Since the shorts were based on sight gags, the sound tracks had been mainly sound effects and music. The occasional, "Hi, Minnie!" and "Yoo-hoo!" were hardly important enough to be translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. But with the coming of the features, new considerations had to be faced. The man Walt chose for this diplomatic and creative job was Jack Cutting, who had started as an inker, worked his way up to animator, then switched over to be the First assistant director. In that job he learned everything about putting a picture together, both physically and artistically, but his talents lay | beyond that. It was his feel for the characters themselves and what made them work in the picture that made his versions in other languages so unique. He did not try to match a deep voice, or a whiny voice, or a raspy voice, but went instead for an actor who could project the same personality as the original, regardless of the voice quality. Jack knew and understood the character relationships and how they should play against each other, and he searched until he found actors in other countries who could capture the same feeling that was in the version we had made.
He traveled often, lived in Europe for much of each year as he learned the languages, and became acquainted with technicians in the studios and performers in the night clubs and in the films. He worked with the dialogue writers and interpreters in finding the best way to keep the spirit of a line rather than just the words, and used his training and his judgment in coaching the voice talent during the recording sessions. This recording was always done in the native country whenever possible, partly because of the availability of busy actors and partly for the natural feeling that came to the phrasing and expressions.
As the popularity of the pictures grew in Europe and j Asia, more and more languages were dubbed in with the original music and sound effects: all of the Scandinavian countries were represented, as were the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and even India in a Hindi version of Bambi. If a picture was popular in one country, it was equally popular around the world, but occasionally one country would pick a favorite and treasure it above all others. Japan always has loved 101 Dalmatians, and Germany made The Rescuers the highest grossing picture of all time in that country.
As animators we wonder about this popularity of our work in other lands. When we have labored so hard to get good sync—the very best acting to match the voice track and to convince audiences that the voice is really coming out of this cartoon character—we are puzzled that the Figure still can come alive when his voice is changed. Do we worry too much about making the lips and the mouth and the whole face speak the lines, or is it this very concern that makes the character convincing even with another voice? Is it the care that Jack Cutting used in choosing a personality that would match what we already have animated, or is there more magic in this medium than we have suspected? However it happens, it is extremely gratifying to know that our work and our views on entertainment are bringing happiness to peoples of all races all around the world.
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